Christian community

Palestinian Nonviolence: Muslims, Not Christians, Are the Leaders

100216_090527-1503-palestineWhenever I give talks on the effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian livelihood, the status of nonviolence as a means to resisting the occupation, and how I believe nonviolence is the only way to move forward to resolve the conflict and create a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, one of the first and immediate questions I get from foreign visitors to my office in Bethlehem is, What you said is good, but what about the Muslims? Do they also believe in nonviolence? Do they understand it?" Even if I don't mention religion in my presentation -- and I rarely do -- this question always seems to make its way in our discussions.

Growing Together

Outside the community dining hall at Koinonia Farm near Americus, Georgia, a bell sits on a rough-hewn post like a hat on a welcoming host. For almost 70 years, visitors have been welcomed there every weekday for a community meal. Today, there's a new vitality at Koinonia; it can be heard in the bell's ring five times a day, as well as in the voices of cattle and sheep, children and construction crews. While deeply rooted in their tradition, Koinonia's members are creating fresh structures in community life -- and they have a new approach to the land based on permaculture, a design system for sustainable habitats.

In 1942, Clarence and Florence Jordan, along with Martin and Mabel England, started the farm as a "demonstration plot for the kingdom of God." Koinonia endured violent hostility for its pacifist stand in the 1940s and for fostering close relationships between African-American and white neighbors in the 1950s and '60s. In the '70s and '80s, members' work led to forming international ministries: Habitat for Humanity, Jubilee Partners, and the Fuller Center for Housing.

But in the wake of a 1993 decision to make structural changes to function more like a typical nonprofit corporation, Koinonia experienced a decade of challenges. The change had sound reasons, including the hope to include more African-American neighbors in long-term employment, but the community struggled for leadership and focus. The core ministries were sustained, but Koinonia lost money and had to sell nearly half of its 1,100 acres.

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A Moral Budget: Politics, Policies, and People

1100715-circleofprotectionSeveral weeks ago (right before I left for my sabbatical), I joined with six other pastors from around the country -- in partnership with Sojourners -- to draft an open letter to Congress and President Barack Obama regarding the budget and the proposals to cut certain programs that aid the poor in our country. Our hope was to invite at least 1,000 pastors to join us in signing this document.

As of today, we've had nearly 5,000 pastors and Christian leaders from all 50 states join us in signing this open letter, and we hope to keep adding voices and signatures. As a pastor and Christian leader will you add your voice to let our political leaders know that you stand with the poor?

Read the letter below and if you resonate with our message, please sign your name.

Why I Love Fire, Pentecost, and the Beloved Community

This past weekend, Christians around the world celebrated one of our holiest holi-days: Pentecost. Pentecost, which means "50 days," is celebrated seven weeks after Easter (hence the 50), and marks the birthday of the Church, when the Holy Spirit is said to have fallen on the early Christian community like fire from the heavens. (For this reason, lots of Christians wear red and decorate in pyro-colors. This day is also where the fiery Pentecostal movement draws its name).

But what does Pentecost Sunday have to do with just another manic Monday?

What does a religious event a couple of thousand years old have to offer the contemporary, pluralistic, post-Christian world we live in? I'd say a whole lot. Here's why:

Let me start by confessing my bias. Not only am I a Christian, but I am a Christian who likes fire. I went to circus school and became a fire-swallowing, fire-breathing, torch-juggling-pyro-maniac as you'll see here. So naturally, I like Pentecost.

Should Christians Celebrate Passover?

This evening I will lead a Passover Seder observance in my Christian community. We've done it for years and always find it inspiring to reflect on God's liberation from slavery. And it's the occasion for a delicious potluck feast.

This week I saw an article written last spring on Jews' concerns over Christians celebrating Passover. It seems that more Christian churches are using "Christianized" versions of the seder, reinterpreting the meal's symbols to reflect Christian beliefs. Said one rabbi, "They take our symbols, our holiday, our ritual and start investing them in Christian meaning."