Watch Aaron in the film Holy Wars

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Jesus was a mestizo

I listened to an excellent sermon last night from Ray Bakke, chairman of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding. Bakke brought out the point that in the bloodline of Jesus there were four women of non-Jewish/Israeli heritage in Jesus' bloodline. Tamar (who slept with her father in law), Ruth (a Moabitess/descendent of an incestuous relationship), Rahab (a Canaanite whore), and Bathsheba (a Hittite that pleased David so much that he killed her husband to be with her).

None of us can choose our bloodline, but Jesus being the eternal Word, could choose his bloodline, and these are the people He decided to identify with.

Jesus was a mestizo.

And an undocumented international refugee in Egypt.

Would He be welcome at your church?

Would he be welcome in your state?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Who will protect Palestinians from growing settler extremism?

By Lisa Goldman

Last week in Hawara, a town near Nablus, someone defaced a mosque with spray paint. The graffiti included Hebrew writing and a Star of David. Residents of a Jewish settlement nearby had vandalized Palestinian property in Hawara on previous occasions, so both the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian villagers accused settlers of committing the latest crime. Israel's official position is that it is a deserving, ecumenically-minded custodian of religious sites of all faiths, so the IDF Spokesman was quick to issue a condemnation and promise an investigation.

The defacing of mosques in the West Bank is relatively rare - "only" four incidents were brought to the attention of Yesh Din, an Israeli NGO that monitors law enforcement in the West Bank, over the past five years. But destruction of Palestinian property and acts of violence against Palestinian civilians occur frequently, often several times per week. Over the past few months, they have become more frequent and more violent. Many of these incidents are known as "price tag" operations, whereby settlers destroy Palestinian property as a response to the IDF's having dismantled an illegal outpost. The settlers, say West Bank field workers for various NGOs, are becoming bolder.

The more egregious acts of settler violence are reported in the Israeli media, although rarely with prominence, but most incidents fail to attract the attention of the major news outlets at all - because they occur so frequently that they have become unremarkable, because most Israelis are numb to these stories, and because Palestinians are increasingly reluctant to file a police complaint. Why bother to enlist the help of the police when, as Yesh Din has documented, more than 90 percent of legal cases involving settler violence end with their being closed due to "lack of evidence"?
When Jews, Muslims and Christians deface one another's holy sites or places of worship, the story is reported widely by the Western media - especially when the culprits are members of the group backed by military and political might, as is the case of the Jewish settlers in the Palestinian-majority West Bank. And so the story of the defaced Hawara mosque was reported widely in major news outlets, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, with accompanying photos. But the chances of the perpetrators being arrested and put on trial are very slight. In the cases of the four mosques previously vandalized, allegedly by settlers, two investigations are officially ongoing, and two have been closed for lack of evidence.

Lior Yavne, Yesh Din's research director, says that investigations into complaints filed against settlers by Palestinians fail for a number of reasons. The civil police of Judea and Samaria are understaffed and underfunded. Jewish suspects are almost never included in police lineups. The police frequently fail to verify the alibis of Jews, or to make arrests.

Investigations fail to result in convictions even when eyewitnesses provide accurate descriptions of Jewish suspects seen at or fleeing the scene, holding incriminating evidence - as in a case reported earlier this month by the Jerusalem Post's Dan Izenberg. According to the April 6 article, a settler from Kedumim was caught by police last summer, fleeing a burning Palestinian orchard while holding a jerrican filled with flammable liquid, and with the smell of the liquid on his hands. The suspect refused to answer police questions during interrogation; and less than a year later, the courts dismissed the case for "lack of evidence." Michael Sfard, Yesh Din's legal advisor, described the court's decision as "scandalous."

Palestinian villages are increasingly unprotected by the IDF, which does provide extensive protection for Jewish settlements. At the same time, however, Palestinians are not allowed to possess weapons; the IDF arrests people caught with knives or guns in their possession. Settlers, on the other hand, are permitted by law to carry weapons.

Meanwhile, the IDF is acting according to increasingly draconian orders to suppress non-violent demonstrations against the occupation that are organized and led by grassroots Palestinian movements. Leaders of popular resistance organizations are dragged from their beds during night raids, arrested and jailed - often indefinitely. The villages in which demonstrations take place on Friday mornings have been declared closed military zones. Those who violate the army's orders and come out to demonstrate are regularly shot at with rubber bullets, doused with skunk gas, beaten and arrested.

For Palestinians in the West Bank, the sense of helplessness and frustration must be enormous. When they are attacked, they can almost never hope for justice within the framework of the legal system. Nor are they allowed to defend themselves. Nor can they expect the IDF to protect them. And even when they protest these injustices using nonviolent methods - marching, chanting and waving flags - they are punished with arrests and violence, with dehumanizing skunk gas and beatings. So what happens when there is no legal recourse or justice for the injured and no real civic structure, and when the moderates are systematically crushed? Surely these are the ideal psychological circumstances that make people vulnerable to the beckoning finger of extremism.

Lisa Goldman is a freelance journalist and blogger, and a social media consultant for Yesh Din.

Article source:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Arizona’s Immigration Bill is a Social and Racial Sin

By Jim Wallis 04-21-2010

I got up at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday to fly to Phoenix, Arizona, to speak at a press conference and rally at the State Capitol at the invitation of the state’s clergy and other leaders in the immigration reform movement. The harshest enforcement bill in the country against undocumented immigrants just passed the Arizona state House and Senate, and is only awaiting the signature of Governor Janet Brewer to become law.

Senate Bill 1070 would require law enforcement officials in the state of Arizona to investigate someone’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” that the person might be undocumented. I wonder who that would be, and if anybody who doesn’t have brown skin will be investigated. Those without identification papers, even if they are legal, are subject to arrest; so don’t forget your wallet on your way to work if you are Hispanic in Arizona. You can also be arrested if you are stopped and are simply with people who are undocumented — even if they are your family. Parents or children of “mixed-status families” (made up of legal and undocumented, as many immigrant families are out here) could be arrested if they are found together. You can be arrested if you are “transporting or harboring” undocumented people. Some might consider driving immigrant families to and from church to be Christian ministry — but it will now be illegal in Arizona.

For the first time, all law enforcement officers in the state will be enlisted to hunt down undocumented people, which will clearly distract them from going after truly violent criminals, and will focus them on mostly harmless families whose work supports the economy and who contribute to their communities. And do you think undocumented parents will now go to the police if their daughter is raped or their family becomes a victim of violent crime? Maybe that’s why the state association of police chiefs is against SB 1070.

This proposed law is not only mean-spirited — it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform. We all want to live in a nation of laws, and the immigration system in the U.S. is so broken that it is serving no one well. But enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable. And enforcement of this law would force us to violate our Christian conscience, which we simply will not do. It makes it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona.

Before the rally and press event, I visited some immigrant families who work at Neighborhood Ministries, an impressive community organization affiliated with Sojourners’ friends at the Christian Community Development Association. I met a group of women who were frightened by the raids that have been occurring, in which armed men invade their homes and neighborhoods with guns and helicopters. When the rumors of massive raids spread, many of these people flee both their homes and their workplaces, and head for The Church at The Neighborhood Center as the only place they feel safe and secure. But will police invade the churches if they are suspected of “harboring” undocumented people, because it is the law? Will the nurse practitioner I met at their medical clinic serving only uninsured people be arrested for being “with” the children of families who are here illegally as she treats them?

At the rally, I started with the words of Jesus (which drew cheers from the crowd gathered at the state Capitol), who instructed his disciples to “welcome the stranger,” and said that whatever we do to “the least of these, who are members of my family” we do to him. I think that means that to obey Jesus and his gospel will mean to disobey SB 1070 in Arizona. I looked at the governor’s Executive Tower and promised that many Christians in Arizona won’t comply with this law because the people they will target will be members of our “family” in the body of Christ. And any attack against them is an attack against us, and the One we follow.

Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles just called this Arizona measure “the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless immigration law.” On CNN, I defended the Cardinal’s comments, which likened the requirement of people always carrying their “papers” to the most oppressive regimes of Nazism and Communism. I wonder whether the tea party movement that rails against government intrusion will rail against this law, or whether those who resist the forced government registration of their guns will resist the forced government requirement that immigrants must always carry their documentation. Will the true conservatives please stand up here? We are all waiting.

Arizona’s SB 1070 must be named as a social and racial sin, and should be denounced as such by people of faith and conscience across the nation. This is not just about Arizona, but about all of us, and about what kind of country we want to be. It’s time to stand up to this new strategy of “deportation by attrition,” which I heard for the first time today in Arizona. It is a policy of deliberate political cruelty, and it should be remembered that “attrition” is a term of war. Arizona is deciding whether to wage war on the body of Christ. We should say that if you come after one part of the body, you come after all of us.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's all about perspective

I'm exhausted. Been driving all day. When my wife and I got to our hotel, Christian wouldn't stop fussing. I called the doctor, ran to Walgreens and bought some Motrin, and now he seems to be doing fine--finally!!. Tonight has been pretty miserable, especially since I got little to no sleep at the flea bag hotel we stayed in last night, but I bet it would be more miserable if I were an African woman living in the deserts of Sudan and having to deal with a fussy baby in 100 degree heat. It's all about perspective.

A lot of people have asked my wife and I how we're holding up, knowing that our son was born with a heart defect and that we had to go to California for his surgery. My wife and I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House in Palo Alto. We were in and out in five days. We met one lady that had been there for 10 months with her daughter. Almost everyone there had been there more than once since their children's conditions required multiple surgeries, with tentative expectations. Our surgeon told us he thinks that the surgery last week will be the only one Christian will need. In and out in five days is practically a miracle at the Ronald McDonald House. We feel like we got off easy.

It's all about perspective.

Monday, April 19, 2010

An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People

I received this today from a group called Iraq Veterans Against the War. They asked me to pass it on.

From Current and Former Members of the U.S. Military

Peace be with you.

To all of those who were injured or lost loved ones during the July 2007 Baghdad shootings depicted in the “Collateral Murder” Wikileaks video:

We write to you, your family, and your community with awareness that our words and actions can never restore your losses.

We are both soldiers who occupied your neighborhood for 14 months. Ethan McCord pulled your daughter and son from the van, and when doing so, saw the faces of his own children back home. Josh Stieber was in the same company but was not there that day, though he contributed to the your pain, and the pain of your community on many other occasions.

There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize we have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.

We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.

We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and what we carried out in the name of "god and country". The soldier in the video said that your husband shouldn't have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.

More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.

Our government may ignore you, concerned more with its public image. It has also ignored many veterans who have returned physically injured or mentally troubled by what they saw and did in your country. But the time is long overdue that we say that the value of our nation's leaders no longer represent us. Our secretary of defense may say the U.S. won't lose its reputation over this, but we stand and say that our reputation's importance pales in comparison to our common humanity.

We have asked our fellow veterans and service-members, as well as civilians both in the United States and abroad, to sign in support of this letter, and to offer their names as a testimony to our common humanity, to distance ourselves from the destructive policies of our nation's leaders, and to extend our hands to you.

With such pain, friendship might be too much to ask. Please accept our apology, our sorrow, our care, and our dedication to change from the inside out. We are doing what we can to speak out against the wars and military policies responsible for what happened to you and your loved ones. Our hearts are open to hearing how we can take any steps to support you through the pain that we have caused.

Solemnly and Sincerely,
Josh Stieber, former specialist, U.S. Army
Ethan McCord, former specialist, U.S. Army

To sign, click here!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Heading back

I'm sitting in my son's room at the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto California. My son's surgery went well, thank God. He'll be released tomorrow and we'll head back to New Mexico. Not looking forward to the traffic in Pasadena. It was stand-still traffic through Pasadena on the way here. On second thought, maybe I'll get a chance to visit my friend Paul Alexander at Azusa Pacific University. Paul is the founder of Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice, an organization seeking to restore the peace witness to today's 500 + million pentecostals and charismatics. No sweat. How fitting that Paul teaches at Azusa Pacific University, just around the corner from the famous Azusa street where the revival that launched world-wide pentecostalism began! I think I'm going to e-mail Paul right now and see if he'll be up for breakfast or lunch on Tuesday.

Other than that, I'm looking forward to getting back to New Mexico, and also visiting St. Louis in May. Speaking of May, the embassy date where I'll go and pick up Isaac in Ethiopia is May 24th. I'll be going by myself. It won't be easy, but it's the best option we have right now. Keep us in your prayers!



Friday, April 09, 2010

Evangelical Leaders Support Reducing Nukes

Evangelicals Send Atomic Fireballs to Congress

For Immediate Release

April 12, 2010

Evangelical college presidents, denominational executives, pastors, veterans, professors, and missionaries are encouraging the Obama administration and Congress to engage in diplomacy with Iran and North Korea and to reduce US nuclear arsenals. Citing scripture, Jesus, and foreign policy experts such as George Shultz, they claim “overcoming the nuclear threat requires international cooperation” and “nuclear weapons are a moral threat” that must eventually be eliminated. For emphasis they provided Atomic Fireballs with their statement, saying “Atomic Fireballs are great candy, but terrible foreign policy.”

Their historic Matthew 5 Project statement, which “calls on our nation to be willing to talk with and listen to antagonists,” offers strong support for the “new START” treaty. The statement was sent to President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all 535 members of Congress. Arguing that “Jesus is the realist,” the evangelical statement recognizes that even though “[t]he United States has crucial disagreements with Iran, Jesus does not say talks should be refused until we approve of the conduct of the adversary.”

The statement also refers to the policy recommendations of George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and other conservative national security experts who are now recommending the elimination of nuclear weapons. “Nuclear weapons are a physical threat to the survival of human life on earth. Prominent national security experts have recently called for reducing and abolishing reliance on nuclear weapons, by verifiable international agreement, in order to enhance national security. This cannot be accomplished unilaterally; it requires international cooperation and verification.” The statement and broad scope of endorsements reveal the growing sentiment among American Evangelicals that the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons is both theologically necessary and politically possible.

After laying out their biblical, theological, and political cases, the statement culminates in a call to action that encourages American churches to engage in interfaith and international dialogue and to “urge international cooperation in continued step-by-step reductions, working toward ways to verify abolition of nuclear weapons worldwide.”

The Matthew 5 Project is an Evangelical effort to promote international cooperation and reduce nuclear weapons through careful analysis of political realities and sound biblical and theological arguments (

Glen Stassen, Ph.D.
Professor of Christian Ethics
Fuller Theological Seminary
135 N. Oakland Avenue
Pasadena, California 91182

Rev. Paul Alexander, Ph.D.
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Co-founder, Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice
Azusa Pacific University
701 E. Foothill Blvd.
Azusa, California 91702

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Great News for a Safe and Peaceful World

Hey there,

I just heard some good news for everyone who's afraid of nuclear war (and that means all of us).

Last week, Russia and the USA signed an agreement to reduce their nuclear arsenals by a third. And next week, Obama is hosting leaders from 48 countries to talk about going even further in pursuit of a nuclear-free world.

It's the most concrete progress in decades to reduce the threat of nuclear war.

But public support is crucial if we're going to make Obama's first bold steps really stick. Which is why I just signed this petition backing up the work for a nuclear free world. If you do the same thing today, TrueMajority will make sure it gets delivered to Obama and world leaders when they convene at the White House next week:

Sign here!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

So, Am I a Reductionist?

A few weeks ago I wrote a post on my blog entitled Will the Real Gospel Please Stand Up? In the post I talked about how America, being a trendy nation, seems to have a gospel to fit just about every corresponding trend in society. For the materialist trend, we have the health and wealth gospel. For the postmodern trend, we have deconstruction and negative theology (I can kick myself for forgetting to add the patriotic gospel, but I’m happy to mention it now). Point being that with all the different gospels floating around—even granting that some of these gospels contain grains of truth—the gospel according to the Apostles often gets lost. After carefully studying the Book of Acts and the Epistles, I summarized the gospel that the Apostles preached this way:

"Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. He was buried and rose again on the third day. He ascended into heaven and now He sits at the right hand of the Father. On a day that God has appointed, Jesus Christ is coming back to judge the living and the dead. Anyone who repents and believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life."

The vast majority of my critics are people that comment anonymously (undoubtedly people that I know personally) that don’t like either my implied political views or my stance on non-violence. In this case, however, I received a couple of anonymous comments coming from a different direction.

Anonymous number one said, “It's too bad all those parables from Jesus got in the way of his gospel message...”

Anonymous number two was a bit more forthright in saying, “Yeah, you kind of left out everything Jesus announced, performed, and taught while he was in ministry. That is, the best part. Abstract religious thoughts about his death for sin, resurrection, and return have no context or meaning to a seeker without mention of the Kingdom Jesus announced and the history into which this took place. I love this blog overall, but this entry falls prey to reductionism. This is not the whole of the Good News.”

I especially agree with Anonymous number two that the announcement of the Kingdom of God often gets sidelined in standard gospel presentations. Having said that, I do find it odd that the Apostle Paul didn’t mention the Kingdom of God when he summarized the gospel “by which you are saved” in I Corinthians 15:1-4, but I digress.

Here was my response:

“If you're a regular reader of my blog (and you've read my book Alone with a Jihadist) then you'll know that I also have serious criticisms for those that neglect the teachings of Jesus, as if we can divorce Christ's death from His life and teachings. I've made that point in many ways, which is why most of the criticism I get comes from the other end of the theological spectrum than the perspective that you're articulating. So, I do agree with you.

Having said that, I think I made a valid point here that what constitutes as evangelistic preaching nowadays bears little resemblance to how the Apostles preached in the Book of Acts. Case in point, when was the last time you heard a Bible teacher or preacher say that Jesus is coming back to judge the living and the dead? And yet, this is precisely what Peter claims that Jesus told His Apostles to preach:

"And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be the judge of the living and the dead" (Acts 10:42)

In my own evangelistic sermons, I often emphasize the teachings of Jesus and the parables, but I want to be careful that I don't leave out the elements that the Apostles preached when they were calling people to repent and receive Christ.

Either way, I think this post could generate a good discussion. Thank you again for your feedback.”

So, am I a reductionist?

Or is it that the gospel is so huge and mind-bending awesome that all of us are reductionists regardless of the particular kind of Christianity—new and old—that we follow?


Monday, April 05, 2010

About Friends by Nedra O Brien (guest contributor)

Below is a devotional by Nedra O Brien, my late mother-in-law. For years before she passed away, Nedra wrote devotionals for her church bulletin. Every once in a while I post them on my blog in honor of her memory.

I came across this quote recently… “The friends one chooses determine to a large extent one’s destiny and success in life.” I got to thinking about it and realized there’s a lot of truth there. I thought about various friends I’ve had over the years, some who are still friends and those who are no longer a part of my life. When I think about it, they really have had a big impact on my life in one way or another.

When I was a teenager, I had an older person tell me that I probably wouldn’t have more than two or three close friends as an adult. I thought that was absurd, since, like most teenagers, I was surrounded by friends! But his words turned out to be true and I now thank God for those few close friends I have! They’re what I call my “Proverbs 17:17 friends”. In fact, they are more than friends! Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all time, and a brother is born for adversity,”

The footnote in my Bible says, “Friendship is at its best, not in prosperity, but in time of trouble.” As I see it, a lasting friendship has nothing to do with popularity, power or finances, and has no place for selfish motives or ambitions. It’s founded on common interests, goals and dreams and it’s grounded by mutual love and respect.

I once received an email from one of my Proverbs 17:17 friends, which just happened to be about friendship! It went like this: “A friend should be radical. They should love you when you’re unlovable, hug you when you’re unhuggable, and bear with you when you’re unbearable. A friend should be fanatical. They should cheer for you when the whole world boos. They should dance when you get good news, and cry when you cry, too. But most of all a friend should be mathematical. They should multiply the joy, divide the sorrow, subtract the past and add to tomorrow. They should also know how to calculate the need that is deep in your heart.”

Isn’t that wonderful? When you have a friend or two like that, it stands to reason they would have a huge impact on your destiny and success in life. When you have a decision to make or you come up against some difficulty, it’s good to have a friend who will cheer you on or cheer you up. And when you have something to rejoice about, it’s so uplifting to have someone you love rejoice with you.

And you know what? As believers, we all have that kind of friend in Jesus. His own words, found in John chapter 15 say, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”