Jesus

President Obama connected his faith with his policies toward the poor at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday (2/2/12), a subtle but sharp contrast to remarks made by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney the day before. 

"Living by the principle that we are our brother's keeper. Caring for the poor and those in need," Obama said before an audience of about 3,000 at the Washington Hilton. These values, he said, "they're the ones that have defined my own faith journey."
   
Specifically, Obama said, they translate to policies that support research to fight disease and support foreign aid. His faith, he continued, inspires him "to give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy."

Shane Claiborne 02-01-2012
Artwork by the artist Banksy. Photo by Shane Claiborne.

Artwork by the artist Banksy. Photo by Shane Claiborne.

Today I was catching up on emails and came across two messages that deeply affected me, maybe because I read them back-to-back. 

The first one is from a friend who helped release the “Collateral Murder” video via Wikileaks, showing US troops shooting some unarmed folks in Baghdad, including two children sitting in a van as their family stopped to pick up the wounded and dead.  It is one of the most disturbing and heartbreaking videos I’ve ever seen. Feel free not to watch it.

NOTE:  If you do watch the video inside the blog, please know that it is contains vivid images of war. It was released here: 

The other email message I read was just the opposite. It was about life.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks to reporters in 2010. Photo via Getty Images.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer speaks to reporters in 2010. Photo via Getty Images.

When our parents teach us at a very young age to say the magic words — please and thank you — they give us our first lessons in morality. Manners are the first step to morality. Etiquette is the first gesture of ethics. Manner and morals derive from the mores of a society. Etiquette derives from the ethos and ethics of a society.

When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer wagged her finger in President Obama’s face upon his arrival in her state, she demonstrated not only a disregard for the Office of the President, but she simply displayed bad manners.

In the United States, we do not have a monarch that embodies the state in his or her person. In the United States, that person is the president of the United States. He and the vice president are the only two elected officials who are elected nationwide. Thus, the president is not only the head of the executive branch of government, but he is the representative of the entire country.

Governor Brewer’s demeanor toward the president was inappropriate. However, the deeper question is why would this woman think it is appropriate to put her finger in anyone’s face, president or not?

Jeremy John 01-30-2012
Scene from "Braveheart" is projected at the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast.

Scene from "Braveheart" is projected at the 2011 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. Photo via Getty Images.

What does it mean to be a Christian when organizations such as The Family create a Jesus that does not hear the prayers of the poor? An organization that prays to the powerful in place of God? That participates in the global crucifixion of the poor by turning Jesus' cross into a social ladder for politicians to climb upwards, past the broken body of Christ? To cultivate relationships with dictators?

To cultivate the most powerful for political influence, to create an elite society for the elite, is that listening to the prayers of the people?

I ask you, was Jesus a political networker? Did he hobnob with the most powerful? Did he cultivate relationships with the dictators of his time, Herod and Pilate?

Our political class does not hear the prayers of the poor, they hear the "prayers" of corporate lobbyists who fund their campaigns. And they hear the prayers of Christians such as Doug Coe and The Family at the National Prayer Breakfast, because they offer connections, votes, and money.

Timothy King 01-27-2012
The big red barn on the King family farm in New Hampshire.

The big red barn on the King family farm in New Hampshire.

The big red barn on my family’s farm was built in the 1880’s.

The wood beams (almost nine feet off the ground), were wide enough for my mom, her siblings and a few other kids from nearby homes to run along. One of their favorite games was a modified sort of dodge ball with one person standing on the barn floor taking aim at the others running on the beams.

It was not safe. But...it was a lot of fun.

As kids ourselves, my brother and I tried to imitate this game in the barn and my mother soon got upset with whichever one of our uncles had told us about it.

My brother and I climbed trees much higher than reasonably advisable and spent hours wandering in the woods unsupervised. During the winter we built “jumps” for sledding runs that were dangerous enough that they routinely spilt blood.

Minor injuries were a regular part of our play. And, it was fun.

Cathleen Falsani 01-19-2012
Cathleen Falsani by Katrina Wittkamp.

Cathleen Falsani by Katrina Wittkamp.

As someone who self-identifies as an evangelical Christian, often I begin to feel like the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary, particularly in the midst of a heated presidential election cycle.

It’s Evangelical Week here on Discovery! Travel with us as our explorers track the elusive evangelical in its native habitats. Watch as evangelicals worship, work and play, all captured on film with the latest high definition technology. And follow our intrepid documentary team members as they bravely venture into the most dangerous of exotic evangelical locations — the voting booth!

I understand the interest in us evangelicals, I really do. The way much of the mainstream media covers our communities in the news can make us seem like a puzzling subspecies of the American population, not unlike the Rocky Mountain long-haired yeti. 

Are we really that difficult to comprehend?

In a word, yes.

Timothy King 01-18-2012
Tea Party Jesus from AVN

Tea Party Jesus from AVN

The video will be a satirical take on the Sermon on the Mount with various quotes, signs and policy positions of the Tea Party. While I don’t think the creators of the video would argue that this same test be applied to every piece of legislation Congress considers, it is an interesting experiment.

How often do we divorce the things we say and do or the beliefs we hold from what we read in the Gospels about the person and teachings of Jesus?

This video will drive some conservative Christians nuts for two reasons.

First, because there are conservative Christians, such as Chuck Colson, who have spoken out against Ayn Rand and don’t want to be lumped in with her followers.

Second, because Rand’s influence is real and it’s not a good thing.

Rand’s extreme individualism turns Christian virtue into vice and vice into virtue. Her worldview feeds selfishness and a disregard for our neighbors. I read all 1,046 pages of my paperback copy her Atlas Shrugged and I would like at least 700 pages worth of my time back.

Jack Palmer 01-17-2012
Umair Haque via Wylio http://bit.ly/AugRQB

Umair Haque speaking at the 2009 NEXT conference in Berlin. Via Wylio http://bit.ly/AugRQB

If you’re on Twitter, you may well have a few people that you follow with such enthusiasm that it occasionally feels a little like you’re stalking them. You re-tweet every article they post, nod along with every inspiring tweet they type and include them in your Follow Friday list every week.

Even if that’s not true for you, it’s certainly true for me of one person in particular — Umair Haque.

Haque is a self-titled “author, blogger, thinker, reformer.” But the more I read of his work, the more inclined I am to add the title “prophet” to that list of descriptors.

Haque is a prophet in the sense that he is preaching a message that is for a specific group of people (those who are disenfranchised but not quite cynical enough to give up yet) at a specific point in time (now, in a time of economic malaise). His words cut right to the heart of what has been going wrong in our world, and they are words that many, many people need to hear.

So it was with great relish that I purchased his new digital book, Betterness: Economics for Humans, excited to hear these words.

Matthew Santoro 01-11-2012
Jeff Bethke

Spoken Word poet Jeff Bethke, via Twitter @JeffuhsonBethke.

Are you a Christian who spends a lot of time online? Then perhaps you've heard of Jeff Bethke. Bethke, aka bball1989, is a spoken word poet whose rhymes and videos are capturing the attention of thousands of Christians across the web.

His latest video is going viral among online Christian communities. Provocatively titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus,” the poem is a unique fusion of prophetic criticism, personal testimony, and a call to action.

Cathleen Falsani 01-08-2012

The Great Conversation that we invite our readers to join here at Sojo.net must, by definition, be both civil and respectful. Our comments sections should be a safe harbor, different from the comments sections of any other websites and blogs that deal with the busy intersection of religion, politics and culture.

To that end, during the last few weeks Sojourners staff and management have had a great many discussions about how we might best address the issue of incivility in our comments sections and correct it. We are committed to preserving the comments sections as a vital part of our community and that Great Conversation, but not at the cost of hearts and minds that have been wounded by their experiences here.

We can disagree, and we must when our conscience so demands, but we must do it with kindness, open minds and open hearts.

the Web Editors 01-08-2012

In this segment from his new CatholicTV series "Blinks," the Rev. Jim Martin (aka our favorite Jesuit) considers why Christianity is often considered so joyless, and why "religious" usually means serious.

Watch inside...

Christian Piatt 01-06-2012
"Nerd Clear" by Jose Jara Ramirez via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/

"Nerd Clear" by Jose Jara Ramirez via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/3847013903

I have a number of identifiers on my various venues I write for and on my email signature: heretic, antagonist, father, son, instigator, pop culture junkie, theologian, social media guru, and so on. But one seems to resonate with folks more than any other: GOD NERD.

For some it’s just a funny juxtaposition of words. For others, there is something deeply relate-able in the moniker. Incidentally, the simple fact that I use words like “moniker” make clear the fact that I and a card-carrying, credentialed nerd.

Steve Stockman 12-25-2011
"Lying in a manger." Image via http://bit.ly/rD9s7H

"Lying in a manger." Image via http://bit.ly/rD9s7H

At the center of the nativity picture is that baby in the manger.

That baby Jesus will be many more things as his life, death, resurrection and eternity continues but here in the straw, and central to everything he will do and be, he is a symbol of grace.

This is what Christianity boils down to. This is it at its most naked. Shed the tragedies of Christian history, the boredom of what you’ve experienced in Church (how was that possible!), the legalism that has oppressed your youth or whatever else has damaged your perspective of God and you are left with this amazing concept of grace.

Put most simply, grace is the “unmerited favor” of God.

Timothy King 12-24-2011
Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

It is with death that Dickens begins his story and it is with death that Scrooge completes his journey with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Scrooge hears other businessman saying that they wouldn’t attend the funeral unless there was sure to be lunch served. Men for whom he had great business esteem gave no more thought to his death than they did the weather. There were thieves who stripped the clothes off his dead body and the curtains from around his bed.

He begged the Spirit to show him a scene in which some person, any person, was moved to emotion at his death.  The Spirit brought him to the house of a debtor who rejoiced with his wife at the death of Scrooge because now they might have time enough to pay back their loan. When he was shown the Cratchit household there was no mention of Scrooge at all, only mourning for the passing of Tiny Tim.

Timothy King 12-24-2011
Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

When I imagine Jesus telling his disciples, “Let the little children come to me,” I have a vision of the adults moving aside and Tiny Tim with his crutch crawling into the lap of Christ. 

In the scene where Tiny Tim is introduced, his father tells this story of him:

“Somehow, he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas-day who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.”

It is this child like faith that moves Scrooge to ask the Ghost of Christmas Present if the boy would live to see another Christmas. The spirit answers that he sees an empty chair at the next Cratchit Christmas. Scrooge begs for the future to be changed and the boy spared.

Timothy King 12-24-2011
Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Photo by Tim King.

The Ghost of Christmas Past showed Scrooge a total of five visions. It is only the last two which are dark. The first three show the seeds of Scrooges own repentance.

The first vision shown to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas past is that of a young Scrooge reading alone, neglected by his peers, just before Christmas. Scrooge, watching his old self, begins to cry.

“What’s the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should have given him something: that’s all.”

Tom Getman 12-23-2011
Graffiti on the "security wall" that runs through Bethlehem. Via http://commons.

Graffiti on the "security wall" that runs through Bethlehem. Via http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wall_in_Bethlehem6.jpg

A hegemonic power that separates and excludes is not of Jesus. I came away from the deep darkness settling on the land of the Holy One to declare along with my fellow Kairos delegates that, to paraphrase Bishop Marianne, “the fate of the free world depends on a civil society committed to Christ and a persistent, all-encompassing faithful non-violent tenacity pursuing creative and compassionate resistance.“

We must respond to those faithful ones behind both sides of the walls who are saying to us, “Come and See and Be with the people.” We must feel what Jesus felt as he witnessed tyranny and empire – the principalities and powers that oppress and dispossess and kill the poor for whom He had a heart. Please listen to the cries of the oppressed and act today in doing at least one small thing to bring a just peace…make a personal and if possible corporate choice in this critical moment of God’s Kairos.  

If all who hear the “Bethlehem Call” respond then momentum will build for the liberation of all God’s children in the Holy Land.

Ed Spivey Jr. 12-23-2011
Large Hadron Collider (particle accelerator) at CERN. Image via http://www.wyli

Large Hadron Collider (particle excellerator) at CERN. Image via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/2046228644

The international scientific community is excited about the growing possibility of discovering the so-called “God particle,” the spark they believe is the origin of the universe.

Despite the fact the Newt Gingrich has for many years claimed this title, physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, Switzerland, apparently stopped appearing in Dan Brown novels long enough to come close to identifying this illusive particle. (Coincidentally, my college roommate’s car was called the Small Hadron Collider, a rusty Corvair with a habit of resisting the driver’s directional input at crucial moments, such as intersections.)

By the way, perhaps you’re wondering why unlocking the fundamental mysteries of the universe—such as Rick Santorum’s political career—and creating an enormous wealth of knowledge in experimental physics is not being done in the United States. It’s because President Bill Clinton chose to strip funding from the proposed collider outside Houston and instead funded the International Space Station, a rusty construction of old Corvair parts that has cost us over $150 billion and has provided little scientific discovery, unless you count the surprising effectiveness of duct tape in low gravity situations. To be fair, someday the Space Station will look really cool streaking across the sky just before it crashes onto somebody’s backyard. But I digress.

Chris Hoke 12-22-2011
The Holy Family by Margret Hofheinz-Döring via http://bit.ly/rK5376

The Holy Family by Margret Hofheinz-Döring via http://bit.ly/rK5376

I noticed this Christmas season, for the first time, that not only were Mary and Joseph forced to migrate under Rome’s census; not only was the Incarnate God born into a humiliating space — but, as they fled to Egypt, they never registered in Bethlehem with the census. A dream, an angel, told the migrant father to gather his family and run from the authorities. Unaccounted for in the empire, baby Jesus’ first movement in this world was a government-evading trek through the desert by night.

I think about this as, right now, my friend Estuardo is probably crouching in the dark somewhere in the desert along the Mexican border. At the same time my wife and I hang electric Christmas lights on our tree, get out our nativity sets, and read familiar illustrated books about the stars in the sky above the shepherds. Estuardo has told me, from previous voyages across the border by night, how clear the stars are when hiding from the border patrol lights.

Matthew Santoro 12-20-2011

http://youtu.be/IxNUxlWOgZE

Quit hitting the snooze button. 

It’s time for the church to wake up! 

According to a Laura Sessions Stepp at CNN.com, evangelical churches are finally acknowledging a trend that statisticians have been tracking for years: young evangelicals are leaving the church in droves.

In the new report, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith, Barna Group President David Kinnaman notes a 43 percent drop in Christian church attendance between the teen and early adult years.

Perhaps most intriguing is that research indicates younger people are not only departing from their elders on “social issues,” such as same-sex marriage and abortion, but on wealth distribution and care for the environment, as well.

According to a report in The Christian Science Monitor, three out of four millennials say that wealthy corporations and financiers have too much power and that taxes should be raised on the very wealthy. Two out of three say financial institutions should be regulated more closely.

While the issue of jobs and higher wages remain as important to millennials as they do to older voters, the widening “black hole” of church attendance in the 18-29 age demographic indicates a larger trend — young people are thirsting for social justice, and simply not finding those principles in the pews.

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