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Religious Unity Spurred by Violence?

Not so fast.  Dr. Dwight McKissic offered a sermon focused on how to help young black men in his congregation think through their own choices in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. What Jesus informed options should those faced with similar circumstances consider. He sent all or part of that sermon to Dave Miller, who has his hands full herding the commenting cats over there, at SBC Voices to be posted on what is a popular Southern Baptist group blog that also aggregates feeds from other Southern Baptists. Currently the feed is a Twitter feed since Google shut the lights on Google Reader.

The comments are diverse. You would imagine so with Baptist types. But, what is a bit startling is the manner of the disagreement, the tone of the comments. It could hardly be concluded that a violent incident spurs religious unity. I confess to thinking that were I Dwight, I might reconsider sending Dave another item to post.

My thoughts are not to convey everyone would or should agree with Dr. McKissic, though I do. Instead, it is that if the deep divide that exists over our racial history is to ever be bridged, our conversations must be better. What if an event like the violent death of a 17-year-old black man led us not to draw attention to black on black violence but to talk about violence and race. To always point to what happens on the streets of Chicago seems to be obfuscation.

For the past two years I have participated in a partnership in Guatemala. The group travels twice a year to teach local pastors in what they refer to as seminary. If the schedule holds I will travel twice next year.

Guatemala has a violent history. I recall a This American Life episode on NPR that included gruesome details. Many places in Latin America experience violence as a staple. What to do?

I discovered a piece on the AULA blog. It is the inspiration for the title. The piece I read, Moving Toward Religious Unity In Response to Violence, prompted me to consider if the points made in the piece could inspire religious unity in the United States if we made the same discoveries about ourselves. Or, if we wold assume a superior cultural posture by pointing toward our more peaceful existence when making relative comparisons.

Here are a few of the points that stirred me to think about the way Christian groups, in particular my tribe, may learn from others how we might seek unity in the face of violence.

1. Violence requires an understanding of context. While violence is common to several Latin American countries their contexts require a solid look beyond the common crimes.

Violence in Chicago, deemed black on black, may be prompted by a number of factors. If the issue of race is present then it is a very different outlet than other instances where violence erupts between those of differing ethnic background.

2. The common experience is drawing people together from different countries, those with different strategies, and ministries involved in care after the events of violence.

There is no silver bullet to ending violence or racial reconciliation. I am not ignoring the activity of God or the agency of the Spirit. What I am pointing up is that those responsible for reconciliation, embodying and enacting, will find the work hard even if it may be supported and funded by the event of God.

3. Violence takes new forms as others are challenged.

Particularly I have in mind racial violence. There may be no more white hooded posses hanging black people from trees, it is still a violent act to support a system that continues, as Dr. Moore noted, to display apparent racial bias.

4. Churches offer conflicting messages about peace.

Some view peace the result of a redeemed individual. Others find it necessary to address systems and structures. Often the two compete for attention, support, and funding. These conflicts present a fractured vision for peace. Both elements seem true but should fit within a desire for peace so that either side of this divide may join forces to end violence, especially in this context where I am aiming at racial reconciliation.

5. Ecclesial competition is undermined.

Christians of every background working together in the face of racial division sets our agenda on something other than self-preservation. Maybe churches, like individuals, need to put to death the habits and practices that support the self and in those places plead for resurrection living.

What do you think?

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Lift the Cuban Embargo – Glad for Some Baptist Voices

When the SBC voted a resolution inviting its constituency to boycott Disney it was a selective action. The tentacles of the corporate giant reached into places many hardly realized as they raised hands agreeing to abstain from watching, buying, or going to anything Disney. That was 1997.

Eight years later the SBC dropped the boycott. Dr. Richard Land contended that many off the record conversations indicated Disney indeed listened. He insinuated the effort led to the eventual vote of no confidence for Michael Eisner. That was 2005.

In between these events the SBC voted to cut its ties with the Baptist World Alliance. Search high and low and you cannot uncover a solid reasoning for the move. I had my own off the record conversations having served on the General Council of the BWA at the time. What seemed to be missed by the discovery of a needle of theological liberalism in the haystack of 200 million Baptists worldwide was that the SBC had neither the interest nor the structure to speak into international matters of justice. The BWA did. That was 2004.

The SBC severed its relationship with the one entity that worked around the world to bring peace by engaging people, systems, and structures that made life difficult for other human beings all in the Name of Jesus. There have been reports that the SBC may be rethinking the relationship as its attempted alternative has all but failed. I hope the SBC rejoins the BWA at some point in the future. It will require putting aside animosity toward the CBF.

Recently I listened to an interview with Frank Shcaeffer. He noted that his move away from the extremes of the Evangelical world came as he witnessed a lack. The largest Christian block, arguably, in the world often ignored some of the most egregious matters of justice.

Bono recently applauded Evangelicals (21:40) for their efforts for their leadership in curbing AIDS/HIV progress. The largest Evangelical denomination rarely gives as much energy to human trafficking, sexual abuse, AIDS/HIV, and poverty as it did when poking a finger in Disney’s face.

Meanwhile the BWA continues to advocate for matters of justice in the word. It is one of its organizational elements for which they provide staff. Sunday, July 7, the BWA issued a press release once again advocating the end of the Cuban embargo. The consequences seem clear. Castro did not flinch and the Cuban people suffer.

Washington, DC (BWA)–The General Council of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) passed a resolution asking the government of the United States to lift its long standing embargo on Cuba.

The US embargo against Cuba was first imposed in October 1960, was strengthened in 1962 and codified into law in 1993. It includes commercial, economic, financial and travel prohibitions and restrictions.

“The BWA urges the US government to end the embargo of Cuba and re-establish formal diplomatic relations with the Cuban government” and “lift all remaining restrictions on travel to Cuba by US citizens.” Both governments need to “set in place a process for negotiating legitimate bilateral grievances.”

Essentially asserting that the embargo is irrelevant, the council, which comprises Baptist leaders from around the world, said “more than two decades have passed since the end of the Cold War, and that most manifestations of that struggle have been ameliorated or abolished, except for the continuing United States embargo against Cuba begun in 1960.”

The embargo, the resolution claims, serves no useful purpose. “The interests of neither nation – nor those of the international family of nations – are served by the status quo.” Rather, “the lifting of the embargo will improve living conditions for Cubans and provide greater opportunities for commerce, education, and travel.”

The BWA governing body noted that several of its member organizations in the US “have been on record for more than two decades in opposition to the embargo” and that “annually for the past 21 years the United Nations General Assembly has voted – nearly unanimously – for an end to the embargo.”

The council expressed concern about the effect the embargo has on Baptists on the Caribbean island, which has the fastest growing Baptist membership in the Caribbean. “The Baptist World Alliance® stands in solidarity with Cuban Baptists who have been negatively impacted by this embargo.”

The General Council convened during the BWA Annual Gathering that was held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from July 1-6.

In 2000 I was in Havana for the BWA General Council meeting. I heard stories from local pastors of what life was like. If I recall correctly, some talked of shoes made of Bible covers. Intercepted Bibles were stripped of their covers to make shoes. I recall the indoor stadium built to host the Pan Am Games crumbling due to poor construction. I remember the beggars who longed for something to eat. Recently I was reminded of my own action to help a young mother in need of milk while standing in a convenience store in Havana across from our hotel.

One of these days maybe the largest, wealthiest group of Baptists will put more energy in addressing these issues that surely rank higher in terms of frequency than same-sex marriage and are as risky to the viability of life as the matter of abortion. Surely it does not take much to see these matters as Gospel matters. We could then run a headline that includes Southern Baptists not just some Baptists.

And yes, our church has supported the BWA since the SBC severed ties.

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Ed Stetzer’s Betrayal Exposes Upside Down Values

Today I will be chatting with a couple of post-Christian friends. The description is mine. I am not sure they would self-describe in this way. For by post-Christian I mean that they are of the current position that something must come after the sort of Christianity, or form of, currently reigning in the West.

I do not have time to walk through the ways I am thinking about this at the moment but think an interesting juxtaposition of a couple of themed articles will get you started. Either you will ridicule me or you will help me think through this designation better and offer a different perspective.

First, Ed Stetzer posted a response to Norm Miller’s criticism of a certain sort of leader, a particular kind of Southern Baptist leader. Miller named Stetzer as his example, though he likely could have included me if my name had reached the SBC constellation of note. Miller’s concerns are with preserving a nuance of Baptist, Southern Baptist, distinctives founded upon its own merits. Some would refer to Miller as a hard SBC foundationalist.

The subject in question is Lifeway’s, The Gospel Project, curriculum of which Stetzer is General Editor. I offered my take on the betrayal yesterday. Over against Miller’s hard SBC foundationalism a person may argue that The Gospel Project represents a soft SBC foundationalism. Most familiar with philosophical constructs would immediately see why among conservative, yeah fundamentalist, would heat up such an argument. We Southern Baptists find it hard to be soft on anything.

Dave Miller weighed in, as has Alan Cross.

Meanwhile there are more important things to value than whether or not Stetzer allowed conservative Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians to be quoted in The Gospel Project material. Check out Dave Miller’s follow up post noting the ways Baptists have been more ecumenical musically. The comments will take the matter to a whole nutha level.

Second, and here is where the matter of post-Christian comes into play, Marty Duren is running a series on sexual abuse and sex-trafficking. It is a hard read. There are immediate visceral responses that are only muted by a certain level of self-control. Here is the point. While internecine squabbles are not hard to find among Southern Baptists, our understanding that the matters of human life ignored in our energies to be right – Traditionalists, non-Traditionalists, save the SBC, shutter the SBC, conservatively resurge the SBC, or liberally let it be – real life dramas call that as is structure into question. That is, if we continue to exert our energies over who gets quoted and whether or not we may preserve precious Baptist distinctives, we deserve to be relegated to the dung heap in search of something post-Christian, something beyond that sort of iteration that keeps us trapped to these sorts of arguments.

I will be back after lunch with one of my friends. Then, I will chat with other via Skype. We will see what you may come up with in the meantime.

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Steve McCoy Knows About More than Music and Tim Keller

If you are not aware of the friendship between Joe Thorn and Steve McCoy, then you may be missing out. We met a number of years ago in South Carolina. Our paths had crossed online. In those days, and still, Steve was a big deal when it came to blogging and Southern Baptists.

Every week I look forward to Steve’s, Music Monday posts. He is as eclectic as they come. Not a bad trait for a young guy. He also self-identifies as a Tim Keller fanboy, though not in the sense that Ed Stetzer scolds people for when it comes to fanboys of celebrity pastors. I believe Ed referred to his admiration of Tim Keller as a “man crush.” Enough said. Steve has a page dedicated to Time Keller resources.

Recently, though I do not know the back story, Joe arranged for Steve to be given a MacBook Pro and and iPad. Talk about friendship. Now you may cue the subtle hints pastors will be providing their buddies. And, if you can get your buddy to call you “babe,” then you may be sure the feelings run deep.

Steve tried a number of stylus options for his new iPad. I noticed he touted the Maglus Stylus, posted on it, and bought Joe one as a “Thank you.” I watched the video. I read the reviews. I have been looking for something just like the Maglus to improve sketch noting on the iPad. Mine arrived on Monday. I called it a gift to myself. If you are looking for a stylus for your iPad, follow Steve’s advice and look no further than the Maglus.

Here is a link for 10% off – http://applydea.refr.cc/CQV297V

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Reflection and 2013

A belated “Thank You” to readers here at The Edge of the Inside. I began blogging in December 2003 on the Blogger platform. I believe my URL was justtodd.blogspot.com. Times have changed. I moved through Typepad, changed my tagline, updated the URL, and today host my own WordPress site using Headway Themes.

Traffic and posts increased this year despite several long lapses in writing. I plan to revive Thoughts from the Edge and be more deliberate about posting reviews of books I have finished. I note finished because I have too many near finished. Maybe it stems from reading the classic, How to Read a Book and realizing that one need not read to the final page of many non-fiction books to track the authors subject and high points. Or, maybe it is more the consequence of an ADD reading style. One subject raises the prospect of investigating a related theme, and off I go.

reflectionI plan to add a page for my own Project 365 photography venture. The photo associated with this post is “1 of 365.” I took a couple of Spurgeon, our dog, begging but am not counting those among the selected shots. There is little doubt Cohen and Max will show up in a good many of them. There will also be some travel photos. Memphis, Guatemala, Springfield, Forsyth, and sights around Creede will surely make the cut.

We will experience some milestone moments this year. Patty and me will both turn 50. “Say it ain’t so!” We will also celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary with different events during the year. Our youngest will close the year half our age.

One aspect of the blog will remain the same. Scot McKnight recently re-posted one Ross Douthat’s three suggestions for reading to become an educated citizen. McKnight asked how this might be applied to the arena of theological reading. The quoted piece noted that we should read outside of our particular occupational niche. I take that at least two ways. First, I should read more outside of theology and Biblical studies. Second, when I read theology and Biblical studies, should read other than those that hold my own personal confidences. Readers here will confirm this to already be the case, and for,many this is frustrating.
zizekMy own experience has been that for the majority of my educational experience I did not read enough philosophy, logic, and sources with which I knew I might disagree. I have been working extra hard the past decade to amend that habit. Guy sent along enough Zizek to keep me reading until the year’s end. I picked up several commentaries on Luke, the Gospel for Year C, written by those outside my normal selections. LukeThey have already enriched my study. I do plan to add several books of Fiction. And, my mentor will likely scold me if I do not pick up the last of the series begun by William Manchester, finished posthumously by Paul Reid, on Churchill.

This continued practice into 2013 reminds me of a quote from Shane Hipps’ new bok, Selling Water by the River.

Hipps’ goes on to suggest that using multiple lenses to read from does not change the text, but changes the reader. Too often we worry that reading outside of our given Tradition will somehow lead us to somehow change the Sacred Text. Instead, Shane contends it is we who are changed. Chew on that one with me for a while. What are your thoughts?

Reflection leads us forward rather than ties us to only think about the past. Last Sunday’s text from Luke 2 contained the second instance in two short chapters where Mary “ponders,” reflects, on something she hears. One can only imagine how the words pondered both informed and created her understanding about her own Son. The past informed her forward look. I am looking forward to what is opened up this year. Glad you have joined me in the past. Here’s to hoping you will continue in this New Year.