Why: counseling

Well, cat’s out of the bag now. I’m in counseling, folks. I’ve considered blogging about this, and about my experience in particular, but for now I think I want to just offer some basic thoughts on why counseling is a really good thing — even for Christians.

Time and Intentionality
There’s never enough time for all we need to get accomplished. Trust me, I know this on a very personal level. I’m a full time student, I work three part time jobs to make ends meet, I serve in a youth group, I’m dating someone and I manage a fairly decent social life. I think in our activity obsessed culture (which is a standard mark of our Protestant roots) we are often bereft of deep, authentic relationships. Please don’t misread this. I don’t mean to say that everyone in our culture is “fake” and putting on a show (though certainly true for many). It’s that we simply can’t manage to sit down and have coffee with someone for four hours to discuss our marriages, our struggles with our jobs and our victories that are coupled with defeat. There’s a struggle to find the ability to invest in each other, not because we don’t want to, but because we simply “can’t” make the time.* Our kids play sports, we have small group, Awanas, work parties, gym memberships, work that we bring home with us and — oh yeah– sleep which takes up half of our lifetime. But when we don’t have time for each other to be real, honest and raw, we need to find that elsewhere.

Sometimes, more intentionality can fill this vacancy. I plan my life about a month at a time — not because I like planning but because I have so much to get done and I want to preserve down time with God, with friends and with Ethan. We intentionally pursue certain people who we seek advice from and are honest with. Sometimes, however, this doesn’t seem feasible and one feels like they are drowning amidst obligations and shallow relationships that aren’t providing the ability to seek wisdom and discernment. It takes time to get to that point with someone and then time to maintain it. So, counseling can provide a place where those needs (for discernment, processing, correction, etc) are met. That has certainly been the case in my life.

Generations
Also problematic for finding someone to invest in you (and hopefully you investing in others) is that many of our churches are generationally segregated. Now, I’m going out on a limb here but I’d say this is not only a problem in churches via preference issues (music, clothing, etc) but is a standard issue across American culture where generations since the Boomers have decreasingly seen the importance of the wisdom of the elders. It’s something that needs to be combatted because there is a lack of wisdom for mentoring young folks if everyone is the same age! There’s no difference in life experience if everyone is on the same stage of life (young marrieds, new kids, teenage kids, etc).

I experienced the importance of having older folks in my life when Ethan and I recently snowshoed with a couple from our church who have kids older than the two of us. We took along their hunting dog and their little lap dog. Mathilda (lap dog) was slowing down about half way through so the other couple wrapped her up in a shirt and dropped her into the husband’s backpack with her head and two paws sticking out. Midway through the process, Cindy looked at me and said “this is what you do when you have kids, okay? Your life doesn’t stop. You adjust.” I need that. I need my married friends to wipe away the rose coloured glasses and assure me that arguments are normal, that marriage is compromise, that kids are cute but hard. Ethan and I are blessed to have many older couples around us who have been willing to take time out of their schedules and mentor us in a variety of ways (whether through snowshoeing or working on a house project with E). Unfortunately this isn’t always available to people in churches were the population is primarily made up of a single demographic. In this instance, I think counseling can again fill in a gap by providing wisdom both cerebral and hands on as people work through their issues (and this is especially true in marriages).

Spiritual Depth v Self Help
Finally, I think that as a Christian one ought to seek a Christian counselor. There’s this tendency in America to be obsessively oriented towards “self-help.” We can see this in our sermons, which are three points and commonly directed towards life change/behavioural modification. There’s a difference between self help and spiritual wisdom because self help, frankly, isn’t spiritual at all. It plays at the thought that one can change themselves to be better, healthier, more whole. While I believe one must cooperate with the Holy Spirit, I strongly believe that it is God who changes hearts. I think Christian counselors can make a huge difference here. They are trained to helping people unearth belief systems that cause behavioural issues — rather than putting someone on a diet, they help the person work through why they cope with life through food. A story might suffice here. My counselor and I have often talked about God and how my warped view of the Father has severely impacted my view of myself, E, and all of life (including my inability to rest and say no to people). My counselor and I recently discussed that I have terrible thought patterns (see previous post) and at some point I simply have to stop those thoughts right as they begin. What I didn’t say on Monday was that my counselor has also pointed out my need to memorize Scripture so I can speak truth in those moments of self loathing and doubt. You see? It isn’t self help, though that is what’s offered rather commonly in our churches and bookstores and relationships (a la, have you tried X, or tried Z?). What we need instead is a call to accountability and spiritual direction.

Considering…
Should everyone be in counseling? Well, at some point, yes. Not because we’re all horribly broken in a melodramatic way. No. But we all have pasts, we are products of the way people have treated us, the way we were picked on as children, manipulated by siblings, hurt by parents who didn’t love perfectly because they aren’t perfect. There’s sin in this world and we’ve all experienced it. I think, at some point, whether it is found in a mentoring relationship or a paid counselor, we’ve all got some ish to work through and we should do that as we pursue becoming who we already are in Christ and who we are constantly being transformed into.

Have you ever been in counseling? What are your thoughts on it — useful, necessary, etc?

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*I will say that sometimes the time excuse is just that, an excuse. I don’t have time for everyone, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have time for some people.

WHY: work matters

Four walls, three a blank cream just off the colour of pure white–which is, of course, the absence of all colour, creativity, and imagination. The fourth is blue and thank God, it’s the one we face. For six hours each day this week, seated at tables drawn into the shape of horseshoe collecting luck, this is where we sit and theologize about work.

Not about what you’d call vocational ministry, though that’s been a small part. After all, most of those 20 people in class are going into some kind of ministry as vocation, so the topic surfaces now and then. For five of the six hours, though, we’re not talking about the task of preaching, exhorting, comforting, evangelizing or doing otherwise “ministerial” work.

We talk about factories, the grinding sound of machines ringing in ears as the rivets go in, and in, and in, and in again. The same droning task, day after tedious, long day.

We talk about cooking, about chasing after little ones and putting those same littles to bed where they feign sleep in mid-day sun. We talk about cleaning, washing, teaching, disciplining, day after exhausting day.

We talk about working land, digging in with dirt beneath nails, with cracked worn creases and rough, hard callouses that are used to working until the light’s gone, until the work is done, until we’ve done all we can and turn to hope for good weather and God’s blessing.

We talk about the desks, the ivory towers, the glassed-in cages full of meetings with people who know too much and say too little (or very often the opposite). We talk about the hours, the consumption, the temptation for work to become all consuming.

And what does it mean–this work? What does it signify or do? Is there meaning, importance or is it just a means to an end? On my dresser there’s a framed manuscript from Stratford-Upon-Avon where a woman rages that all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Is that what will become of our work?

Even if that was the end of our work (and I don’t think it is–but more on that later), would our work still have meaning?

Yes.

There is something deeply human about working. It was commanded before the Fall, though certainly the curse has driven a thorn into something which was once so beautiful. Even still, it is good and useful and purposeful.

In the beginning of our world, our collective imagination and understanding of life, in the beginning of all that God created. He rested on the 7th day and somehow, in this workaholic culture, that often becomes the focus. But there were six days before that, six glorious days when God in His beautiful community of Trinity worked.

And He told us to work.

As the imago dei, as the representatives of the divine, we were told to work. Because to do something with the world, to look around, to see things and to make something is a great and glorious way to act like the creative One whose nature we reflect.

So your work, and my work, this blog, the book on your bedside table, the job that pays you on the 15th and 31st has meaning. In some ways, the products may have meaning but that is because they come from you. And you are the image of God, the image bearer who creates, constructs, designs and puts the final flourishes on that latte art, that blue print, that tea bag on the conveyor belt. So you, by your reflection of divinity, give meaning and dignity to that work, that act of creating, changing, adjusting and beautifying.

Your work matters, it has work and value– because you matter. However often we fail to fully reflect God and live out the imago dei, we still are because it isn’t something in us, it’s something we’re in. And when we lend that to our work, it has meaning.

So your work and mine–whatever it may be–has meaning.

Work work work

I’m sitting on the floor of my room, fighting my way through 200 pages of Miroslav Volf and looking forward to class tomorrow which will consist of another 6 hours on the Theology of Work. I have a headache, an upset stomach, a hurting ear and a very un-vaccuumed floor. The tea in my mug disappeared in moments, that milky brown colour of black tea with soy and my computer is very nearly dead after 13 pages of typed notes during class today. Have I lately said that I love school? Because I do, it’s simply fantastic. Someday, I’ll even learn how to not be so anxious on the first day of a new class, but for now, I just love it so much I’ll endure the nerves as I walk into the unknown for the next couple of weeks while we settle back into spring semester.

As Ethan merrily set out this morning to work (yes, we’re still sharing a car, it’s easier now that he lives close and  still a nice way to start the day), I was dreading class, feeling grumpy and in general overwhelmed. We did one of those “tell us why you’re here” introductions and why the class interested us. I had about ten minutes to formulate my thoughts on why I had decided to take a class that satisfies a requirement…. When the discussion finally rounded the corner to our section I heard myself talking about the man who’d dropped me at school after a a rather frustrating drive.

My man, I said, builds houses. He owns a construction business. Some people don’t think that’s ministry, but I do and I’m not quite sure why. I just think that it is. I want to talk about theology of work because there’s more to vocation and calling than being a pastor and, after all, the Jews didn’t have pastors so why do we seem to think that’s a high and mighty thing when Jesus was a carpenter, a tradesman, a blue collar man like mine? But I want to learn about this whole idea of “theology of work” so I can better explain to the people who look at me and seem to pity us as though we’re doing something less holy by building homes for people to live in rather than preaching to an already over-educated-glassy-eyed-elite.

I didn’t finish with that snarky of a sentence because one of the two professors teaching still sort of terrifies me despite several conversations with him which have assured me of his humanity.

You see, we sometimes elevate certain “careers” or “vocations” as though God calls people to higher work than others. We fawn over people becoming pastors and denigrate those who are lawyers. But what about assuring that children are placed with the right parent after a divorce (no matter how sad the reality of divorce may be)? How is that any less important than counseling that same child as a later adult and leading them into a healthier marriage than the one they saw fall apart? How is building homes and tilling the land any less than exegeting the scriptures about the importance of the resurrection–the rebirth of life that we see each year on a farm, in nature, cultivated by man?

Those are my questions going into the course and I’m looking forward to developing my thoughts about E’s work, about my work, about how we are building the kingdom in our apartments, our conversations, our businesses and our writing. Maybe, by the end of the week, I’ll have something a bit more articulate put together; something about work being ministry no matter the field.

For now, however, I’ve got to get back to Volf so I can get started on that paper. . .

Advent Conspiracy

Yesterday I woke just before my alarm at 615. It was my first day to sleep in, the first one in days, even weeks, and yet I woke before the ringing alarm that I’d forgotten to shut off. I lay in bed, knowing that E might call at any minute, announcing his impending arrival. The plan was for me to drive him to work so I coul dhave the car: for work, appointments, errands, and more work. I had probably half an hour at the least, so in the dark of my room, I rolled over and tried to sleep.

Maybe it was the christmas lights and glowing windows of the apartment building across from me but I couldn’t find my way back to unconscious dreams and hopes. Instead, I lay there, running over and over in my mind the millions of things I have to do and the pounding realization that there’s barely a week and a half till Christmas. I’m so unprepared. I’m so behind.

Baking, cards, gifts, lights downtown, ribbons for homemade compote and church services. A concert, phone calls, skype dates, romantic dates, decorating that’s only half done and the annual trip to the mall. When will all these things happen? I could feel the adrenaline coursing through me in the last moments before sunrise.

Here I am, telling people how I love advent, the candles, the wait, the expectant darkness, the hope. . . and all I feel is rush, stress and never enough time for all the things I wanted to do. In the midst of this, I remembered the Advent Conspiracy and all the things that don’t matter–while still present in my mind and heart–seemed to fade in comparison. And I remembered this video that I hadn’t yet posted in the middle of what has turned into an abnormally busy season for me. I thought, it’s barely more than a week until Christmas, and you might benefit from it as much as I did. A good reminder, a good conviction, and a good call to practicing what matters: not lights, not baking, not even remembering religion but actually being the religion and practicing what it means to be love.

Absorbing

Just when things appear to calm down in Gaza it looks like problems are growing in Egypt. Ending Hosni Mubarak’s reign two years ago has plunged the country into turmoil that always straightens out temporarily before falling into strife again. Now it looks like they might be headed for Sharia law in sweeping reforms planned for the constitution. I have friends in the Middle East and they have not been affected by the violence in either of these troubled countries but they are certainly aware of the precarious position they hold: as foreigners, as women, as Christians. As I’ve been thinking about the various situations, I keep coming back to something a professor said rather recently.

About a month ago Ethan and I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at a DU (a university in Denver) where a partnership between their seminary and undergraduate program hosted Hector Avalos, a professor and philosopher (if one can use that term rather broadly). Avalos spoke regarding his book Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. I do not have the time to give a summary of his book/discussion except to say that he suggests religion creates scarce resources by designating who is “in” or “out” and who can interpret the word of God or lay claim to authority. While the book is, apparently, about Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Professor Avalos made a more specific attack against Christianity as he gave a sweeping overview of Biblical texts and persons, ending by calling Jesus Christ the most hateful person who has ever lived.

Dr. Richard Hess was on a panel of two speakers who were given about ten minutes to respond to Prof Avalos. The first speaker, whose name I do not recall, posed a few questions and ambiguities in Avalos’ argument. Dr. Hess, on the other hand, had a fully outlined response that included explanations of those texts which Avalos had reinterpreted outside context (both linguistically, culturally and canonically) as well as an alternative view.

Hess admitted that often in her history the church has responded to various things through violence, just as Avalos claimed. This, however, is perhaps what Jesus called his people to, according to Hess. Instead, he shared two stories of Christians that he believed exemplified the call of Jesus. The first was of a man during WW2 in a concentration camp who was but into a barracks with ten other men and left to starve. He led the men in mass each day, prayers and singing as they died off, one by one. Instead of the usual fighting among those imprisoned, Fr Martin brought them to their eventual end with peace and hope. In the end, he was the last to die and willingly accepted death at the hands of the Nazis. The second story was of two Amish girls in Lancaster, PA. When their school was invaded by an armed gunman, two young Amish girls asked to be killed first in an attempt to delay the man from executing the others and provide a chance for them to escape. Dr. Hess choked up during this story as Lancaster is his hometown and the story was close to his heart.

This, he said, was the alternative to religious violence: absorbing evil.

Jesus, on the cross did not condemn his killers or promise retribution. Instead, he looked down, begged the Father to forgive them and then died for the sins of those inflicting his death. Instead of causing violence and evil, Dr. Hess pointed to this ultimate example of accepting and absorbing evil into ourselves.

As we watch the Middle East in turmoil, I wonder what our part is in the midst of this? I think we stand for the oppressed, the ones who cannot stand for themselves. I think we do that by forgiving those who hurt us, by speaking out on behalf of the broken, and then instead of reacting in like manner, we take in the violence, the evil, the sin and we put it to death by refusing to return an eye for an eye.

I don’t live in Gaza or Egypt, and it may seem easy for me to say that behind the walls of my apartment, where Christmas lights glow merrily and Ethan’s iPod plays banjo music at my side. But I don’t think my distance makes it any less true.

The Scrapbook

The youth group I serve wit has recently started this project to help students look back on their lives and remember what God has done for them and things that have changed for them since knowing Jesus. I think it’s a good thing to do, I once listened to a sermon on the “Art of Remembering” by Matt Chandler and found it really helpful to consider why we recall the past. It’s important for us to keep in mind what God has done in order for us to be thankful, humble and encouraged. The past often provides incredible hope for the future: Mary, the mother of Jesus, had great hope for the future based on the promises that God had kept to her people throughout history. As Christians, we are people of hope and that hope is based on historical acts of God.

But in a culture that focuses on the future and lives in the days of tomorrow, it can be hard for Americans to remember all that has come before. In Latin America, much of life was in the past: people give directions filtered by the way cities used to look–you turn left where the old court building used to be. We remembered battles when the French were forced out–days as important as independence. There were holidays to celebrate the dead and their lives, days to sit at their graves and reminisce about lives well lived and the hope of meeting them again in the future.

The Jews had festivals that reminded them of their past: the Passover, Sukkot, Purim and others. These were days to mark and celebrate how God rescued them, provided food in the desert, freed them and promised a hope for the future of them and their children. There are rituals that go with these festivals, traditions of food and songs, candles to be lit and roles to be played among the participants. The world was built around remembering what God had done, recalling his acts of great love and grace–and then walking forward in hope based on the past.

That’s what we are trying to do for the kids in our youthgroup and the means we’ve ocme up with is to create a scrapbook for each student. If you know anything about me, you’ll know I haven’t patience or time for scrapbooking. I like things in black and white, clean and uncluttered. I don’t do glitter, raised letters or flowered paper. I’d rather weave together a story in words and sing it to you while E plays the banjo and you’re eating my latest rendition of applie pie or cranberry cheesecake. I don’t do crafty. I bake, I write, I sing and I teach. So I have struggled to relate with the scrapbooking, though I understand (and appreciate) the idea of having something tangible for our students to remember the work of God. It’s our attempt to fill a gap in our culture and remind our students that God has done great things for them and so we can trust Him.

It’s an important task, helping them create, remember and look forward while grounded in God’s historic faithfulness. I told one of my girls that it’s important to remember the story of God’s work in our lives. I know that I myself often forget what He’s done and it’s good to be reminded… But a scrapbook? A few of the girls in my youth group don’t like the activity–I can only imagine how the boys feel about something so stereotypically girly. While I applaud the attempt of remembering…I can’t help but think, there’s got to be a better way of doing this….

WHY: leaning left

I mentioned yesterday that I am in the final crunch before exam week and Christmas break. For that reason, I have not been able to research the Supreme Court’s decision on the Sebellius case and the health care laws. While I’m cautious about a number of things on both sides of the health care plan, I have certainly benefited from the system thus far and have some tentative hopes for it. That being said, I also have a number of concerns for not only religious reasons but economics as well.

I read an interesting article recently* and appreciated the moderate stance taken by the author, David Opderbeck. I also appreciated something he said which finally put to words the conviction I’ve been feeling regarding my theology about the health care system…

 

I wonder when “individual freedom” became the sine qua non for Christian social ethics about health care? It seems to me that Christians of all people should be willing to sacrifice some of their “individual freedom” in order to ensure that everyone, particularly “the least of these,” has access to health care.  In scriptural and Christian theological terms, true “freedom” is not libertarian license, but rather is the full participation of a person in God’s self-giving love.  And true “freedom” is never about isolated individuals – as God is a Triune community, so we as human beings can only be truly “free” in community.

Of course, even if we agree that Christians should be willing to give up some “individual freedom” to facilitate health care for others – or, perhaps better, that Christian freedom means moving beyond selfishness —  the question remains whether such care should be provided through government, through private associations, through Churches, through families, and so on.  There is a long and tangled tradition of Christian political theology on all of these questions – and, at least in my opinion, there is no simple right answer.

Finally! Someone was able to express much more eloquently than I can my concern with how many politically conservative Christians approach this issue. My struggle over the past few months has been discerning what Jesus calls us to in serving selflessly and giving to those among us who are in need–and how that plays into allowing the government to take control of health care to provide more access to care and medicine.

But I also wonder what the role is of the church–why have we not done more to help those among us find medical care, why do we so easily abdicate responsibility to the government (or why do we allow the need for government to play that role) instead of demonstrating the love of Christ by caring for people ourselves? The food pantry I attend has medical services during the evening session. I think that’s fantastic–while I’ve not taken the church up on that free service–I’ve watched many other individuals and families utilize that. Should there be other churches offering similar things? Could we use our benevolence funds for that? Perhaps if we did more we wouldn’t need the government to take such a large role in the health care system?

Or, as we watch the government take on that role, how should we react about our money being redirected? Especially as Christians, shouldn’t we remember that the money was never “ours” in the first place rather than grumbling as it’s taken away in taxes that provide medical care for the neighbours down the street? I don’t have a clear answer on this. I’m still processing all of it (and I of course have several reservations on what those dollars pay for in medical care–a la abortions). There are a lot of considerations here, and the Bible doesn’t speak very clearly on this issue…so we have to do a lot of formulating on our own based on some Biblical texts and based on our knowledge of the character of God (who we are to emulate) and the call or mission of the church…That’s a lot of thinking and theological development on this massive issue that is going to consume the country over the next several months and years.

What do you think?

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*I know I’ve recently been citing Scot McKnight quite often as well as those who guest-post on his blog. He’s just had a plethora of worthy things to consider lately.

Holiday Week Mondays

It’s Monday in the office and despite the fact that two of my coworkers were here around 730am, you can tell that none of us want to be here. My eyes won’t stop watering, Lisa practically limps to and from the printer as if her feet are deadened to the world with sleepy Monday blues and Jessica came in half an hour later than normal. We have a lot to do. I’ve a project to finish before the end of the month, the advent devotional should be coming out, there’s an appeal to be written and mailed and a lunch to plan, and a thousand envelopes to stuff. But the boss is on a flight back from Chicago and no one wants to be here.

One of my high school girls is working on Thursday–all day. I told her I’d come visit between my first Turkey Trot and dinner with friends. She’s at a retail store that is open all day Thursday and all night into Black Friday. I was in shock when she told me about it and then I almost cried. What’s wrong, America? Why are we working on holidays to allow people to get more in debt with stuff they don’t need? My girl should be with her family, eating too much food and reminiscing about holidays past or running a turkey trot with the youth group; not at work selling clothes and shoes.

In something I recently edited a writer noted that we should be working for “kingdom change” in our every day lives as parents, employees, leaders, couples and students. It’s a rough Monday. It’s 10am and the most monumental thing I’ve done is update a single website and turn in my time sheet. It’s a holiday week and no one wants to be here–I’d rather be buying sweet potatoes, baking biscotti and enjoying a run or some OT work. What would it be like to work on the most momentous of family holidays?

I’ve been wondering, if I was the manager at that store, would I buy everyone lunch? Invite them over for a late night Turkey Dinner? Would I tell them all to call in sick, so I could lock the doors and apologize to the corporation for apparent widespread illness? Would that be the kingdom, breaking in, standing against the status quo and authority? Would I refuse to schedule anyone at all and take the hit for believing that family and rest are more important than profit? Would that be counter-cultural and civilly disobedient in a way that Jesus might have appreciated: to value people more than money?

I don’t know that I have such courage but….it’s something worth pondering.

In the meantime, I’ll be picking up my high schooler for her half hour lunch and buying her something to eat to make the day a bit tolerable.

Gaza

There’s trouble brewing in Gaza. Well, it’s a bit more than trouble. I haven’t researched the current situation enough to give an informed opinion but all of my reading over the past several years has led to the following conclusion:

Israel and Palestinian leaders are both at fault. Innocent people (by western, non-religious standards) have been killed on both sides in this extremely complex issue. I am often astounded by the way that American Christians uphold Israel as though it is a nation of pure motives, who can do no wrong and is always acting in self defense. While it appears that Palestinian militants started this one, I think it is unwise for believers to stand behind Israel so emphatically without care or concern for those on the other side–some of those are our brothers and sisters in the faith, let’s not forget them! I think that instead of taking sides, instead of pointing fingers, etc we are called to pray. There are hurt people, defenseless people, frightened children, desperate mothers on bothsides of those walls and in what is shaping up to be a legitimate ground war, we should not forget one group as we vehemently support another.

This photo is of graffiti on the wall surrounding Bethlehem that divides Palestinians and Israeli’s. The text is Ephesians 2.14. (See the picture in context at Aaron Niequist’s blog)

I think the most important thing to do is not to pray for Israel’s success, for further estrangement between the two peoples, or some apocalyptic end of the world on December 20th by means of an Israeli/Palestinian ground war that goes viral. I think we should be praying for peace. Peace in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Golan Heights, Gaza and the entire region. It has long been a volatile place in the world. As people of peace, we should be on our knees, asking God to work reconciliation in the heart of his creation and we should be about the business of serving those afflicted whether they speak Hebrew or Arabic.

This, I think, is our calling as believers and followers of the Nazarene who told us to be shalom-makers (Matt 5.9) and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5.18).

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News Sources: BBC, Washington Post

Militarism and American Christians

Scot McKnight is hosting an interesting post on his blog over at Patheos. It’s written by Preston Sprinkle and is the second* of a three part series on the subject of Militarism and American Christians–it’s preemptive to his book coming out in a few months where he makes a case for non-violence among Christians (and even broader, perhaps?).

The post is here and it’s well worth the read. I appreciated Sprinkle’s position that the Old Testament seems to condemn violence more than ever supporting it. I recently attended a debate on religious violence where one of my OT professors responded as part of a panel. The atheist professor giving the initial lecture claimed, essentially, that all religion has the proclivity to generate violence (especially Christianity).  The professor from Denver Seminary noted that the Noahic covenant (and those that follow) is founded on the concept of non-violence. No man is to take blood or life because that life belongs to YHWH alone. Given that premise, Sprinkle’s explanation of various Old Testament texts makes a lot of sense.

What I struggled to follow was his jump to American politics. I agree that in the Old Testament, Israel was called to see YHWH as the warrior who fought for her and thus they entered battles with fewer men and weapons–it proved that their God had won the battle and not their own military prowess. I’m not sure that can be applied to a pluralistic society such as the United States, especially given that we no longer see battle/war/etc in the same way as the Ancient Near East. In that time everyone saw their god as leading them into battle, so war was not only among humans but also among the gods in their realm. Without that world view today, I’m not sure that Sprinkle made an appropriate leap from Hebrew military standards (or lack there of) to American military. There are also wider problems of theocracy versus secularism in terms of government structure and the questionable suggestion that God would protect the US if we were attacked in the same way He promised to protect Israel (as if the US is somehow equitable in status to chosen Israel).

That being said, as I’m processing my own thoughts on violence and war, Sprinkle’s post was quite helpful and thought provoking and I’m looking forward to the upcoming book.

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Links for those posts by Preston Sprinkle are here (1) and here (2). The third in the series is yet to come.