Archive for the Religion and Violence Category

July 2, 2015 : A Sad Day for the Episcopal Church

DSC_4733On July 3 I awakened and began my  perusal of my email, often beginning with the daily meditation from Fr.Richard Rohr, and the internet blogs and newspapers that I read daily. I had read, with great satisfaction, that the United Church of Christ had voted in a landslide to approve divestment and boycotts targeting  Israeli occupation-complicit businesses. I really didn’t expect my Episcopal Church to follow a similar path in a vote at their general convention. For some reason I turned to Facebook and saw a post by the former rector of my home church in Ft.Wayne, now  Bishop of Hawaii, Robert  Fitzpatrick. He referred to this story by the Episcopal News Service, Bishops overwhelmingly oppose divestment in Israel, Palestine

and said this:

I think the key item to note in the article is: “Archbishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem has urged the Episcopal Church not to adopt a policy that would make it more difficult for him to manage his congregations and the more than 30 social service institutions throughout Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian Territories. Those institutions include schools, hospitals, clinics and centers for people with disabilities and serve people of all faiths.” There was grave concern about the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and money is included in the budget for investment in support of Palestinians.

I disagree with Bishop Fitzpatrick regarding the “key’ to the article being Archbishop Dawani’s objection to BDS.  Archbishop Dawani must comply with the increasingly racist Netanyahu government or risk severe consequences.From a Haaretz article in September 2011:

Israeli authorities have granted a residency permit to Jerusalem’s Anglican bishop, Palestinian Suheil Dawani, after months of legal wrangling, the clergyman said in a message to his supporters on Tuesday.

Dawani was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Jerusalem in 2007 and as a non-Israeli is required by Israeli authorities to obtain a temporary residence permit. This was granted in 2008 and 2009, but he was turned down in 2010.

“It is with great pleasure, and with God’s help, that I and my family have received our ‘Residency Permits’,” Dawani said in his e-mail message to followers .

Oh, the pathetic irony here. Archbishop Dawani, a Palestinian born in Nablus in the West Bank,  who lives with his family in East Jerusalem which is increasingly being cleansed of its Palestinian residents by Jewish settlers, is being oppressed by the increasingly racist occupying Israeli government under Benjamin Netanyahu . But his  Episcopal 
Church doesn’t dare support non-violent BDS against the human rights abuses of the State of Israel against Palestinians, a tactic that led to the fall of South African  Apartheid and Jim Crow in the U.S., for fear of further oppressive reprisals against Archbishop Dawani and his ministry. Huh?

Continue reading July 2, 2015 : A Sad Day for the Episcopal Church

Summer and the Beaches of Gaza and Sleeping Bear Bay

DSC_8301 - Version 2It has been a wonderful summer for my family. We have spent time together in Italy/ Tuscany and here Up North in beautiful Glen Arbor, Michigan on the blue waters of Lake Michigan. My last blog post was on June 15 when I spoke on the never ending Israel/Palestine conflict and particularly the plight of Daoud Nassar. I had mentioned in that post the recent kidnapping of three Israeli settler teens on June 12. The Netanyahu government immediately blamed Hamas for the incident, and used it as an opportunity to unleash the IDF , called ” Operation Brother’s Keeper “, on the West Bank. They entered and often destroyed over one thousand Palestinian homes and arrested over 500 Palestinians under the pretext of rescuing the teens. The poor grieving families of the teens were left to hope that their sons were alive and could be saved. When it was announced that their murdered bodies were found on June 30, I was in Italy with my family. I was sad and outraged when I heard the news. It turns out  that later we learned that Netanyahu and the Israeli government knew almost immediately after the kidnapping that the boys were almost certainly dead. A Palestinian teen was subsequently murdered by enraged Israelis, burned alive as a retaliatory, vengeance killing. The Israeli  public was inflamed, further blame was directed at Hamas, even though they denied involvement.[ A rogue Hamas cell in the West Bank is suspected as the culprits, not Hamas leadership in Gaza.]  On June 11 Israeli airstrikes into Gaza had  killed one Gazan and injured two others, one a child. Four weeks prior to that IDF soldiers shot and killed two Palestinian teenagers.So after weeks of “Operation Brother’s Keeper”, Hamas began launching rockets  from Gaza into Israel  and on July 7, 2014, the  brutal “Operation Protective Edge” was unleashed on Gaza by the Netanyahu government. So with the  ongoing siege of Gaza by Israel since 2007 as a response to the democratic election of Hamas, referred to by Israel as “keeping Gaza on a diet”, another brutal Israeli assault  on Gaza commenced. This is called by Israeli officials as a necessary and periodic “mowing the grass in Gaza.”

As of this date, this latest lawn mowing has resulted in the killing of  over 1,900 Gazans,  over 80% of them civilians, more than 400 children killed.  Gaza itself is devastated , again. Recently four Gazan kids were killed by an  Israeli air strike as they played soccer on the beach. I have been reading extensively on this ongoing tragedy of brutal, oppressive,colonial occupation of Gaza and the West Bank by Israel and will post some articles in the upcoming days.


Israeli teens murderedgaza dead child on beachPalestinian teen murderedGAZA_DEAD_KIDS1_734904bGazan boys on the beach reflection

But as a father of three sons and grandfather of two young boys, I have my own personal thoughts,and emotions ,and questions. The sadness of this latest brutal attack of Gaza first hit me last Wednesday , as I was attending a small outdoor concert with my wife and friends in Glen Arbor: a beautiful ,cool , summer night under a cloudless sky. In front of me, sitting there in our lawn chairs as an Irish band of six young ladies entertained us , I observed a father  who just “lit up” when his teenaged daughter and her friend arrived. His love  and his shear delight for her  was so evident. And in front of him a father held his 5 year old son in his lap. And the band started playing a Stephen Foster song, that I had only heard sung by my favorite, Emilou Harris:”Hard Times , Come Again No More.” It’s first stanza and chorus is as follows:

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor.
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears,
Oh, hard times, come again no more

‘Tis the song, the sigh of the weary.
Hard times, hard times, come again no more.
Many days you have lingered all around my door.
Oh, hard times, come again no more.

Continue reading Summer and the Beaches of Gaza and Sleeping Bear Bay

Daoud Nassar,The Beatitudes, Absurd Prayers, and Missed Opportunities

DSC_7363 - Version 2I’ve been thinking about Daoud Nassar quite a lot this past week. On Wednesday my wife Janie and I , along with another couple , attended a Centering Prayer session at Grace Episcopal Church in Traverse City, Michigan. After contemplating in silence for 25 minutes, a participant read the following bible passage three times.

Matthew 5:1-12

The Beatitudes

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Land

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Tears filled my eyes as I thought of Daoud Nassar, especially with the verse: “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the Land” (in the New American version, not “inherit the earth” ).

As I listened each time these verses were read I thought again how Daoud exemplifies Jesus’ “Kingdom Manifesto ” so well. Even in light of his recent tragedy when 1500-2000 of his fruit bearing trees were destroyed in the dead of night by the Israeli Defense Force. (Please see the previous post on this blog for the story of this outrageous act of immoral aggression.)Daoud's destroyed olive farm

Daoud is humble, a peace maker whose motto is “We refuse to be enemies.” He is truly a lover and follower of Jesus. He has been relentlessly persecuted and attacked by the Israeli government and its illegal settlers.

And yet he is able to say,

But the suffering is not the end of the story but it can be seen as a path to achieve the goals and vision. Always we need to keep faith, hope and proper love. Those three words together are the foundation of our work here. So without faith, without hope, without love, nothing can be done.

Daoud was in Seattle when he learned of the destruction done to his trees and farm. As Mark Braverman heard him say that night at his presentation , Daoud wondered what the IDF bulldozer drivers would say to their kids when they were asked, “What did you do at work today , Daddy? Did you have a good day?” Continue reading Daoud Nassar,The Beatitudes, Absurd Prayers, and Missed Opportunities

Suffering, Daoud Nassar and How 2,000 Fruit Trees Threaten the State of Israel

Daoud "We reuse to be enemies"Last week at this time I was awakened by my wife from an oxycodone- induced stupor due to a middle of the night  attack of acute kidney stone pain as I attempted to pass the stone. ( I would pass this stone and a second stone a few days later after a few more episodes of acute renal colic and several more oxycodone pills ). My wife announced that there was tragic news: Daoud Nassar’s farm had been attacked by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and 1,500 -2,ooo mature fruit- bearing trees, soon to be harvested had been destroyed by armorized Caterpillar bulldozers, made in the U.S., paid for by our tax dollars. We received the news from Michael Spath, Executive Director of the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace (ICMEP). On a trip to Israel/Palestine in 2012 led by Michael , my wife Janie and I and our group visited Daoud Nassar’s farm ,Tent of Nations, and met with Daoud. I found this visit to Daoud’s farm was the highlight of the trip and his farm to be the holiest site in what is known as the Holy Land. Daoud is a Palestinian Christian who, while on a speaking tour to the U.S. in November 2012, stayed at our home. He is the best example , the epitome, of a true follower of Jesus : loving , gentle, faithful, forceful, committed to non-violence with a motto “We Refuse to Be Enemies”, hopeful in the face of relentless , violent, oppressive harassment by the State of Israel in their attempt to steal the land his family has owned since the early 1900’s. His story is told by his dear friend Mark Braverman in the introduction to Braverman’s book Fatal Embrace which you can read here  Mark has also become a friend and mentor to me. Mark is an American Jewish psychologist , raised on the Zionist narrative, who viewed the Israeli occupation of Palestine first hand in 2006 and has made it his life’s work to help end this oppressive, unjust , illegal Israeli occupation. I have heard Mark, who is himself a fervent follower of Rabbi Jesus, that he considers Daoud to be , for him, like Jesus.

Note: this a long blog, with many links.  Please see the embedded you tube video of Daoud at the very end, below the Jump.


Continue reading Suffering, Daoud Nassar and How 2,000 Fruit Trees Threaten the State of Israel

Holy Saturday: Liminal Space, Suffering ,and the Meaning of the Cross

DSC_6693 Today is Holy Saturday, the day after Jesus was crucified, which means he was tortured and executed by the empire of his time, the Romans. He was killed, executed as an insurrectionist because he was a threat to the domination system of his time, the Roman occupiers and their religious collaborators (Temple authorities).

As Fr. Richard Rohr states in his Lenten devotional, Holy Saturday is a “liminal  space”, which he defines as “a crucial in-between time—when everything actually happens and yet nothing happens and yet nothing appears to be happening. It is the waiting period when the movement is made, the transformation takes place. One cannot just jump from Friday to Sunday in this case, there must be Saturday!”

With a two day meeting this week  in Chicago for Kairos USA, followed by a flight to Denver yesterday to visit our son and daughter-in-law and dear friends, I have not posted anything for Good Friday. I have been thinking of the great themes of life and, indeed of the Gospel: dying and rising, the meaning of the cross, and in particular, suffering. I have been thinking and reading on the various atonement theories, rejecting the penal, payment ,substitutionary, wrath-of-God approach.

I would like to approach these subjects in this blog in the future. This spring , at this time of warmth, and new life and resurrection, is particularly significant to Janie and I this year. It has been a long , cold hard winter both physically, and spiritually and psychologically for us. I have had three major surgeries in the past 6 1/2 months complicated by two episodes of C.Diff colonic infections and the subsequent G.I. sequela: a cervical fusion and artificial disc, and two total knees two months apart. My body is deconditioned , my mind has been disturbed by anxiety and worry and fear over real and perceived complications and continued pain; much self-created, self-inflicted, contrived, un-necessary suffering  And yet, as Fr.Richard teaches, in life we will have suffering and it is necessary, what he calls “the necessary stumbling stone.” So I have been trying to figure out what I am to learn from this “necessary suffering.” I would like to explore this subject  in the future using   Fr. Rohr’s teaching. Please see this brilliant Rohr devotional:

Stumbling and Falling
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sooner or later, if you are on any classic “spiritual schedule,” some event, person, death, idea, or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower. Spiritually speaking, you will be, you must be, led to the edge of your own private resources. At that point, you will stumble over a necessary stumbling stone, as Isaiah calls it (Isaiah 8:14). You will and you must “lose” at something. This is the only way that Life-Fate-God-Grace-Mystery can get you to change, let go of your egocentric preoccupations, and go on the further and larger journey.

We must stumble and fall, I am sorry to say. We must be out of the driver’s seat for a while, or we will never learn how to give up control to the Real Guide. It is the necessary pattern. Until we are led to the limits of our present game plan, and find it to be insufficient, we will not search out or find the real source, the deep well, or the constantly flowing stream. Alcoholics Anonymous calls it the Higher Power. Jesus calls this Ultimate Source the “living water” at the bottom of the well (John 4:10-14).

The Gospel was able to accept that life is tragic, but then graciously added that we can survive and will even grow from this tragedy. This is the great turnaround! It all depends on whether we are willing to see down as up; or as Jung put it, that “where you stumble and fall, there you find pure gold.” Lady Julian of Norwich said it even more poetically: “First there is the fall, and then we recover from the fall. Both are the mercy of God!”

Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,
pp. 58, 65-68

Here are a few brilliant postings on the meaning of the cross and Good Friday meditations to follow:

Continue reading Holy Saturday: Liminal Space, Suffering ,and the Meaning of the Cross

Holy Monday: Jesus and the Second Provocative Public Protest

moneychangersScarsellinoMy Palm Sunday blog featured the work of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book The Last Week. They gave us the insight of two processions coming into Jerusalem that day: Jesus’ procession proclaiming the Kingdom of God and peace and the procession of Pontius Pilate emblematic of  Roman might, and power and occupation achieved by violence. Jesus’ ride down the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem was a deliberate, provocative, political demonstration against the ruling powers. His protest was against an oppressive, unjust domination system that was legitimized by the religious establishment in collaboration with the occupying Roman army. Borg and Crossan ask the profound questions: “The same question, the same alternative, faces those who would be faithful to Jesus today. Which procession are we in? Which procession to we want to be in?”

On Monday of Holy Week, Jesus enters the Temple in Jerusalem and performs another provocative act, often called the Purification of the Temple. In Mark 11:12-19 the story of Jesus “cleansing the Temple” is told. And in this passage Jesus quotes Jeremiah, saying that what was supposed to be a house of prayer has become “a den of robbers.”

Continue reading Holy Monday: Jesus and the Second Provocative Public Protest

Palm Sunday: A Tale of Two Processions

palm-sundayToday many churches celebrate Palm Sunday. Several years ago I read the book The Last Week by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. It tells the day by day account of the events of Holy Week through the Gospel of Mark. After many years of attending Palm Sunday services, this book had a profound affect on me. Jesus, again in his proper historical context, became more alive to me and made more sense to me. He became even more courageous to me.  Holy Week became much more meaningful to me. The book begins with Mark 11:1-11. The authors begin:

Two processions entered Jerusalem on a spring day in the year 30. One was a peasant procession, the other an imperial procession. From the east, Jesus rode a donkey down the Mount of Olives, cheered by his followers. Jesus was from the peasant village of Nazareth, his message was about the Kingdom of God, and his followers came from the peasant class…. On the opposite side of the city, from the west, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers. Jesus’ procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God; Pilate’s proclaimed the power of empire and also Roman imperial theology. [Which was that the Pax Romana is achieved by the power, glory, and violence of the empire that ruled the world.] The two processions embody the central conflict of the week that led to Jesus’ crucifixion.

Continue reading Palm Sunday: A Tale of Two Processions

“The Wrath of God Stuff Bothers Me…..”

angry cartoon godAs I noted in a previous blog, Brian McLaren spoke in Ft.Wayne, on March 20 sponsored by the  Indiana Center for Middle East Peace. He spoke about the Israel/Palestine conflict, Christian antisemitism and Religion and Violence and violent passages in sacred writings. Brian is very interested in mimetic theory as postulated by Rene Girard. Brian first introduced me to Girard through his blog and especially two books which touch on the subject, The Jesus Driven Life by Michael Hardin and Compassion or Apocalypse:A Comprehensible Guide to the Thought of Rene Girard by James Warren, which Brian highly recommends as a user-friendly book to better understand Girard’s work. I am about half way through both.

There has been much thought recently about the violence of God and the Penal, Substitutionary Atonement Theory or as Nadia Bolz-Weber calls it, “God as the Divine Child abuser who sent his little boy, and he only had one, to die for our sins, because God was so pissed-off and demanded payment for our misdeeds.” (My loose, but fairly accurate paraphrase both from hearing her speak in person on this and see Animate: Faith.) So about a week ago I wrote Brian an e-mail asking about a “Wrath of God “passage in Romans that was in the epistle reading for the 2nd Sunday after Brian spoke to us. My question and Brian’s answer through a guest posting by Michael Hardin follows here.

Continue reading “The Wrath of God Stuff Bothers Me…..”

The Kingdom of God

On March 19, 2014 Michael Spath, Executive Director of the Indiana Center for Middle East Peace (ICMEP) and I had the pleasure of picking up Brian McLaren, noted author, speaker, activist, former pastor, and follower of Jesus from the Columbus, Ohio airport to bring him to Ft.Wayne, Indiana to speak on behalf of ICMEP. Brian is one of my heroes: I have read most of his books. By following his blog, I have been introduced to so many new writers, musicians,  and concepts. (For example, I was introduced to the wonderful music and writing of Carrie Newcomer in the summer of 2011 on Brian’s blog. My wife arranged for Carrie to do a concert for my 60th birthday. We have now become friends. We helped sponsor Carrie and her husband, Robert Meitus for a trip to Israel/Palestine with Michael Spath in 2013. While there they performed at several venues including the Aida Refugee camp. They recently performed a benefit concert for ICMEP in Ft.Wayne.  And it all started because Brian’s blog). Brian’s writings have deepened my understanding of and appreciation for the bible, but especially, Jesus. As many others have testified, Brian and others have helped reveal a compassionate, loving, non-violent God and Jesus to me and a Christianity that makes sense, a Christianity that one can be a part of without checking one’s brain at the door. Brian spoke at a clergy/lay leader breakfast that we organized, mostly about theological matters  and then took questions. The penal substitutionary atonement theory was brought up quite promptly, as Brian said, “well before noon.” Later that night he spoke for the public program about Israel/ Palestine (you can check out his blog postings from January 2010 on his trip to Israel/Palestine here.) He spoke of violence of God passages that are present in all sacred writings. He stated, by the way, that there are far more violent passages in the Bible than in the Koran.

Continue reading The Kingdom of God