The Saints Gallery @E4Unity does not sub-divide by heritage: you have to look elsewhere for that.

However, since I mentioned this week a celebration of 400 years of the Baptist heritage, I thought I might add a few names of Baptists here in America that would be in any Saints gallery: men like George W. Truett, Walter Rauschenbusch, and Martin Luther King. Each one a Baptist minister, each one made tremendous contributions to the Church of Christ as well as to America, but very different in their gifts and perspectives involving their Christian faith and how it was manifested in their individual and professional lives.

baptist

Walter Rauschenbusch – A German-Baptist that worked among the working poor in the early 189o’s and developed what became known as the “social gospel”. But it would be a great mistake to brand his ministry by that phrase without trying to understand the man himself and his environment, which is suddenly not so strange to our own situation.

Rauschenbusch sought to combine his old evangelical passion (which he never abandoned) with his new social awareness. He adopted critical approaches to the Bible and identified himself with liberal theologians like Albrecht Ritschl and Adolf Harnack. The kingdom of God became the theme by which he pulled together his views on religion and science, piety and social action, Christianity and culture. Did he get it right? He certainly tried.

George W. Truett – Known as a great Preacher and educator, Dr.Truett was pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas,Texas, for 47 years (until his death in 1944). His influence and contribution to the city of Dallas and the Southern Baptist Convention is astounding. But he was also a strong advocate in this country for religious liberty and his spirit in the above link-a 1920 address on the steps of our nation’s Capitol building, is very different than the recent voices of the “religious right”.

What is the explanation of this consistent and notably praiseworthy record of our plain Baptist people in the realm of religious liberty? The answer is at hand. It is not because Baptists are inherently better than their neighbors — we would make no such arrogant claim. Happy are our Baptist people to live side by side with their neighbors of other Christian communions, and to have glorious Christian fellowship with such neighbors, and to honor such servants of God for their inspiring lives and their noble deeds. From our deepest hearts we pray: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” The spiritual union of all true believers in Christ is now and ever will be a blessed reality, and such union is deeper and higher and more enduring than any and all forms and rituals and organizations.

Martin Luther King – I can only add here my personal appreciation for this man and what he gave his life for; a vision that went far beyond his own race or time. When you are able to appreciate the Black church heritage and especially their own preaching tradition, then you have no hesitation to tag him as one the outstanding preachers in our generation. God gave him an incredible mind and speech pattern that was all his own. Take a few minutes to listen to his speech against the Viet Nam War at the link above. You may not agree with his politics but surely you will agree  that he has left a large legacy, especially in the principles of non-violence for all religious people.

So these and many other men and women in our history were of the Baptist heritage and some use to speak of that as a “large tent” with room for greatly diverse convictions. Each one testified to Christ from their own perspective. I have not tried to hide the weaknesses or the warts of any of these men-that is not for me to do. The Baptists are making giganic contributions in almost every field; education (there are more Baptist Colleges and Universities in America than any other faith), healthcare (hospitals and clinics and a host of human service centers), and orphanages, and especially in advancing world-wide the gospel of the Kingdom.

These are just a few reasons to celebrate what God has been able to do through the people called the Baptists these last 400 years. To God be the glory great things He has done. If only we had been more obedient we could have greatly multiplied these efforts.

THIS YEAR, PLEASE BEGIN at THE BEGINNING

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 12, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”

(From WIKIPEDIA)

This summer I had the incredible experience of going through the only official NATIONAL memorial in the United States dedicated to World War I, the Great War. I truly wish that every citizen of these United States could have that experience- especially NOW, at the point in history that we find ourselves. Most of us have been thrown into the MIDDLE of a great EPIC TALE. The subject of this tale just happens to be our National heritage. World War I just might be the event in this tale that we can still get an understanding of which in turn will help us immensely to understand just what it is we have of lately inherited and will help us to better understand what our part in the ongoing tale is and how to best prepare for the future.

Meet Joe, the Veteran. jo-the-veteran

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982, holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who had been killed in the Korean War.     

Did you happen to notice this phase in the original purpose of  the day? “A day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace.”   I believe that this original purpose has been kept in mind in every detail of the official Memorial to World War I in Kansas City, Missouri, and one of the main reasons why I believe every American should visit it. 

The Memorial has been “rebuilt” in recent years and an underground museum complex has been added. My congratulations to the citizens of Kansas City and to American Century Investments for under-taking this very ambitious project for the American people and their epic story.

Sample what you will see (slide show)

View the intro Video

  

ARCHBISHOP ELIAS CHACOUR of The Melkite Greek Catholic Church

chacour

The author of Blood Brothers- which is the unforgettable story of a Palestinian Christian who has been working for peace in Israel for as many years as he has been in the Priesthood, came to Berea College this week. He was the honored guest for the International Focus sponsored by the International Center of Berea College.

Besides speaking to the students at a campus wide convocation yesterday, he also spoke a number of other times as well. Imagine my great delight when I was able to attend a luncheon today for area ministers, watch a video showing the remarkable achievement God has allowed him to bring into existence in Israel, and then have the privilege of talking informally with him for over an hour. My special thanks to Richard Cahill, the Director of International Education, for the invitation extended to the Ministers.

I read the 1984 edition of Father Chacour’s book some years ago and was greatly encouraged to learn of his life work as another of God’s peacemakers working in the midst of conflict. In the foreword to the recent 2003 edition, former U.S.Secretary of State James Baker writes,

From my perspective, both as a believer and as a diplomat, I take hope and comfort in knowing that amid all the hatred, destruction and death, Father Chacour continues his patient work, softening one heart at a time.

There are many things we can learn from this humble man including that not all Palestinians are “terrorists”, many are christians and citizens of Israel. But for the “great hearts” around the world which are working for peace, he provides a model that will instruct and inspire all. The schools that he has founded are the only ones in Israel where Jews, Muslims, and Christians can study together. see Mar-Elias Schools

Read his profile on wikipedia 

Buy the book, Blood Brothers

Separation of CHURCH and STATE: What It Does Not Mean

When we insist, as I have done on this blog, that the Church and State remain separate, no one should jump to the conclusion that that means there is no place in the national life for those who live by their faith-systems. Quite the contrary. To be have freedom of conscience means to exercise that freedom for the good of your neighbors and the well being of your nation and to make this contribution from the convictions which come from the depths of who you are.

I simply want to post one example of someone doing this that was sent to me by one of my beloved sons. This young man, twenty-five, is a deeply religious individual who opens his heart, as it were, for us to see something of an intense struggle. He is not of my faith-tradition. But I find myself understanding exactly his struggle, and I think you will too.

Joshua Casteel is a thoughtful all-American young man. After being a football star and his high school valedictorian, Casteel went on to West Point Military Academy. As a soldier, he was sent to serve at Abu Ghraib. Working side by side with private contractors who made six figures Casteel began to question the role of private contractors in a war zone: “… over the course of my stay in Iraq it was just day after day after day, grappling with going to mass and taking, you know, the body and blood of Christ into my mouth and then going back to the interrogation room and interrogating five breadwinners who had been taken from a single home and wondering what their family was doing for food while I was eating food prepared by private contractors…”

To see the video of his twenty minute testimony go HERE

    SOUND FAMILIAR ?

This is a revolutionary age. The hurricane winds of change are howling around the world. The human race seethes with unrest and rebellion. Our political institutions are polarized, divided to the left and right without any common ground in the center. Despite the signs of current prosperity, our debt-ridden, hair-triggered economy seems precariously balanced on the verge of collapse. We have barred and deadbolted our homes, making ourselves prisoners while criminals roam free in our neighborhoods, grafitti-tagging and shooting at random, filling our hearts with fear. With every day’s headlines, with every new atrocity or terrorist attack, we see more evidence that there is a very thin line which separates civilization from anarchy. We seem to be approaching not just a political breakdown, but a cultural meltdown. -Ray Stedman

Things don’t seem to change much. These comments were written in 1972 and as any student of history knows, similiar commentaries on the state-of-the-world have been made throughout time. As we said in a previous post, the basic human situation and the dangers confronting us as well as the work of finding solutions is a given in this present age of right vs.wrong.

So what is our highest priority? What is the one activity that stands above all the others that we can spend time and resources to fight this reality in which we all find ourselves in the middle of? This is my blog and you expect me to say what I believe is the answer to that, don’t you? I must show you that I have studied the question seriously and diligently and have in fact come to an answer that I do not hesitate to sign my name to. I have taken ownership of this as the answer and am spending my life and resources on it as the highest priority. And yes, it comes from the biblical story, the same story where I find the best answers to all my serious questions involving the basic issues of life and death, good and evil.

The two lights                                                      

You are the light of the world! A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Jesus, the Light of the world, to his disciples.

So I do not hesitate to declare to all who will listen, for the peace and unity of humankind, for the healing of the nations’ violence and poverty and corruptions of all kinds- the very best thing that can happen is for this light be as bright as it can be; this city of light be set on a hill clearly in every community of the world so that all that may see the light and be enriched.

The only human society I know that claims to be the Society of Jesus, the Jesus of the biblical story, and says their purpose and desire is to follow and obey Him, is the Church. So my answer is that the highest priority is to get the Church healthy and conformed to the original design of her maker so that she can be the source of power in the world against all these woes that cause death and destruction and untold misery. For the answer is not found in the Capitol Building or the city of Washington,D.C., nor in any earthly government, but only in the Prince of Peace and his city, the heavenly Jerusalem, as it is called in the biblical story. As she reflects the true Light and in turn shines it into every human culture and situation in the world, there is real hope. I send out an earnest plea for those of all Faiths not based on this same story, to pray for the churches you might be familiar with and to do all you can to hold them to their God-given mission to be the City of Light to the world. According to my personal faith, it will be the best thing you can do for yourself and for your people.

This is the highest priority for the Church and for the world.

(the quote is from Ray Stedman’s book on the Church-BODY LIFE ) READ the book on-line, another little paper-back classic.

 

 

 

 

 

Peace Window-United NationsThe Church’s Gift to the World

 

As declared earlier on this blog, the Church of Christ, according to the Christian Faith, is the most powerful force on earth when she is healthy. The Church has been given a life and a message to give to the world. Because of all the dissonance in what the world is hearing today from the churches, that very gift is turned into something unlovely and undesirable and more than a few are rejecting what they perceive as the message.

 

As a recent post was meant to show, the message is not about do’s and don’t do’s nor is it about the externals of religion such as rites, ceremonies, and creeds. No, the message given to the Church for the world’s healing, is all about a person: the Lord God’s Anointed Son, Jesus. He himself is the one that must be communicated in our message and if He is not, then we have failed. It’s really that simple. He alone is the one who brings true and lasting peace to the nations. He is the Prince of Peace. The Gospel of Peace is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

T.M.Moore, in his column, Second Sight, wrote a series on the very subject of the good news of the Church’s message of peace. He began in the Advent season and concluded it in January of this year. It is so good that I quote from it and if you like what you read, you can follow the link back to the final article in the series.

 

The Good News of the kingdom of peace is certainly that—Good News—but it is not exclusively that. In the same breath that Jesus granted the gift of peace to His disciples, (John 16) He warned them that trial and tribulation lay ahead. The record of the apostles, and of the entirety of church history, is that our Lord knew whereof He spoke.

The prospect of peace, while available to all, is extended only to those who find favor with God. This was the announcement the angels made to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth. Frequently mistranslated, the angels’ announcement was not, “Peace on earth, good will toward men,” but, “Peace among those with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14). God parcels out His peace, from the depths of the soul to all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities, through all of culture and society, to those with whom He is pleased—to those, that is, who seek His peace in the kingdom of peace and through the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ. And this, of course, large numbers of people are manifestly unwilling to do. We may expect many of them, therefore, to oppose our agenda of peace, not because they do not wish for peace, but because they want peace on their own terms, apart from any obligation to Jesus or God…

In view of the certainty of opposition to our agenda of peace, how shall we keep peace as a priority within the community of faith? And what shall we do to seek peace, pursue the prospect of it, and allow it the primacy in our lives, in every area of our lives?

 Full article at Parceling Peace. 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTIAN IS NOT AN ADJECTIVE !

This is one of those conversations that we Christians have to sit down and have a long “in house” discussion about sometime. Obviously I can only outline here the way I think the conversation should possibly go, realizing that for some of you who are not Christians, I must ask you to try to be patient with us. You are more than welcome to sit in on the discussion, because in a very real way our success at getting this straightened out among the faithful will greatly improve our ability to converse with the rest of you in other Faiths.

Where was I? Oh yes, “Christian” is not an adjective, but rather a noun. There is a profound difference. The cause of much confusion in the Church as well as outside is a failure to be more precise. According to the biblical narrative, the word Christian was first applied to some early Disciples of Christ at a place called Antioch-a place which is still very much in operation as a main commercial center in Southern Turkey; I have had the joy of traveling there. So to be precise and accurate in reflecting the essence of Christianity, we should not use it as an adjective, as in a ‘Christian nation’. In reality there isn’t such a thing; nor is there such a thing as a’ Christian politician’, or a ‘Christian magazine’, or a ‘Christian worldview‘. This latter is really getting us into trouble lately. Worldview is a cultural expression from the discipline of Cultural Anthropology. Christians around the world live in many different worldviews. I know what my friends are trying to get at by using that word, but it demonstrates a profound mis-understanding of the Faith of God’s Elect.

The essence of “Christian” is the person who is defined by his or her life relationship to Christ, whom we have come to trust in as revealed through the Scriptures as the God-man. Some traditions within Christendom understand this better than others and I think more nearly approach the original meaning of St.Peter when he spoke of “becoming partakers of the divine nature.”

Well, you can immediately see some of the ramifications. The life of the Christian is not about ideology, or ritual, or externals at all, but it is all about what God has accomplished by sending Christ into the world-The Christ Event, as we say. I don’t want to go any further at this point except to latch on to that word “ideology”. Christianity certainly appears to fit the generic category of religion/ideology and it surely can be studied that way. But my argument is, by doing so we miss the very nature of what a Christian is. If we want to see through the Christian’s own eyes, if we want to listen with the earnest desire to love him or her for what she is “in Christ”, then somehow we must make this vital distinction.

Let me leave you with a very wise observation of someone who understood this very well in the world context historically:

“The greatest challenge and danger that the church had to sustain in the days of the Byzantine Empire was the appearance of ISLAM on the stage of world history. Everybody (now) knows that a considerable part of christian territory in north Africa and the Near East, became Moslem. As far as the Christian Church continued to exist, it did so as a protected minority, forced back into a certain ghetto, but with legal status.

By its gallant resistance Byzantium was during ages the wall of protection for Europe against a Moslem invasion. One must fully take into account this situation in order to have a fair judgment of the fact that the relations of the Christian and Moslem world, in spiritual respect, have been so distressingly sterile.

Islam is by its nature the ideology of a cultural, social, and political system, and met as its opponent a Cristendom, which also behaved, against the nature of the Christian Faith, as the ideology of a cultural, social, and religious system. Meeting each other in any real sense was, therefore impossible.

In the many apologetical and polemical skirmishes from both sides, moreover, communication in any sense was non-existent because the tone was determined by this objective situation and by a doctrinal bias, which had become second nature. The debate could never become a discourse. It remained a sterile mock fight between two monologues. ”
( Taken from “The Communication of the Christian Faith“, by Hendrik Kraemer, 1956, Westminster Press)

note: even Kraemer would have been better served to use the title “The Communication of The Faith of The Christian”

I’m afraid if we Christians in the west do not learn what the real nature of our Faith is, we will not avoid the same thing from happening again in some kind of “Clash of Civilizations”. If you think I’m mistaken about this, there is a link if you look for it on one of my blogs to a world-wide broadcast on CBN by a dear Brother who totally misses not only what Christianity is, but also is in serious error about his assessment of the world Muslim Communities.

2012 UPDATE: Mormons & Christians: Asking the Right Questions

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!