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Stanley Hauerwas is on a short list of the people I most admire. Of recent it has been my fortune to interact with and come to know personally this ‘leading theologian of our time’ since he served as Chair in Theological Ethics here at the University of Aberdeen (2014-2016). He has been a forerunner in areas I believe to be vital considerations for the contemporary church and his positive and shaping influence on my theological work will long continue. He has been a voice in the wilderness crying. My growing Hauerwas book and essay collection is now well-marked and in him I’d say I have found a kindred spirit. All that said, I intend to be forthright in my assessment of what I deem to be the worst thing I’ve read that he’s written.

Many times those of us who have been in face to face conversation with Stanley have heard him share his thoughts on something theological and then ask the question; Do you think that’s right? Hauerwas believes theology is done best in conversation, with friends. My friendship with him is more important to me than what I’ve written here. He knows I see myself as a work in progress and am willing to change my mind. I’ve come around in a major way to his views on war and peace.

Basically I’m responding here to his thoughts in his essay (A Sanctuary Politics: The Church in the Time of Trump) and saying, No, I don’t think that’s right.

My essay is in pdf form here: What is Truth in an Age of CNN?

In case you wonder, Stanley says my response here is the best defence of Trump he’s read to date. Perhaps he’ll say more later but so far he deems the most significant point of disagreement to be my use of the word “invasion” and that “the logic of [my] piece may be Constantinian in a manner [he] tries to stay away from.  He rightly challenges me to consider how Muslim migrations in our day can be conceived as a “godsend” and he reminds me “US foreign policy created the terrorist.”

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The backstory…. On April 9 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (where I was a minister for 21 years), a local Muslim man named Ehab Jaber walked into a Christian Conference where hundreds were gathered to hear speakers (including an ex-Muslim speaking on the topic:  “Sabotaging America: Islam’s March Toward Supremacy“). The local media hyped the entire event up as “anti-muslim” drawing out a sizeable protest, and in my view, we can thank them for their role in creating this incident. A Christian worldview event was spun by media as anti-Muslim and, surprise, it drew out a mad Muslim. If we want to de-escalate the tensions, maybe the media could help by not fuelling them.

What goes on in mosques, of course, is from the perspective of their worldview and what goes on in churches, of course, is from ours. These are not harmonious world views. Each believes the other is what is wrong with the world and that God is on one side, their side. I’m a Christian, and I have nothing nice to say about Islam. And of course, I don’t believe Islam to be just another way to relate to God. ((If there were other viable paths to salvation God would not have sent his only Son to die on a Cross to pay the penalty for our sin.)) Of course I think, as do all orthodox Christians in a variety of streams, that Islam is a grave deception and the antithesis of any sort of religion of peace.

So, on April 9, Mr Jaber walked into this Christian worldview event waving his Koran and made a scene until he was asked to leave by event security. In the parking lot he recorded a video and posted it on Facebook. In the video he showed off his collection of legal South Dakota firearms and kept repeating “be scared.” He has since been charged with making a Terrorist Threat, his weapons have been confiscated, and law enforcement found Meth in his home. He sits now in jail and laments bitterly how he has lost everything. The judge set a very low bail, $2500, apparently not considering Mr Jaber a threat to society. Mr Jaber told the court: “No one wants to bond me out so it doesn’t matter.”

My analysis… is twofold.

First, they have their guns and their book and we have our guns and our Book. Fellow South Dakotans will remember (lousy-)Christian US Senate Candidate, now felon, Annette Bosworth holding up our Good Book and her Big Gun during her failed 2014 Senate campaign. There are differences for sure in how Mr Jaber decided to make his video in the parking lot of an event in the heat of anger, thus the terrorist threat charges. But I think we should look more closely at the similarities. I’m not all that convinced what he did is all that different from what a lot of flag/gun waving Christians do. This meme illustrates the point.

If the book the gal on the left is holding up says don’t kill the other person, why is she holding that gun? Here’s why? Because since Constantine, the Church has embraced a grave heresy to find justifications to do the very opposite of what Jesus taught. The gal on the left believes her book gives her justifications to kill the other JUST LIKE the gal on the right believes her book gives her justifications to kill the other.

Second, I think it is high time Christians start acting like Christians and that means we start acting like Christ. That means we figure out a way to love this enemy. Missionaries do it all the time… they reach out to those who are hostile to them and who have even tried to kill them. That’s when the Gospel is most powerful. That’s when we are most like Christ. As is this guy is sitting in jail thinking hundreds of local Christians at an event hate him. I hope that is not true. He needs to know Christians love Muslims even though they take issue with Islam.

If the charges stick, a judge can sort through appropriate consequences. That’s Romans 13. Our job is Romans 12 (vss. 17-21). This guy has no prior offences, is not connected to some radicalised jihad sleeper cell, and he didn’t kill anyone– though I agree he was dangerously close to snapping in the near the future. It is GOOD that law enforcement got involved when they did. In this case, and I’m only talking about this case, I’m suggesting there is a window of opportunity for us to be Christians, for once.

So how do we love on our local (alleged) terrorist? My suggestion is that we post his $2500 bond and I’ll put forth the first $250. He needs to know there are people who care about him and that they are they very people who he views as enemies. This gesture would send this guy a message in a way that sending him a Bible wouldn’t. It would send him am important message that so far we have failed to communicate to him and others like him.

If this isn’t as good a time as any to finally try out that whole love-our-enemies thing, I’m not sure there ever will be a perfect time and way to obey what Jesus told us to do every time we have opportunity. It seems we always find spiritual-sounding and common sense rationales to not obey Jesus in this regard. We need to quit being kinda-Christians and start being Christ-like. It’s easy to love those who love us back, Jesus noted even the pagans do that – what sets us apart is enemy love and until we get to that point, we are still pagan in our love.

Last night I tried to set up a gofundme.com account to collect donations but gofundme cancelled my account because such a legal plea for funds is a violation of their terms and conditions. I’ll have to figure out another way this afternoon. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Still thinking about where people can send money to send this “message” to Mr. Jaber. Maybe I’ll ask the multicultural centre to put a donation jar in their office? Don’t send anything there yet.  But I really ONLY want these donations to come from people who are “friends of Jesus” and preferably Conservative Christians only – it needs to come from us. Mr Jaber needs to think about the fact that he was bailed out by friends of Jesus.

UPDATE 2 (4/26/2017) 12:34 CST: A pastor in Sioux Falls reports to me that Mr. Jaber is no longer in the jail. And, the editor of the Argus Leader just sent me a text to take down that picture of Mr Jaber that I lifted off their website. I said, sure.

We believe everything they tell us 
They’re gonna’ kill us 
So we gotta’ kill them first 
But I remember a commandment 
Thou shalt not kill 
How much is that solider’s life worth? 
And what ever happened to peace on earth?
– Willie Nelson

Don’t scoff that away. It is actually sensical.

Weapons don’t cause war, Governments do. And more precisely, what is ultimately behind war are the Jacobin political philosophies (including neo-conservativism today) which mask the real culprits: the shadow oligarchy driven by greed and imperial obsessions.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how it is those who most oppose gun control measures in America are adamant about the disarmament of other nations? Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

“The incitement to perpetual war has been achieved without any real threat to our national security” said Ron Paul.

That would be…… true.

Yesterday in the headlines I read that though we have the “mother of all bombs,” Russia was quick to boast that they have the “father of all bombs.” It’s like a couple of intoxicated and hormonal frat boys arguing about who has the greater measure of manhood. The one unzipped, so the other did as well. The Lord of Hosts who measures all things is hardly impressed. What do you suppose impresses our Lord about a nation? What commands did Jesus say we had to keep to be considered great in the Kingdom of Heaven? Hint: enemy love.

The beating of war drums, the rationalisations and war propaganda, the things we tell ourselves must be true…. it’s the work of a high-ranking demonic spirit assigned to entice both sides of war to go with the crowds down the road that leads to destruction. Tolstoy used the word hypnotised to describe patriotic people caught up in war frenzy.

War is a political tool. That we must use force to promote American goodness in the world, peace and prosperity for all, is simple bullshit. It is a bold rejection of the way of Christ, nothing more. It’s a lie, and for the lie our sons/daughters, serving as slave-soldiers, die. And in far greater numbers do the precious children of others in the world, die.

My daughter’s 30 year old Syrian friend reports Syrian people don’t care about Assad, they just want to live without war. American Christians who post on Facebook how cool it is and good it is that we dropped the mother of all bombs need to realise, according to this Syrian friend, that military conscription requires Syrian young men to fight. So, our boys go to kill their boys who really don’t want to fight back, but have to – and those who are really behind the bloodshed are in luxury somewhere sipping their fine Gin, plotting the next move in their war games.

“... He said bullshit. I thought he was a minister?? It’s okay for soldiers to curse when they are doing ‘God’s work of war’ but ministers,,,, I thought were only supposed to pray for our soldiers and be sure to not forget to have Vets stand and be honoured in our churches on Veterans and Memorial Day??

Question: what are we supposed to “pray for our soldiers”?? That they are safe, swift and successful in their work of creating widows and orphans in other parts of the world serving with their lives and sworn allegiance to do the dirty work whims of those who are hardly forthright with what they are really seeking to accomplish?? I thought true religion was to care for orphans and widows, not create more of them? Silly me.

Let China deal with North Korea this weekend. Let Russia deal with Syria.

Here’s my Easter hope for our supposedly Christian nation….

As for me and my nation, we will serve the Lord.

Translation: As for me and my nation, we won’t fight their wars.

 

Maybe I should wait to write this until I’ve actually completed my PhD. But, since I’m nearing the half-way point, and not new to theological studies, but mostly since I’ll be one hundred years old in fifty years and my health is already waning, I thought I’d better put this on paper while it was fresh in my head.

The last thing the world needs is another spiritually dead academic to lead another generation away from the wonders of God.

  • Having a connection to a local church is vital – and not just filling up a pew. Involved, serving, teaching. This is as important as any course or seminar available to you. Christian community is the incubator for discipleship and theological studies should be discipleship on steroids. Submit to spiritual disciplines and become a disciple of Christ.
  • Seek out professors and people who are praying people. Yoking to a dead man will soon kill you. One of the things we loved about sending our boys to the House of Prayer in Kansas City for their bachelor degrees was the dean of the school said they require their instructors to be in the prayer room every day— they want the students to see the back of the head of the professor in the prayer room two hours for every hour they see the front of the professor’s head in the classroom. If you can’t find a spiritually vibrant supervisor, make sure your area of study puts you at the feet of the vibrant. Be suspicious of theology that comes from people both living and dead, who weren’t often on their knees and tender before God.
  • Ask God to speak to you and to lead you, to guide your search, highlight what you need to see/find/understand. Ask for discernment – eyes to see, ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to you– , ask his help understanding and articulating such that you can tear down speculations that set themselves up against the knowledge of God. Ask God to make you a voice, not an echo – to give you a new word and a now word. I used to pray before pastoral counselling sessions and preaching and because I now have a long history with God giving me the right things to see/say, I now pray before reading and writing. And, I ask God to activate the testimony and revelation that has been resting and dormant in the Cloud of Witnesses. The greatest source of underutilises encouragement in the Body of Christ comes from the Cloud of Witnesses. You do understand, don’t you, that theological studies puts you in the midst of testimony and encouragement of the Cloud of Witnesses?
  • At some point long past I wrote on the blank page in the back of my Bible; “if you don’t shout it when you are preparing it, they won’t shout when you are preaching it… preparation must be worship.” I feel the same about theological studies. In my office at the university I have on the bulletin board this clipping from J.I. Packer… “Any theology that does not lead to song is, at a fundamental level, a flawed theology.” My supervisor is a Christian Ethicist who is writing books on things like: Singing the Ethos of God.

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I have a friend who recently got a PhD and when I asked what the focus was he rattled off something that he obviously wasn’t passionate about and then said; My dissertation was read by two people and maybe they really didn’t even read it all that close and it will never be read again.

It made me sad. Basically, he made no contribution to the Kingdom with the stewardship of time he was given to dive deep into the things of God. He used the time to get a degree so he could get a job in a university. And to think parents like myself have paid top dollar to send our sons and daughters to the universities to sit at the feet of these dry wells.

My wife had one concern with me taking this hiatus from ministry and pursuing the PhD… that I’d spend a few years working on something that will make no Kingdom difference. I can report that God has me on the trail of defining and laying the foundation for an obedience movement which is something the Body of Christ has yet to see. We’ve seen movements of all sorts–– holiness movements; monastic movements; ecumenical and social gospel movements; Zionist and restoration movements; faith, charismatic, health/wealth and signs and wonders movements; missions movements; and the Church globally is enjoying a prayer movement presently taking shape in a variety of ways including a New Monasticism movement.

However, in two thousand years, has the Church ever seen an obedience movement where a generation of Christians takes the Sermon on the Mount seriously? No. If God has me on the trail of this theme, maybe it is because those days are soon to come.  When I study these things, there is some shabba (special sauce :-), anointing) on them and to handle these sacred things with prayer has become vital to me.

I think God loves the Olympics, especially the opening ceremony.

This whole anti-nationalism, pro-globalism thing Christians are arguing about right now needs some clarity. Christ tearing down the dividing wall that separated Jews/Greeks, Male/Female, etc does not mean the distinctives between us must be melted into one happy pot. The text does not mean you are no longer a man, and you are no longer a woman but instead you are a Christian. No, you are a woman who is Christian and a Christian who is a woman; and a Greek who is a Christian, and a Scot who is a Christian, and an American who is a Christian.

God never told his people to renounce their tribal identity– Judah, Issachar, Benjamin, Dan or whatever. No, with the Tabernacle of God at the centre, they camped around it by tribes with their tribal flags posted in place. I can imagine there was friendly jesting between the tribes much like my native friends back home who jest even bitingly about being glad they are from Oglala Pine Ridge not the Rosebud Sioux Tribe about who still eats puppies or lines up faster on commodity day; or, my Hutterite friends the Hofers who joke that Deckers in the other colony apparently get up and start working until ten in the morning. Of course, the jokes can become racist. But the point is God doesn’t ask us to renounce our race. There is a revelation of his glory in our diversity. Scripturally I can make a case that there are destinies for nations, divine callings and redemptive gifts for nations, even angels/demons with bordered geo-political assignments.

As I understand tribe, it’s beyond people group. Gen. 49, the prophecies about the tribes at the end of the age reveal God’s intention was for them to become self-governing nations. The promise of God is a nation and a company of nations. At Pentecost, all the national identities were represented and went home filled with the Spirit to reach the people within their national borders. All the flavours and families (that become nations) are part of his created beauty and diversity. It’s okay to have pride in who you are, and stand up for it, and protect it. Doesn’t Acts 17:26 tell us God is the one behind the border boundaries of nations? And it would appear he wants us to respect them… “cursed is the one who moves his neighbours boundary stone” (Deut 27:17.)

Eschatologically, the day is coming when every tongue and TRIBE will bow before Him. Tribal and national identity isn’t anti-Christian. In fact, there is greater anti-christ suspicion in globalism as the world seeks to unite but not around the Lordship of Christ, but rather against the Lordship of Christ. Of course we are all one human family, but these texts on tearing down the dividing wall are not about one humanity under globalism. Only the Gospel transcends the national animosities and brings reconciliation. Globalism doesn’t tolerate Christianity, we have to repudiate the exclusiveness of the Gospel to belong.

Of course, nationalism can become idolatry. But celebrating and protecting your Tribe isn’t idolatry.

[Reposted here from my Facebook page.]

And this NYT article about it all coming down to two tribes: nationalists and globalists.

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FROM THE DESK OF STEVE HICKEY

Yep, I do miss serving in Pierre– the people, the issues and the process. I’m still following the issues in our state closely and trying to stay as connected as I can. I offer the following to the new legislators who were elected in November. I’d welcome additions to my list. (My list has grown from a list former legislator and present lobbyist Matt McCaulley gave me a few weeks before my first term) ….

ON BECOMING A GOOD LEGISLATOR

  1. Morning prayer is more important than any other meeting of the day. Every day you’ll need a chill pill and morning prayer is just that. A few early, quiet moments with a passage of Scripture and a prayer will centre and focus you for the day, fill you for the day with the graces you’ll need that day, and keep you mindful of, humble before, and dependant on the One who entrusted you to govern in His stead. Remember, Solomon’s prayer his first day in office was for wisdom, not power or wealth.
  2. “Out do one another in showing honour” (Romans 12:10). When Rep. David Lust was Republican House Majority Leader he set this passage before the Caucus as the Scripture to guide our entire Session. Memorise it.
  3. Remember the block of wood. Your first day in office it is like you’ve been handed a block of wood. Each time you go back on your word, take the low road or a cheap shot, bend rules, treat people poorly… a shaving or chunk is cut away from your block. Some have left Pierre with only a toothpick remaining. Try to end your term with your block of wood in original condition.
  4. Have principles and try to vote consistently on those principles.
  5. Try not to take anything personally and don’t get personal in opposing others. Never question the motives of others and be careful making any assumptions about people.
  6. If you are a jerk on their bill, they won’t be friendly later with yours. It’s human nature. You will need everyone else there at some point or another. Remember this.
  7. Try to listen, understand and appreciate – the other view, the other person and other factors and dynamics at play.
  8. Stopping a bad bill or repealing a bad law is as important as passing a good one. Our law books are fat enough.
  9. Be careful co-sponsoring. Don’t be quick to sign on to a bill as for various reasons you may regret it later.
  10. Colleagues and lobbyists will try to nail down their vote count. Be careful in promising to vote a certain way unless there is no doubt your mind won’t change. Lobbyists talk among themselves about the legislators who are flippers and who can only be counted on to vote the way of the last lobbyist who spoke to them.
  11. Avoid signing pledges in the off season for how you will or won’t vote on issues. In doing so, you are in effect committing yourself to vote for or against bills you haven’t read yet or that haven’t even been written yet. For example; every “repeal Obamacare bill” isn’t strategically the best way forward or carefully drafted. You don’t want to be in a position to vote for a bad bill or the wrong bill to accomplish something.
  12. Avoid bills that seek to solve problems we don’t really have. Avoid reactive legislation– i.e. when something happens nationally and a flurry of bills are drafted in the states.
  13. Blogs and media- yes participate, but have a blind eye and deaf ear to what is said about you.
  14. Cracker Barrel’s – attend and engage.
  15. Alcohol and food in moderation. Course joking, flirting and gossip are beneath you.
  16. Interest group receptions – go to as many as possible and get to know the issues and the people.
  17. In your first year find, or ask for, one relatively easy bill to prime sponsor to help you learn the process.
  18. Remember you don’t report to the Second Floor.
  19. Make sure the juice is worth the squeeze.
  20. Be aware of being overheard or leaving things visibly on your desk.
  21. Don’t speak on every bill or people will soon roll their eyes each time you stand up to speak. As they say, keep your powder dry. Pick your battles. Be like E.F. Hutton, the one who brings the hush over the room when you stand to speak because you’ve earned respect for what you say and how you say it.
  22. Personally answer every email that comes from your legislative district. It’s okay to read and not reply to the others; though having a prepared short paragraph on heavy public feedback bill/vote to cut and paste as a reply for the rest is worth the effort.
  23. Publish your vote rationales.
  24. Return media calls.
  25. Breath mints. Hand sanitiser. The “Capital Crud” hits every year as people from every corner of the state bring their head colds with them as they come to champion their cause and shake your hand.
  26. Baby steps. Be strategic with legislation. Ten pro-life bills in a session may work against the pro-life cause.
  27. Reject poorly drafted bills even if you agree with what they are trying to accomplish. (Not every gun bill is a good gun bill.)
  28. Spend the off season studying issues and winning support for a bill among the stakeholders. Don’t surprise stakeholders with your dropped bill.
  29. Education by legislation is generally not a good thing. However, changing minds and turning the tide sometimes take multiple tries and multiple years and all is not lost in the years your bills die an early death.
  30. Smile and laugh, greet and be friendly even toward the lowliest people walking around or working around the Capital. Think of ways to remember and serve them.
  31. Reach across the aisle, especially if you are a member of the supermajority. Remember that the public is turned off by hyper-partisanship.
  32. Distance yourself from those who conspire.
  33. Distance yourself from those who are indifferent and hostile toward natives in our state.

We are coming up here on the second Advent season in a lot of years where I’m not in the pulpit. I remember after preaching about a dozen years of Advent/Christmas messages feeling the well was a bit dry. How many more ways can the story be told, afresh? Maybe there are pastors out there who will benefit from 21 of the Advent message series I preached over the years. Maybe God will again touch something here with inspiration for your pulpit work this season.

Are You Expecting? 1994

Tangled in the Tinsel 1995

Celebrate the Gift 1996

All I Want For Christmas 1997

It’s A Wonderful Life 1998

A Time For Joy 1999

All Is Calm 2000

God of Wonders 2001

Dark Streets Shineth 2002

Adoration 2003

Everlasting Joy vs. Xmas Cheer 2004

Narnia/ Always Winter, Never Christmas 2005

Hopes and Fears 2006

Wish List 2007

Desire of Nations 2008

Foretold 2009

Incarnate 2010

Expecting 2011

Happy Holiness 2012

Stump of Jesse 2013

Holy Days 2014

Each series was 3-5 messages, usually four plus a message for Christmas Eve. Here’s a link to an excel spreadsheet which will give individual message titles and scripture texts for each message in the series. I have manuscripts for each also, I think, if you’d want a peek at any of them – borrow freely from anything I have. For most of them we have artwork also, but you’d have to figure out how to crop out our church name.

Here’s an example of how I promoted a series and laid it out:

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Here are some of the big ideas which are behind this series FORETOLD: A Prophetic Christmas

  • People today are hungry for prophetic insight
  • God does nothing without first revealing it to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7)
  • Prophets foretold Jesus’ first coming with specifics and detail
  • Many missed Jesus’ first coming in part because they were prophetically-challenged.
  • Jesus’ Second Coming is foretold and therefore we need to immerse ourselves in the prophetic revelation of his Second Coming or we’ll miss that too.
  • Last weeks message: Is There a Star to Follow?, Genesis 49:10
  • This weeks message: The Due Date on Advent’s Calendar, Daniel 9:20-27

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Is trophy hunting okay for a Christian?

No.

For starters I’ll share my journey as it relates to the ethics of killing anything. Since my dad was killed violently and then watching my mom go painfully slow, and after countless death notifications with the police department and s many hard funeral in my decades as a pastor, and considering my lung disease and facing my mortality, and studying the senseless loss of innocent life in all our various war-of-the-day, my view on killing changed. It was fuelled also by a desire to take the non-violence of the Sermon on the Mount serious – didn’t figure Jesus was offering it as a suggestion, or optional for extra credit.

Over time I lost a desire to kill anything. So I started to push back against violence in society where ever I could – fighting cage fighting in the legislature, and as many know I entirely changed my mind on the death penalty and came to believe we ought to teach our kids it’s never okay to kill. It will increasingly become a topic I comment on how this whole red-state, red-blood, red-meat, Cross yourself and pile’em high, ammo and Bibles thing in our churches really is so unChristlike. God comes to the aid of those who are weak in battle not those who trust in their chariots and horses.

These days I marvel at animal beauty and diversity and enjoy their personalities and all that prompts me to turn to the Creator of Life in gratitude and worship. Jesus said look at the birds because they will reveal something about God to you. He did not say shoot the birds. My increasing love for life in its most vulnerable forms changed my view of hunting too. I’m not against responsible hunting for you or others, just saying that personally, I’m done with it. But I have come out strongly against safari hunting and trophy hunting as anything ethically justifiable for a Christian.

Deuteronomy 22:6 revealed to me the concern God has for animals: “If you come across a bird nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on her young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young…. so that it may go well with you and you may live a long life.”

I began to note the capacity in animals to respond to God… “Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths… [Praise the Lord] wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds…” Psalm 148:7, 10.

Small creatures and flying birds… like fox and pheasants? Note to self; that text is not one to pull out if asked again to give the breakfast devotional at the Fellowship of Christian Sportsman’s Pheasant Hunt.

A book also shifted my thinking on animal cruelty and animal misery and abuse in modern agriculture. It’s not some liberal PETA book. It was written by a Sarah Palin speechwriter. Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals and the Call to Mercy, Matthew Scully states: “Go to the largest livestock operation, search out the darkest and tiniest stall or pen, single out the filthiest, most forlorn little lamb or pig or calf, and that is one of God’s creatures you’re looking at, morally indistinguishable from your beloved Fluffy or Frisky.”

A longing in me to see God’s kingdom come on earth drew me to the passages that describe that time to come when we aren’t at odds with the animal world. I figure, why wait till then?? I’d think animals didn’t run away when Jesus walked by, shouldn’t they recognize Him in us when we walk by?…. “And in that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground; and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them lie down in safety. And I will betroth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving kindness, and in mercies.” Hosea 2:18-19

In his extensive Dogmatics on The Doctrine of Creation, Karl Barth reminded us God the Creator did not originally intend for animals to be our food; “Whether or not we find it practical or desirable, the diet assigned to men and beasts by God the Creator is vegetarian. This makes it clear that the supremacy given to man over animals is not one of life and death. Man does not enjoy any capital jurisdiction.”

Yes, that changed after the Flood, even after the Flood when killing animals for sacrifice and food was permitted, Barth contends “the prohibition of homicide and eating the blood of animals will be a reminder that the life of another being does not belong to other living beings but to God alone.” For Barth, “the introduction of capital jurisdiction between creature and creature, will not in any sense signify a kind of divine submission to creaturely degeneration.” In regards to the subsequent legitimisation of animal sacrifice, Barth says God now accepts “the surrender of the life of the animal for that of man” as “a substitutionary sign” in the “reconciliation thereby signified.”

David Clough writes: “…human beings may use their superfluity for food but should not wilfully destroy them; in relation to other animals, Barth says they can be killed only as a matter of necessity, and then as a sacrificial act with gratitude and repentance. In a modern context where few humans need to kill other creatures for food, this is a radical ethical stance.”

The reason I have all this handy is I have written on my love and regard for Animals in an essay elsewhere. Here are the opening lines of that essay….

Meet Gordon Howie. A visit to his United States Senate campaign website and you would first notice his campaign bumper sticker slogan; God, Guns & Gordon. Click on the tab for videos and up comes a god tube . com link to his video: “Take a World Hunting Tour With Gordon Howie.” The six and a half minute clip shows dozens of still photos of Gordon all over the world holding rifles or his bow, standing or kneeling, but always smiling next to the corpse of every conceivable animal one can legally shoot with a gun or a bow; deer, fox, coyote, rabbit, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, antelope, sables and roans, gazelles and African dik-diks, spiral-horned kudo, a half a dozen different bears, leopards, mountain lions, moose, plains buffalo, zebra, and various sub-Saharan wild boars.

An additional feature in the video is the background music of Gordon singing Christian country music songs, recording being another one of his pastimes, actually one of his ministries. The photos advance every three seconds and there are enough hunting pictures to require the entire audio of three of Gordon’s songs. While he sings “I’m going home to be with Jesus” the viewer sees dozens of animals who Gordon recently sent on ahead of him. It is not clear what putting a video compilation of decades of safari hunts on a campaign website is supposed to communicate about a political candidates’ philosophy of governance except perhaps it does communicate something of his understanding, or misunderstanding, of the dominion mandate of Genesis one.

Here is that video to which I’m referring:  Take a World Hunting Tour With Gordon Howie

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If I can’t make America great by living the way of Christ, then I want no part in that greatness. And I don’t think God does either.” We should all shout a hearty AMEN! to this comment from Pastor Chris Gilmore on the Huff Post blog.

There is a time for everything under the sun, including a time for national humility. I’m afraid, this is that time.

Even so, enough with the insinuations of a rising fascism because Donald Trump wants to Make America Great Again. There is nothing wrong with that aspiration. The path to greatness is what is important to scrutinise, not the ambition itself. Living on this side of the pond there is little toleration for any sense of American greatness. Certainly I understand but usually it smacks of some ingratitude to me. America has been generous in internationally-unparalleled ways and paid dearly for freedoms people enjoy all over the globe. And yes, sadly America has fallen so so so far from her height and she is dead wrong if she thinks greatness has anything to do with great military strength. But my point is patriotism and national pride don’t always equal fascism. I enjoy Scottish national pride, and Irish pride, and Greek national pride, and the pride of wherever else I am. My family has wonderful memories of sitting late at night with friends from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe laughing at their jokes about how much better they are than the Oglala Sioux Tribe on Pine Ridge. National identity and pride aren’t necessarily bad things.

No, we shouldn’t baptise patriotism and replace the cross with the flag. However if the church is to be a House of Prayer for Nations then carrying nations to the altar for mercy and blessing is what we are called to do. Really, it is no different than the high priest of Israel having twelve precious stones representing each tribe on his breastplate as he goes into the Holy of Holies.

When I read the passages of the Bible that speak of all nations bending their knee before the Lordship of Christ I don’t see anything that would indicate they must first give up their national identity, calling and culture. Like the Twelve Tribes that made camp each under their individual banners around the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, national identity is part of God’s beautiful diversity in the earth. Each nation has redemptive gifts, purposes and callings.

The promise to Abraham was national greatness: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.”  (Gen. 12:2) And the promise wasn’t just for one nation; from Abraham’s great nation would come a company of great nations (Gen. 17:5-6; 35:11). Where it gets really fascinating is in Genesis 49 where Jacob blesses his twelve sons and speaks prophetically about who they will become as great nations at the time of the end of the age (Gen. 49:1ff).

Through migrations over four thousand years these blood descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are now scattered all over the earth– God even promised their sons would sit on the thrones of nations, would possess the gates of their enemies –both things identifiable even into the modern age. God’s promises to the descendants of David came true. They did and still do sit on the thrones of nations and historically they have and still do control the main geo-political gates of the world; Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, Singapore, and Hong Kong to name a few.

I’m sitting in Aberdeen, Scotland as I write this only 55 miles north of Arbroath. In the fifteenth century, Mary Queen of Scots traced her royal lineage back to King David and this was made evident in the Scottish Declaration of Independence, also called the Declaration of Arbroath, which expressly states:

Most Holy Father and Lord, we know and from the chronicles and books of the ancients we find that… the Scots… journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long time in Spain… Thence they came, twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea, to their home in the west where they live today… [The Scottish Declaration of Independence reprinted in The Declaration of Arbroath, The National Trust for Scotland, 1970.]

It is apparent that five centuries ago the Scots considered themselves blood descendants of Abraham and were aware of the specific migration routes that brought them to their new homeland. Elsewhere I’ve written on how we have lost any awareness who we really are; just like Hosea 1:10 said would happen. More on that from me here: I call it Recognition Theology. Yep, I made up that term and others are now using it.

With regard to America, of particular interest is to look carefully at where the people of Joseph ended up (vs. 22-26). Later Joseph’s blessing was divided between Ephraim and Manassah, making a 13th tribe, if you will. The prophetic fulfilment and end time placement of the nations in Genesis 49 is one of the most exciting Bible’s studies one can do. You’ll never look at world news the same.

Whether or not any of that is agreeable to you, or even makes sense, at least get the point of this post which is to say God blesses nations to be a great blessing. Greatness should be an aspiration because greatness is God’s intention for nations that call on his name. The opposite of greatness is mediocrity or worse. The path to greatness is humility and servanthood.

For posterity sake I’ll repost some fragments of my recent Facebook rants…

If Gideon could get by with a ridiculously smaller army, maybe America can too? God chooses the weak things to confound the wise. My “fiscally conservative” colleagues in government all seem hell bent to borrow and spend LIBERALly when it comes to Defence spending (basically welfare for the Defence contractors). Let’s cut our army in half, and double the salary/benefits of every solider and cancel every college debt for the youth of America – it’s just digital-from-thin-air-money anyway. Heard a great quote yesterday from Kim Fabricus: “The Sermon on the Mount– ain’t for extra credit.” Either His ways are indeed higher than our ways or they are not. Maybe we should quit questioning His judgment and just do what He says. Some trust in chariots, some in horses but we apparently trust in our military-industrial complex.

Why don’t my gun control friends join me in renouncing Obama’s illegal gift of guns to Mexican drug cartels that soon kill US border agents (fast and furious) and also remind the world that Obama and every recent US administration before him spends millions arming those who want to kill us and our friends around the world. If you are really for gun control, why don’t you care about the guns that are really killing thousands and thousands of people all over the world, and at home? The vote in the Senate yesterday was a reactionary feel good bill that is a complete swing and a miss at solving any really problems.

The United States is now an oligarchy. “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes it’s laws” — Mayer Amschel Bauer Rothschild. Did they ever count those extra 2 million votes in the California primary? I think Sanders won fair and square. I also don’t think elections matter any more nor do I have any confidence that votes are honestly tallied and the winner really wins. I care more about who is in boardrooms and war rooms and what is really going on in there than I do about bathrooms and who and what may be going on in there. Good grief. Enough with our selective moral outrage – guns are the problem– no, gays are! I’m pretty sure we Christians don’t resemble Jesus all that much. Bombs away! Jesus loves you.

It is outrageous to me that media networks in the US can blacklist a decorated presidential detail secret service agent who protected the Clinton’s (but now thinks America needs to know the character of the Clintons) and also blacklist a special forces vet who defended an abandoned (by Hillary) US Ambassador in Benghazi. So much for free speech and free elections and for the fourth estate. One reason Trump is so popular is he bypasses these things which in the past have given us the people they want us to vote for – money and the media. No one alive has more baggage than Hillary Clinton. Now Wall Street gives Clinton an ultimatum; if you choose Elizabeth Warren for VP we will cut off your cash. Of course, Warren is a sworn enemy of the banks and Hillary is an ally.

My world for the next few months is all things Tolstoy. I’m onto an important linkage between Tolstoy and Bonhoeffer but I’ll not spell all that out here. Hopefully some of my findings will make their way into a book I’m writing called: Tolstoy’s Novel Idea: Obey The Sermon on the Mount.

Obey the Sermon on the Mount. What a novel idea, huh?

Here’s a crash course to give the basics needed to explain this fascinating Fresco which is my interest in this post.

Leo Tolstoy in Hell. Fresco, 1883. In the lower tier at the far right of this fresco (originally in the church at the village of Tazovo in the Kursk Province), Tolstoy is shown embraced by Satan who received him in hell while the holy prelates and apostles of Orthodoxy gave blessing to the act. The Fresco was removed at Lenin’s special order during the Bolshevik crusade against religion in the early years of the Soviet regime. The fresco was later transferred to the Museum for the History of Religion and Atheism of the Soviet Union in Moscow.

Leo Tolstoy in Hell. Fresco, 1883. In the lower tier at the far right of this fresco (originally in the church at the village of Tazovo in the Kursk Province), Tolstoy is shown embraced by Satan who received him in hell while the holy prelates and apostles of Orthodoxy gave blessing to the act. The Fresco was removed at Lenin’s special order during the Bolshevik crusade against religion in the early years of the Soviet regime. The fresco was later transferred to the Museum for the History of Religion and Atheism of the Soviet Union in Moscow.

Tolstoy was a famous and successful nineteenth century Russian novelist who wrote what is considered the greatest novel ever written, War & Peace. That would be what I’m calling First Tolstoy – his literary writings. Second Tolstoy is my designation for the second half of his prolific life– his religious writings; mostly a call to obey the Sermon on the Mount. He was anything but orthodox and rejected significant dogma we’d think is orthodox, and he was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church. It’s more complicated than that but simply put, he believed the Church had become a great hindrance to the Gospel and was full of superstition, paganism and idolatry. Tolstoy was a reformer who had no interest to reform the Church. The Church was too far gone. Best to go back to the plain meaning of the teachings of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount.

Tolstoy died in 1910. However this Fresco was sanctioned (27 years earlier) by the Orthodox Church in 1883, the year Tolstoy published his first book on obeying the Sermon on the Mount (My Religion – What I Believe).

Gotta love the Church /S.

Tolstoy was deemed a “madman.” If Tolstoy was mad for his adherence to Jesus’ teaching, what would that make Jesus? What a paradox that literal obedience to the teaching of Christ is still considered crazy radical even in Christian circles today.

 

 

Stanley Hauerwas and Steve Hickey

Stanley Hauerwas and Steve Hickey

On March 11, 2016, here at the University of Aberdeen, I asked Stanley Hauerwas the question: What should turn the other cheek mean to a Christian President the morning after September 11? What follows is a verbatim transcript of my recording of his answer. Next week I will be publishing an essay entitled: Love as a Foreign Policy: Hauerwas, Elshtain and a Christ-like Response to September 11th. Part of Hauerwas’ comment below appears in my essay but I’m posting his entire statement here so it is out there for others to use. ______________________________________

Steve Hickey: What should turn the other cheek mean to a Christian President the morning after a September 11?

Stanley Hauerwas: And my answer is, how does a Christian ever get elected President of the United States? I mean I would assume that they would have been interrogated about what it means to turn the other cheek before they ever got to be president. And that would have made them– not ready candidates to be understood as people who would be ready to do anything to defend the American people. So the question itself already presupposes a Constantinian form of Christianity that I do not represent.

In terms of September 11, America is a country whose politics is fundamentally determined by September 11th. When September 11th occurred I said “this is the next fifty years and maybe longer than that” because Americans are determined to find a way to get out of life alive. And we think that if we have the strongest military that will be able to provide that result. And of course, it’s just bullshit.

And this would be kind of a Niebuhrian point…. One of the tensions within the American society is the disconnect between the morality necessary to sustain a serious military and the ethos of the American people. What was the fundamental thing that George Bush said a day after September 11?… what is the moral response of the American people to September 11th? “[Go out and] Shop.” So now you have the American military, which is an honour society, defending a social order whose deepest moral commitment is shopping. How do you do that?

And so those are the deeper questions I think that occur about how Christianity relates to American politics. Reinhold Niebuhr, his thought was committed to trying to figure out what it would look like if as a matter of fact America had a Christian Secretary of State and the primary implication is they have to be planning out how to kill as few as possible and that means you need to be smart in terms of how you act out of American self-interests. Niebuhr never called into question whether a Christian could be a Secretary of State. He wanted that.

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