Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Statues and The Image of God

Until recently, when Americans of a certain age heard General Lee they pictured this.

Not this.

But the times, they are a changin’.

For example, it used to be that White supremacists had to slink around at night bedecked in bedsheets and dunce caps. Nowadays they proudly show their faces in the orange light of...ahem…day.

Still, why did they descend on Charlottesville to defend a statue? (I’ve a hunch that the vast majority of them were visiting their "beloved site" for the first time.)

Remember when racists gathered in Arkansas to protect the 10 Commandments statue? Me neither.

So I don’t think they just have a thing for statues. There must be something more…

The Robert E. Lee statue is a symbol. And like all symbols, it evokes different things in different people. Some value it as an artifact of culture. Others view it as a reminder of oppression. Many see it as some old guy on a horse. (Ignorance is bliss?)

One thing’s certain; General Lee himself wanted no such monuments of war.

I think it wiser not to keep open the sores of war but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife, to commit to oblivion the feelings engendered.

Regardless of one’s perspective, it’s rather difficult to argue that the statue stands for heritage not racism, when the folks vehemently protesting its removal are neo-Nazis, not history teachers. 

Again, symbolism is subjective, but more than this, a symbol’s meanings evolve. What a symbol stands for today may not be what it conveyed yesterday or what it will communicate tomorrow.

Yes, symbols can be very powerful; but even so, what are the statue’s actual effects on society?

Will the lives of African-Americans in the USA be better once it’s removed? How so?

Will its removal alter the study of history as we know it? How so?

Suffice it to say, I think the statue has extremely minimal real-world impact—except, of course, for the 3 people (and those who loved them) who were killed because of hate-filled people using it as a pretext for violence.

Jesus says that humans are much more valuable than sparrows (Matthew 10:31).

I’ll bet He thinks they’re much more valuable than statues too.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Jesus, Fire & Fury

North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States . . . they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.
~Donald Trump

Will only the U.S. have option [sic] called “preventive war” as is claimed by it? It is a daydream for the U.S. to think that its mainland is an invulnerable Heavenly kingdom.
~Korean People’s Army (KPA)

All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. . . . Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
~Jesus

The stark contrast between the Way of Jesus and the ways of Empire couldn’t be clearer. Even so, do you think Jesus’ teaching “just won’t work” in the “real world”? Is His “wisdom” only so much wishful thinking? (Be honest.)

However we may answer; Christians within the USA—by and large—have not followed Jesus in the way of peace.  

Richard Hays observes,

One reason that the world finds the New Testament’s message of peacemaking and love of enemies incredible is that the church is so massively faithless. On the question of violence, the church is deeply compromised and committed to nationalism, violence, and idolatry.

In other words, despite Jesus telling us that we can’t possibly serve two masters, Christians doggedly persist in their attempts to do so. But to what end, dear reader? 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

War Games

A couple of days ago a Chicago Sun Times headline grabbed my attention: “North Korea missiles have range to hit Chicago.

I almost cared enough to read the story.

Thinking better of it, I turned to my favorite newsman, Stephen Colbert, and as always he delivered.

I have a hard time believing Chicagoans will be scared by this. Okay? For Pete’s sake, the Cubs won the World Series! They already know the end is near.

Something else grabbed my attention just moments ago…fighter jets, circling my home.

I understand they were practice-bombing a bridge a couple of miles from my house. The sights and sounds were stunning. For about 15 minutes I watched in awe—the climbing, the diving, the synchronized soaring. It was spectacular.

Three thoughts tumbled into my reverie.

1) I’m glad they’re on our side.

2) I’m sure glad it’s only practice.

3) People who think their guns are protecting them from the government are delusional. (I’d be very surprised to learn that the fighter-pilots observed me gawking into the sky with my mouth open and thought: I’m glad he’s on our side.)

Sidebar: I know. Dead is dead. But “From my cold dead hands!” is so much sexier than “From my incinerated bits & pieces!” Forget Charlton Heston. Not even Liam Neeson’s pulling that off.

My ruminations grow a bit more somber now as I think about why the USA conducts war games.

It plays war around us to wage war around others. 

Thus, the display of raw power that mesmerized me looks and sounds a bit different to those who are being terrorized by a dispassionate deluge of death and destruction. 

This is the way of Empire but it’s not the Way of Jesus. Nowhere does Jesus teach His followers to kill their way to peace.

Jesus comments, “My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (Jn 14:27). Jesus’ disciples knew who Jesus meant by “the world.” It was plastered on city walls, engraved on columns and stamped on coins. The Roman Empire prided herself on peace, the famed Pax Romana. . . . The United States is famed worldwide for Pax Americana, for bringing peace the same way the Romans did. . . . We should not confuse Pax Americana with the Christian way. We need to stop writing scripture verses on the sides of bombs. (Richards and O’Brien, “Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes,” p. 185)

Bombs with Bible verses? Eat your heart out, North Korea.