Thursday, July 27, 2006

War, What Is It Good For...

...Absolutely nothin'.

Read this article posted to Christianity Today by Riad Kassis, the executive director of the Johann Ludwig Schneller School in West Bekaa, Lebanon. It will break you heart.

How should I respond to my seven-year-old daughter when she is terrified by the news and images of destruction in my country? The bombing of bridges we recently traveled upon, the demolition of our only airport, where my daughter was happily running around just a few weeks ago. What should I say to her when a house was destroyed and 11 people in it killed in one air strike? What should I say to her when a two-year-old child was literally cut in half in a vicious air strike?

I was overwhelmingly silent! But I had to say something to my anxious daughter. I told her not to worry much, that the attacks will only last for a matter of days. As I talked to her, I was thinking of the upcoming meeting of U.N. Security Council. I was so optimistic that the council would put an end to this unequal and disproportionate conflict. I thought of the great nations that are members of the council, with their rich cultural heritages of human achievement and concern for humanity.

So I was completely shocked, greatly saddened, and disappointed when the Council took no stand! Not even a symbolic resolution to condemn the killing of innocents in Lebanon was contemplated. We were told that the council needed days to think the matter over! I wonder what kind of thinking is required when a power station is destroyed, when a civilian car is bombed on its way to a safe place, and when terrified infants and children cry all night as they listen to the bombing of the neighborhood. I wonder whether these members have experienced conflict in tragedies in the Balkans, Sudan, Rwanda, and elsewhere.

I am not much interested in politics, but I am perplexed by the silence of the human conscience. Yet I still hope that the human conscience will be awakened someday. I am encouraged by the ability of the worldwide Christian church to speak about peace and to run seminars on conflict resolution, but disappointed with its ineffectiveness to work for a real and just peace, particularly in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the same time, I am encouraged to know that many Christian sisters and brothers are concerned for our situation in Lebanon. They are praying and encouraging us, in spite of their helplessness to influence their governments.

We live in West Bekaa, Lebanon, and for the last 16 years we have been involved in peace and tolerance education as we work with hundreds of students and families who belong to various religious backgrounds. Now we experience again the meaning of hatred and war. As I write these words, I hear Israeli jet fighters bombing a nearby bridge and several roads, killing several civilians who happened to be nearby. We are nearly isolated, as roads to other cities and towns are destroyed. Our fear is that in just a few days, food, fuel, medicines, and other needed items will become scarce as the situation worsens and the sea, land, and air blockade continues.

What should I say to my daughter? "My daughter let us keep praying not just for peace, but for the awakening of the human conscience." Would you please join me in such a prayer?

Television images of the war don't tell the real story of what is happening to innocent civilians as the bombs rain down on them. When you see the video game-like images on TV tonight, think of the non-participants who are suffering the consequences of being caught in the middle of this conflict and say a prayer for them.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...In fact, violence merely increases hate...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." - Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Book Review: The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Let me throw a few stats at you...

The percentage of born-again Christians who have experienced divorce is the same as non-Christians. 90% of divorced born-again folk divorced after they accepted Christ.

In a 2002 study, it was discovered that only 6% of born-again adults tithe.

26% of traditional evangelicals do not think premarital sex is wrong. 13% say it is okay for married persons to have sex with someone other than one's spouse.

17% of evangelicals would object to having black neighbours move in next door.

Only 9% of born-again adults and 2% of born-again teenagers have a biblical worldview.

These situations and more are addressed in Ronald Sider's book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Why is it that we see so little life change amongst those who consider themselves "born-again" Christians? For me, growing up, being "separate from the world" meant don't smoke, don't chew, don't go with girls that do. And while I believed (and still believe) that most of our evangelical rules have very little to do with authentic Biblical faith, the issues above represent blatant disobedience to scriptural directives.

Have we really embraced what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace? Sider believes we have done exactly that, and have turned salvation into a no-lose insurance policy against hell. Just say the sinners prayer and you'll be forgiven forever and there will be no other expectations put on you - we have promoted a "costless faith" as George Barna puts it. In Sider's words, "Salvation becomes, not a life-transforming experience that reorients every corner of life, but a one-way ticket to heaven, and one can live like hell until one gets there."

Sider goes on to consider the concept of the "Kingdom of God" and how Jesus' teaching on the kingdom was far more holistic than our simple get out of hell free card. A concept that Brian McLaren also addresses in The Secret Message of Jesus.

Sider concludes the book by looking at some of the positives that offer a ray of hope for the future. While I appreciate his attempt to end the book on a positive note, I'm afraid the strength of Sider's argument doesn't leave me with a lot of hope for change any time soon.

Also posted to

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Blogging Blues

It's been very spotty for me lately in terms of keeping this site updated, a problem I'll blame on my new Mac. Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE my new computer - 5 Stars all the way - but it seems that the Blogger software is unable to properly run on a Mac at this time. So, for now I'll have to post from my work computer. Not a problem, as long as I bring it home at night, which, being a bus rider over the summer is a bit of a drag. I'll do my best though so stay tuned...many updates to come...