A fashion photographer explores the modern-day relevance of Jesus Photographed & Written by Michael Belk
PRISM Vol. 19, No. 4 July/August 2012
Editor Creative Director Copy Editor Deputy Director Publisher Assistant to Publisher
Kristyn Komarnicki Rhian Tomassetti Leslie Hammond Sarah Withrow King Ronald J. Sider Josh Cradic
Contributing Editors Christine Aroney-Sine Myron Augsburger Clive Calver Rudy Carrasco Andy Crouch J. James DeConto Gloria Gaither David P. Gushee Jan Johnson Craig S. Keener Peter Larson Richard Mouw Philip Olson Jenell Williams Paris Christine Pohl James Skillen Al Tizon Jim Wallis
Issac Canales M. Daniel Carroll R. Paul Alexander James Edwards Perry Glanzer Ben Hartley Stanley Hauerwas Jo Kadlecek Marcie Macolino Mary Naber Earl Palmer Derek Perkins Elizabeth D. Rios Lisa Thompson Heidi Rolland Unruh Bruce Wydick
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sing his unique story-telling skills, award-winning fashion photographer Michael Belk embarked on a journey - with his camera and creativity - to explore the modern-day relevance of Jesus. The result is a beautiful and compelling collection of fine art images unlike any biblical art you’ve ever seen. Michael’s photographs, and the powerful messages they depict, capture a 1st Century Jesus interacting with 21st Century executives, high rollers and people like you and me. Produced in the ancient city of Matera, Italy, this one-of-a-kind photographic journey incites and inspires a fresh perspective about Jesus. It is a journey for all people of all faiths. “I cannot recall the last time I was so inspired.”
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A Publication of Evangelicals for Social Action The Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy www.EvangelicalsforSocialAction.org Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University
Dr. Charles Stanley In Touch Ministries
TheJourneysProject.com All contents © 2012 ESA/PRISM magazine. C O F F E E TA B L E B O O K • F I N E A R T • S C R E E N S AV E R S • P O S T E R S • D V D
July / August 2012
God is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble. Nahum 1:7
Contents 2 Reflections from the Editor A Glorious Mess
3 Talk Back
Letters to the Editor
5 Art & Soul
Rejoicing in the power of advocacy
8 Leading Ladies
Woman, Thy Name Is Ezer
9 Kingdom Ethics
When Ministers Are Used by Politicians
38 Off the Shelf
Making a Difference Driven by a Vision
May I Have a Word? No Fear in Love
43 Music Notes
The 77s: Standing the Test of Time
Changing Places Every year the US welcomes tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers, from camps in Kenya and Thailand and political hotspots like Iraq and Burundi. American churches are discovering the joy of partnering with these new citizens as they learn a whole new way of life.
The Nonviolent Revolutionary Walking regularly into the face of danger, speaking truth, and demanding justice, Jesus was the ultimate model of civil disobedience, beginning the process of disarmament wherever he went.
Oh No-—a Sinner! How we deal with sexual sin in our faith communities can mean the difference between spiritual life and death.
Beauty and the Beast Like the forbidden house on the hill in a horror film, pornography lures its victims in and then traps them in darkness.
Can This Marriage Be Saved? As a killer of true intimacy, pornography can be fatal to a marriage, but with help—and committed hearts—restoration is possible.
A More Sustainable Peace A reconciliation movement based on the country’s own traditions is transforming the social and spiritual landscape of Sierra Leone.
Washington Watch Talk It Out, Reduce Nukes
Faithful Citizenship Your Church Is Too Small
Ron Sider Is Religious Freedom in Danger? Cover: Subtly representing the cultural quilt of America, the image of the woman was inspired by the hope and aspirations of new immigrants moving to the US. Created by designer Matt Frost (Matt-Frost.com), the image was commissioned for the promotion of the film Welcome to Shelbyville (see page 19), which was produced by the BeCause Foundation (BeCauseFoundation.org). It has been adapted here for use on our cover and appears by kind permission of the BeCause Foundation.
A Glorious Mess
by Kristyn Komarnicki
eople are messy, don’t you find? And I’m not talking about how we soil our diapers as babies, trash our rooms as teenagers, let our paperwork pile up as adults, and drool as old folks. I mean that humans are, by definition, a muddled mess. We strive and we stumble. We run for home and get tagged at the plate. We promise to have and to hold, and we sin against our spouse every day. We revel in the gifts God has given us—our relationships, the natural world, Christ’s love—and we scorn and abuse those same gifts. We’re an often ungrateful, capricious species—yearning for love and connection yet reflexively self-protective. Deep down we know what will bring us joy and freedom—the truth, selflessness, submission to God—yet we regularly run for the hills in the opposite direction. And yet, what a lovable lot we are— that’s what the Bible would have us believe anyway. Most of us don’t feel all that lovable, but God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that we won’t perish. There you have it. He loves us. Do you want to call God a liar? God’s love can be hard enough to take in and make sense of, but then he asks us to take that love and use it to love on each other—not just our closest family and friends but also our neighbors, whether those neighbors reside just next door, behind bars in another city, or in a refugee camp on the other side of the world. That’s a tall task for messy people like us, so wrapped up in our needs and desires that it can be hard to see past our
noses let alone past our prejudices, In “A More Sustainable Peace,” we fears, and other imagined limitations. meet Sierra Leoneans who are dealing War, famine, oppression—these with the messiest of human messes—the are the man-made messes that the psychological and physical scars left by main characters in our cover story years of civil war, terrorism, and systemare seeking refuge from when they atic cruelty. The courage these people discome to the United States. Against play in daring to voice their grief, to conincredible odds, having endured grievfess their participation in the brutality, and ous loss and trauma, they come to a to offer and accept forgiveness is almost new country to start life from scratch. too much for us to comprehend. Indeed, As someone who has lived on three when some Americans hear about the continents, I know how disorienting reconciliation movement that is sweeping and lonely it can be to move to a new Sierra Leone, they express disbelief that country with its strange language and anyone could forgive his neighbor for such customs, but I cannot know what it atrocities. Equally incredulous, the Sierra is like to be forced to make that change Leoneans express disbelief that forgiveby circumstances beyond my control—or ness would not be central to the healing to face the kinds of odds these displaced process of persons do in terms of educational dea nation. mands, employment obstacles, and finanIf we cial strains. are truly in Thank God there are people of faith communion here to greet them when they arrive, to with our cushion the impact of their landing. The S a v i o r— “a church folks we meet in our cover story man of sorare familiar with human mess and frailty rows and and, unfazed, move toward the challenges acquainted these new citizens must face. They are with grief” (Isa. 53:3)—then we too will unnot sitting at home behind slightly parted derstand that it is precisely in the swamp curtains fretting over the changing demoof human messiness that we most clearly graphics of their neighborhood; instead encounter Jesus. As Paul writes in Romans they are running out to meet the newcom8:3, “In his Son, Jesus, [God] personally ers, offering them hospitality, household took on the human condition and entered necessities, and the kind of essential guidthe disordered mess of struggling humanance one needs to navigate a landscape ity in order to set it right once and for all.” of plenty and freedom after living in scarAs we live in the tension of the alcity and restriction for so many years— ready-but-not-yet-right kingdom, we too how to use a washing machine, open a can be among those who, undaunted by bank account, and enroll their kids in the human brokenness, reach into the muddy local school. mess to offer solace, discover joy, and I marvel at these American Christians meet Jesus face to face. who open their hearts and homes to refuA flawless sacrifice, Jesus allowed us gees from places like the Sudan, Thaito mess him up to the point of death. land, and Iraq. Rather than worrying about And then he turned around and saved “needy” people taking advantage of them us from our treachery and our squalor. and “the system,” they actually expect to If that doesn’t mess—in the best possible be blessed by their friendships with these way—with our hearts and heads, with our new Americans. And blessed they are, selfishness and self-protection, what will? by the newcomers’ resilience, patience, and determination to succeed in their As a mother of three boys, regular retreater adoptive nation. We with small groups of grieving women, and lovhave much to learn er of the human story, Kristyn Komarnicki is from both parties well-acquainted with mess. It has been a good of this cultural exteacher to her throughout the years, helping her change. to encounter her Savior in a deeper, realer way.
It is precisely in the swamp of human messiness that we most clearly encounter Jesus.
PRISM brings home the prizes!
From Tel-Aviv to Vienna to Drexel Hill, Pa., as a Jewish Shoah (Holocaust) survivor and ordained Presbyterian minister, I’ve always regarded PRISM as standing apart from other publications, relentlessly, fearlessly attacking the staggering ills plaguing society—issues that we would all rather not think about. The articles are sometimes quite disturbing and convicting, making for uncomfortableness. It makes one want to flee into a desperate mode of quiet forgetfulness, like “mach nich zu vissen,” a Yiddish saying which means to deliberately make oneself not to know. My favorite section, however, to which I always turn first, is Editor Kristyn Komarnicki’s Reflections. Her fresh, intelligent, creative, down-to-earth insights always make you think as well as speak to your heart. Especially moving was her article “Got Peace?” on the hot issue of the Holy Land (March/April 2012). It was compassionate and balanced. What’s there not to like about PRISM? Heschel Israel Links Drexel Hill, Pa.
Ron Sider’s “A Tale of Two Budgets” in the May/June issue reflects how truly difficult it is to find a balance and how any budget is necessarily going to reflect the values (bias) of the ruling party. Unfortunately, the ruling party in the US seems to be the moneyed class. Is there really a balanced way to balance the budget, as Dr. Sider promises? I haven’t
read his book yet, but I know that we can’t all get what we want—a solid social net and low taxes, a living wage for all and dividend incentives for investors. Not this side of heaven, in any case. It’s hard to keep caring (and voting) when Washington seems so captive to lobbyists and the very rich, regardless of what President Obama says he stands for. He kowtows to special interests like any other president. I guess he feels he has to. Maybe he does. Bob Janowski Aberdeen, Idaho
My thanks go to Rusty Pritchard for his fine essay “Environmental Guilt and the Gospel,” in which he discusses environmental fundamentalism and encourages us to reach out to those who want to protect Mother Earth but with whom we don’t always agree about the best ways to do that. As the mother of a large family, I am often looked at with a mix of incredulous admiration and barely disguised disdain. They may be saying, “You certainly have your hands full,” but their facial expression is saying, “Are you crazy?”
Every year, the Humane Society of the United States presents the Genesis Awards to pay tribute to major news and entertainment media for producing outstanding works that raise public awareness about animal issues. In March PRISM magazine snagged the coveted William Wilberforce Award for “A Call to Compassion from Our Brothers the Animals” by Kendra Langdon Juskus (July/August 2011), which focused on environmental issues from a faith perspective. The William Wilberforce Award recognizes journalistic excellence on animal protection issues in faith-based publications. It is named after the British statesman who, although best known for leading the struggle to abolish slavery in Britain, was also a founding figure of the animal protection movement. In May, the Evangelical Press Association announced their annual Higher Goals Awards—which honors the best work done by evangelical publications during the previous calendar year—and PRISM took home three prizes! Jan Johnson’s “Jobs Not Jails” (about gang members who seize the chance to turn their lives around) won first place in the general article category; Amy Sherman’s “No Such Thing as a Free Loan” (about predatory lending to the poor) won third in the reporting category; and Bruce Main’s “A Costly Thing to Waste” (about how we can’t afford not to educate ‘at-risk’ youth) took third in the first-person article category. Congratulations to our fine writers and to everyone on the PRISM team! Do you prize PRISM? Write and let us know why. As always, we invite constructive criticism—as we are eager to grow in scope and depth, in truth and beauty—as well as constructive praise. Please write to tell us what you think.
Our family is vegetarian and vegan, we garden, drive only one car (a diesel), shop mostly at thrift stores, and make our best effort to keep our carbon footprint small. But environmentally minded people who feel population control is the answer are often judgmental of our choice to have six children. For many years I’ve worked at loving and communicating with the other moms in my homeschooling community. Like us, many are very committed to being stewards of the earth, but some of the same folks who disdain industrial farming and fight to save endangered animals seem to wholeheartedly defend abortion, which I find unbelievably inconsistent and heartbreaking. However, I've also found that these folks see God in a new light when I talk about his creativity in the world and his intention for us to respect ALL that he has made—and all of our inability to do that in one way or another. So I appreciated Pritchard’s call “to faithfully communicate the whole gospel story” to nonbelievers, by being vulnerable with them about our own yearnings, shortfalls, and need for God’s incredible grace. Vanessa Sell Philadelphia, Pa.
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Slammer by Sarah Macolino
“Where the boldness of Esther meets the warm closeness of Ruth, where the hospitality of Lydia is aligned with the submission of Mary, which is engulfed in the tears of a praying Hannah.” That’s how slam poet and spoken word performer Janette…ikz describes—in what is perhaps her best-known work, “I Will Wait for You”—the kind of woman she aspires to be. Those who know her work will agree that this gifted young woman is right on target. They find boldness in the unflinching delivery of her story and warmth in her testimony’s urgency and specificity. They see hospitality offered in her generous vulnerability and submission in her fierce commitment to putting both her heart and her art at the service of Christ. And no one doubts that this is a woman who prays, because each of her poems invites the audience into a moment of communion with her as she falls on her knees before God. The YouTube video of her performance of “I Will Wait for You”—an agonizingly candid look at her own search for God’s peace as a Christian single woman—has nearly 1.5 million hits, a testimony to Janette…ikz’s visceral talent and magnetic stage presence. In both her art and her life, Janette…ikz reveals Christ to the world by creating a passionate platform for issues of justice and faith. One example of this is her fearless telling of “The Truth Without Photoshop,” in which she spits that “87 percent of child molesters admit to trying to imitate something they’ve seen in porn.” This is typical of the kind of thing that many of us don’t want to hear but find ourselves unable to ignore when faced with her mesmerizing delivery. Uncompromising, she refuses to “Photoshop the truth as a means to appease the uncomfortability of truth… I will not crop out what others prefer to go unsaid or resize truth for the purposes of fitting in
31 Status (31status.com), a movement to offer girls and young women around the world a biblical standard of beauty, and official poet of the Passion 4 Christ Movement (P4CM.com), a ministry that teaches biblical truths through powerful performance art. Most of her fans know her as a gifted slam poet, but Janette…ikz’s says, in an interview with Pure Path Director Aaron Dailey, that she “loves finding creative ways to display the gospel,” and does “not want to be stuck in one capacity of serving.” She is involved in music as well as spoken word, and has recorded one studio album to date. The dance troupe Zenith, with which she is also involved, has created stunning choreography to accompany her songs about the feelings of alienation and helplessness she once felt. All these avenues allow Janette…ikz to be what she says she most wants to see—a model of Christ in the church. In a P4CM performance called “Ready or Not,” with the spoken word artist Ezekiel, she appears on stage dressed as a bride, boasting about how she has fixed herself up for her husband. Together with Ezekiel, dressed as a groom, she poignantly models Christ’s marriage to the church. The “bride” turns out to have an STD and is pregnant, clearly not as pure and innocent as she has made herself appear, but the “groom” makes it clear he does not expect her to fix herself, only to accept his forgiveness and love and come to him in humility. The poet’s passion is clearly for the church to wake up and realize who she is and the prize she already possesses in Christ. Janette…ikz’s art aims right for the heart of the church’s youth, “the future church,” in language they can not only understand but also resonate and run with. Rather than peddling despair, artist/ activist Janette…ikz uses her own suffering and salvation to show that those willing to submit to the scalpel of Christ’s truth will experience true healing. h
Art & Soul
your frame. I will not resize or rotate or flip it so that when you hear it, it feels less offensive. I believe scars are lessons learned, so I won’t even fix any blemishes. I won’t adjust the contrast to make messages a little brighter.” Born Janette McGhee into a houseful of artistic talent, Janette…ikz grew up in the midst of creativity. She was brought up in a Christian community and taught about the Bible by her grandmother, to whom she was very close. But while exposed to God’s truth at an early age, she was also exposed to a great deal of evil. In “The Truth Without Photoshop,” she describes the sexual abuse she suffered at age 8 at the hands of her uncle and, later, from her father. Combining traditional poetic language with sign language to illuminate the “signs” she sought from God during this dark period of her life, Janette… ikz reveals how painful and life-changing the abuse was for her. With emphasis created through repetition, she laments that she was only “9 going on 10” when her father molested her, leaving her feeling “used and thrown away like paper cups and plastic u10sils.” Some days she missed school due to extreme physical abuse from her father, who was an alcoholic, and when she was in school her teachers complained that “she doesn’t focus, she doesn’t pay a10tion.” Janette…ikz Sarah Macolino attends Wheaton College in uses her pain-inWheaton, Ill., and is currently interning with formed, faith-fueled PRISM magazine. She is an amateur poet, loves talent in a variety new foods and old houses, and makes countless of ways. She is a mistakes. She is brave but not fearless. spokesperson for
Not all advocacy efforts are victorious, but they are all important, regardless of size or outcome. Small efforts build up to small victories over time and can make a big difference in the end. What kind of advocacy work do you engage in? Write to the editor at KKomarni@ Eastern.edu to tell us what you’re up to, and we’ll do our best to share it with our readers. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) reports that, over the past five years, the center has received over 500 hotline calls thanks to alert and action-minded hotel/ motel guests. Many of these tips have led to investigations of potential sex trafficking, most commonly with a pimp-controlled escort service. Clearly, information from guests at these establishments has been very valuable in stopping human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, the subject of over 90 percent of the cases. The NHTRC is a program of Polaris Project, a nonprofit NGO working exclusively on the issue of human trafficking. Learn more at TraffickingResourceCenter.org.
Brazilian President Dilma Roussef recently removed parts of a bill that would have undone many years of progress in environmental care. Deforestation of the Amazon is on the decline, but the bill would have relaxed many of the restrictions on farmers that were designed for preservation of the current rainforest. A major reason for the vetoes was the pressure on the Brazilian government by the more than 26,000 signatures gathered via the Care2.com petition site, which created unwanted negative publicity in the weeks before the environmental conference scheduled in June in Rio de Janeiro. While these edits, which included the deletion of 12 articles and 31 changes, fall short of environmentalists’ hopes for deforestation restrictions and punishments, the effect of the outcry against the bill is encouraging.
ESA amplifies your advocacy voice! In just the past few months, ESA has launched the following public policy advocacy campaigns. Learn more and add your voice at EvangelicalsforSocialAction.org/ActionCenter. @ We gathered and sent letters to President Obama asking him to: end hydraulic fracking, a process that negatively impacts the lives of thousands in economically depressed rural areas; to press the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to end the use of child soldiers; end off-shore tax-dodging by corporate giants.
* We urged Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which gives greater powers, resources, and training to law enforcement to deal with the one in four US women who experience domestic violence.
Chicago to cancel plans to hold their annual meetings at Hyatt Regency and Hyatt McCormick Place, two hotels that have been boycotted by the faith community for their failure to treat hotel employees with dignity and respect.
\ We boycotted the discounting giant Groupon because they refused to stop promoting deals with pornography businesses.
e We let Congress know how many of us support the Peace Tax Fund.
W We called on the boards of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature in
~ We made it easy for you to send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper urging civility in public discourse, both in national and local policy debates.
Woman, Thy Name Is Ezer by Jo Saxton “It is not good for the man to be alone,” God says in Genesis 2:18. “I will make a helper suitable for him.” This verse has evoked every emotion, from satisfaction to disillusionment, frustration, even anger. Some women step back from the Bible at this point, writing it off as an archaic and thus irrelevant text. Some see it as proof that the Bible devalues and oppresses women. Others are concerned that it suggests a woman is incomplete and has nothing to contribute to society unless she is married. What does it mean for women who are single, divorced, or widowed? What does this mean for women with high-power careers and major influence in their companies or for entrepreneurial businesswomen? Should they expect or desire to rise to the top of their profession if they are “helpers”? Others just find it confusing in light of
rative about a man or a woman helping someone or being called by the Lord to fulfill that role. It’s always a privilege to serve God as we serve others. But it is crucial that we understand that in the biblical definition of “helper,” the ezer can also fulfill a different role. It appears that ezer has more to do with what helping looks like, because it doesn’t seem to suggest anything about hierarchy. In some instances, it is a word with military connotations; the ezer is also a warrior. In this context, help comes from one who has the power and strength to provide it. According to Michele Guinness, author of Woman: The Full Story, ezer is a verb as well as a noun, meaning “to defend, protect, surround, and cherish.” The ezer is an amazing mix of strength, power, proactivity, and vulnerability. Theologian Walter Kaiser writes that God’s intention was for woman to be a “power” or strength who would in every respect “correspond to” the man—that is, be “his equal.” The implications are massive—for marriage, yes, but also for every relationship between a man and a woman—at home, church, in the community, at work. Some ezers are strong helpers in supportive roles; others play a role of prominent influence. She’s the mother who nurtures her children, the neighborhood woman who lobbies for safer streets. She’s the university student who campaigns against injustice, the prayer warrior who intercedes on her knees for local schools. She is the loving wife who supports her husband in his career and is the bedrock of her family. She’s the
But their strength doesn’t cost them their womanhood. They’ve learned that their strength is feminine, part of their God-given design. the full canon of scripture, wondering how women like Deborah, Phoebe, and Lydia were helpers in the contemporary sense of the word. If ever there was a word lost in translation, it is the Hebrew word ezer, which is typically translated as “helper” or “helpmeet.” There are over 100 references of the root of this word in the Old Testament and 21 that use the exact word. It is a powerful word. Biblical scholar R. David Freedman observes that it is a combination of two words, one meaning “to rescue” or “to save” and the other meaning “to be strong.” Incredibly, this word appears most often in reference to God, usually when he is delivering his people. God is an ezer, and so is woman. We’re made in his image, and his potential resides in us! The word ezer does not mean that a woman should never be an assistant, ally, or supporter. There is nothing pejo-
teacher, the doctor, the missionary, the pastor. We see the strength and power of the ezer expressed in the decades of monthly menstrual cycles, in the labor of childbirth, in the challenges of menopause. But strength is not just a physical thing. The ezer is also the bridesmaid who smiles with grace and joy at her best friend’s wedding, putting aside for that day her own longings for a husband. She’s the woman who lovingly embraces her godchild while contending with the heartache of prolonged infertility. The ezer is the woman with the hot flashes who still laughs at the days to come. Ezers are fighters—for their friends, families, communities, churches, and nations. But their strength doesn’t cost them their womanhood. They’ve learned that their strength is feminine, part of their God-given design. What does it mean to know that God calls you to both relationship and responsibility? What does it mean for your understanding of leadership and influence that he designed you as an ezer, a strong rescuer? We’re commissioned alongside our brothers to see the kingdom come on earth, to see lives changed, to rebuild society. “Frailty, thy name is woman”? No. Woman, thy name is ezer.❈
Born and raised in London, Jo Saxton worked at St. Thomas’s Church in Sheffield before moving to California with her pastor husband and two daughters. She is a director of 3DM (WeAre3DM.com), an organization that trains leaders for discipleship and mission in an increasingly post-Christian culture. This column was adapted from More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World by Jo Saxton (InterVarsity Press, 2012; (IVPress.com). Reproduced by kind permission of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill.
by David P. Gushee
leading presidential candidate writes letters to Christian ministers from around the country. He remarks positively on their contribution to society and church and suggests his interest in personal conversation. He invites the ministers to respond to a particular campaign official to set up a face-toface. Many of the clergy respond in turn by contacting the campaign. A delegation of Christian ministers is invited to visit the White House and receive a briefing on current issues. They are met in the Executive Office Building by White House officials bearing important titles. After several hours together, the clergy leave the White House and return to their churches with memories and some pictures on their phones. A group of ministers is called by Congress to testify before a committee on a controversial administration decision. Each argues that the administration’s position violates constitutional principles. Their testimony gains national attention. These are fairly routine events in the relationship between church and state in the United States. I have personally experienced each of them. Notice what these events have in common: In each case the initiative flows from the state to the church. In each case the state official invites the Christian minister to participate in some way in the political process. In each case the state official offers access or the appearance of access to government power or those who might soon exercise it. In each case the Christian minister responds positively and becomes involved in the manner
suggested by the inviting politician. Let us consider how this experience is processed from the minister’s side. Receipt of the letter from the presidential campaign, or the phone call from the White House, or the invitation to testify before Congress is exciting. It isn’t every day that a Christian minister laboring anonymously in a clerical vineyard somewhere gets such a phone call, email, or letter. His church or university or parachurch colleagues are proud of their colleague and his reflected glory. He goes home at day’s end and shares the news excitedly with his family: “Yes, it’s true, kids—the White House called.” The minister is not just excited. He is flattered. This call means he is being noticed, and by very high officials in Washington. One does not always know whether anyone is really noticing our
hard work. The people we see on TV every day—they know I exist! They think I have something important to say! It looks as if I might get to be on TV too! What outfit should I wear? So the minister is excited; the minister is flattered. But the minister is an earnest person. He does not want to say yes to the state’s summons simply because his vanity has been stoked. He does say yes, sure; but the reason he
says yes is because, well, he has the chance to make a difference. He has the chance to influence a future president or affect an important policy debate. So certainly he will say yes. He will talk to the campaign, visit the White House, or testify before Congress. It is extremely unlikely that he will make any difference whatsoever, but he will go, he will certainly go, when summoned. And now let us consider the matter from the politicians’ side. Why do they offer such invitations to gentle clergyfolk? They do it so they can win. They do it so they can win legislative votes. They do it so they can win elections. Each minister stroked and flattered by a politician has the potential to become an ally. Not only might the minister vote for the politician, but his very presence in the room identifies him as a friend and not an enemy of the politician. At the very least, the excitement and flattery evoked by such an invitation likely neutralizes any potential public opposition from the minister to this candidate or politician. Once having experienced the frisson of excitement and flattery and access evoked by a gilt-edged White House or congressional invitation, the minister is unlikely to do or say anything that might cost him future experiences, invitations, access. Every four years (every two years; every year; most months) Christian ministers in America are enticed by politicians to come onto their turf and play their game their way. When we say yes, it is not so much a church/ state violation as it is a state/church seduction. Both parties do it and do it well; ministers of all political ideologies succumb, just as helplessly. Perhaps it is comforting to find that we all have this in common. Bipartisan unity at last! Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly. ☞
When Ministers Are Used By Politicians
David P. Gushee is director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University, Atlanta, Ga., where he is also a professor of Christian ethics. He is the author or coauthor of a dozen books, including the forthcoming book A New Evangelical Manifesto: A Kingdom Vision for the Common Good (Chalice, 2012).
Refugees face enormous challenges w but American churches are helping to by Chris Sicks
Life in Dabaab, a refugee camp in Kenya (photo courtesy of Robert Coronado/World Vision), contrasts sharply with life in North American suburbs (right).
when starting life over in the US, o ease the transition.
was his first day in America, and Farah Mwechiwa was speaking on a telephone for the first time in his life. “All Farah knew was that somehow the numbers on that piece of paper he had would reconnect him to his brother, now living in Texas,” says Angie Jones. “He was amazed at hearing his brother’s voice through that strange piece of equipment.” Mwechiwa is from Somalia, but he is not of the Somali people. He is a member of the Somali-Bantu people, brought to Somalia decades ago by Arab slave traders. There they were treated harshly and used for manual labor, living in primitive conditions even before becoming refugees. The United Nations estimates there are currently more than 40 million people in the world who have been displaced from their homes. Somalia alone has produced more than 2 million refugees, and almost half a million of them are living
people lived very simple lives even before entering the refugee camps that many would call home for a decade or more. Light switches, toilets, stoves, and even doorknobs were novelties to them. Refugees can learn about those things from any American, but the Mwechiwa family also learned about the love of Christ during their week in the Joneses’ home. “One day, while we were all sitting on the floor in our family room talking, one of the babies obviously developed a very stinky diaper,” Angie Jones recalls. “The men began frowning and speaking harshly to the mother. I didn’t even think about it; I just took the child from the mother’s arms and changed the diaper and then brought the child back so the mom wouldn’t miss anything. I learned later that this was shocking to them. No one else in their community would have done that, and they had never experienced a white person
Left: Farah Mwechiwa speaks on a telephone for the very first time. His son Said and wife, Binti, are behind him. Below: Hassan Chalabi poses with his new American friends, Mike and Rita Sabbagh. A former translator for the US Army in Iraq, Chalabi prefers not to be identified.
in camps in Dabaab, Kenya, which were originally designed to hold only 90,000. The US has participated in a massive resettlement effort, bringing thousands of Somali-Bantu people out of the camps and into new lives in the West. Angie and Craig Jones of Duluth, Ga., welcomed Mwechiwa and his wife and seven children into their home in spring 2003. The family lived there for a week—a brief period of adjustment before moving into their own apartment and beginning their new American lives. There is a lot of adjusting to do. The Somali-Bantu
touching their children like that without first putting on gloves. Of everything they learned that day, that was the thing they talked most about.” The Joneses volunteered to host the Mwechiwas through Perimeter Church in Duluth, one of hundreds of churches that have committed their hearts, wallets, and time to demonstrating the love of Christ to our country’s newest residents. Over the past 20 years, more than 2 million refugees and asylum seekers have settled in the US, fleeing natural disasters, war, religious persecution, and political oppression. In
2010, some 73,000 refugees arrived here, and another 21,000 were granted asylum. They are living in all 50 states. The US has welcomed more refugees for resettlement than all other developed nations combined. Each year, our government determines how many refugees will be received from various countries of concern. In 2010, Iraqis made up 22 percent of resettled refugees; Burma was the source of 20 percent and Bhutan another 15 percent. We have also received large numbers from Somalia, Iran, the former Soviet states, Nepal, and Cuba. Organizations such as World Relief, Catholic Charities, Church World Service, and Lutheran Social Services—along with many small nonprofits—receive millions of dollars in federal grants to help these refugees settle in the US. The funds provide for three months of rent, English classes, medical services, counseling, and the like.
visa, and officials at Dulles International quickly realized that he had no money, no hotel reservations, and no clue about the immigration system. Through a translator, he announced that he was actually here to apply for asylum, which landed him in detention to await his fate. Seshaka fled his country when his Tutsi family became the target of the Hutu government because of things his father, a journalist, was writing about the government’s oppressive practices. A young lawyer in our church invested 200 pro bono hours into building Seshaka’s case for political asylum. He did a great job, persuading the judge to grant Seshaka’s request so he could join the church that had supported and encouraged him during his nine months in detention. After telling Seshaka the good news, the judge turned to me and said, “I would like to commend your church for its commitment to this young man, and for your faithfulness
Below: Shangwok and Matbien Deng are Christians who fled persecution in Southern Sudan. Right: Guy Seshaka, a Tutsi who escaped Hutu oppression in Burundi, graduated in May from community college and is now pursuing a BA in conflict analysis/resolution at George Mason University.
What these organizations cannot provide is the love and healing that is found in a church family. Herein lies an area of great opportunity for believers today, and the organizations working with refugees are actively seeking to partner with local churches and their members. Several years ago, my own church in Alexandria, Va., sponsored a young man from Burundi. When we met him, Guy Seshaka was a 19-year-old who spoke little English and was waiting in a detention center to hear if his asylum application would be approved. He had flown to the US with a tourist
to the gospel message.” I’m not sure if federal immigration judges normally talk like that, but this one had recognized the gospel at work. And he wasn’t the only one. Seshaka was already a follower of Christ when he fled Burundi, but his father, Athanase, was not. His broad intellect was one stumbling block. The genocide he had witnessed was another. But when he saw the work of God in his son’s life, his heart was changed. He wrote to us: I live in a country which has been torn apart by wars and
violence on a horrifying scale. The unspeakable atrocities I have witnessed pushed me to draw the conclusion that God had quit our planet and was no longer mindful of our collective plight. Ladies and gentlemen of Alexandria Presbyterian Church, you have proved me otherwise. And, hand on heart, I confess that I have been mistaken and that my pessimistic conclusion has been hasty. Definitely, God is still very much around and is overseeing every human undertaking. Your church is a visible sign of the divine presence in the world.
“The blessings come”
That is, of course, precisely what God intends the body of Christ to be—a “visible sign of the divine presence in the world.” Through ministry to anyone who suffers, the church has an opportunity to testify to the character of Jesus and his Father. But God takes a particular interest in those who are vulnerable, including refugees: For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt (Deut. 10:17-19).
home. But before long, he was experiencing conflict with his roommate, another Iraqi refugee placed in the same apartment who resented Chalabi’s service with the US Army. Chalabi decided he needed to move, so he spoke about it to the Sabbaghs, who were eager to help. “It was then that Rita invited me to her church, a Baptist church with an Arabic worship service. But I was kind of scared. I asked her, ‘What is it like?’ She told me, ‘It is a nice place where you will find love and people who will consider you to be a family member.’” “I laughed. I told her, ‘There is nothing like that.’” But Chalabi was hungry for hope. The situation with his roommate had escalated considerably, and he found himself jailed on false accusations. “I was really depressed by what had happened to me,” he says. “The most depressed I had ever been in my life. Even in Iraq, I had never experienced such cruel treatment. “But then Mike and Rita bailed me out of jail. They said, ‘We prayed for you and God released you.’ And as I sat with them in the car, they prayed for me again.”
The judge turned to me and said, “I would like to commend your church for its commitment to this young man, and for your faithfulness to the gospel message.” I’m not sure if federal immigration judges normally talk like that, but this one had recognized the gospel at work.
The Hebrew word we translate as alien, foreigner, or stranger describes a person from another country who had come to settle down and live. Abraham was this kind of alien in Hebron. Moses was an alien in Midian for 40 years, a refugee who fled from Egypt to save his life. And, as God points out in verse 19, the Israelites themselves were alien residents in Egypt for 400 years. Being an alien is part of the DNA of God’s people, both then and now. Although we dwell on this planet for many years, we are not to put down roots here, for this world is not our home. God’s people are all resident aliens here (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Hassan Chalabi [not his real name] is from a devout Muslim family in Iraq. He studied English in college but could not find a job as a teacher. Eager to work, Chalabi accepted the opportunity to serve the US Army as a translator. “But that put me in danger,” Chalabi explains. “Many people in Iraq did not like the US forces being there. They saw me as a traitor because they had been influenced by the propaganda of the extremists working against the Americans.” In 2008, Chalabi applied for a special visa program to come to the US. “I was resettled to Atlanta by World Relief. Two people picked me up from the airport. I didn’t know if they were Christian or Muslim, but I assumed they were Muslim because they spoke Arabic.” The couple, Mike and Rita Sabbagh, were volunteers with World Relief. They helped Chalabi get adjusted to his new
That week, Chalabi attended the Arabic-speaking church. The pastor, whom he had never met, began preaching about depression. “I heard him say, ‘Don’t be depressed. God has many reasons for you to come here, to have new life, to have new hope,’” Chalabi recalls. “And as I listened, the dark cloud on my heart began to go away.” Before long, Chalabi became a believer in Christ and an eager volunteer at the church. He also began volunteering with World Relief, serving as an interpreter for other refugees and inviting them to his church. “I saw how the church helped the needy refugees, paying their rent, members of the church helping to buy or repair cars for refugee families,” Chalabi says. “I learned how Christians love others. They were always giving, without asking for anything back in return. I saw the peace of the Christian message, whereas Islam uses the sword.” Today, Chalabi works full-time as a case manager assistant and interpreter for World Relief.
What’s the difference between a refugee and an asylee? The US and other countries provide safe haven for victims of torture, political oppression, and religious persecution. When an individual is awarded refugee status, it occurs before they are brought to the US. When they arrive, they are automatically enrolled in a variety of programs that provide financial assistance and services to ease their transition. Churches have the opportunity to prepare a warm welcome in advance of the refugees’ arrival. Asylees, on the other hand, are already present in the US when they petition for asylum. They may be undocumented, but the majority are here on student or tourist visas when they make their application. Although asylees are fewer in number, they represent a large mission field for the church because they do not receive any benefits during the often-lengthy asylum application process. Nor are they legally allowed to work while their application is pending. If they receive asylum, they do receive some of the same assistance and services available to refugees.
“I love helping these people,” he says. “I have lived their life as a refugee. Now I get to prepare their apartments for them before they arrive, receive them at the airport, and help them apply for benefits and state identification.” Chalabi has also learned the power of prayer. “We have a prayer meeting at World Relief every Wednesday, and we pray for refugees,” he says. “And the blessings come, usually within two to four weeks. Medical problems, financial issues, legal complications—they’re just gone, after we pray for these people.”
“A whole different world”
In late 2004, Bilal Abdallah arrived in the US at the age of 15. He spoke no English and had never ridden in a car or used a telephone. Last month, just over seven years after arriving, he graduated from the University of Washington. Like the Mwechiwa family, Abdallah and his family are Somali-Bantu, received refugee status, and were relocated to Georgia. Having lived most of his life in the Kakuma and Dabaab refugee camps in Kenya, Abdallah found his new life full of surprises. “In a refugee camp, you basically just get food,” Abdallah says. “There are no cars in the camp. There barely are bicycles there! And you rarely see anyone other than refugees. If you see someone who is white or another color, the kids would come running to see this strange sight. So coming to Atlanta was like a whole different world.” Like the Mwechiwas, Abdallah’s family was received by volunteers from a local church. William and Rochella Mood
from Roswell United Methodist Church opened their home to Abdallah and his parents and siblings. The Moods never planned to host a family of six African refugees. They started out just gathering furniture and household items for other refugees that had arrived. “We thought it would be a nice weekend service project, focused on some simple things we could do that were well-planned and well-defined,” William Mood says. “But before long, we started wondering what it would be like to host a family ourselves.” After that, Mood explains, “We planned for about a year, knowing we’d focus on a Somali-Bantu family. World Relief tries to place the Bantu near family members or some other members of their tribe. These are very clannish people.” Although the Mwechiwa and Abdallah families were both placed near Atlanta, thousands of others are living in places like Salt Lake City, Tucson, Boston, and San Diego. About a thousand Somali-Bantus have been settled in Lewiston, Maine, a city of just 42,000 people. Staff from World Relief and other volunteers from Roswell United Methodist helped the Moods prepare. “This is a people group that lived in a very rudimentary environment,” Mood says. “Our goal was that within seven days they would be decompressed and acclimatized, as much as is possible. There were also visits to the health department, Social Security office, and other such things we had to take care of.” After a week in the Moods’ home, Abdallah’s family moved to their own apartment, furnished with beds, clothing, kitchenware, etc. But the work wasn’t over for the Moods—or the church. While the church provides many forms of assistance, English instruction is often the thing for which refugees are most grateful. “I was put in 8th grade when I
What can you do?
Find out which agencies and nonprofits serve refugees in your area, then contact them to ask how you can help. You’ll find state-specific information at the US Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Refugee Settlement (tinyurl.com/6wtjt34). Contact some of the voluntary agencies that partner with the US Office of Refugee Resettlement. One or more of these are likely working in your area: World Relief (WorldRelief.org) Church World Service (ChurchWorldService.org) Catholic Charities (CatholicCharitiesUSA.org) Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS.org) Episcopal Migration Ministries (EpiscopalChurch.org/ EMM) Provide Bibles for refugees in the Kakuma camps in Kenya (IAFR.org > Projects > Bibles for refugees).
first arrived,” Bilal Abdallah says. “I took summer school and received intensive tutoring in English from members of the church. They were the key to my success. There were so many exams to be taken before I got into the University of Washington, but the people who tutored me made all this possible for me.” Abdallah became a US citizen in 2010 and now tutors other Somali-Bantu people himself. This is a common pattern—those who receive the mercy and assistance of God’s people are motivated to pass it along (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
“I feel loved and accepted”
Shangwok Deng is another dynamic example. Deng grew up in Southern Sudan in a Christian family. He fled persecution to Syria, where he studied Arabic, went to school, and met his wife, Matbien. Shangwok and Matbien came to the US in 2004 as refugees. Their first child was born two days after their arrival in the US, and Catholic Charities placed the family in an apartment complex near West End Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Va. Soon Shangwok began leading a Bible study at the
thing.” Deng also told me about Ziad, a man from Iraq who attends adult English classes at West End. “When I come to the church, I am welcome,” says Ziad. “I feel loved and accepted. I don’t feel judged, and I feel peace. I receive help, even though I am a Muslim.” As a result of the love he has received from followers of Jesus, Ziad has shown an interest in learning more about the man behind the love. Deng recently gave him a Bible in Arabic, encouraging him to read the Gospel of Mark and come back to discuss it. “People are moved by what they receive from the church,” says Deng. “Some of them are now helping in the clothes closet and food pantry. Women from Iraq, Russia, and Uzbekistan are working together in a Presbyterian church, because they want to give back to the community in some way.” Since Guy Seshaka received asylum and joined my church in Alexandria, we have welcomed two dozen more African asylees into our congregation. They are from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Togo, and the Democratic Re-
Left: Karen children from the refugee camps in Northern Thailand join in the children's worship at Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C. Center: Farah and Binti Mwechiwa had no previous experience with plumbing, so they were fascinated with their new washing machine, demonstrated here by their US host, Angie Jones. Right: After living in the US for a little more than seven years, Bilal Abdallah (in red) graduated from the University of Washington in June with a degree in criminal justice and human rights. He's pictured here with his family (his father, Mohamed, is on the far right) and his first US hosts, Rochella and William Mood.
church for other Sudanese refugees. He became a member of the church, then a deacon, and now works there full time as director of neighborhood outreach, bringing material assistance and the gospel to the refugees he lives among. “We provide food, clothing, worship services in four languages, and after-school tutoring for the children,” Deng says. “After they finish helping with a child’s homework, the tutors often ask if they can pray with the children, or maybe read a story about Jesus from the Bible.” When I asked Deng how the Muslim parents felt about this, he told me, “We have found that even with the [adults] we can pray in Jesus’ name. We ask, and they almost always say yes. They respect someone who has strong convictions about what they believe, even if they don’t believe the same
public of Congo (DRC). Seshaka serves with us on the Mercy Committee and translates the Sunday worship service into French. Just as Deng and Chalabi now serve other refugees, we have been encouraged by the way each newcomer to our church receives help and guidance from those who arrived ahead of them. Our church has continued to work with asylees rather than refugees. Every month or two we get a call from Human Rights Now, Northern Virginia Family Service, or the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. These are secular organizations working with asylum-seekers who are stuck in a kind of limbo until their cases are decided. Although these organizations don’t profess Christ, they have learned that our church can provide material assistance to applicants while their cases
are being prepared by pro bono attorneys. But our involvement always begins with Sunday worship. Here’s how I explain it to them: God created the church to be a loving community that is growing together in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, we are eager to provide material help. But it must be done in the context of worshipping, praying, and learning together (Acts 2:42-47). We are praying that the Lord would send us asylum seekers who want to experience all the blessings of being welcomed into a church family. Recently we received a young woman from the DRC, a nurse and women’s rights activist who had fought for better treatment of women in her often-dangerous country. The government did not appreciate her efforts, so she was persecuted, jailed, and raped. Rape is a common weapon of war and intimidation in the DRC. Although the fear and shock were still visible in her eyes, she relaxed a bit in the company of her new friend—another woman from the DRC. While this younger woman had only been with us for eight months, she was already settled into life with a family from church, learning English rapidly and receiving counseling from a woman trained to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Friendly Avenue Baptist sponsored their first Karen family in 2007, partnering with Lutheran Family Services. As more families arrived, the church worked to prepare their apartments and acclimate them to the US. They began offering ESL in a Sunday school class for the adults and incorporating the children into the church’s regular classes. Today, about 200 of the Karen in Greensboro are involved with the church plant. “We baptized nine of them recently,” Presson says. “It’s very exciting to see that—people coming out of an animist religion where they would worship their ancestors and into the gospel of Jesus Christ.” But Presson and Friendly Avenue Baptist are also looking ahead to the time when Karen pastors will be trained and ready to lead churches of their own. They are partnering with Golden Gate Baptist Seminary to provide contextualized theological training in the Karen language. That is the kind of forward thinking the American church should be and is doing today—recognizing the thousands of refugees arriving each year as our newest neighbors and, in many cases, newest members of Christ’s body.
Blessed by diversity
If anyone is prepared to fulfill the commandment from Deuteronomy 10:19, it’s Americans—ourselves a blended nation of foreigners and refugees. May the believers among us discover the joy inherent in the command to “love those who are aliens.”
Our entire congregation has been blessed by the diversity and gifts our African friends contribute to Alexandria Presbyterian. Perhaps they will remain as members of our church family, or maybe the Lord will raise up a new church for them. That’s what is happening in Greensboro, NC, where Byran Presson is leading the efforts of Friendly Avenue Baptist Church to plant a church for Karen people from Burma and northern Thailand. Presson is uniquely qualified to pastor this new church. “My wife and I spent 20 years in northern Thailand, planting churches among the Karen refugees there,” Presson says. “I never imagined I would move back to my hometown of Greensboro and find 400-500 Karen waiting for me.”
Chris Sicks is Pastor of Mercy at Alexandria Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Va., where he works with the deacons and Mercy Committee to show holistic compassion to those in the congregation and broader community. His passion is to help people see the Lord as Comforter and Savior in the midst of suffering.
Humans, Not Issues by Amy Spaulding Zimbelman
“You’re famous!” screamed the subject line of the email from my friend. I clicked the link she’d sent and found myself quoted in a popular blog centered on anti-refugee sentiment. The blog was chock-full of fear. Fear that refugees (especially Muslim ones) will take over our culture, our jobs, our country. Fear that our nation is making a huge mistake by admitting thousands of “them” each year. Fear that they are all terrorists. My first reaction was to resent the fear-mongers, to lump them into the convenient category of “bad guys.” But then I reminded myself that an issues-based dichotomy of good guys vs. bad guys is not what our nation needs right now, neither among politicians nor among engaged citizens. But what, then, should my response be? What should the church’s response be? People do have real or imagined fears of welcoming the stranger, and yet as Christians we are called to welcome them as though they were Christ himself. Casey, a college student, volunteers his time to tutor refugees like Asaga, from Eritrea.
Arguing about issues and statistics, I’ve found, does little to assuage fears. But introducing skeptical or fearful people to other human beings (who happen to have refugee status) can work miracles. A few months ago, a student group came to my office to learn about refugee resettlement. I gave my usual hour presentation outlining the horrific experiences of most refugees, the process of resettlement, the services our resettlement agency provides, etc. When I was finished, one of the women, we’ll call her Ashley, asked a couple of questions that were clearly anti-refugee. Not “I’m just wondering...” questions, but ones that exposed some real fear and anger. I addressed her
questions and arguments as kindly as I could, but I sensed that she was already convinced in her mind. As part of the class assignment, Ashley and the other students were required to shadow the teachers of our English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. I hesitated to allow Ashley to interact with our refugee and immigrant students. Will she say something overtly hurtful? Will she storm out of the class? I whispered a quick prayer that she would have eyes to see. I led Ashley’s class to the ESL classrooms. There were a few minutes to spare, and I noticed that Ashley became engrossed in conversation with one of the ESL teachers, who is an immigrant herself. The vibes from their conversation were surprisingly good. Two hours later, I checked back with the students. All had had a positive experience,
“Why didn’t you just stay in your home country?” becomes harder to ask after learning that a wife was raped, a village burned down, or a child shot. By definition, refugees cannot stay in their home country. They ran for their lives.
including Ashley. “These are such kind, diligent students. Thank you for the good work you’re doing here,” Ashley said to me, with a hint of apology in her voice. Not everyone’s heart might soften as quickly as Ashley’s did, but when I introduce someone to a refugee friend of mine, the arguments somehow do seem to lose footing. The complaint “You’re taking my job” fades away when you learn that your new refugee acquaintance works the night shift at the local meat packing plant. If anyone born in the US who speaks English wants that job instead, it’s theirs. “We’re just letting everyone in” becomes clearly untrue as
your refugee friend describes the vast, overpopulated refugee camp she just moved from, where she lived the last 20 years. Most refugees suffer in camps for years (or their entire lives!) and are never offered resettlement, even after desperately seeking it. “Why didn’t you just stay in your home country?” becomes harder to ask after learning that a wife was raped, a village burned down, or a child shot. By definition, refugees cannot stay in their home country. They ran for their lives. The questions I have, whenever I hear anti-refugee or anti-Muslim sentiment, are these: Have you ever met one of the people you’re talking about? Have you ever been to her house and received her hospitality? Have you allowed this person to cook you dinner, laugh with you about language differences, tell her harrowing story of persecution or her hopes for a new life here? Have you ever seen the face of Christ, who himself was a refugee, in the face of this stranger?
It’s amazing how much I learn from refugee friends, how they cleanse me of fear and greed as I, in exchange, help them learn some English. I’m pretty sure I’m getting the better end of the deal. So the next time I meet someone with an anti-refugee stance, I hope I can be gracious enough to simply introduce him or her to my refugee friends. Because it is real flesh-andblood human beings, not arguments or side-taking on issues, that introduce us to the truth in the end. Amy Spaulding Zimbelman works in a resettlement agency in South Dakota, where she connects refugees and immigrants from around the world with their new neighbors. She studied English and cultural anthropology at Gordon College in Massachusetts and has spent time in the Middle East, the South Pacific, and rural Zambia.
Welcome to Shelbyville:
Promising Changes On and Off Screen by Amy Spaulding Zimbelman
Welcome to Shelbyville is a film about change—a changing economy, a new president, and the shifting demographics of a small Southern town as whites, African Americans, Hispanics, and Somali refugees wrestle with what it means to be American. Articulated by a resident of Shelbyville, the film’s central question is this: “Now are we gonna work together or are we gonna stay divided?” The documentary is uncomfortable enough to purge the audience; people have walked out of screenings I’ve organized—some because they believed it to be pro-immigrant “propaganda” and others because the anti-immigrant hateful remarks were too painful to bear. And that is Shelbyville’s greatest strength—it reflects reality. “These fears, of losing jobs and losing our identity to refugees, these are our fears,” a lady from small-town South Dakota confessed after a screening. But as people get to know refugees and listen to their stories, I have seen positive change, both on screen and in audiences. In the film, one resident of Shelbyville worries that “[The Muslims] are gonna start blowing up in Shelbyville.” But after getting to know her Somali neighbors, she admits, “I could have been her, but God chose for me to be over here … no, I could have been one of them.” At another screening, an older woman remarked, “I never thought about the fact that my ancestors fled persecution in Europe, so I’m a descendant of refugees. And unless we’re Native American, all of us came from abroad.” To see ourselves in the stranger, to realize their tragedy could have been ours, and to use that realization to propel us toward greater compassion and closer community, those are the changes Shelbyville promotes and the changes we must seek for ourselves and our nation. Learn more at Welcometoshelbyvillefilm.com. You can download a lively discussion guide for this film at ShelbeyvilleMultimedia.org
"The Second Mile" from Journeys with the Messiah by Michael Belk. TheJourneysProject.com. 2012
the Nonviolent Revolutionary Despite making trouble wherever he went, Jesus remained ever a man of peace by John Dear 20
ahatma Gandhi considered Jesus the most active person of nonviolence in the history of the world. He was dismayed, however, that so few Christians understood or embraced Jesus’ nonviolence. Martin Luther King, Jr. considered the Hindu Gandhi the best modern disciple of the nonviolent Jesus, because Gandhi so spectacularly adhered to his teachings on the subject, applying them even to the national and international levels, perhaps for the first time. Both Gandhi and King insisted that everything Jesus did was nonviolent, that his teachings comprised a veritable catechism of nonviolence, and that the way he faced his execution was the epitome of nonviolence. If we want to follow him, they taught, we too must be nonviolent. When I speak to church congregations about the nonviolent Jesus, the question inevitably arises, “Yes, but didn’t Jesus overturn tables and chase people out of the temple with a whip? Isn’t that violent?” Many remember El Greco’s unhelpful painting Christ Cleansing the Temple, where Jesus raises his arm high into the air, his hand grasping a long whip, ready to strike a group of people, including terrified women. In each instance, I find myself saying that El Greco was wrong. Jesus did not use violence. He never hurt anyone. He never struck anyone. He never killed anyone. He did not tolerate injustice, greed, hypocrisy, or untruth. He confronted systemic injustice head on, as his disciples Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. would later do. He gave his life for God’s reign of justice and peace, but he always did so through meticulous nonviolence. Our problem is that the nonviolent Jesus was decidedly not passive. He did not sit under a tree and practice his breathing. He walked regularly into the face of danger, spoke the truth, and demanded justice. As far as decent, law-abiding, religious people were concerned, he was nothing but trouble. He hung out with the wrong people, healed at the wrong time, visited the wrong places, and said the wrong things. His nonviolence was active, provocative, public, daring, and dangerous. Many of Jesus’ actions were illegal. He frequently committed civil disobedience. That’s why I’ve begun to think of him as a one-man crime wave walking through the Roman Empire, beginning the process of disarmament wherever he went. The story has become so warped for the benefit of the ruling elite that we forget that Jesus was executed by the empire as a terrorist. Indeed, he was a revolutionary, but a nonviolent revolutionary. As far as I can tell, only four events appear in all four gospels: the multiplication of the loaves and fishes; his street theater entrance into Jerusalem; his dramatic civil disobedience in the temple; and his execution on the cross. (The risen Jesus does not appear in Mark’s gospel; we only hear of an empty tomb.) Mark, Matthew, and Luke present the same basic storyline. Jesus organizes the poor and disenfranchised in Galilee. Then he turns, sets his face to Jerusalem, and starts
a walking campaign of nonviolence right into the temple, where he engages in peaceful civil disobedience. For this he is arrested, tried, tortured, and executed. The Synoptic Gospels tell how Jesus turns over the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who were selling doves, and drives out those selling and buying. Mark says he did not permit anyone to carry anything through the temple area. Then he started to teach the crowds. “Is it not written,” he asks in Mark, “‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples’? But you have made it a den of thieves” (11:17). There is no mention of a whip, no talk of violence, no report of anyone being hurt. The whole event probably lasted five minutes. It would have stunned the crowds, who apparently stayed to hear his message. As anyone who has engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience knows, this was a classic example of symbolic, nonviolent direct action. And it needed to be done. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, built by Herod Antipas at the beginning of the century, was held up as the one and only place where God dwelt. We have nothing quite like it today. It combined worship, commerce, local government, execution site, and imperial control. It would resemble some massive building in Washington, DC, containing the Pentagon, the US Capitol, the White House, Wall Street, the World Bank, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, Walmart, the National Cathedral, and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception—all rolled into one as God’s home on earth. The faithful were expected to pay God a visit in the temple each year, so every Passover they made the long trek to Jerusalem and paid a hefty fee to enter God’s sanctuary. The population tripled to over 180,000. Over 18,000 animals would be purchased and slaughtered for holy sacrifice in the temple. A heavy tax was charged for all of this commerce. In effect, the temple housed a national bank, hawked loans, tracked debts, and changed money for unclean sinners so they could pay with “holy” temple money. Special fees were added for this money changing. Women, poor people, and other outcasts had to purchase expensive doves so that they could be “purified” to offer worship. The various fees robbed the poor and did so in God’s name under the watchful, greedy eye of the Roman Empire.1 Anyone who cared about justice or read the prophets would be outraged at such institutionalized injustice. It was only natural that Jesus took action to protest this huge corporate, imperial, religious rip-off. As commentators note, Jesus did not merely want lower prices for the poor. He did not seek to reform the temple. Through his symbolic action, he called for an end to the entire temple system. He taught a new, authentic worship of the living God. In Mark, Jesus urges his disciples to live in faith, pray all the time, and forgive those who have hurt them every time they pray. This simple plan was Jesus’ spiritual practice for a new world beyond the temple cult. With this action, he announced that God was present within every person; present whenever two or three gathered
to pray in his name; present in the hungry, sick, or imprisoned; present in the breaking of the bread and the passing of the cup; present in Spirit and in Truth. Jesus’ action and those teachings threatened and outraged the religious authorities. Their economic and political privilege would end if his teachings were adopted, so they had him killed. Certainly, Jesus’ action in the temple is the boldest political event in the entire Bible. And, it has been duly ignored and misunderstood for 2,000 years. Mark’s version (11:11–26) notes that Jesus first entered the temple, looked around, left, returned the next day, and then took action. Only those who have undertaken civil disobedience with a steadfast commitment to nonviolence could understand that sentence: Jesus was casing the joint! He wanted to see for himself what was happening, plan his action, pray over it, and be perfectly nonviolent. Jesus did not turn over the tables in an outburst of anger. His act was premeditated nonviolence following his initial reconnaissance. As one who has been arrested many times for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, I understand that need to prepare oneself thoroughly if one intends to be nonviolent. This detail from Mark, for me, proves the nonviolence of Jesus in the temple. The only mention of a “rope” or a “whip” is in John’s gospel, written 20 to 40 years after the Synoptics. Throughout John’s gospel, like the others, Jesus is perfectly nonviolent. Indeed, he speaks more often here than in the other gospels about nonviolent love—agape—the Greek word for “unconditional, non-retaliatory, universal, sacrificial love.” It’s in John that Jesus announces the heart of nonviolence—“No one has greater love [agape] than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John’s story begins with the miraculous changing of water into wine during the wedding at Cana, a sign that all ritual, religious cleansings are now abolished and God’s reign,2 an eternal wedding banquet of agape, has begun. Jesus then suddenly appears in Jerusalem during the Passover feast to continue this work of abolishing the religious cult. He enters the temple area, “makes a whip of cords,” and drives out the oxen, sheep, doves, and everyone else. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep and doves, as well as the moneychangers seated there. He made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves, he said, “Take these out of here and stop mak-
What does Jesus’ dramatic, illegal, nonviolent direct action against systemic injustice mean for us, his followers?
What would Jesus want us to do today in the face of the Pentagon, the School of the Americas, or other US military institutions?
ing my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” At this the Judeans answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days, I will raise it up.” The Judeans said, “This temple has been under construction for 46 years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scriptures and the word Jesus had spoken. (John 2:14–22) Most scholars agree that John deliberately paints Jesus as a righteous prophet in the tradition of Jeremiah, who engaged in similar dramatic actions. John’s readers would immediately recognize Jesus as a great prophet who comes directly out of the prophetic tradition. My Scripture professor at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., told us that this reference to a “rope” or a “whip” was the only instance in the entire Bible for that particular obscure Greek word.3 To get thousands of sheep, oxen, and doves into this enormous structure, my professor explained, cattlemen and shepherds used cords and ropes to lead animals up the high stone walkways into the building. Jesus simply took those cords, which the cattle, sheep, and oxen would have recognized, and started to drive them outside. Then he overturned the bankers’ tables and launched into his speech. But didn’t he take a rope or a whip and start striking people? Some translations would have you believe so, but that would be entirely inconsistent with the Jesus portrayed throughout John’s gospel, as well as the Synoptics. Jesus was nonviolent from Cana to the cross and back to Galilee—but he was a bold revolutionary. With such spectacular nonviolence, one cannot imagine Jesus even striking the poor animals. Indeed, he was liberating them from their impending execution! Misinterpretation of this one word has been used to justify countless massacres, crusades, wars, and even the US nuclear annihilations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Perhaps we want Jesus to have some trace of violence in order to justify our own violence. We desperately hope he was violent so that we can dismiss his teachings, wage war, and build nuclear weapons without any guilt. The key lies in John’s punch line: “Destroy this temple and I will raise it up in three days” (2:19). John’s version has a completely different agenda. For John, Jesus is the new temple, and it will rise. The focus is on Jesus’
Photo: "The Road Less Traveled" from Journeys with the Messiah by Michael Belk. TheJourneysProject.com. 2012
resurrection. If the climactic action of Jesus’ life, in John’s testimony, is the raising of Lazarus, then Jesus’ allusion to resurrection here at the start makes sense. As I wrote in my book Lazarus, Come Forth!,4 Lazarus represents the entire human race, which Jesus calls out of the culture of war, empire, and death into the new life of resurrection. With this prophetic action in the temple, Jesus points to himself right from the start as “the Resurrection.” Later, during his arrest, trial, torture, and execution, Jesus remains nonviolent. He forgave his killers and surrendered himself into the hands of his beloved Father. His nonviolence cannot be doubted, I submit, if we read through these shocking passion accounts. He displays no trace of violence, vengeance, retaliation, or even anger. With this in mind, I think we are asking the wrong question. The real question is, “What does Jesus’ dramatic, illegal, nonviolent direct action against systemic injustice mean for us, his followers? If Jesus gave his life to confront temple injustice, what would he want his followers to do today in the face of the Pentagon, Los Alamos, the School of the Americas, or other US military institutions?” I think Jesus expects his followers to undertake similar bold, nonviolent action. He would want us to go to our own Jerusalems, turn over the tables of injustice, and speak out for justice and peace. Not only would he expect us to be people of contemplative prayer, he would insist that we be people of creative nonviolence who resist injustice and work for God’s reign of peace, come what may. That is why followers and admirers of Jesus have undertaken similar campaigns of active nonviolence and civil disobedience. Mahatma Gandhi marched to the sea, picked up the illegal salt, and announced India’s revolution. Dr. King marched illegally in downtown Birmingham on Good Friday, 1963, to bring down the evil US segregation laws. Dorothy Day was repeatedly arrested in the early 1960s for refusing to go underground during New York City’s nuclear air raid drills. Daniel and Philip Berrigan and seven others entered the Catonsville, Maryland, draft center in May, 1968, took hundreds of A-1 draft piles, dumped them in the parking lot, and burned them with homemade napalm to protest the US war in Vietnam. Such nonviolent actions continued Jesus’ campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience. All of these peacemakers were misunderstood and accused of being violent, just as Jesus was, even though they practiced meticulous nonviolence whenever they acted publicly.
Because of Jesus’ nonviolent civil disobedience in the temple, I have engaged in civil disobedience actions and have been arrested over 75 times at US military and nuclear bases around the nation. In my first arrest, in April 1984, I sat down in the doorway of the riverside entrance to the Pentagon. My sit-in lasted only a few minutes. I hit no one and yelled at no one. I was quickly surrounded by a dozen armed policemen and soldiers and then arrested. (Later, a judge found me guilty but refused to put me in prison.) Still, hundreds of people gathered to watch me. One could say that, like Jesus, I prevented people from coming and going. It was a peaceful, prayerful, symbolic act. As I later told the judge, I was just trying to follow the nonviolent, civilly disobedient Jesus. The gospels portray Jesus of Nazareth as the most active person of nonviolence in the history of the world. He taught a glorious vision of nonviolence: “Love your enemies. Blessed are the peacemakers. Put down your sword. Be as compassionate as God. Hunger and thirst for justice. Seek first God’s reign and God’s justice.” As his followers, we are forbidden to support war, killings, executions, nuclear weapons, corporate greed, environmental destruction, or violence of any kind. More, we are sent into the culture of violence and war on a mission of prophetic peacemaking and active nonviolent resistance to evil. If we want to follow this daring, nonviolent Jesus, I suggest that we confront our own unjust institutions, even to the point of nonviolent civil disobedience, in pursuit of God’s reign of justice and peace. We too may be misunderstood and persecuted, even arrested and jailed. But if we can maintain the steadfast nonviolent love of Jesus, then God’s reign will break through again, and we will herald the coming of a new world without war, poverty, injustice, or nuclear weapons, a whole new world of loving nonviolence. Then, we will have learned a faith, one not worth killing for, but worth living for. (Editor’s note: due to space limitations, the endnotes for this article have been posted at EvangelicalsforSocialAction.org/ PRISM-endnotes.)
This article was adapted from chapter 12 of A Faith Not Worth Fighting For: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions about Christian Nonviolence, edited by Tripp York and Justin Bronson Barringer (Cascade Books, 2012; WipfandStock.com. Reproduced here by kind permission of the publisher.
_ Oh No
a Sinner! By Casey Hobbs
Responding to sexual sin in our midst “You make loving others sound so easy,” a middle-aged woman shouted angrily from the back of the room. “But how am I supposed to love my brother after they caught him with pornography at his church office?” The question came less than one minute from the end of a Sunday school class I was teaching at my new church. I suspected from her tone that she had timed her question to allow no time for a response. I wish she had stayed around to chat, but she darted off, having expressed her indignation, exposed her brother, and used her pain like the point of a dagger. If she had stuck around, I might have been able to share with her the deep and beautiful stories about my friends who have faced the same weaknesses she saw in her brother. I would have told her about folks who have found redemption and restoration in a gospel-centered community. I would have liked to tell her of the freedom they’d tasted from the depths her brother now knew. But she had already made up her mind—her brother had wandered too far from his Father’s house, and she was justified in writing him off. He would now serve as an exception to Jesus’ simple command to love our neighbor. This particular sinner was unlovable. I wish I could say that this woman’s reaction is unusual in the church, but her response to finding her brother mired in sexual sin is all too typical. Judgments are delivered and sexual sinners are far too often cast out. Another way is possible Over the past five years, I have had the distinct privilege of living out the gospel alongside men and women who have been found out in sexual sin. I’ve worked in a gospel-centered recovery community made up of very "respectable" people—medical professionals, housewives, pastors, graduate students. More important even than their respectability is the fact that they are made in the image of God. They are men and women who have lived with a broken, distorted sexuality. They are men and women with a story. They are men and women like you and me. As we confess Christ, we begin by agreeing with him when he says in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:28) that each of us who has lusted is guilty of adultery. Jesus begins his ministry placing us all under the status of “lawbreaker.” There is no hiding our inner brokenness from the God who judges the heart. Whether our story includes divorce, pornography, adultery, affairs, pre-marital sex, or occasional thoughts that distort the intention of sex to represent God’s union with his people, none of us can claim innocence. But in spite of all we have in common in the body of
Christ, we see time and again that the one sinning sexually will be cast out of the community. Whether we have seen a trusted friend, a brother or sister, or a church leader fall and be cast to the side, we learn our lesson. Sexual sin is unacceptable in the body of Christ. We start to hide. We point out the sins of others and pray that nobody will ask us a direct question before those in our small group have gone their separate ways. Ranking sin In his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that “sin wants to remain unknown.” We are convinced that there are sins too deep, too dark to confess. We treat men and women
who are struggling sexually as if their particular brand of sin is more sinful, darker, and more harmful than our common (and highly tolerated) sins of pride, scorn, gluttony, and gossip. Sin is rebellion against God, period. Can there be a particular activity that is more or less rebellious, as if a panel of Olympic judges is ranking the sinfulness of each one, so that gluttony gets a 6.1 and pornography use gets a 9.9? We may never admit to that out loud, but that is how we treat sin, ranking from mildest to strongest. Note that we almost always rank our own personal sins toward the bottom. My tendency to curse world leaders without a second thought is probably not a good thing, we might say, but at least I’m not really sinful like that guy who can’t stop sleeping around.
With a system like this in place, what kind of fool would come forth and confess sexual sin? Would confession not automatically lead to rejection? Fearing (for good reason) social suicide, we keep our sin hidden, where it of course festers and strengthens its grip on our lives. We find ourselves without real community at a time when community is what we more than ever need. Does this sound familiar? Leveling the playing field Hi, my name is Casey, and I am a foul sinner. I’ve broken every law God has set down from the time of Adam and Eve. I have lied. I have stolen. I have desired things and people who were not mine to have. I have overindulged in food and alcohol. I have made idols. I have not kept the Sabbath holy. I have set myself up as judge over my neighbor. I have turned a blind eye to the poor, the needy, the sick, and the hungry. Oh, and one more thing—I have lusted. You, too? I see. Do you notice the weight that lifts from our shoulders when we decide to publicize our absolute need for Jesus? Pastors, could you imagine making that a routine of your preaching? Could you imagine letting your friends, your congregants, your supporters, your spouse, and your family in on this type of news? This is the type of freedom Martin Luther talked about when he said, “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” Our hope is not in our own holiness but in the holiness of Jesus, the God-Man who lived perfectly for us and died an atoning death for our sins. Our hope is that he is praying for us even now before the Father, guaranteeing our perfection in the presence of the divine. Our hope is that he will redeem our bodies and souls, to live with him forever. Living as a community of sinner-saints How does a community of sinner-saints love each other enough to be safe for one another? We all have a story and a wake of disaster in our path of rebellion against God, so how do we respond when the ugly news of a brother’s or sister’s rebellion comes out into the light? What is our response to the music minister who is spotted coming out of a notorious nightclub? What do we say to the elder whose wife, unwilling to endure another affair, files for divorce? How do we reach out to the pastor whose addiction to pornography has been discovered? Two responses seem appropriate: We weep, and we rejoice. First, we weep. Our sister or brother has made choices that affect every person in her/his life. We weep because we know that this is not the way it is supposed to be. Wives are
Sin will not have the last word in our world, nor does it need to have the last word in our lives in the here and now. 26
We treat men and women who are struggling sexually as if their particular brand of sin is more sinful, darker, and more harmful than our common (and highly tolerated) sins of pride, scorn, gluttony, and gossip. not meant to cheat on their husbands. Husbands are not supposed to drag their wives into the dark world of porn, pressuring them to perform as the porn performers do. Children are not meant to be victims of their parents’ broken sexuality. Something is wrong with us, evil is in our midst, and we weep for the suffering that is pulled down on our loved ones, on ourselves, and on the whole community. We weep because we are powerless to fix our loved one’s problems. But we also rejoice, because there is hope. Sin, death, hell, and Satan have been defeated. Sin will not have the last word in our world, nor does it need to have the last word in our lives in the here and now. And we rejoice because although exposure is painful, light has now entered the picture, and light means healing is possible. When sin is no longer secret, crouching alone in the dark, our loved one now has a fighting chance. We rejoice that the long, difficult process of recovery and restoration can begin. We commit to hoping and praying on our loved one’s behalf. But it can’t be that easy, can it? And so, back in my new church, I have the opportunity to share what I have learned about sexual sin and Christ’s severe mercy and restorative grace. I am learning the value of the 12-step programs and of good, solid counseling. But most of all, I am learning to “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom. 12:15). This is what love does. It commits to standing by our neighbors when they are in need. Love compels us to hope on behalf of the hopeless. Distorted sexuality in the church has had more than enough of a free reign. We must stop shaming one another when we find sinners in our midst. We must instead become people of the cross who are willing to bear the sin of others for the gospel’s sake. Love is never easy, and at times the way seems unclear, but it is always our call. Casey Hobbs is a graduate of Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Ala., and a resident of Seattle, Wash. In his work in sexual addiction ministry, he has led groups and explored the gospel together with men in their process of recovery. A freelance writer, he blogs at caseyhobbs.com.
Beauty and the Beast
by Brian Wigg
Pornography doesn’t love you and never will. I have no doubts about the nature of pornography. It is utterly without value. Yet, sadly, I am drawn to it like a fly to manure. When I see an image of a naked woman, it makes me feel good. It gives me a burst of adrenaline that can make me forget my troubles for a time. When I was drawn to this hidden world as a young man, having seen so many glimpses of it even as a boy, I wasn’t looking for anything shocking or explicit. I just wanted to see a woman with no clothes on, like the women in the magazines I’d heard about from friends at school. But any quest for excitement of this kind will inevitably lead to a much darker world where people impose degrading sexual acts on each other: the unimaginable brought to life. With the arrival of the internet, my desire to see naked women was easily met, but certainly not fulfilled. There was always so much more to see, and as I clicked my way through the world of porn, I would inevitably stumble on things that I wasn’t looking for—ads for explicit sex, ads promising things that made me feel uncomfortable. I never wanted that uncomfortable reality to infringe on my enjoyment of looking
at beautiful women posing in various milieus without their clothes on. I wanted to believe that my pursuit was an appreciation of beauty, for certainly, as a good Christian young man, I knew that the naked body was created by God. But soon I stumbled onto sites where, in spite of the images of seemingly happy naked women, users had posted comments of disrespect or outright hate. There were ads for videos of “kinky sex” and girls who were “barely legal,” little animations in the sidebar depicting explicit and troubling sex acts. I couldn’t ignore it anymore. This had nothing to do with beauty. How could I have even considered it? Porn is like that alluringly forbidden house on a hill from a horror film. It is grandiose and intriguing from the outside, but on the inside, amidst all the gaudy and tacky finery, a staircase descends into chilly darkness, a darkness that draws you in, feeding on both your curiosity and your desire, inviting you to come and see something you’ve never seen before—just one more step, just one more step. Even in the midst of that ugliness, I couldn’t forget that there is real beauty in a naked body. Despite my horror and shame I always found myself longing to reach a place where I could savor that beauty. It was with regret and a backwards glance that I resolved to leave porn behind. I wanted to be free of the darkness, from the guilt and shame and insatiability of it, but I also longed for a beauty that could bring me those feelings without the taint of all that ugliness. But it didn’t exist, and so as I continued to crave that rush of sexual desire, which inevitably turned to shame, I also longed to be someone who didn’t want to look at those things anymore. I began to despise the sexual part of me that would never give up, never be satisfied. I prayed that God would deliver me from it somehow. I was confused and frustrated. I didn’t understand my sexuality, how something that seemed to have such potential for beauty could be so tainted. I didn’t understand how I could be so drawn to something that made me feel so bad. But I was working with some faulty assumptions. One was that I was turning to porn to find and connect with beauty. This is ironic, because pornographers make no pretenses about selling beauty—or, for that matter, intimacy. Pornography is about the opposite—it’s cartoonish and manipulated and depicts people who are being paid (usually) to connect their bodies in what would normally be considered “intimate” situations but which in reality are anything but intimate. No, it wasn’t about the women’s beauty. It was about me and how it made me feel. I find mountain panoramas beautiful, but I don’t spend hours incessantly clicking and searching through hundreds of photographs of natural landscapes, one after the other, in a semi-comatose state. A naked body can be very beautiful, but when I’m looking at one, its beauty is merely coincidental to the way it makes me feel. The trick with pornography is that while it purports to be about what is happening in the images, in reality the subject of pornography is the viewer. When I look at porn, my body behaves in the same way it does when it thinks it is going to have sex with another person. Except that I am alone. There is no “other” to relate to, to consider, to interact with. It purports to offer all the benefits of sex—stimulation, pleasure, stress relief—without any of the requirements of an actual relationship—kindness, patience, honesty, vulnerability, true intimacy. The push-a-button-get-a-reward effortlessness of pornography, coupled with ease of access and affordability, is such that it can be hard to resist. It is marketed as harmless fun—good feelings at virtually no cost. The problem is that, over time, the things that were initially very exciting lose their ability to arouse as they once did. If the user wants the sexual stimulation to continue, he or she must find new and more extreme material. The degree to which this happens varies from person to person. Not everyone will become addicted to this new drug. Not everyone will want to consume such huge quantities of porn. But you can’t know ahead of time if it will happen to you or not. People don’t set out to become addicted to violent, degrading, and illegal porn, but for many this is exactly what happens. One step at a time, bit by bit, they enter a new world until they can’t remember how they got there and have no idea how to find their way back out. Only a small percentage of people will come to the point of criminal behavior Continued on page 47
Be Informed! Morality in Media is the leading national organization opposing pornography and indecency through public education and the application of the law. It directs the War on Illegal Pornography Coalition, an effort with Congress to pressure the US Department of Justice to enforce existing federal obscenity laws. It also maintains a research website about the harms of pornography and regularly directs national awareness campaigns to help the public understand the consequences of pornography and find resources to aid in their struggles. Learn more at PornHarms.org. Fight the New Drug is an awareness-raising and nonlegislative movement that assumes that once people are educated about the negative effects of pornography on individuals, families, and businesses they will choose to avoid it. Fight the New Drug is both anti-porn and pro-free speech. They take a scientific approach to expose the physical, behavioral, and social effects of pornography. Learn more at FighttheNewDrug.org. Just 1 Click Away, an outreach of the Josh McDowell Ministry, seeks to raise awareness about the threat of internet pornography and to network with other organizations to offer solutions for families and individuals of all ages and stages. Their website offers excellent resources on the subjects of prevention, addiction, and solutions. Learn more at Just1ClickAway.org
Can This Marriage Be Saved? by Ellen Dooley
Pornographyâ€™s toll on our most intimate relationship
im and Joan were married for 15 years, but a disturbing lack of sexual intimacy characterized 14 of those years. Joan often sat alone, crying in a darkened living room during the middle of the night, wondering what was wrong with her. Why did her husband not desire her? Most of the time Joan made the sexual advances, to which her husband responded, but he rarely initiated things. She tried sexy lingerie and he seemed to enjoy that, but not for long. She was moderately overweight, so she dieted until she fit into a single digit dress. That, too, seemed to help ... but also not for long. At Joanâ€™s suggestion, they tried marriage counseling. They saw six counselors during those years, but no long-term solutions emerged. Jim denied any childhood sexual abuse or pornography use, and Joan believed him. However, in the final year of their marriage, she began to suspect that Jim was indeed using pornography. He had settled into a pattern of evening behavior early in their marriage. He arrived home from work, ate supper, fell asleep watching tele-
vision, and then spent an hour or two in their home office “playing solitaire” on the computer. Joan often felt what she considered the Holy Spirit nudging her to go see what Jim was doing, but subconsciously she dreaded what she might find. When she finally gathered the strength to go upstairs, she found Jim sitting at the desk with glazed eyes, clicking through pictures of naked women in vulgar positions. Joan felt as though she had been punched in the stomach. In spite of the evidence, Jim denied using pornography, saying he “didn’t know how that got there.” He raised his voice to Joan, telling her she was crazy. Joan insisted that Jim receive sexual addiction counseling, but he came home after just a few sessions stating that he had been “discharged” because the problem had been “resolved.” He reverted back to his previous behavior after a few weeks. The porn trap In their book, The Porn Trap, renowned sex and relationship therapists Wendy and Larry Maltz write: “Most porn users we’ve counseled or spoken with are surprised at how easily porn transformed from an occasional diversion or fantasy to a habitual problem that has the potential to destroy almost every aspect of their real lives. What began as fun, escapist sexual entertainment, or a brief but thrilling visit to a taboo world, became a trap. Like quicksand, pornography sucked them in so steadily and quietly that they didn’t even notice they were sinking.”1 Avoiding pornography in postmodern society is no easy task. As the Maltzes put it, “Thirty years ago, getting your hands on pornography required time, money, and effort. Today it takes time, money, and effort to get away from porn. With unsolicited e-mails, deceptive links, and pop-up windows, porn can make its way into our lives whether we want it or not. As one man said, ‘You no longer have to go looking for porn; porn is looking for you!’”2 As Dr. Robert Palmer, professor of marriage and family therapy at Evangelical Seminary, states so poignantly (and chillingly), “Pornography stalks and hurts its prey.” Cybersex has been called the crack cocaine of sexual addictions because of the “triple-A engine” effect: accessibility, affordability, and anonymity.3 Consider this handful of telling statistics: ● Over 28,000 internet users are viewing pornography every second. The lion’s share of pornography pages (2.4 million) belong to the United States, while Germany comes in a distant second place with about 10,000 pages. ● 372 internet users are typing adult terms into search engines every second.
● A new pornographic video is created every 39 minutes by Vivid Entertainment, Hustler, Playboy, Wicked Pictures, and Red Light District.4 Addiction and marriage According to Harvey Milkman and Stanley Sunderwrith, experts in the neurochemistry of addictions, addictions can be divided into three categories: satiation, arousal, and fantasy. Those addicted to the sense of satiation, associated with the neurotransmitters gaba-amino butyric acid and endorphins, most often utilize alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates, and food. Those addicted to feelings of arousal, linked with the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine, normally use cocaine, amphetamines, and gambling; while those addicted to fantasy, connected with the neurotransmitter serotonin, interact with psychedelic drugs, workaholism, or compulsive religious practice. What makes sexual addiction so commanding is that it can fit into any of the aforementioned categories, but overall it is primarily an arousal addiction because sexual satisfaction may take several hours to achieve.5 Moreover, according to Mark Laaser, “the human brain can be chemically hijacked by pornography [because]…”there are more nerve cells in the human brain than stars in the universe.”6 Therapist Jennifer Schneider notes, “Cybersex is to sex addiction what crack cocaine has been to cocaine addiction—easy to obtain, rapidly progressive, and traps people who did not have a significant addictive problem before they found this new source of pleasure.”7 So, what impact does pornography have on marriage? Multiple studies show the following results: ● Women and men who have discovered their spouse’s pornography addiction feel shocked, degraded, betrayed, and inferior. The Maltzes describe four distinct stages that the unsuspecting partner may cycle through repeatedly: (1) ignorance of the problem, (2) the shock of discovery, (3) emotional wounding, and (4) attempts to cope. ● The basic foundations of a healthy marriage—honesty, fidelity, affection, intimacy, respect, support, trust and love are seriously undermined. ● If the addicted partner attended church regularly, he or she may stop attending or attend more sporadically, thereby decreasing the spiritual foundation of the marriage. ● Married men viewing pornography develop a higher tolerance for abnormal sexuality and a callous disregard for women. ● Addicts develop increasing doubts about the value of marriage. ● According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 56 percent of divorces involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites. ● Not only does the addicted spouse have a sexual disinterest
Ashamed No More: A Pastor’s Journey through Sex Addiction by Thomas C. Ryan (IVPress, 2012) Breaking Free: Understanding Sexual Addiction and the Healing Power of Jesus by Russell Willingham (InterVarsity Press, 1999)
Contrary to Love: Helping the Sexual Addict by Patrick Carnes. DVD available from Gentle Path Press (GentlePath.com) The Dirty Little Secret: Uncovering the Truth Behind Porn by Craig Gross (Zondervan, 2006) Don’t Call It Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction by Patrick Cames (Bantam Books, 1992)
I Surrender All: Rebuilding a Marriage Broken by Pornography by Clay & Renee Crosse with Mark Tabb (NavPress, 2005)
Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave: Finding Hope in the Power of the Gospel by Edward T. Welch (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co, 2001)
Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction by Patrick Carnes (Hazeldon, 2001) The Porn Trap by Maltz, Wendy and Larry Maltz (Harper, 2010) Relearning Touch: Healing Techniques for Couples by Wendy Maltz. Videotape available from InterVisions Media (HealthySex. interVisionMedia.com) Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle by Michael John Cusick (Thomas Nelson, 2012) Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain by William Struthers (InterVarsityPress, 2009)
● According to a study by Dolf Zillman, the addicted husband displays an increased attitude of male dominance and female servitude.
● Create a porn-free environment. More precisely, clear it out and keep it out. Clearing out porn requires getting rid of any type of porn stored in the home, on cable porn channels, on the computer, at work, in the car, etc. Blocking it out necessitates the purchase of blocking software for the computer, such as the resources offered at XXXChurch.com.
● The non-addicted spouse may develop stress-related problems such as headaches, insomnia, increased emotional sensitivity, and reactivity.8
● Also beneficial is placing inspirational pictures around the computer, such as the kids, your spouse, other family members and friends.
What recovery means Not all marriages can recover from the devastation of pornography. As mentioned above, 56 percent of divorces involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites. For those marriages that can be saved, restoration is a long and winding road. As far as recovery plans go, the Maltzes’ multimodal approach is the gold standard and many couples have overcome the debilitating effects of pornography utilizing their treatment plan. They suggest the following steps for the addict:
● Move the computer to public space in the home, not in a den or bedroom. This removes the sense of isolation and secrecy.
in their partner, there is a marked decrease in sexual satisfaction when intercourse does occur.
● Tell someone else about your pornography problem. By talking openly and honestly with another person about your problem you automatically weaken your connection to porn because the addiction thrives in an atmosphere of isolation, secrecy, and denial. ● Get involved in a treatment program. Make good use of pornaddiction resources like 12-step meetings and sex-addiction professionals. Many people the Maltzes interviewed said ongoing treatment changed their lives in profoundly positive ways. Treatment included concrete tools for quitting, attaching themselves to positive role models who were further down the recovery road, insights into their addictive behavior, and ongoing evaluation of progress.
● Turning away from porn means having an addiction prevention plan to carry out when tempted. Remember, a commitment to breaking pornography addiction has to be renewed one day at a time. ● Establish 24-hour support and accountability. Have a samesex mentor you can call when your trigger is activated. ● Take care of your physical and emotional health. Stopping an addiction is hard work and can be quite stressful. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet, getting sufficient exercise and rest, and spending time with supportive, encouraging friends. ● Work on restoring trust in the marital relationship—talking must be accompanied by actions. The offending partners must prove themself to be dependable and credible for as long as it takes. ● Put yourself in the offended partner’s shoes by understanding their experience and sense of betrayal. Talk openly with Continued on page 47
A MORE SUSTAINABLE PEACE Healing comes to Sierra Leone, thanks to the Fambul Tok movement of community-led reconciliation
by Tim Høiland Photography by Sara Terry
Sahr and Nyumah grew up as best friends. But that was before the war. While attempting to flee their village in eastern Sierra Leone when invading rebel forces attacked it in 1991, the two boys were captured and ordered to kill. Sahr was given a knife and told to murder his own father. He refused. The knife was given to Nyumah, and a gun was put to his head. Once he had killed Sahr’s father, Nyumah turned and beat Sahr to a pulp.1 This was war, and it would be an 11-year nightmare. When a peace treaty was eventually signed, those who survived the war did their best to return to life as usual. Villages that had been burned to the ground had to be rebuilt from scratch. Families and their ways of life had to be pieced back together. Many returned home accompanied by the ghosts of amputation, an enduring reminder of the gruesomeness of war. Thousands of combatants who had grown old against their will at the ages of 10, 11, 12 struggled to reclaim the innocence of childhood. For too many it was too late. Tens of thousands of women and girls carried with them the silent shame of violation. And for all the obvious wounds, a myriad more lay
just below the surface, largely unacknowledged—but simmering. The highly touted Truth and Reconciliation Commission, intended to help the people of Sierra Leone find closure, found some success here and there, but it never reached rural villages like Gbekedu, where Sahr and Nyumah lived. Villagers were left without a sense of justice, and though guns and machetes had for the time being been set aside, true peace had not yet been fully restored. These communities, however, had a tradition—a memory from before the war. In a simpler time, after the day’s work had been done, village residents would gather around a bonfire for a time of “family talk,” or fambul tok in the Krio language. They would discuss whatever was on their minds, and together, led by village elders, they would resolve any disputes that had arisen during the day. It was at one such gathering, years after the war, where Sahr finally found the words and the audience he needed to be able to speak out. After courageously telling the truth about what he and his family had endured, he went a step further, declaring, “The man who beat me and killed my father is here.”
Hobbling over to the edge of the circle on his permanently crippled legs, he reached into the crowd and pulled Nyumah out of the shadows and into the flickering light. Sahr and Nyumah had not spoken in the years since the rebels invaded and their lives were torn apart. But around that bonfire, face to face with Sahr and in the sight of all, Nyumah confessed to his crime in stark, grisly detail. “But what I did,” he continued, “it was not my choice.” Then, bowing to the ground and putting his hands in the dirt, he asked Sahr
again establishing a multi-party system, the war lingered on, fueled by power struggles and corruption within the government, intense criticism of the dubious role played by private security agencies from South Africa and Britain, contested claims within the mining industry, and the complicated role of the remaining RUF in negotiations for peace with the seemingly revolvingdoor central government. The end of the war officially came in January 2002, more than a decade after the conflict began. As part of the peace agreement, blanket amnesty was granted to all but a few of the highest-level offenders. In partnership with the United Nations, Sierra Leone’s government established a Special Court for war crimes as well as a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), modeled after the groundbreaking one introduced in South Africa following the end of apartheid.
"I would like to suggest that we stop trying to-or even thinking that we can-save Africa, and instead start learning from Africa." -Libby Hoffman to forgive him. Without hesitation, Sahr granted forgiveness. The two embraced and began to dance as the community burst into exuberant song, voices rising into the night, swirling like sparks. The roots of war Sierra Leone gained its independence from Britain in 1961 after a century and a half of colonization. The young nation got off to a rocky start, in a post-colonial scramble for power not unlike those in other newly independent African states. By the late ’70s Sierra Leone had become a one-party state and soon after found itself mired in crippling debt.2 Pressure for political and economic reform came to a head in 1990, and, sensing a rare window of opportunity, a rebel army dubbed the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), including Liberian fighters loyal to Charles Taylor, made its move. Entering Sierra Leone from neighboring Liberia, the RUF began to sow terror in an effort to take control of the country. The RUF concentrated its attacks, however, not in the capital, Freetown—where a stronger military presence would have threatened the invasion—but in isolated towns and villages like Gbekedu, among farmers and artisanal diamond miners in rural areas. It was in this context that Sahr, Nyumah, and 10,000 other children were captured, tens of thousands of women and girls were raped, more than 2 million Sierra Leoneans were displaced from their homes and communities, and an estimated 10,000 suffered mass amputations—a horrific trademark of this war. Though a new constitution was approved in 1991, once
All photos © Sara Terry for Catalyst for Peace
Nyumah (left) and Sahr, just a few days after the dramatic bonfire ceremony that restored their friendship.
The Special Court issued indictments for 13 people it considered to bear the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity and war crimes, representing various factions allegedly responsible for atrocities during the war.3 Three of those indicted died before they could face trial, and a fourth—who was never captured—has been rumored dead as well. Eight others have been successfully prosecuted, with sentences ranging from 15 to 52 years. Most significantly, this spring former Liberian president Charles Taylor was found guilty of all charges brought against him for his complicity in the war. This verdict marks the first time an African head of state has been convicted by an international tribunal; in May he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.4 While the Special Court has had success according to the terms of its mandate, the decision to indict a mere 13 men is puzzling considering the enormous scale of atrocities committed during the war and suggests it was designed more as a symbolic measure than to truly serve the cause of justice. And an expensive symbol it is: Costs are estimated at $200 million, with Taylor’s trial alone priced at up to $50 million.5 Meanwhile, the TRC was established with the mandate to “create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law… [and] to address impunity, to respond to the needs of the victims, to promote healing and reconciliation, and to prevent a repetition of the violations and abuses suffered.”6 The TRC operated from 2002 to 2004 but was limited to Freetown and regional capital cities, thereby failing to reach the majority of Sierra Leoneans who lacked the resources to travel in order to participate. Additionally, given the promise of blanket amnesty, relatively few considered it worthwhile to participate in any official capacity.
Recognizing the mounting frustration and disillusionment on the part of those victimized by the war, as well as the effects of the war that remained unaddressed at the community level, one Sierra Leonean human rights activist had an idea. It wasn’t particularly expensive, and villagers wouldn’t have to travel far. Most importantly, it was based on a model owned and led by those acquainted with the Sierra Leonean way of life. The best way forward for the people of Sierra Leone, he thought, would be to return to its past, to the rich traditions in place before the war. It was time, once again, for fambul tok. The birth of a movement John Caulker became a human rights activist as a university student when the war was just beginning to break out. Deeply concerned that atrocities committed against his fellow Sierra Leoneans were not being documented or reported, Caulker began donning a disguise and infiltrating the makeshift camps of rebel armies by night, eavesdropping on conversations around campfires. He would then pass his reports of atrocities on to Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, which would then advocate globally on behalf of those suffering in Sierra Leone’s war.7 After forming his own human rights organization, he served as chair of the TRC Working Group, using his position to urge
the government to establish a reparations program for those impacted by the war, with funding from the country’s mining revenue. When Caulker advocated for justice to be a component of the commission, along with truth and reconciliation, his suggestion was roundly condemned by rebels and government officials alike, and at one point he was temporarily evacuated with his family to neighboring Guinea for fear of his life. Caulker continued to emphasize the need for residents of rural communities to be included in the process of reconciliation, and he began to suggest that mini-commissions ought to be held closer to villages to enable greater participation and effectiveness. But these ideas were largely dismissed. Eventually, Caulker’s relationship with the other members of the TRC grew strained, and, facing increasing frustration and fatigue, he took the opportunity in the fall of 1997 to temporarily step away and accepted a human rights fellowship at Columbia University. While in New York, a photographer named Sara Terry introduced Caulker to Libby Hoffman, the founder and president of Catalyst for Peace, which mobilizes locally owned and locally led peace-building initiatives and then shares those stories with the world.8 During an all-day meeting at Catalyst for Peace offices in Portland, Maine, Caulker and Hoffman exchanged ideas and told stories about their own experiences in peace-building and reconciliation work.
The site of the community consultation in Kailahun, where Fambul Tok staff met with local stakeholders to ask whether they wanted to launch the program in their district.
Women celebrate a rice harvest on a community farm in Madina, Kailahun District, which brought victims and perpetrators to work together after a local Fambul Tok ceremony.
Hoffman has been active in the field of peace-building for 25 years, and along the way she has learned the immeasurable value of trusting the wisdom of communities rather than seeking to dictate solutions. “Something extraordinary is possible,” she says, “when you ask ordinary people what they want and help them to build it.”9 For a country and a continent all too often left to the mercy of outsiders, this shift in thinking is long overdue. Resisting the urge to swoop into poverty-stricken and war-torn areas as “white saviors,” Hoffman suggests redirecting that compassion into supporting and helping to facilitate local solutions, using local resources. “I would like to suggest that we stop trying to—or even thinking that we can—save Africa, and instead start learning from Africa,” she says.10 In John Caulker, Catalyst for Peace had found a homegrown leader who would be an ideal partner for developing peace-building programs in Sierra Leone. “The synchronicity between our visions couldn’t have been more amazing,” Hoffman recalled from their first meeting. “So we decided to work together to make those dreams a reality.”11 In November 2007 they each gathered a few colleagues and got to work planning what would become Fambul Tok International (FTI). Caulker returned to Sierra Leone the following month to begin implementing their plans. Originally designed to include 161 ceremonies in regions of the country known as chiefdoms, Sierra Leoneans have
since asked for ceremonies at an even more localized level, so plans are underway for thousands of ceremonies in the coming years in small clusters of villages. During just the first two years, approximately 600 people testified to more than 20,000 neighbors at 55 ceremonies throughout the country. The "family talk" process For those of us who often go days—if not weeks or months— without meaningful interaction with our neighbors, the extent to which Sierra Leonean culture depends upon close-knit community and strong relational ties is difficult to fully appreciate. In turn, it is nearly impossible for us to understand the effect that years of war continue to have among estranged neighbors who were once like family. Restoring a sense of neighborly camaraderie, therefore, is a top priority. While truth-telling bonfires are at the center of the process, FTI’s community-building methodology requires work to be done both before and after the community gathers around the fire. In every case the first step is the consultation, which determines whether a community is ready for reconciliation. It also allows community members to decide what the process will entail. Once these key initial decisions have been made and leaders have been appointed to help keep the process on track, preparations for the bonfire ceremony may begin. Though ceremonies vary from community to community, each of them entails an evening bonfire, where victims and
A community gathers to hear the testimony of victims and perpetrators at a bonfire ceremony in Gbekedu, Kailahun District.
Forgiveness or retribution The story of Fambul Tok is told in a documentary film and full-color book of photos and essays (both titled Fambul Tok), which chronicle the movement from its conception until now. As the story-telling part of its mission, FTI uses these resources to share the remarkable stories of peace and reconciliation from Sierra Leone with the rest of the world. Many Western viewers of the documentary are astonished at the willingness of victims to forgive so quickly and so fully those who beat them, raped them, amputated their limbs, or ruthlessly killed their family members. Hoffman tells of one screening of the film in Portland, Maine. During the Q&A following the screening, a
"Peace is not the indifference that leads each to his or her own little island, unconcerned for and unengaged with others. Peace is the flourishing of the community and of each person within it." - Miroslav Volf perpetrators are given the opportunity to tell their stories and either to ask for, or to offer, forgiveness. While religion is not a formal part of the process, rural Sierra Leoneans are by and large very religious, whether Muslim, Christian, or adherents of traditional religions. In each of these cases, ceremonies are planned according to local practices, and staff work to ensure that both Muslims and Christians are represented at the decision-making level for each ceremony. No one knows ahead of time who will speak up, and it is not guaranteed that forgiveness will be offered or accepted, especially in the case of those learning of atrocities for the very first time. But in most cases, being eager to shed the unbearable weight of the war, victims and perpetrators do come forward, and significant steps toward reconciliation take place. In the days following the bonfires, communities hold traditional cleansing ceremonies and community feasts. Villagers designate a “peace tree” and build benches around it, dedicated as a permanent space for resolving conflicts among neighbors. Soccer matches are organized and community farms are planted, giving victims and perpetrators the chance to work and play side by side. Groups of “peace mothers” are also formed to continue the dialogue about the war’s ongoing impacts on their lives and any other issues they face. Through radio programs, the voices of these women are heard far and wide, urging former child soldiers and others who have fled their villages to finally come home, where they will be accepted and will finally find peace.
“The synchronicity between our visions couldn’t have been more amazing,” said Libby Hoffman of John Caulker when recalling their first meeting. “So we decided to work together to make those dreams a reality.”
member of the audience expressed disbelief at the notion of forgiveness for such crimes. Some members of FTI’s staff in Sierra Leone were in attendance, and afterwards one of them expressed disbelief of a different kind. “He was just as astonished that forgiveness wouldn’t be part of our approach as Americans were that forgiveness was part of it,” Hoffman said. “That was insightful for me. It wasn’t just the individual who was hurt; it was the community. So justice is about the community being made whole again. You need participation from both victim and perpetrator for the community to be made whole again. It brings the whole community into the process to support one who has been wronged.” Westerners struggle to understand forgiveness without retribution. This is true even for Christians, who believe we have been reconciled to God through Christ while we were still his enemies. The grace and forgiveness we have received is completely unmerited, and we’re instructed to go and do likewise, laying down our lives for others. But when it comes to those who have wronged us, it doesn’t always follow that we automatically forgive. After all, shouldn’t the perpetrator be made to pay for his crime? Does it really do justice to simply forgive him? Miroslav Volf, in his book Free of Charge, offers a meditation on God’s character as one who freely gives and forgives and then asks how followers of Christ should give and forgive in return. “The heart of forgiveness,” he writes, “is a generous release of a genuine debt.”12 “When we forgive,” he continues, “we acknowledge the offenses and blame the perpetrator. But then we treat the person as if the offense did not happen. To forgive means most basically to give a person the gift of existing as if they had not committed the offense at all.”13 That is precisely what happens in those truth-telling bonfires: The victim gives the perpetrator the gift of existing not as a killer or a rapist but as a friend, a neighbor, a part of the family. And in turn the community is made whole and finds peace. But peace, Volf writes, “is not the indifference that leads each to his or her own little island, unconcerned for and unengaged with others. Peace is the flourishing of the community and of each person within it.”14 Our world is hungry for that kind of flourishing. Creation groans for that kind of peace. After giving a presentation to a group of sixth graders in inner-city Philadelphia, Hoffman led a discussion of fambul tok and the implications of forgiveness and reconciliation for the students in their own school. They too puzzled over the ability of people to forgive such terrible crimes and they discussed what they understood justice and community to mean. Hoffman was impressed with the depth of their discussion, but she
didn’t know right away how deeply the lessons of fambul tok had sunk in. Three days later, however, while the students were on a field trip, one student acted out and caused a disruption. Rather than immediately involving their teacher, the students gathered together with the student who had misbehaved and together were able to resolve the conflict. One of the boys involved then proudly announced, “Hey! We just had our own fambul tok!”15 After watching the film, viewers commonly ask Hoffman what they can do to support FTI. She always urges them to begin where they are. Rather than jumping immediately to situations of conflict halfway around the world, Hoffman suggests asking questions like, “Who do I need to forgive? Who do I need to apologize to? How can I help my community be a more whole community?” We will make the greatest contribution to peace, she believes, when we become people of humility, courage, honesty, and generosity. When we cultivate these virtues in our own lives, Hoffman says, “we’re making humility, courage, honesty, and generosity more powerful in the world, and the impact of that can’t always be measured.”
"Smething extraordinary is
possible when you ask ordinary
people what they want and help them to build it." -Libby Hoffman
A new story For Sahr and Nyumah, the fambul tok bonfire in Gbekedu was the decisive moment of reconciliation. And while it marks the end of a long, tragic story of pain and suffering, of hatred and shame, it also marks the beginning of a new story. Sahr and Nyumah are once again best friends. Though Sahr still hobbles painfully on his permanently crippled legs, Nyumah helps him by working on his farm, and he intends to build Sahr a new house as soon as he can. The two can be seen walking together, arm in arm, laughing. And both men have a community around them, committed to walking the long path toward peace together. This story of reconciliation and forgiveness is truly remarkable, but it is not unique. All across Sierra Leone, communities are once again gathering around bonfires, rediscovering the power and the possibility inherent in their own tradition of fambul tok—truth-telling among long-lost friends. To learn more about Fambul Tok International please visit FambulTok.org. (Editor’s note: due to space limitations, the endnotes for this article have been posted at EvangelicalsforSocialAction.org/PRISMendnotes.)
Tim Høiland is an advocacy journalist and a regular contributor to PRISM. His work focuses on the intersections of faith, development, justice, and peace. Read more at TJHoiland.com.
Off the Shelf
Unexpected Destinations by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson Wm. B. Eerdmans
Walking with the Poor by Bryant Myers Orbis
Reviewed by Al Tizon
Reviewed by Tim Høiland
Since my college days, I have never gotten out of the habit of reading with a highlighter in my hand. And for most of the books I read, this habit has served me well. But just a few pages into Wesley Granberg-Michaelson’s Unexpected Destinations, I put the marker away and just began enjoying it like a good novel. Memoirs are generally fun reading anyway, but I found Unexpected to be exceptionally captivating. The range of subjects— which includes evangelicalism, politics, spirituality, leadership, and ecumenism—was stimulating enough, but when wrapped in wellwritten personal storytelling, the pages turned themselves. Anyone who has an average to above-average knowledge of evangelical sociopolitical involvement in the last 40 years will recognize the author’s name. From 1968 to 1977, Granberg-Michaelson served on the staff of the late Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield. He was also instrumental in making the Sojourners community as influential as it was (and is), having served four years as editor of Sojourners magazine. His insider’s view of the “young evangelical radicals” of the late 1960s and ’70s, for whom his enduring friend Jim Wallis (who wrote the foreword) served as vanguard, makes for stimulating reading. As involved as he was on the cutting edge of evangelical social witness, Granberg-Michaelson remained committed to the building up of the church worldwide. Whether as faithful member of the Church of the Savior in DC or on staff of a small, active Evangelical Covenant Church in Missoula, Montana, “When I was four or as general secretary of the years old my mother Reformed Church in America asked me what I would (RCA)—where he served for 17 do about Jesus. More years until his retirement in than six decades later, 2011—Granberg-Michaelson I’m still asking myself understood that the church is that same question. What does it mean to the locus of God’s transforming say that my life will be power in the world. The church must be united, defined by his?” -W. Granberg-Michaelson however, if it is going to bear witness to the gospel of peace and reconciliation effectively. Granberg-Michaelson’s story is rich with ecumenical efforts, fostering unity between evangelicals and mainline Protestants, Protestants and Catholics, and among Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox believers, as his involvement with the World Council of Churches and Christian Churches Together attests. Even within the RCA, unity was key in his leadership as he delicately negotiated such potentially church-splitting issues as homosexuality. Under Granberg-Michaelson’s leadership, the RCA has remained intact despite the differing convictions that exist within the denomination. The most pleasant surprise in the book was Granberg-Michaelson’s commitment to prayer, silence, and regular retreats—Christian spirituality. I knew of his social witness (particularly in the area of ecojustice), and I certainly knew of his commitment to the church and Continued on page 46
When Bryant Myers published Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development in 1999, it was a groundbreaking work that soon became the definitive handbook for academics and practitioners in the field of transformational development. More than a decade later, with the release of a revised and expanded edition, it remains as important as ever. Building on the work of Paul Hiebert, an anthropologist and missiologist, and Jayakumar Christian, a development practitioner in India, Myers introduces key insights to frame the discussion. Hiebert’s concept of the “excluded middle” pinpoints a blind spot in the Western worldview that fails to account for the realm of angels, demons, and spirits, focusing instead only on the material and the divine. Christian, meanwhile, asserts that poverty has to do with the marred identity of the poor, the god-complexes of the non-poor, and relationships that work against for the well-being of all. These insights, Myers argues, provide the necessary foundation for a further understanding of development for Christian practitioners. We have much to learn from those who have pioneered the field of development, and Myers provides a survey of key contemporary thought leaders, including Jeffrey Sachs, William Easterly, Amartya Sen, Hernando de Soto, and Muhammad Yunus. There is much to affirm in the work of each of these practitioners and theorists, but Myers argues that none goes deep enough, ultimately leaving the hearts and minds of the poor and non-poor unchanged. This is why it is so important for Christians to be equipped not only with the best professional tools but also with a solid theological understanding of how people and societies change. Increasing access to markets, expanding personal freedom, and ensuring land rights can all go a long way in contributing to the development of a community. But without personal and relational transformation, materialism and greed will go unchecked and development may yield bitter fruit. “We are to see the world as created, fallen, and being redeemed, all at the same time,” Myers writes. That goes for individuals, for communities, and for entire societies. As Christians, whether we are development practitioners or not, Myers argues we are to witness to the already-but-not-yet kingdom of God in life, deed, word, and sign—not merely through evangelism or meeting physical needs. Transformational development goes deeper than mere material aid, and it’s imperative that those who walk with the poor make clear that our Savior is Jesus—not technology, markets, or medicine, despite the significant benefits of each. The book is a weighty one, checking in at over 350 pages, but there are ample diagrams throughout, which summarize the key concepts of the book for those visual learners among us. Still, the writing style is clear, and Myers doesn’t waste words, moving seamlessly between principles and practices, from history to theory to theology, and ultimately to practical, transformative application. Continued on page 46
The New Evangelicals by Marcia Pally Wm. B. Eerdmans
Living into Community by Christine D. Pohl Wm. B. Eerdmans
Reviewed by Heidi Unruh
Reviewed by Maria Kenney
In 2010 the Texas Board of Education revised its social studies curriculum to delete the characteristics “belief in justice” and “responsibility for the common good” from its definition of good citizenship. This symbolizes the self-serving individualism that has come to be associated with evangelicalism. In contrast, The New Evangelicals: Expanding the Vision of the Common Good describes a group that has made room for sacrificial social activism within its commitment to individual liberty. Marcia Pally shows how traditional conservative values liberated from conservative politics can serve the ideals of liberal democracy. Rather than seeking to control government, “new evangelicals” opt to work primarily through civil society—sometimes dancing tentatively in partnership with the state, sometimes prophetically challenging it or subversively modeling an alternative to it. Pally describes this approach as a “third way” of political activism, “an alternative to the dualism of entirely privatized religion on one hand and theocracies on the other.” This approach accepts the creative tension of government as both fallen institution and positive necessity. New evangelicals have abandoned American exceptionalism, culture-war campaigns, and the quest for political dominion, following instead the more nuanced path of building consensus and negotiating as one voice among many in a pluralistic society. As Richard Cizik puts it, “We’re trying to tap into a methodology for evangelical political engagement that says politics isn’t a zero-sum game where somebody else has to lose in order for us to win. … We’re about justice for all.” What is “new” about this group is not their progressive stand against poverty, environmental degradation, and militarism (alongside opposition to abortion and gay marriage). As Pally shows, today’s evangelicals are reclaiming causes advanced by their 19th-century counterparts. The “new” evangelical de-alignment with political party goes back even further, to the roots of church-state separation in the 16th century. The real innovation lies in the synthesis of these longstanding, theologically grounded commitments with modern forms of activism—such as faith-based partnerships, the development of multisector, interfaith coalitions, and issue-based advocacy. (Pally acknowledges that this is largely an analysis of white evangelicalism and that black and non-European evangelicals deserve their own narrative.) “If the research presented here suggests anything,” writes Pally, “it is that we should refine our categories.” Traditional labels are inadequate. Pally illustrates the breadth of new evangelical perspectives by including interview excerpts with representatives from four main subgroups: those with an “extrastate emphasis,” carrying out their social agenda primarily through the private sector; those who partner with government or are actively involved in reforming it; “countercultural,” emergent younger evangelicals who sometimes nonviolently confront government; and the older evangelical left, flag-bearers for the movement since 1970 (such as Ron Sider). (While the interspersing of exposition and interviews made the text more engaging, it also made the Continued on page 46
In Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us, Dr. Christine Pohl considers the practices which “make and break community.” Drawing upon the lives of actual congregations and intentional communities, Pohl reads their experiences through the lens of Scripture and reflects theologically upon their daily lives, both celebrations and failures. Intentionally avoiding a bureaucratic or therapeutic approach, Pohl locates her model of community health within a scriptural and historically Christian framework. Living into Community examines four practices—gratitude, promise keeping, truth telling, and hospitality—which function as “the supports of a house,” providing the strength and structure upon which community life may be built. Like a well-framed house, these practices create a structure of safety within which healthy relationships may be created and sustained. According to Pohl, we apply ourselves to the task of building and repairing congregations out of the desire to be part of communities that are vibrant, caring, and faithful. Conversely envy and grumbling, betrayal, deception, and exclusion—what Dr. Pohl calls their deformations—undercut the safety of the community, eating away at it like a cancer. “Experiences of moral failure, group meltdowns, personal pettiness, and partisan harshness in congregations and communities,” “Christian community she writes, “make us wonis not optional—we are der if our efforts at buildcalled to be part of the ing community are worth body of Christ. Lukewarm the trouble.” Dr. Pohl’s or half-hearted participahonest yet encouraging tion hurts the very thing work maintains that they necessary to our identity and flourishing. Mediocrity are, providing valuable examples to support her may be less demanding, but it is ultimately a spiri- conviction. tual and social disaster.” This excellent -Christine D. Pohl book has two particular strengths. First, it addresses issues of relationship and community life that are easily overlooked, what Stephen Covey calls “the important, but not urgent.” Because they often present themselves indirectly—and because addressing them can be quite painful—deformations of community life are allowed to fester. As Pohl astutely observes, “The ways we’ve been formed by church and culture have not given us the skills or virtues we need to be part of the very communities we long for and try to create.” Moreover, these issues tend to be mundane rather than glamorous. Who wants to address termite damage in the walls of a house when you could be updating the kitchen? Why waste emotional energy on relating well when there are sermons to be prepared or a worship band to assemble, when there are protests to be staged and the hungry to feed? Living into Community reminds us of the danger of neglecting these core commitments. Continued on page 46
Journey to the Heart Edited by Kim Nataraja Orbis Books
Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? by J. R. Daniel Kirk Baker Academic
Reviewed by Megan J. Robinson
Reviewed by Heather Biscoe
Christian contemplation, also called Christian mysticism, resists attempts at popularization, probably because, as G.K. Chesterton once said of Christianity, it has been found difficult and left untried. The contemplative practice also eludes systematization; with the legacy of post-Enlightenment rationalism, Western and Protestant Christianity do not know quite what to do with it. To which I say, all the more reason for a guide that provides snapshots of the main people and themes underlying this rich history. Journey to the Heart: Christian Contemplation through the Centuries (An Illustrated Guide) thus satisfies a need one may not have realized existed—that of a concise anthology of the history and development of the contemplative tradition within Christianity. Where other volumes of Christian history, doctrine, and theology refer to major Christian thinkers as they relate to the whole of Christianity, this encyclopediastyle collection shifts the lens to focus on such teachers as Jesus, the early church fathers, and founders of monastic communities such as Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Merton, and John Main. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy continue to weave the contemplative strand through the life of the church today, and editor Kim Nataraja draws from a deep well of writers in those traditions for this collection. Each chapter briefly outlines the major ideas of a key spiritual teacher and contains insets of “We cannot begin biographical information, quotations to respond to from primary texts written by the per[Jesus'] question, son or transcribed by witnesses, and ‘Who do you timelines reflecting the broader sociosay I am?’ ... cultural history in which the teacher unless we see lived. Art and photographs are incorhow central porated into each chapter, providing contemplation is both a respite from the sheer volume to his life and of words and a visual aid for the imagiteaching.” nation in picturing the context in which -Laurence Freeman these individuals lived and taught. The great strength of Journey to the Heart lies in the way it traces the remarkably consistent themes of Christian contemplation throughout history—obedience, solitude, silence, presentness to the world and others, and the self’s leap into God—while showing the adaptations to the ever-fresh contexts in which contemplatives find themselves. As the object of Christian contemplation is the infinite God, attempts to “pin down” one’s experiences and ideas necessarily remain a slippery task, not because they lack concreteness but because the reality behind them is so vast. In Christian mysticism, one learns to become comfortable with paradox and ambiguity and with the inability of human language to fully describe what it means to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). Readers unfamiliar with contemplative practice, or more comfortable with systematic theology, may find this work a bit frustrating—for the inherent ambiguity mentioned above and for the willingness of Continued on page 46
If you have ever wondered about the continuity—or seeming lack thereof— between the message of Jesus in the Gospels and the message of Paul in his epistles, reading Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? is a good way to address your concerns. While affirming the perceived disparity between the teachings of Jesus and Paul, J. R. Daniel Kirk explores Paul's context so that the reader can identify Paul as part of the continuing narrative that attracts so many of us to the gospel stories of Jesus. Kirk lays a simple foundation (drawn from the biblical text) on which he contextualizes Paul's writings throughout the rest of the book. He explains that what Jesus proclaimed as the kingdom of God is what Paul called the “new creation.” These focal points—the kingdom of God and the new creation—have different names but refer biblical readers to the same reality of a world radically changed—and changing—by the reign of God. Kirk's style is unpretentious, and readers from armchair theologian to seminary graduate will be drawn from front cover to back. Though the book takes on potentially hot topics such as women in ministry and homosexuality, the carefully considered chapters follow a basic, inviting format: an introduction to the controversial issue, followed by a conversation on what Jesus had to say on the topic as well as a discourse on what Paul wrote on the issue, and concluding with an invitation to discover therein echoes of Jesus' message. While sharing the historical and biblical contexts, Kirk manages to keep his eyes on the contemporary mindset of his readers as well as the church's shifting emphases throughout history, particularly the influence that the reformation has had on modern interpretations of Paul. Early in the book Kirk establishes a soteriology (doctrine of salvation) on which to base his theological discourse, but his failure to mention the modern conversation on the nonviolent atonement was a disappointment to this reader, particularly because conversations around the nonviolent atonement often notice the disparity between Jesus' message and Paul's message of the cross. For Kirk not to address this topic in a chapter, or even a paragraph, was a missed opportunity. The topics Kirk does handle, however, are treated sincerely. His gift to the reader is that he lets the biblical text speak while remaining unapologetic for the message. Along the way, he is alternately pastoral, with an eye always on the contemporary context, and prophetic, calling out injustices committed and being committed by the church. This book is not just for those who “keep Paul at arm’s length,” as Kirk suggests in his introduction; it is truly for all those who desire to reacquaint themselves with both Jesus and Paul. Heather Biscoe is a MDiv/MA International Development student who, in her free time, enjoys creating space for and extending welcome to others. She is currently relocating to the West Coast where she hopes to practice this in ministry.
Driven by a Vision by Chris T. Johnson
ypical of many urban neighborhoods in the northeast part of the country, South Philadelphia features unbroken rows of identical houses, narrow one-way streets, and old church buildings on every other corner. The large brick one on Mifflin Street is home to a Church of God in Christ International church. Lead by Bishop Ernest McNear, True Gospel Tabernacle Family Church (TGT) may look like a typical inner-city church, but inside its walls is a rich web of holistic ministries that defies any expectations that either the street or the traditional facade might suggest. “The upside of being the founder of TGT,” says McNear, who started the church in 1985 as a tiny storefront operation, “is that you have the blessed opportunity to actualize a vision.” In this case, he explains, that vision has been guided by the principles of “salvation, education, and inspiration.” McNear spearheads an outreach that truly meets the needs of its members and the broader community. Beneath the polished clergy attire is a man who knows what it means to cry out to God for salvation. An accomplished musician who struggled with drugs, rough living, and other urban temptations before God rescued him, McNear possesses a contagious passion for the transforming power of the gospel and for God’s people. He was holistically oriented before that concept ever became popular, and today he leads the way in loving those who have HIV/AIDs, those who are incarcerated, and their families. During any given worship service, over half of TGT’s congregation will have a loved one behind bars. Incarceration
Making a Difference
disproportionately afgram, and last year he graduated from fects African Americans the program. and low-income urban TGT has also been at the forefront citizens, and with correcof the fight, not only against HIV/AIDs, tional facilities often lobut also against the stigma and silence cated at a great distance that surround the disease and discourfrom these neighborage people from getting tested. Working hoods, McNear continuwith the Philadelphia Freedom from AIDS ally encountered families Campaign, McNear believes that faith who were unable to visit heals and insists that AIDS is not too their family and friends in big for God, especially when it comes to prison. In this scenario, changing the paralyzing stigma that the inmates lose motivation, disease still holds. TGT promotes holistic families become discourhealing by ministering to infected indiaged, and reentry is made even more difviduals and their families and by tirelessly ficult. In short, everyone suffers. So back educating the faith community about the in the ’90s, McNear turned the church disease, from annual prayer breakfasts van into a monthly shuttle to various on National AIDS Awareness Day to correctional facilities. This initiative and sponsoring screening and training events others like it eventually blossomed into at TGT and throughout the city. Kingdom Care Reentry Network (KCRN), a Other outreaches include the TGT remarkable ministry that today provides Learning Center and Daycare, a statereturning citizens with mentorship, spiritulicensed facility offering a wide range of al renewal, life- and job-skills training, job biblical and academic instruction, an inplacement, housing help, and counseling troduction to the performing arts, as well for family, substance abuse, and mental/ as before- and after-school programs. behavioral health. In 2008 TGT sponsored “Fugitive Safe KCRN has developed a pool of over Surrender,” an innovative effort to ad100 mentors to former inmates, and it dress the 70,000 outstanding warrants in partners with other Philadelphia reentry Philadelphia, whereby those wanted for a programs. In 2011, out of 75 former nonviolent crime in the city (and with no inmates in the KCRN program a mere history of violence) were invited to turn three were rearrested, a recidivism rate themselves in. About 1,300 surrendered of only 4 percent at a time when the during that event and were given favornational average is around 40 percent. able consideration as a result. McNear McNear delights in recounting the numeralso makes regular trips to Ghana, where ous success stories this ministry has witTGT partners with and encourages a nessed, especially the one about a young number of fledging churches. man from his own community who was a Driven by a vision to embody gifted athlete—the kind that college and the gospel in flesh and blood as real professional scouts have in their sights. as Christ’s own body when he dwelt One unfortunate day, this young man among us, the True Gospel Tabernacle was hanging out with the wrong crowd, community is drawn to wherever people got shot, and ultimately went to prison. are in need of salvation, education, or Not only had he lost his freedom, but inspiration. ✟ because of his gunshot wound Formerly a deep sea diver and he was also no longer able salvage officer for the US Navy, to perform as an athlete. The Chris T. Johnson came up for air young man became so dein 2002 to get his master’s degree pressed that he was ready to in government administration commit suicide, fearing that he and is currently earning his MDiv had let down his family and at Eastern University’s Palmer friends. But when his mother Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa. He heard about TGT’s work with is the proud husband of Lisa and father of prisoners, she got her son Christiane and Luke. involved with the KCRN pro-
May I Have a Word?
I love to tell the story of unseen things above, of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love. The “old, old story” of Jesus is a love story, and as an evangelical, I do love to tell it. It is a story about love for all creation, love for you and me, and a special love for the most vulnerable. The first story, told in Genesis, reveals God’s original design for the world. We see him walking daily with humanity, and us with him, living in sustainable peace with the rest of creation. But when sin entered the world, things changed. Jesus’ love story doesn’t offer an escape from this changed reality, but it does offer hope in the here and now and ultimately promises a return to the world’s original goodness. Both goodness and brokenness coexist in this already-but-not-yet existence, and as Jesus’ disciples we are commanded to live now in the expectation of the future fulfillment. In fact, we must live as Jesus’ body until he returns, and that means loving others as Christ loves us, which is his greatest commandment. Christ’s love alive in us makes the world worth living in and provides our daily fulfillment and joy. Yet the American church as a Across the world whole seems more today people are inclined to live in hungry, thirsty, fear and its exterdisease-ridden, nal symptom, hate, and dying by than in love. the hundreds of In the 4th thousands each century, Gregory year, but many of Nyssa described U.S. Christians the Christian jourdeny the reality ney as progressof climate change ing through three because of fear. stages: first, living fearfully as a slave; second, seeking reward as a good servant; and finally, enjoying a friendship based on love. But the church often gets stuck in the first two stages, without ever coming into the fruition of a loving relationship with God. But fear and reward both fail to address our Lord’s command to love and care for each other and the least of these. Only as we grow, by God’s grace, into an understanding of God as sovereign friend in a loving relationship do we find the good news of Jesus.
a none-too-subtle reference to the evil beast in Revelation. Calling people names, associating them with evil, and dehumanizing them are broad attempts in the church (and the secular world) to feed on our most basic fear—change. Fear of change isn’t new. Read Exodus. In the middle of the wilderness, Moses faces a revolt as his people beg to return to slavery rather than move toward the promise of freedom. Unlike the Israelites, we don’t have 40 years to grapple with our fear. Out of our love for what God has made and what he has called us to as stewards, we need to address climate change now, before it’s too late for the planet. It’s time to reject fear and move forward together in love for all God’s children. Imagine what might have happened if Jesus had given in to his final temptation. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was tempted to deny the cross as fear wrestled with love. In the most powerful scene in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, Jesus rises from this temptation and stomps the serpent, signaling his victory over fear. Jesus’ victory in the garden, then on the cross, and ultimately in his resurrection provides the love to overcome our fear and to trust in our Risen Lord. “There is no fear in love,” writes John. “But perfect love drives out fear … The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). May Christ’s bride, the church, leave her fear at the foot of the cross and be made perfect in love. Only then, as another old song puts it, will the world “know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” ♥
No Fear in Love by Mitch Hescox
Christians should be the happiest people on earth—we have been freed from our pasts, are offered friendship with a glorious Savior, and look forward to a future that is already known. But when I look around I see fear and hate dominating so many of our interactions. I see Christians disparaging Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney for being Mormon and insisting that President Obama is Muslim. Christians dehumanize and rail against immigrants. Where is the love? Nowhere is fearmongering more present than in Christian attacks on science. I recently heard a pastor berate science—while reading his sermon notes from his iPad! But when it comes to the topic of climate change, the greatest moral challenge of our time, things really get ugly. Across the world today people are hungry, thirsty, disease-ridden, and dying by the hundreds of thousands each year, but many US Christians deny the reality of climate change because of fear. They are afraid of changing their minds and all that that entails, especially the change that would be required in their lifestyle if climate change is real. In spite of every major scientific body in the world recognizing that climate change results from humanity’s use of fossil fuels, fear trumps reality. Because we acknowledge the reality of climate and Mitchell C. Hescox is president/CEO of the are working to reverse Evangelical Environmental Network. He joined it, my friends and EEN in 2009, after 18 years in the pastorate. I have been called Prior to that he spent 14 years in the coal “Green Dragons” by industry as director of fuel systems for Allis some Christians, in Mineral Systems.
Standing the Test of Time by Al Tizon
am a recovering CCM-er. For the first eight or so years of my Christian life (beginning in 11th grade), I believed, along with thousands of other Christian youth, that CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) was God’s answer to KISS, Styx, and Ted Nugent. After all, “Why should the devil have all the good music?” That’s still a legitimate question; I just no longer think that the answer lies between Myrrh and Capitol Records. As part of my deliverance from the ideology of CCM, I have, with few exceptions, discarded the records that I bought during that period. The safe, spineless synth-pop that passed for music just because it mentioned the name of Jesus simply didn’t stand the test of time. The few albums that did survive my purge included Ping Pong over the Abyss and All Fall Down, albums recorded in the early ’80s by three long-haired mavericks who called themselves the 77s. The band sprung from the Warehouse, a ministry to the hippie culture that began in Sacramento, Calif., in the mid’70s. As such, the 77s defied the CCM strictures of squeaky clean lyrics and safe riffs. They played with abandon, vision, passion, honesty; they banged skillfully on their instruments and screamed prophetically on behalf of a desperate generation—in short, they played rock-nroll. They also defied the secular-spiritual divide—which CCM strove to maintain— and shared the stage with bands such as the Alarm and the House of Freaks. Ignoring CCM safeguards, but also not catering to the “destructive freedom” of the times, the 77s were (and are) one of
tic “The Lust, the Pride, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life” fades in, making the folkies among us close our eyes and smile. In fact, they recruited Chris Hillman to play bass on “Lust” to invoke the folk spirit of the Byrds. The album ends with “I Could Laugh,” a haunting, disturbing song about teenage angst that bears the mark of “emo-rock” long before that genre existed. Jangle, emo, folk, straight rock, hard rock—the 77s pull them all off brilliantly on this album. With their musical credentials proven and intact, the 77s sing songs of faith, struggle, love, sex, justice, pain, and joy. They sing about Jesus, but not as “sheep in wolves’ clothing” who use rock as the “perfect witnessing tool.” Rather, they sing passionately, honestly, and searchingly about things that matter to everyone, from that deep authentic place where Christ resides. If postmodernism has taught us anything, it is that everyone comes from a perspective; the 77s come from the particular perspective of Christian faith. They don’t hide this fact; they are who they are, and they sing accordingly: Wanted the impossible/looked for the impossible/the impossible found me first. The 77s were (and are) the real
"...the 77s sing songs of faith, struggle, love, sex, justice, pain, and joy." deal, and because of that, their old stuff still speaks well into the 21st century. I wrote this column with two groups of people in mind: first, fans from “the good ol' days” who may not have known that the band’s Island release is now available for download; and second, for those who haven’t heard of the 77s until now and have been longing for authentic, classic, holy rock. Whichever camp you hail from, you’re welcome.
Al Tizon is convinced that he was born 15 years too late, missing out on being part of the music scene that changed the world. He makes the best of it, however, by turning his iPod way up and teaching holistic ministry at Eastern University’s Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., and directing ESA’s Word & Deed Network.
the best rock bands you’ve never heard. I’m happy to report that their 1987 self-titled release on Island Records (the same label that has brought U2 and other great bands to the world) is available on iTunes! The fact that it bombed when originally released says more about the politics of the music biz than the quality of the music—25 years later, it’s still a great album. If you download it in its entirety you’re also treated to different versions of the originals, as well as two additional songs from their album Sticks and Stones—eight extra songs in all, transporting diehard fans to 77s heaven. Five of their other 11 studio recordings are also available on iTunes, including Holy Ghost Building, their last album released in 2008. I suggest you buy them all in time, but begin with the Island release, because it’s their best, if for nothing else because of its versatility. Beyond the unique voice of front man Michael Roe serving as the constant, this album is positively eclectic. It begins with the jangly “Do It for Love,” which some might label as hopelessly 1980s; but to me, it simply sets listeners up for the hard-hitting “What Was in That Letter” and the even harder-hitting “Pearls Before Swine,” an eight-minute lament so sad and heavy that you’d think about ending it if it weren’t for the chest-pounding bass that keeps your heart beating long after the song is over. I recommend turning the volume up for the whole album, but especially for those two cuts. And just when you’ve pegged them as a hard rock band, the electric-acous-
apostle Paul terrorized Christians, but his heart was changed when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. As Christians we should refuse to dehumanize our enemies or deny that they too have been created in the image of God. The validity of Jesus’ way to make just peace was demonstrated by the effort to persuade North Korea not to develop nuclear weapons. Initially neither the Clinton nor the Bush administration agreed to talk with North Korea, who responded by trying to build a nuclear deterrent against possible US attack. Wiser heads in both administrations saw that stonewalling would lead to conflict. US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill eventually talked directly with North Korean negotiators and quickly worked out solutions to prevent escalation. As a result of those talks, North Korea’s Yongbyon reactor closed, and international inspectors began monitoring it. Since the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty of 1968, we have seen many successes in persuading nations not to develop nuclear weapons. The key? Direct talks, international nonproliferation agreements, international consensus against nuclear proliferation, and awareness that nuclear weapons are not useful. No nation was ever persuaded to avoid going nuclear because another nation refused to talk with them. Former Secretary of State Howard Baker pointed out that the US and the Soviet Union talked directly many times, helping us avoid nuclear war and achieve a peaceful end to the Cold War. What about Iran? Former US foreign policy officials, both Republican and Democratic, support direct US-Iranian unconditional negotiations. The US has crucial disagree-
Talk It Out, Reduce Nukes. by Paul Alexander
s Jesus relevant in every area of international relations? Would he care if we chose nukes over negotiation? I have come to believe that the answer is a resounding “Yes!” Let’s look at what Jesus has to say about relationships with “the enemy.” Jesus says that if we are at the altar but become aware that someone is angry with us, we must drop the gift and go at once to make peace. Likewise, if an enemy takes us to court, we are to make peace. In the Greek, these are imperatives—commands from Jesus—and they are without exception. These commands for speedy reconciliation do not depend on the other being someone we like or agree with, and they apply as much to a fellow believer as to a mortal enemy. In order to promote liberty, community, and security for its own citizens and for the world, the US must demonstrate moral leadership by seeking diplomatic negotiations with allies and enemies alike. Christians must express our citizenship in ways that prioritize faithfulness to Jesus and to biblical standards of justice rather than allowing our political decisions to be driven by prejudice or narrow nationalism. Christians must try to understand what motivates our adversaries and to discern the genesis of conflict instead of simply stewing in our own hatred and avoiding all conversation or diplomacy. Talk may sometimes need to be blunt, which can be uncomfortable for folks like me who were socialized to be “nice.” But Christians must have these conversations to enable transformation of relationships and social structures. We must remember that no one is beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit. Christians must refuse to dehumanize our enemies and acknowledge that they, too, have been created in the image of God. The
ments with Iran, but Jesus does not say talks should be refused until we approve of the conduct of our adversary. Nuclear weapons are both a physical and moral threat. Possessing them includes preparing to use them. In this way, nations are nudged toward acting as if it would be right to kill people whom Christ loves. These preparations are tantamount to discipline toward sinfulness, the inverse of sanctification. By intention, by accident, or by escalation of war, nuclear weapons could annihilate billions of beings created in the image of God. The US and Russia still have thousands of nuclear weapons. England, France, China, India, Pakistan, and Israel have far fewer—but still enough to destroy sacred human lives. But can we do anything about it? Experts agree on these steps: extend, verify, and reduce the size of nuclear forces internationally; move away from plans for massive nuclear attacks based on short warning times; ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; halt production of nuclear fissile materials for weapons and develop an international system that provides reliable supplies of nuclear fuel for electricity so nations like Iran do not have an incentive to enrich uranium; and reach agreement for further reductions in nuclear weapons internationally. Since the end of the Cold War, thanks to bipartisan policies, the US and Russia have reduced their nuclear arsenals. We are safer for it. ESA urges international cooperation in continued reductions, working toward abolition of nuclear weapons worldwide. In all that we do we must follow Christ, so that when we experience conflict with a brother, sister, or adversary, we will go talk and seek to make peace—just as Jesus calls us to do. ✌
Nuclear weapons are both a physical and moral threat. Possessing them includes preparing to use them.
Paul Alexander is professor of Christian ethics and public policy at Eastern University’s Palmer Theological Seminary as well as director of public policy at the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy.
YOUR CHURCH IS TOO small
preach on Sunday morning). While the good news for church members includes a long list of kingdom entitlements, from emotional well-being to material security, the good news for inmates boils down to a “born again” experience designed to help them endure their sentence with patience and humility. In Acts 1:8 Christ exhorts us, “You shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Too many churches put inmates in the “uttermost” category, but if your son is incarcerated, his prison is not the “uttermost part of the earth,” it’s Jerusalem! It’s home! Prison ministry has its place, but if our engagement of the prisoner, the families of the incarcerated, and those returning from incarceration confines itself to evangelism of the inmate, the “them,” then our God is too small and our gospel is sadly restricted. The fact is, our big God is already at work in the lives of those living within the prison walls, and church volunteers should go expecting to meet him there. We don’t have to work to make the gospel relevant to the inmate and his/her family; it already is. It is we who have to understand that incarceration is central to the biblical narrative and the work of the gospel, from the long list of justly accused—Moses, David, the dying thief—through to the unjustly imprisoned—Joseph, Jeremiah, Daniel, John, Jesus, Paul. What would happen if we considered prison inmates as members of the church rather than just as objects of outreach, if we viewed the prisoner as one of us, part of our own body? Let’s try it. Let’s kick out the walls of our church, enlarging it to include our brothers and sisters behind bars and their loved ones who are sitting in our own pews week after week. Let’s try it and find out. ✞ Harold Dean Trulear is associate professor of applied theology at Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC, and director of the Healing Communities Prisoner Reentry Initiative at the Philadelphia Leadership Foundation HealingCommunitiesUSA.org).
assisting congregations around the country in developing their ministry within the criminal justice system. In congregation after congregation, I encounter a “small God” who loves the church and the saints but conspicuously ignores those outside the four walls of the sanctuary. I observe a gospel whose good news is described in terms of the wellbeing by Harold Dean Trulear and prosperity of the church and its saints without seeing the kingdom of God beyond like-minded hat would happen if we considbelievers. This “too small” church sees ered prison inmates as members the kingdom at work in its worship life of the church rather than just as objects and the lives of individual believers who of outreach? are present, but seldom in the larger Forty years ago, as part of my Youth “ecclesia.” It bunkers and hunkers down For Christ/Campus Life training, I was into an “us/them” mentality—with all the required to read two books: Your God blessings for us and little evidence of Is Too Small by J. B. Phillips and How grace for them. Black Is the Gospel? by Tom Skinner. My When I discuss the work of Healing supervisors assured me these texts would Communities (HealingCommunitiesUSA. help me consider how my theological viorg) and the ways in which we mobilize sion would impact my ability to work with congregations around incarceration, African American youth in the turbulent this “too small” gospel pushes back in ‘70s. Your God Is Too Small challenged one of two forms: “We already have populist views of God that resulted in a prison ministry” or “We don’t have a narrow understanding of the world in any connection with those who are general and people in particular. Philincarcerated.” lips’ tour of inadequate views of God, Existing prison ministries are too offrom “resident policeman” to “pale-faced ten defined simply as “outreach,” and Galilean,” impressed upon me the need outreach fails to recognize the existing connections between the incarcerated “I was in prison and you came to me.” and the congregation’s membership. -Matt. 25:36 It treats prisoners as “them,” despite the fact that prisoners’ mothers and for a vision of God that emphasized his fathers, sisters and brothers, grandparLordship—a Lordship that extended to ents, children, and other kin fill our pews high school campuses marred by social Sunday after Sunday. A student once unrest and racial tension. asked me how to preach to families of Skinner’s text raised the issue of inthe incarcerated. I replied, “You already clusion in stark terms. To an evangelical do—you just don’t recognize that they church that had defined the gospel docare present.” Silenced by shame and trinally, without any attempts to address stigma, these families tacitly accept the cultural context, the evangelist proffered sharp divide between “us” and “them” a challenge to see how the gospel althat reduces their incarcerated loved ready addressed the marginality of the one to an object of outreach rather African American experience. He argued than as part of the kinship network. that ministering to young blacks required We act as if God is not big not some form of exceptionalist adjustenough to be already present in prison ment but rather a full understanding of and therefore must be taken there the good news of Jesus Christ. by prison ministry specialists (as well as Both of these readings return to my some well-meaning volunteers deemed fit consciousness as I reflect on my work to preach to prisoners but unqualified to
Unexpected Destinations continued from page 38
Living into Community continued from page 39
church unity. But I was not as aware of his unrelenting pursuit of God and how his discipline toward spiritual maturity informed and guided him throughout his decades of faithful ministry. My surprise has more to do with my own heightened awareness of spirituality than any lack on his part to share his thoughts and experiences publicly on the matter (see, for example, his Leadership from the Inside Out: Spirituality and Organizational Change). I simply want to say that when we encounter that rare someone who has lived for many years at the intersection of church, radical mission, and spirituality, we should pause and take notice. Unexpected Destinations is such an encounter; we meet here a man who proves that Christ-centered, church-based social activism is possible. The only thing I felt missing as I read through the book was a section of glossy black-and-white pictures to go along with the story. This attests to just how close I started to feel toward the autobiographer. I not only wanted to meet some of the people he worked with through the years, I also wanted to meet his parents, wife, and children, if not in the flesh, then at least in pictures. Beyond this selfish disappointment, the book is flawless. If you want to be renewed and reenergized in the good fight of faith in an integral, Christ-centered, Spirit-led way (as I was), then I recommend that you get to know Wesley Granberg-Michaelson through the pages of this marvelous book. Al Tizon is director of ESA's Word & Deed Network and assistant professor of holistic ministry at Eastern University’s Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.
Second, despite its grounding in the contexts of local congregations and intentional communities, Living into Community is sweeping in its applicability. All people participate in some form of community, be it the classroom or the boardroom, the nuclear family or the extended family. Our interpersonal connections rely upon the trust and safety engendered in faithful living. “Practices,” says Dr. Pohl, “are at the heart of human communities,” and Living into Community offers a fresh yet grounded vision of a compelling alternative to our often disconnected lives. Throughout its pages, Living into Community recognizes that keeping promises, living honestly, and encouraging gratitude are not ends in themselves. “Undoubtedly,” says Dr. Pohl, “paying attention to practices is a poor substitute for a relationship with the living God.” Our vocation as believers is “not to try harder to build community… It is about living and loving well in response to Christ.” No matter the community to which we belong, the insights in this book will bear fruit in our lives, both as we live alongside others and as we commune with God.
The New Evangelicals continued from page 39 flow of the argument more difficult to follow.) The New Evangelicals joins a cluster of recent books helping postReligious Right evangelicals move beyond declaring “We’re not them!” to exploring “So, who are we, really?” Pally’s unique contribution is assessing this shift through the lens of church-state relations. Readers who, like me, consider themselves “new evangelicals” will appreciate the revelatory mirror that Pally holds up to our budding identity. On the other hand, being the subject of objective scrutiny—even positively inclined—can be discomfiting. The concluding chapter, “Against Sectarian and Secular Fundamentalism,” left me with the uneasy feeling that new evangelicals were sometimes being used to stick it to the fundamentalists. Pally frames the question driving her analysis: “What are the doctrinal beliefs and political practices that advance religious life, liberal democracy, and economic justice?” Ironically, most evangelicals (new or otherwise) would balk at seeing their faith viewed as a means to a social end. They would rather cite an old mantra: “Seek first God’s kingdom.” Pally’s analysis of the confluence of new evangelicalism with democratic ideals reveals an unexpected way that kingdom-minded evangelicals are doing earthly good. Heidi Unruh is director of the Congregations, Community Outreach and Leadership Development Project, and author of Saving Souls, Serving Society (Oxford University Press, 2005).
Maria Kenney is a member of Communality, a missional Christian community in downtown Lexington, Ky., and a doctoral candidate at Durham University. Walking with the Poor continued from page 38 Walking with the Poor remains a must-read for those in the field of development, and church groups and mission organizations seeking a more comprehensive foundation and theological basis for transformational ministry will benefit as well. Indeed, as more and more ordinary church members in North America are exposed to the needs of the world—ranging from hunger and the HIV/AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa to sex trafficking around the globe to sprawling urban slums in Latin America—it is essential that we have the proper tools to respond. The principles and practices in Walking with the Poor will not resolve every question one will encounter in transformational development work, but they will provide the foundation to get started. Tim Høiland is an advocacy journalist working in the field of relief and development. His work focuses on the intersections of faith, development, justice, and peace in the Americas. Journey to the Heart continued from page 40: contemplative practitioners to move beyond the “defined” or “accepted” theology into regions that grow increasingly mysterious. Yet, while these lives may appear strange to our modern, harried eyes, we nonetheless may draw inspiration from those who took seriously the ancient, ever-green promise of God—that we will find God if we seek God with a whole heart (Jer. 29:13). Megan J. Robinson is an East Coast girl living in Texas, where she is a graduate student at Dallas Theological Seminary. She is also the associate editor for the online journal The CS Lewis Review and blogs at TheFarCountry. posterous.com.
Can This Marriage Be Saved? continued from page 31
unwanted pornographic email.
your spouse regarding what they have gone through because of pornography.
International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (Sexhelp.com) offers treatment options and program referrals.
● Start healing your sexuality. Realize that pornographic behavior does not work in real life intimate relationships. Learn how to have a healthy sexual relationship with your spouse. Relearn the art of touch.
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA-Recovery.org) is a 12-step program.
● Make a commitment to renew your mind through reading and memorizing Scripture. This applies to the offended partner as well. Counseling is in order not just for the addict but also for the offended partner, who must eventually move from anger to forgiveness in order to rebuild the friendship and the marriage. Marriage counseling is a must so that the couple can learn to communicate more effectively. Increasingly healthy communication will help the couple regain feelings of closeness and intimacy.9 What the church can do to help Pastors and church leaders can no longer hide their heads in the sand, pretending that a significant number of church attendees, especially males, do not have a problem with pornography. Just a quick look at the following statistics proves that people are people are people, whether or not they attend church. It must be remembered that we are fallen human beings living in a fallen world trying to squeeze us into its mold. Fifty-three percent of Promise Keeper men admitted to viewing pornography within the previous seven days, while 47 percent of Christians stated that pornography is a major problem in the home. Fifty-one percent of pastors say that internet pornography is a possible temptation for them, and 37 percent admit that it’s a current struggle.10 The church can represent Christ to those struggling with pornography, putting flesh on the gospel. Here are a few suggestions that warrant a serious look: ● Offer a support group. Good programs include Sex Addicts Anonymous (SexAA.org) and S-Anon (SAnon.org), a 12-step program for loved ones. ● Host a pornography conference at your church. Organizations to contact for presenters include BethesdaWorkshops.org, DelAmoHospital.com, and FaithfulandTrueMinistries.com. ● Refer people to solid resources. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT. org) provides help in locating a marriage and/or sexual addiction therapist. GetNetWise (GetNetWise.org) is a coalition of internet industry corporations and public interest organizations that provide information on keeping children safe online and how to block
● Purchase good resources for your church library. (See the full book/DVD list on page 26.) ● Do not shun the addict. Remember that, like you, the addict is created in the image of God. We must treat the addict with dignity and respect while not condoning their sin. (Editor’s note: the endnotes for this article have been posted at EvangelicalsforSocialAction.org/PRISM-endnotes.)
A graduate of Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, Pa., Ellen Dooley, MDiv, is a pastor, author, and motivational speaker.
Beauty and the Beast continued from page 28
that will endanger themselves and others. It does happen, and pornography can certainly play an integral part, but the danger for the average porn consumer lies elsewhere. It lies in the way we adapt to sexual stimulation without the benefit of another person, which in turn changes the way we interact with real people sexually. It affects what is for many people the most important relationship in his or her life. This is the danger, and all those who enjoy porn with increasing regularity need to ask themselves how much real intimacy with a real person matters to them, because porn will have a detrimental effect. Even if porn does not drive a permanent wedge between two people in a loving relationship, there is no question that it will not bring them closer together. It adds nothing. Some people argue that watching porn as a couple brings a freshness to their sexual interactions. I can only speak for myself here. Looking at porn never made me love my partner more. It just made me want to watch more porn—alone. We are drawn to porn because we are drawn to sex, but sex is meant to be shared. We are relational creatures. God himself said that it is not good to be alone. We want to find flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones. We want to become one with someone else. Porn is an imposter. It distills what is meant to be an intimate relationship with another person into a solitary experience that can be popped like a pill. If real love relationships matter to us, whether we are in one now or hope to be someday, we would do well to avoid that captivating house on the hill. It is full of lies and distortion. It is empty. Brian Wigg is a husband, father of three small children, trained actor, and an economic analyst. He is writing a book about the lies of pornography and how life without it is far better. He blogs regularly at www.p-rnfree.com
by Ron Sider
Is religious freedom in danger? Two current issues raise this question in a pressing way: (1) the “Contraceptives/ Abortifacients” Mandate under President Obama’s healthcare plan and (2) the results of gay marriage legislation. Current regulations specify that most healthcare insurance plans beginning August 1, 2012, must include all FDA-approved contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures. That includes Plan B (“morning after” pill) and ella (“week after” pill), both of which are said to cause abortion. A huge problem with the current regulations is that in an unprecedented way, they define two classes of religious organizations: churches (“religious employers”), which are exempt from the mandate; and other religious organizations, which must follow the mandate even if they have religious objections to contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion. To be exempt from the mandate, a religious employer must: (1) have the inculcation of religious values as its primary purpose; (2) hire primarily people who share its religious beliefs; (3) serve primarily people who share the organizations’ religious beliefs; and (4) be defined as a religious employer (e.g. a church) by the IRS. In other words, a vast range of deeply religious (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.) nonprofits—schools and univer-
diverse society. (4) We should insist on the rights of minorities. The constitutional declaration of basic freedom is designed precisely to protect the rights of minorities over against a large democratic majority. That is why Catholics (a minority) should be free to practice their beliefs about contraception even though most of us disagree with their beliefs. (5) We must insist that freedom of religion is much broader than the freedom to worship and conduct activities in a narrowly defined “church” context. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others all believe that their faith applies to the whole of life. Genuine religious freedom demands that they (and everyone else) must be able to express their religious beliefs in the public square and through a vast range of religious organizations that are not churches and serve mostly people who do not share their religious beliefs. So what should we do right now? First, write to President Obama urging him to modify the current healthcare mandate. Specifically, urge him to: (a) abandon the new, unprecedented distinction between the religious freedom of churches and that of other religious organizations; and (b) grant exemption from the Contraceptive/Abortifacient Mandate to all religious organizations. Second, urge President Obama to champion religious freedom. Ask him to educate the American public on how faithfulness to the First Amendment is the only genuinely “pro-choice” stance in a pluralistic society full of divergent, contradictory religious beliefs. Gay-sponsored religious social service agencies should be just as free to hire only gay Americans as other religious nonprofits are free to hire only those with heterosexual beliefs and practice. Tell the president and Congress how much you treasure religious freedom. Go to EvangelicalsforSocialAction.org/ReligiousFreedom to send them a message.
Ron Sider is president of ESA and professor of theology/public policy at Palmer Seminary of Eastern University.
Is Religious FreeDom in Danger?
sities, social service organizations, relief agencies, etc.—would have to break the law and risk paying huge penalties or abandon their religious beliefs. This is not an argument about contraceptives; I, along with most evangelicals, affirm their use. But these unprecedented distinctions violate religious freedom. The second issue involves the vast range of consequences that have already arisen and will multiply if gay marriage becomes national law. Already, after gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities had to abandon a century-long adoption program because they believe they should place children only with heterosexual couples. If gay marriage becomes the law of the land, many religious freedom issues will arise. Can religious organizations be licensed, receive government funds, etc. if they do not hire or treat gay (married) couples exactly the way they treat heterosexual couples? Will they lose their 501(c)3 tax-exempt status? So what should be done? First, we must understand and affirm our basic principles. (1) We believe that government should neither establish any religion nor hinder its free exercise. That means supporting the Supreme Court decision outlawing school-sponsored prayer in government-run schools. Muslim, Jewish, and atheistic children should not have to listen to Christian prayers by school officials in government schools. (2) We consistently embrace religious freedom for everyone, not just Christians. That means, for example, that we should take the lead in defending the right of Muslims to build mosques or Hindus to build temples in any place that Christians have the right to build churches. (3) We should take the high ground of defending the freedom of choice of everyone in our highly pluralistic society. We will lose arguments that sound like a conservative rejection of contraceptives or an attack on gay people. Instead, we must be the vigorous champions of genuine freedom of choice for all, because that is the only way to be fair and just to everyone in our highly
PRISM Vol. 19, No. 4
Editorial Board Miriam Adeney Tony Campolo Luis Cortés Richard Foster G. Gaebelein Hull Karen Mains Vinay Samuel Tom Sine Eldin Villafane
George Barna Rodney Clapp Samuel Escobar William Frey Roberta Hestenes John Perkins Amy Sherman Vinson Synan Harold DeanTrulear
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