April 2008


 SPRING IN KENTUCKY

I was going to write a blog about “To Blog or not to Blog, On the Sabbath.” It seemed like a great way to introduce my quest to find some Jewish blogs to interact with on e4unity. My reasoning is pretty simple, as usual.

  • When you add the number of the world’s population which includes those who count themselves as Christians or Muslims, you have a sizeable number, and if we hope to ever make progress towards those goals that all greathearts yearn for (see, Unity worth blogging about) it seems obvious that we begin here.
  • But another significant group of Bravehearts in the world consider themselves Jewish, and these have more than one thing in common with the other two groups. To start with, they are mono-theistic, have a common tie to Father Abraham, and are bound to their God by some form of covenant. I’m going to add one more that may surprise some, but I think if you’ll give me a hearing at some future time, I can make a case for-unless I have completely mis-understood the core beliefs; they all believe in one way or another that part of their covenant with God involves the call to rule the nations. This is a dominant idea of Kingdom of God in the Jewish and Christian scriptures as well as the Koran. True, the manner in which each group envisions how that rule will actually come to pass are very different. But if we can get this out in the open and on the table, we’ve made a huge jump.

I don’t know if that hits you with the same force as it does me. It suggests that at this stage it is just unthinkable not to learn how to talk to oneanother on those basic humanitarian fundamentals I’ve brought up before-respect, integrity, dignity, and the worth of each precious life. It also demands that we listen with the intent to push past all the sterotypes and half-truths we seemed destined to keep passing on generation after generation, about one another, and finally get to know our neighbor as they desire to be known. 

And so I’m on a quest and I’ve already found some very interesting work going on. For example I’ve discovered a group of Jewish blogs for justice including strong advocacy inside Israel protesting the present government policies towards the Palestinians. I’ve also found significant peacemaking being attempted by mixed groups of Arab Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The wonder of the dynamics of the blog for good, leads me to have real hope where there was no hope before. The conversation, no the actual working for significant progress has already begun. More to come. Much more. There is more than a little urgency to our work.  

 * The Mis-understanding is in full swing -watch the clip at MediaMatters (ok I’m guilty of a little play on words in the use of “Light” in the title of the blog)

 

 

 

 

 

These are not your ordinary Dentists

 

 

First, some thirty years ago, there was this real neat Brazilian, named Haroldo.He was recommended highly by our neighbor, an old man who himself was a Dentist in Campinas, Sao Paulo,Brazil. Haroldo worked pretty  hard on a particularly bad tooth with major decay, and ended up putting in a cap that looked more like a “block”, in fact that’s what he called it in Portuguese-um bloco. After what was left of my tooth was cleaned and prepared, this bloco was put in place with some kind of cement. It has held for those thirty years, until yesterday.

 

Enter my present Dentist who I’ve known now for the best part of twenty years, Paul Wong. Paul is a near genius and a real gift from my heavenly Father, who knows me well enough to know I have a real problem with going to the Dentist, that dates back to my early years at the Dental College in Kansas City. Paul is a graduate of Berea College, and after he finished his graduate degrees, he returned to Berea to set up his practice in Berea and he’s been here ever since. He has made a massive contribution to the community over the years. Besides his degree in Dentistry, he also earned a PhD in one of the sciences. Paul was born in Borneo, of Chinese parents, who raised seventeen children. I can’t begin to tell you the respect and admiration I have for this great human being and his place in this world community of ours. And he makes annual trips to Malaysia to be involved in projects to save endangered species.

 

As I left his office today after he rebuilt the tooth that will later receive a crown, if I can find the money to pay for it, he gave me a very precious gift. I’ve known for several years that one of his brothers is also a Dentist. I am not going to tell you everything I now know about his brother, I want you to follow the link I will provide so that you can have the enjoyment, or should I say feast, of seeing this for yourself. His brother is a very good photographer, and since 1982, a student of scuba diving. He has published two books of his pictures, and I believe has come out with a third one featured on National Geographic. Paul gave me a copy of his brother’s book, ”Malaysia – Beneath the waves”, and I’m dying to share them with you. The pics are literally out of this world- they’re in the sea world. As you enjoy the samples on-line, I hope you will pause and give thanks for the humble parents that have given the world such precious gifts. Oh yes, the brothers name is Michael Patrick Wong, and did I mention his practice is in London? The love and respect he and his brother have for the creation can definitely be felt through his photography.

 

This link will take you to the end of the picture presentation but will allow you to read about two books and then go back to the beginning. Enjoy, courtesy of the Wongs from Borneo. http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/underh20/htmls/end.htm

 

Time to say something about the passion behind my e4unity blog. You have been transparent with me on your blog, and I want to reciprocate in good faith and let you know what my hope is for this blog.

Am I wrong to assume that there is some purpose, something you are passionate about that you want to share with anyone who will pause long enough at your blog to hear? Is this in fact what generally makes some blogs stand out more than others; not just aimless wandering about whatever is blowin in the wind that day, but something very personal, something you have invested a significant part of your life in? No, you say I’m getting a little carried away here; chill out, relax, “It’s just another way to entertain yourself.”

I don’t think I’ve misread you. If so, I’m sorry and will blog somewhere else. Because there is passion in my blog, and for me, I want it to be a blog worth the time and effort. That’s why it must be about integrity, about mutual respect, about the ultimate worth of every individual we encounter here in the blogging community. It is all about the unity of the human community that is becoming more and more evident. Some have called it the new reality of this generation. Oh there have been plenty who have admitted it in previous generations, but they were for the most part ahead of their time.

Simply put, e4unity blog is about the reality that we are now as never before in the history of the world all in this together; we are in the same historical narrative and we are our Brother’s keeper. What affects one life on the other side of the planet, affects us all in some real way and we must find ways to share our pains and sufferings as well as our resources, our wisdom.

Now so that you who read this will not jump to conclusions about the unity I’m speaking of I want to begin to clarify it. How did I arrive at what I’ve stated thus far? I would say that while we are very different we have all come more or less to the same observation pragmatically and from realizing that it is fundamental to some very basic needs that we all face, starting with survival itself. The pyramid is constructed upward from there- the need to make some sense to life and what happens to people we love and care about; to find solutions to the injustices, to give us significance and purpose to go on living, not simple existing.

We all want to believe that the greatest satisfactions and enjoyments in life are found beyond instant gratifications of material or physical attractions but something that goes down to the level of the soul and spirit.

 

The way we are made

I firmly believe that is the way we are made, created. Yes, I think we suspect that those who keep telling us that there is in fact a Creator God are probably right. Forgive me, if I’m taking too much for granted at this point.

I consider every human being on a path moving towards belief in God. At any given moment, in any given life, where along that path we might be, may in fact be impossible to know; but we are all moving in the direction of an inescapable encounter with the God who made us. That is what my blog insists gives us a unity as the human race that says we really have much more in common, regardless of who we are, than we can imagine.

And this gives us a lot to write about and have some very interesting and hopefully profitable conversations along the way. And it does much more than that; it places eternal worth of the individual into the equation-

which I think is exactly what is often lacking.

Thus far I think there will be much agreement; I have confidence in my fellow world citizens that there is indeed not only the desire for such unity but a commitment to be among those who work for it and not among those who would destroy it.

 So whether you visit regularly or abandon the blog altogether, that’s our starting place.

Obviously within this unity, there is another very specialized and universal unity which I hope to tell you about among those who identify themselves as belonging to the new humanity that is being formed in union with The Christ of God. I wouldn’t be completely honest with you if I didn’t put that out on the table at this point. I hope you will stay- you are important to me and I’m looking forward to walking a while along the path together.  

For related post: I belong to the True Church


 

MEET SOME OF THOSE BEHIND MY BLOG ROLL

In just one week what I have received through these extra-ordinary gifts is more valuable than all the oil in the world. For they represent what I believe the really valuable thing here on earth to be : the Mega story we’ve all been caught up in. The story of humanity that we are all apart of and these blogs prove just how precious and valuable every life and every sacred story is.

Meet Vera and her blog: Operation Meaning  “For those who struggle with the question,’Is there more to life than this?'” At first, because of my haste in reading a post, I thought Vera was Russian, but no, it was only that Vera was the Russian translation for her name. Her blog is a lovely window to get a glimse of Orthodox Christianity through the eyes and emotions, and via some very gifted writing of a new convert from another tradition.

Meet Parsin and his blog about Persia: The Land of the first human rights charter. I have traded comments with Cyrus and thank God for the privilege to know him and to see Islam from the special perspective that his blog represents. As I told him, I am an old admirer of Cyrus The Great and his story in the Jewish scriptures. Unless I am mistaken, the purpose of my own blog is similiar to his regarding the universal brotherhood of love and understanding. I am hoping to learn much from his posts and to see the sights and culture of the Iranian people for myself.

Finally, I want you to meet one other before you go-I will introduce you to the others another time. This is someone I’ve known before and have the greatest admiration for his writings about the american culture. He writes a column on the site of Charles Colson and the Prison Fellowship- Second Sight. This link will take you to one of the articles of my friend, T.M.Moore, and should give you a sample of the christian faith and worldview.

Thanx for dropping by.

 

 

 

‘Killing Fields’ Journalist Dies

When I listened to NPR on Monday this week, as I often do in the morning, I was suddenly reminded of how one solitary life far away in another culture can have an enormous influence on the rest of us. Dith Pran, the Cambodian-born journalist whose experiences inspired the movie The Killing Fields, died Sunday at age 65. It was Pran that coined the term “Killing Field” after seeing the remains of victims of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime. He was my age and he had a great impact on my life and how I’ve been able to view other such human tragedies ever since.

I want to pay tribute to his memory though I never had the privilege to meet him. It’s possible, because of those things that so easily keep us from speaking across artificial barriers, that someone reading this has an entirely different opinion regarding Mr.Pran. I’ve been told that in the Khmer Republic today, this is one subject, which is not spoken of openly. But I ask for your patience to be able to tell you how personal this became to me and has been part of me these thirty-five or so years.

I was in New York in 1973-74 preparing to go to then Cambodia, doing post-graduate training in Missiology (the Science of Missions). As part of my studies, I was doing a field research on the land, culture, and people of that country. It was more than just an intellectual exercise of history and statistics: I was prepared to leave my own “comfort” zone and invest my life in helping others whom I had never met. The special area of interest for my cultural study was the religious history and in those days it seemed to be one of the most excited places in terms of a Sovereign God who works in mighty ways fulfilling his purposes for all creation. God was at work in undeniable ways as a national church was coming alive and growing as never before. Years of dedicated, slow work were suddenly showing remarkable results; it was truly “a movement of a people” toward Christ. I personally met at this time, one whose life work had been the printing of the Cambodian Bible- which had been done right there in Nyack, New York.

But there were other forces of work at the same time. The terrible evil of war was even then escalating and there was a growing sense of urgency for those in the country. I found myself deeply identifying with the Khmer people and what it must be like “on the ground”, as they say. I felt a love being created in my being for real people as I read some of the personal stories coming out and the efforts of others to be of help. I met a medical doctor who had persuaded the Cambodian government to allow him to build and staff a much-needed hospital and then was raising support in the States through the auspices of World Vision to make it a reality.

And then in the midst of such hope, the whole story changed abruptly as the war in Southeast Asia went from bad to worse. The door of opportunity for the gospel of the redeemer sent from God suddenly shut with devastating results. With were not to learn the enormous dimensions of that tragedy until much later, and that’s where Dith Pran and his incredible story comes in. I remember the awful anguish I felt when it was clear that I was not going to be able to go to that land that I had already, in a sense, given my heart to. I was reassigned to Brazil and arrived there in 1976. I was just beginning to make the transition culturally from all that I had learned of one new “people group” of the world to a totally different one, the Brazilian when Dith made a personal appearance. No, he didn’t come to Brazil, but his film did. I was with my family when he reached out of that film and touched my life so deeply.

If there is a God, why is there evil? Why did the “killing fields” happen? How can the rest of us not remember the next time the decision is made by someone to go to war? Any faith system humankind can adopt to live by must be able to face these realities of our human condition and find satisfactory answers, or else it will fail to be the inner brace we require to live by. If you are an atheist, surely you know that you have your own faith system and you have discovered some way to live with these realities too and your answers will be different from those who have a faith system that begins with a Creator God, whose sovereign control over all things past and present, presents its own challenges. When I saw the Killing Fields and didn’t turn Dith and his story out of my life, I was forced to review my own faith system to its very roots and that was a major crisis for me. My system, or I should say the God of my system did not come to pieces as I faced the dimensions of this human tragedy. That there could be such joy and hope for a people one moment and the reality that it could be dashed to those ruins we see in the film, has taught me profound lessons that I intend to never forget. Without one man’s courage and determination against impossible odds to tell the rest of us in the watching world the story from within, my next thirty-fives years of life would have been very different. Because of him, my understanding of a personal God who is deeply involved in the earth’s peoples has been greatly enlarged and so I have learned to trust this God for whatever we encounter in life- be it the starkest evil that one human can inflict on another, such as displayed in the Oklahoma bombing, or be it a completely unexpected “natural” disaster such as we saw in the Tsunami of southeast Asia.

As I come to the end here, one disclaimer is needed. I’m not speaking out of any one “ideology” here, but rather out of the great narrative that informs us about how this God has been personally identifying with and acting for humankind’s deliverance from all the evil and oppressions of life since the beginning of time. The narrative is not god, but it points us to the living God responsible for the narrative as well as the faith it creates in him for those that accept his testimony. “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life”.

READ What Others Say ABOUT DITH PRAN

The KILLING FIELDS (film)Warner Brothers trailer

Brazil 1978

                                                  BRAZIL 1978

Though my blog is definitely meant to have the aroma of Christ, that does not mean I intend to remain in some kind of sub-culture of the western world. Having lived and worked in another language and culture for 12 prime years of my life, I am forever determined to be a world-citizen.

So don’t be surprised to see a posting now and then from a very different source. I am committed to loving the world as God loves the world.

For example, check out this wisdom from arabicpress:

 Internet as “Real” Speech

I think that many of us define certain Internet spaces as a “community” of sorts. We post videos, photos, and journals on the Internet and many times, people respond. The purpose of this post is to show how certain types of Internet communities are host to some very negative and racist ideas and how they do not serve any constructive purpose whatsoever. I think we have to ask how these Internet “communities” translate into “real” life — but at the same time — I think this question is problematic since the Internet is becoming more integrated into our everyday lives. By this, I mean that the “anonymous commenter” may appear to be a faceless, distant Internet user, but in many societies where the Internet is pervasive, the speech that is made online may just as well have been made face-to-face. Speech made on the internet is “real” speech and should be treated as a tangible phenomenon and not something that exists in some “digital” world of little consequence.

peoples.jpg Excerpts From Geoffrey Wainwright’s, Lesslie Newbigin: a Theological Life (Oxford, 2000)

How might my generation’s fellow theologians benefit from attending to Lesslie Newbigin’s work? He has affected my theological life in many, surprising ways (an offhand comment inspired my formal study of Islam, which has transformed my appreciation of both it and Christianity!). Newbigin’s contributions are so many and so impressive that I could not do justice to more than a few here. Instead of even trying, I recount one basic contribution that drives my appreciation of the others. Before my exposure to Newbigin, I had a fairly typical attitude towards Christian denominationalism: First, that political differences between denominations are by and large adiaphora, no more relevant to Christian life than the differences between California’s and Nevada’s political structures are relevant to American citizenship. Second, that theological differences (defined of course in terms of “doctrine” rather than mere “polity”) between denominations necessitate a search for the One True Church and emigration to it (after all, God must have provided one for diligent seekers to find).

Many of my fellow evangelical Protestants at Fuller Seminary were engaged in similar quests for the ultimate denomination. Our role as enquirers was to study the traditions’ various polemics, in order to declare a winner of the ecclesiological debate. (The search was especially urgent for those on the ordination track. “Check out the Covenant Church,” I overheard one say to another. “They’ve got it all!”) Some found what they were searching for. One friend’s laborious search led him powerfully to the fundamentalistic Reformed tradition, then to a reformed Episcopalian splinter group, then finally into Eastern Orthodoxy, where he lives an entirely satisfied life in the priesthood. Others have never quite finished their quest, and remain unsatisfied with both their present location and their other denominational options. Still others have given up, concluding that there simply is no One True Church. For these the greatest temptations, both fatal to Christian theologians, are either to settle for ecclesiastical mediocrity or to give up on organized Christianity entirely. I myself switched allegiances many times in my heart. But unlike my Orthodox friend, I could never find a tradition with which I was entirely comfortable.

Newbigin’s ecclesiological vision, developed in The Household of God and elsewhere, saved me from my search for the One True Church, by offering me an alternative I had never considered. “The Holy Catholic Church has not ceased to exist, defaced and divided though it is by our sin,” he claims in The Reunion of the Church (113). However, like the Corinthian body, circumstances have divided the universal Church not into one true fellowship and many counterfeits, nor even one Church and other mere “ecclesial bodies” or “vestiges of the Church,” but into mutually compromised factions with continuing, legitimate ecclesiological claims on each other.

Schism does not annihilate God’s presence to the divided fellowships, for “God in His mercy has not allowed our sinful divisions to destroy the operations of His grace” (113). By deifying their divisions, the factions’ ecclesiological justifications even preserve their hard-won strengths. Yet schism does compromise God’s presence throughout the Church, for no denominational camp can live up to the full promise of the Church of Jesus Christ. So the factions’ ecclesiological justifications afflict their internal health and their external witness. Furthermore, as Newbigin brilliantly argues in The Household of God, they frustrate the very divisions they seek to justify, by revealing the Holy Spirit’s work in supposedly illegitimate rivals and pointing the factions beyond themselves and towards each other. My fellows and I were feeling the effects: Appreciation of the partly incompatible insights of more than one tradition, frustration at each tradition’s own inadequacy, and restlessness at the prospect of accepting the failings of any one of these as God’s will, when life together in Christ seems to promise so much more than the status quo.

My fellows and I had failed to understand that these flawed Christian fellowships were compromised not simply because of the positions they had taken, but in part because of the way they had taken up these positions against others. We took the parties for granted when they contended they were Johannine children of light and darkness, rather than childish Corinthians. We had bought into their common claim that one tradition could be entirely right, or even simply be fundamentally sound, apart from the resources of the others. This mistake led us either into the overrealized eschatology implicit in the various denominations’ claims to be the One True Church (even those of traditions that in other respects championed futurist eschatologies!), or to its abandonment for an utterly futurist eschatology where the current institutional fellowships of Christians would have only a weak relationship to the invisible Church of Christ (an easy move for those of us with strong premillennial heritages).

Newbigin’s diagnosis decisively refutes these false opposites. It resists the smug exclusivism of any one position — Roman Catholic (and Eastern Orthodox), Magisterial Protestant, and “Pentecostal” (Free Church) — while simultaneously resisting both the facile inclusivism that simply adds all these traditions up into one pseudo-ecclesiological umbrella, and the convenient pluralism that considers each of them self-sufficient or essentially commensurate. After Newbigin, I have stopped searching for the One True Church, for he has helped me see that I already belong to it.

( to read more of Geoffrey Wainwright’s, Lesslie Newbigin: a Theological Life (Oxford, 2000), courtesy of post at TELFORD WORKS  site.
 

For an example of the kind of wisdom I search for, and sometimes find, see”THE TRUE CHURCH” by J.C.RYLE.  For a partial list of his many contributions to the mission of the true church, and why many of us respect him so highly, see LESSLIE NEWBIGIN.

Reasons often heard for neglecting God’s priority


     1) Christian unity is really not important and therefore optional in the christian life as well  as among the churches. My Answer: Unity is number one on the list in Ephesians, chapter four, when the Apostle begins to speak about how to live a life worthy of our calling in Christ.

     2) Christian unity is a wonderful ideal but not to be realized in this world. My Answer: The same thing can be said regarding holiness, or godliness, but that does not relieve us from agreeing with God that it His good pleasure for us and diligently praying for grace to live it out.

     3) Christian unity is just not practical in our pluralistic world today. My Answer: According to Christ, the Head of the Church, it is the essential model for this present age that the world in fact can observe and take notice and “know with some certainty” that we are, in fact, his disciples.

     4) Christian unity is a favorite theme of only the liberals. My Answer: In the history of christian missions, ecumenism was promoted by godly leaders to advance the cause of Christ and the glory of God in the world. In times of disasters or times of unusual revival, the unity of God’s people has often been a prominent feature among those personally involved.

     5) Christian unity will only be produced by special organized programs-such as the World Council of Churches. My Answer : The true union of God’s new race is first and foremost a spiritual union produced by His Holy Spirit and the Word of God as a direct result of the finished work of Christ himself. We are not called to produce it, but to practice it, and make every effort to keep it.

     6) Christian unity is about the local church only and does not apply beyond that fellowship of believers. My Answer : It certainly must begin there and in the home, but must extend both far and wide to reflect the universal and timeless nature of the One,Holy,Catholic,Church.

     7) Christian unity will require that all christians everywhere worship in the same way and all hold the same doctrinal interpretations. My Answer: It is not about conformity over against the diversities of gifts, cultural contexts, and other legitimate variations of the multi-faceted grace of God. It is about unity of essence and purpose in union with and under the  headship of Christ.

    8) Christian unity will eventually require compromise with the truth. My Answer : When our Lord prays in John’s gospel, chapter 17, His passion for the glory of His Father on earth does not play one essential of God’s will against the other. The elements of His Father’s truth and the petition for the saints’ unity in Him and his redemptive mission in this world simply cannot be separated- neither in this central passage nor in all of holy Scripture.

___________________________________________                                                  E4 UNITY INSTITUTE of CHURCH GROWTH   Berea,Kentucky

Consider a pledge to maintain the unity of the Spirit

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