Advocacy sometimes means getting off the fence!

You know by now that I am a passionate advocate for human rights which include dignity and justice. I don’t however put my name on very many public petitions. But this one I felt needed my participation, especially in light of so many other conflicting statements from we Christians regarding healthcare.

Here is what I signed today-

As a Christian, I believe my faith calls me to view all people, regardless of citizenship status, as made in the “image of God” and deserving of respect; to show compassion for the stranger and love and mercy for my neighbor; and to balance the rule of law with the call to oppose unjust laws and systems when they violate human dignity.

These biblical principles compel me to support immigration reform legislation that is consistent with humanitarian values, supports families, provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrant workers already in the U.S., expands legal avenues for workers to enter the U.S. with their rights and due process fully protected, and examines solutions to address the root causes of migration.

I believe the current U.S. immigration system is broken and reform is necessary. I call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform with the above elements by the end of this year.

Signed by: John Paul Todd, Berea, Kentucky

Hell is an essential part of LENT.

To not speak of hell is not an option for those who want to be faithful to the Biblical story. It shows up in many places where the word itself is not specifically used. But the concept is there in both the Old as well as the New Testaments.

So we must speak and to answer my own question of how, I will say first, with dignity and respect for all of you who will read this post. I confess that this is hard to do and not something that is very common in our religious history. Just think of the latest example. The ad that was rejected by the Super-bowl committee for the game/soon to be movie, “Dante’s Inferno“.(see Dante’s “Divine Comedy“)

But this version of hell as well as the classic it takes it’s name from is not exactly the concept and theme that is so central in the Biblical narrative. I’ve heard that Jesus the Christ himself spoke more about this theme than anything else other than the Kingdom of God. I listened to a free-download of a sermon (abbreviated), said to be the most famous sermon ever preached in America. It is “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God“, preached by Jonathan Edwards on July 8, 1741. Maybe you’ve heard of it.

May I suggest that we all down-load this mp3 version and listen to it as it represents faithfully the Biblical concept as well as any sermon can. No book and certainly no one sermon can ever take the place of the Biblical narrative itself. This is certainly true with a major theme such as hell. To lift out even this theme and try to present it separated from its original context in the story-well, you get the picture. This is what led to my original question. How are we possibly able to speak this essential part of the divine message into our present twenty-first century of electronic games with images and sounds so common to every Play-station owning kid?

Free Mp3 Download  (34 min) with Introduction,  narrated by Max McClean.

Billy Graham’s 1949 sermon honoring Edwards ministry, 200 years earlier;  The Jonathan Edwards Center@ Yale University.

One of the ads set to be shown during the SuperBowl next Sunday involves the testimony of Tim Tebow and his mother concerning her courageous choice to give birth inspite of her Doctor’s warning of possible serious consequences. The sponsor of the ad, Focus on the Family, has been under attack from certain sections including NOW.

Here is a another story that I really believe has a tremendous message. It is also about a football player, a former player in the NFL. It is about a mother whose baby was taken from her shortly before she died after she had been shot four times. It’s about the man who killed her who has become a muslim in prison and now talks of “judgment”. It’s about a courageous grandmother and about forgiveness and about much much more.

Oh yes, about that SuperBowl ad. Check out this video from the Washington Post about another pro-life ad from players of the New York Giants winner of the SuperBowl in 1989.

This post is just too good to pass up!

The blog of the day, a link I have in my permanent column of links, for today is something so crucial that I want to call your attention to it. From Khanya- Steve Hayes

“I think I know what Cat means, and I hope Cat (or someone else) will correct me if I am wrong. In hoping that all pagans eventually end up as Christians, Christians display an arrogance and lack of humility in assuming that “my path is better than your path”, or “my lived spirituality is better than your lived spirituality”. And if that were so, it would of course indeed be a lack of humilty, and it is a lack of humility that Christians are often tempted with and into which they often fall.

But for Christians what is central is not “my path” or “spirituality”, but God.

The blog goes on to state the other side of the equation ; the side of how the pagans (those who do not yet believe in God), in not recognizing this fundamental reality for Christians, and trying to force them to act and speak in some pluralsitic way (as pagans),is expecting them to violate the very nature of who they are. The very same thing could be said substituting Muslim or Jew for Christian; it’s against who they are to deny the reality of God, and God, as my muslim friend Cyrus pointed out, is abosolute.

Understanding our blood relatives

The Bravehearts, be they Jew, Christian, or Muslim, must be committed to understanding their fellow human beings in the world today. Those that reach a level of faith (faith as it is in each of the respective Faiths) that they are comfortable in honest dialogue, will listen with the intent of learning about their fellow humans, their “blood relatives”, because they really do value and esteem them for who they are, not what they hope they will become. I hope to continue along this line for a while, because I’m encouraged by the rest of you who are moving along the same path, pursuing peace with justice and understanding in our ever shrinking world community.

  • understanding the difference between ideology and faith
  • understanding the hard work of wrestling with the big issues of life
  • understanding that your contribution really does matter to the rest of us.
  • understanding the sanctity of the conscience of the individual
  • understanding will involve very real personal risk and due to the human condition, you will hurt and be hurt, there will be conflict.

Related post: Universal Questions that only Faith can answer!

‘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”.


The KILLING FIELDS (film)Warner Brothers trailer