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The Silent Exodus of Syria’s Christians


Stephen Sizer

via Stephen Sizer: The Silent Exodus of Syria’s Christians.

Did Jesus Suffer for This?


I’ve been wondering what God thinks about this whole Chick-Fil-A deal.  Only he knows the intent of Mr. Cathy’s heart. Was he asked a leading question that elicited his response? I don’t know. But, it sure gave Christians something to stand up for…something to fight for…but in gaining this ground, have they lost a more important bridge?

Sometimes I read a blog that addresses a subject I’ve been thinking about, and this one by my blogging friend, Anita Mathias in Oxford, UK is just such a one. Read on.

Christus als Schmerzensmann (Duerer)

Christus als Schmerzensmann (Duerer) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dreaming Beneath The Spires: Christians, Quit Being so Oppositional!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Christians, Quit Being so Oppositional!

Image Credit

So, on the 1st of August, on Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day hundreds of thousands of Americans bought sandwiches from the popular fast food chain. Chick-Fil-A made $30 million on that day, to be donated to anti-gay groups.

Dan Cathy and his chain were being appreciated because they were “guilty as charged” of donating a cumulative $5 million dollars of corporate money to anti-gay groups, including the Family Research Council, called a Hate Group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.
And in my mind’s eye, I watch Jesus watch these snaking queues of Christians identify with him by buying these sandwiches, and I believe he is very sad.
Why do I believe this?
Because it makes me and so many other Christians cry. And Jesus when he sees us care—enough to give good gifts to our children, to look for a lost coin, or sheep or son–uses the same phrase, how much more would his father care.
5 million dollars for the project of changing people’s sexuality, a project with limited and dubious success, and to oppose  gay marriage and gay rights!!
Oh, how has the overwhelmingly positive message of Jesus—love one another; trust God; don’t worry, the Father cares; there is true life only in God; forgive aught against any—got reduced to being against gay marriage, against abortion, against gun control, against immigration, against Barack Obama, against the democrats?  Oh my fingers hurt just typing all this!
* * *
Five million dollars is both pocket change to God which he can give those who ask with a single good idea–and a significant sum of money.
It could sponsor 11,904 children for a year, providing them with food, education and clothing through World Vision at $35 a month. It can provide clean water to 250,000 people who might otherwise die young from preventable water-borne diseases, or spend many hours a day hauling water, exposing themselves to violence and sexual assault in the process. Nine year old Rachel Beckwith raised $1.2 million, providing clean water for 60,000 people in Ethiopa.
Because of early and unassisted childbirth, two million people suffer from fistulas.  “Women and girls with fistulas become pariahs. Their husbands divorce them, and they are moved to a hut at the edge of the village. They lie there in pools of their waste, feeling deeply ashamed, trying to avoid food and water because of the shame of incontinence, and eventually they die of an infection or simple starvation,” according to The New York Times.   Dr Steve Arrowsmith and volunteer doctors who work with the Fistula Foundation could heal 11,111 women for 5 million dollars
And if you believe, as I do, that man does not live by bread alone, but also by every word from the mouth of God, 5 millions dollars will pay for the translation of the entire Bible into 6.15 languages through Wycliffe Bible Translators’ The Seed Company (at $26 for a verse, painstakingly checked through a rigorous six step process). We’ve supported a small part of the Seed Company’s translations, and it’s very satisfying.
* * *
Which of these activities do you think is closer to the heart of Jesus?
Will funding anti-gay organizations make a gay person straight? Sexual desire stems from our unconscious limbic system and the autonomic nervous system. Attempting to change these is fraught with failure. Exodus International, (supported by Chik-fil-A) which attempts reparative, conversion therapy on gays, recently admitted that 99.9% of conversion therapy participants do not experience any change to their sexuality
And if they did? Is that what Jesus primarily came for? Called us to? To make gay people straight?
Or is his mandate that we follow him?
And, perhaps, in the process of following Christ some gay people might marry a heterosexual partner. And some might remain gay, but still love Christ.
 Lonnie Frisbee who was instrumental in the founding and flourishing of the Calvary Chapel Movement, and instrumental in the founding of the Vineyard when the spirit fell on hundreds of young people as he prayed, Come Holy Spirit was gay, despite his struggles, and died of AIDS.
The remarkable and saintly William Stringfellow was gay, and memorably wrote Can a Homosexual be a Christian? One might as well ask, can an ecclesiastical bureaucrat be a Christian? Can a rich man be a Christian?    Can anybody be a Christian? Can a human being be a Christian? All such questions are theologically absurd.
To be a Christian does not have anything essentially to do with conduct or station or repute. To be a Christian does not have anything to do with the common pietisms of ritual, dogma or morals in and of themselves. To be a Christian has, rather, to do with that peculiar state of being bestowed upon men by God….
Can a homosexual be a Christian? Yes: if his sexuality is not an idol.
                                           * * *
And when did following Jesus become synonymous with defending “traditional marriage?” Or disapproving of gays?
What did Jesus say for–or against gays? Nothing!!
His message was love. His message was Himself. Come to me. Eat me. Drink me. Abide in me.
And what happens when we do so? That’s his business. He will take each of us through different paths.
And so there will be rich Christians and poor Christians.
Republican Christians and Democratic Christians.
Christians who cheered on George Bush as he bombed Afghanistan and Iraq, and people like our family who were so distressed by it that we immediately started applying for jobs in other countries.
Gay Christians perhaps, and straight Christians.
Christ is too wonderful a treasure, too rich a feast to limit himself or be limited to straight people.
Christianity is a relationship, not a cultural statement.  God will call Christians to be salt and light and sweetness in every area of society, among the rich and among the poor; among the highly educated intelligentsia, and those who follow the crowd;  among conservatives and among liberals; among the gay and among the straight.
                                               * * *
So what stand would Jesus take on gay marriage, and gay ordination, these schismatic issues?  We don’t know, but we can surmise from the four loving detailed biographies we have of him.
Above all things, he hated hypocrisy. He hated self-righteousness and holier-than-thouness. He opposed the unthinking group mind. When the Pharisees of his day all clung together, clucking their tongues, Jesus was on the outside with the least and the last.
And these were the people he sided with, reached out to, spent his time with: Zacchaeus, who was notoriously dishonest. A woman caught in adultery. A woman who had led a sinful life. A woman who had been serially married and now lived “in sin”. A hot-tempered, violent Peter. A friend of prostitutes and sinners, he was called.
And if he met a gay man or woman? He would have preached the gospel to him, as he would to anyone else. He would have loved them, overwhelmingly. And they might in response have adopted traditional marriage. Or perhaps, might not have. That is between them, Jesus, and his Spirit.
Being is a Christians is not about making gay people straight or picketing abortion clinics or defending the intent of the American Founding Fathers or American values.
It is about a relationship with a person. A relationship which turned the world upside down in the first century (Acts 17:6) and will, infallibly turn our world upside down if we let it have its way with us. 
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“Dilemma”


espresso

Image by talkoftomatoes via Flickr

Cover of "The Oxford English Dictionary (...
Cover via Amazon

My Pennsylvania Dutch grandmother, renown for her sweet nature, is nevertheless also known for saying, “I wouldn’t believe it even if I did see it!”. She would famously say this to her highly opinionated husband, Grandpa Harry, who,  an acquaintance once told me, “No offense, Mary, but he was a miserable ole Piss Ant”.

He died when I was one year old, and loved me a lot.  My mom treasured memories of both her Mother and Father, and remembers Grandpa Harry saying, “You can get more flies with honey than with vinegar”. Hmm…Piss ant, Fly trap…?

Which brings me to the dilemma, literally, the word, “dilemma”.

How many of us in North America were taught to spell the word, Dilemma, as “dilemna”? Do you know why?

There is a fascinating history on Worldwidewords.org website which I link to below. My theory is that the mistake grew out of  common spelling mistakes in older literature read during the 1800’s. What do you think?

Every time I write the word, I consciously remind myself to add two “m’s” not an “m” and an “n”.

But, this in not my biggest grammar shock in recent years.

Since I discovered that delicious coffee drink, Espresso, a few years ago, I’ve been calling it, “Expresso“.

Some of my friends may have noticed but were too polite to correct me, or didn’t think it mattered.

Last year during our Sabbatical, my husband noticed the spelling on his favorite coffee shop, and pointed out that Espresso is not spelled with an “x”.

I assumed it was an anomaly, but as I looked at coffee shops around Colorado Springs, was amazed to see every shop advertised “Espresso”.

“It must be a Colorado thing,” I thought to myself.

To my surprise, as we traveled East, even Ithaca, New York, just a short hop away from New York City serves “Espresso”.

So, at 63, I was forced to admit, what the rest of the world already knew, “Expresso”, is in fact “Espresso” even in Italy. (I looked it up), and I’ve been mistaken since my love affair with “espresso” began in Singapore twenty years ago.

And, incidentally, there is no basis for spelling dilemma with an “n”.

When I asked my husband how he would spell it, he led with an “n”, and wouldn’t take my word for it, but consulted his Oxford Dictionary and then his 1950’s high school dictionary just to “make sure”. That’s how deeply ingrained some beliefs can be.

Firmness is a trait I’ve always valued in myself and others, but stubbornness is a weakness I find difficult to handle.

When facts are presented that contradict my long-established beliefs, I try to ponder them.

I also have a very strong Faith,  but I don’t claim faith dependent on erroneous belief.  The Holy Books of my faith help me understand God whom I love and who loves me.  They are books of faith and fact. I believe they are revealed so people can know God; a loving and purposeful “gift”. I don’t argue over them.

My personal Faith is not threatened by change, but rather emboldened by it’s ability to keep pace with the changing world.

Dilemna” and “Expresso”, though just mis-spelled words, aren’t that easy to change in my thinking.

As a Christian I think of practices that are not taught in the Bible but are an integral part of some Christian cultures, and as such are difficult to change: Politely avoiding talk about child abuse vs. Caring for the abused child; Failure to confront Racist views (People who don’t speak English well, Muslims, etc.); Overly valuing a  Work Ethic vs. Caring for the worlds’ disadvantaged.

But, change is in the air, as we listen and learn from one another and from God. I have hope that we can learn to spell our lives in a different way.

http://www.english-for-students.com/Expresso-or-Espresso.html

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-dil1.htm

Democracy for Christians in Egypt, Too?


It is natural to question what the future will hold for Christians in Egypt, given past tensions and real repression during the thirty year reign of President Hosni Mubarak .

The following interview is a discussion of religion in the “New” Egypt. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/february-11-2011/religion-in-a-changing-egypt/8132/

February 11th, 2011

Religion in a Changing Egypt

BOB ABERNETHY, host: There was jubilation in the streets of Egypt Friday (February 11) after President Hosni Mubarak finally decided to step down. He handed power to the military’s Supreme Council. The Council pledged to meet protestors’ demands for a peaceful transfer of authority that will lead to a free democracy. Meanwhile, debate continues over the role religion could play in a new government. Kim Lawton and I examine the week’s dramatic developments in Egypt with Geneive Abdo. She’s a longtime Middle East reporter and author of the book “No God but God: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam.”

http://www.amazon.com/No-God-but-Egypt-Triumph/dp/0195157931

She’s a fellow and analyst at the Century Foundation and National Security Network. Welcome to you.

GENEIVE ABDO: Thank you very much.

ABERNETHY: Geneive, one way or another there’s going to be a new government in Egypt. What can we say about the degree of religious influence that we can expect in that government?

post0b1-changingegyptABDO: Well that, of course, Bob, is the question everyone’s been asking, and I think that there’s no doubt, I mean as everyone has been reading about this big organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, that they will have a role in the government. I mean there’s no doubt about that.

KIM LAWTON, managing editor: And that’s different, right? I mean, they’ve been not having an influence, and so this would be a change?

ABDO: Yes, I mean, they’ve been a banned party, so this is a huge, huge change in Egyptian history, and they’ve been in Egypt since the 1920s, so this will be their first time to actually enter government.

ABERNETHY: There was a poll that came out this week taken by phone in Cairo and Alexandria asking questions about these things, and a very low percentage, 15 percent, said they approved of the Muslim Brotherhood. Has there been a change since years ago in that as a new generation has come up?

ABDO: Well, I think that the statistic that people that have used is 20 percent generally—that if there were free elections today, 20 percent of Egyptians would vote for Brotherhood candidates, but I think that could be sort of an underestimation.

ABERNETHY: But so what would that mean in a government if the Muslim Brotherhood or any strongly Islamist group had influence?

ABDO: Well, there are a lot of parties in Egypt. There are a lot of political parties, as we all know. Some of them are secular, some are nationalist. The Brotherhood is only one of them. However, the Brotherhood is very well organized, and they’ve been around for a long time. They’re a social, also, organization. They run hospitals. They do a lot of sort of social work in Egypt. So they are very, very influential.

post0b2-changingegyptABERNETHY: But in terms of policies, what would it mean—a policy, for instance, of Egypt toward Israel or toward the United States?

ABDO: The Brotherhood’s position today—and actually one of their leaders has been on television answering that question and he’s been reluctant to answer. He says we don’t know yet. Let’s not talk about foreign policy. But historically, the position of the movement has been against the peace agreement with Israel.

LAWTON: One of the issues I’ve been interested to watch is different representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood this week were sort of doing a Western PR campaign, and many of them said we want to have democracy but we don’t want it to look like American democracy per se, and they said they do want to see Islamic values somehow incorporated into a new government. But I think that’s what has people wondering, well, what does that mean in terms of everyday life in Egypt?

ABDO: Yes, and I think that this is something—I mean, if you can imagine, even for the Brotherhood I don’t know how they could answer this question, because they’ve never been in power. But I think that what they want—and they’ve been very clear they are for democracy, but as you say, not a Western–style democracy, and they want—whatever government the new government comes to be in Egypt they want it to reflect the values of the society.

ABERNEHTY: What does that mean, “the values of society”? Does that mean the same as strongly Islamic values?

ABDO: Well, I’ll just give you an example, okay? When the Brotherhood wrote a draft party platform three years ago, they said that they wanted a group of scholars to vet laws passed by the parliament to make sure that they conformed with Islamic values, so that’s one thing they have proposed.

post0b3-changingegyptABERNETHY: For instance, relating to women?

ABDO: Relating to women, relating maybe even to, you know, what students learn in school, relating to whether women wear headscarves. They have said they won’t make veiling mandatory. They have said this.

ABERNETHY: Would an Islamist government or a government with strong influence from the Muslim Brotherhood—would it be different as far as attitudes towards the United States are concerned?

ABDO: I do think so. I think that we have to be very careful not to be alarmist at this point, but I do think that not only the Brotherhood but many Egyptians actually believe that they should be sort of not so reliant on the aid that they receive from the United States, and they want to be more in charge of their own destiny.

LAWTON: There’s been a lot of different countries that have tried to incorporate Islamic values and democracy. What are the challenges? You know, some people say, is democracy compatible with Islam? Is this a new experimental point?

ABDO: I think it really is, and if we, even though this has been written about so much this week, I think if we take the two models we know of now, right, Iran and Turkey, I think that we are looking at a future Egypt that resembles Turkey much more than it resembles Iran. And Turkey, let’s face it, I mean Turkey’s been very successful. They have a vibrant economy, and they have so far been able to walk this tightrope, and I know that that’s something—

ABERNETHY: So we would not be looking at a theocracy.

ABDO: Definitely not. I don’t think—that is definitely not coming to Egypt.

ABERNETHY: What about the other religions in Egypt—the Copts, for instance, ten million of them? What’s the outlook for them in a new kind of government?

ABDO: The Copts, as we all know from reading the papers, have been the target of a lot of violence in Egypt, and I think that we know also that some of this violence has come from the state security services and the forces. So if there is a new state presumably there will more religious tolerance, I mean, we can only hope so. Just today, for example, there was a report that the current interior minister may have been involved in the attack on a church in Alexandria.

ABERNETHY: We have to leave it there. Geneive Abdo, many thanks.

ABDO: Thank you, nice to be here.

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We Don’t Agree, But I Love You


How easily do we love people who assume the worst about us?

This article in the Burnside Writers Collective about loving people we disagree with,  got me to thinking.

http://burnsidewriters.com/2011/01/23/we-dont-agree-but-i-love-you/ Read an excerpt below:

“If we disagree with an enemy, Jesus tells us to love them and pray for them.  If we disagree with a brother or sister in Christ, the Spirit tells us to maintain unity with them in the bond of peace.

So when we’re tempted to say we don’t get along with someone because we disagree, it’s probably more accurate to say:  I don’t get along with him because I’m prideful; or I don’t get along with her because I’m not willing to love her.

Instead, let us be the kind of people who are humble, gentle, patient, and willing to bear with one another in love”.

Question:  Why is it hard to maintain peace with someone with whom we disagree?

In recent years,  God has been pulling me into unexplored territory; into spaces where few people I know are standing.

Politically, I’m neither left nor right, conservative nor liberal. I welcome this conflicted position, and I’m learning there is often truth in both, sometimes in neither.  I’m also learning that I am not naturally inclined towards love with people who try to make me fit into one of their boxes.

The following article by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author, syndicated columnist, political analyst and commentator really clicked with me. Then I heard a lot of criticism of Obama’s handling of the crisis on FOX TV. Well that’s okay. We disagree.

Egypt Buries the Myth That Obama Would Botch a

Foreign Crisis

http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/216348

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