Entries tagged with “christian”.
Did you find what you wanted?
Wed 9 Nov 2016
How did it come to this? There are so many reasons. But ultimately, it seems to me, many Americans just wanted to rebel: Against a political system they perceive as corrupt. Against a radical leftist ideology that has increasingly alienated people of “traditional” values and chastised (even penalized) them for holding such values in the first place. Against an administration that has downplayed threats to security (real or imagined) that many Americans believe face their nation. Against the elite, educated political class who lord it over the common masses.
Some of those concerns may have been justified. When you have nuns who have devoted their lives to helping the poor standing in court arguing that the government is infringing on their religious rights, something is wrong. When the government takes Lutherans to court, arguing that they—the government—should dictate to the church who counts as a “minister” and who does not, something is wrong.
But much of the rage has been fed by darker sources. White supremacy and a host of other “alt-right” positions have come out into the open during this election in a way not seen in generations. To be sure, not all—I pray not even many—Americans voted for Trump because they hold such radical beliefs. But those who hold such beliefs have nevertheless arisen to new prominence during his campaign, and that is cause for grave concern.
In the end, many Americans just wanted to smash the whole thing. And who better to break it up than Trump, a man I once described in an article for First Things as a madman? Make no mistake: he is that—a divisive, erratic, ball of rage. But he is now also President Elect of the United States. So what now?
Scripture tells us that God created governing authorities for the preservation of peace and the restraint of wrongdoers (Romans 13:1-7). That means God has a specific calling and purpose for rulers—the protection of the people. Should rulers abuse that power and help, not hinder, evil, they shall ultimately face God’s judgment for that sin. No ruler—and no citizen with the right to vote—should take that warning lightly.
In the meantime, St. Paul tells us, Christians are called to obey the governing authorities. These words were not written in some idealistic golden age of the Church either; Christians were under increasing pressure from the Roman Empire at the time. St. Paul himself would soon be arrested, imprisoned, and ultimately executed for his faith in Christ.
No, rulers are to be obeyed—but only insofar as they do not force us to participate in sin, whether actively or complicity. For, as Martin Luther says, “It is no one’s duty to do wrong; we must obey God, who desires the right, rather than men.” Those concerned about the recent election should hold these two truths in mind—the duty of respect for duly appointed authorities but always in light of the more important, binding duty to obey God.
Those concerned about the recent election should hold these two truths in mind—the duty of respect for duly appointed authorities but always in light of the more important, binding duty to obey God.
Let the Church turn to God in prayer at this time. Scripture commands us to offer prayers on behalf of “kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). And if there is anything that the people of the United States need in this time, it is a return to peaceful and quiet life.
O God, be merciful to the people of the United States. Guide their president to speak and act in ways that foster peace and quell the bitter, antagonistic spirit that broods heavily over their land. Lead him to use his office as you intend all governing offices to be used: as an opportunity to be God’s servant for the good of the people (Romans 13:4). Appoint wise advisors to serve alongside him, and grant peaceful relations with the rest of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Thu 8 Jan 2015
“Similarly, we wouldn’t publish cartoons likely to dismay or outrage mainstream followers of other religions….”
So wrote David Studer, CBC’s Director of Journalistic Standards and Practices, in an email explaining why the news broadcaster will not be publishing offensive cartoons of Mohammed published by Charlie Hebdo, the magazine targeted by Islamists in Paris yesterday in a brutal attack that left 12 dead.
Studer’s email, the CBC News report tells us, was simply a reminder of “CBC’s long-established policy” on publishing images offensive to religious believers. The meaning is clear: the CBC’s historical practice is to not publish images that could reasonably be deemed offensive to particular religious groups.
Based on that declaration, we would expect that the CBC has never published images that would “dismay” Christians, right?
Yeah, not really. A quick search for Andres Serrano’s infamous “Piss Christ” shows up a couple of hits on CBC. In case you’re unaware of this “work of art,” it features a crucifix submerged in the artist’s urine.
There’s a picture of it on a Q entry from July 21, 2010: http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2010/07/21/is-art-replacing-religion/
CBC screen grab taken January 8, 2015.
A year later, CBC published another image of “Piss Christ,” this time on its main news site (see here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/french-museum-reopens-after-crucifix-art-attacked-1.1075952) . The news story in question? Someone offended by it had damaged the work. So apparently it’s okay to portray an image offensive to Christians when a member of that faith violently reacts to it. But not so much if the offended in question are Muslims.
CBC screen grab taken January 8, 2015.
“We are being consistent with our historic journalist practices around this story,” David Studer writes on the CBC’s decision not to publish Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of Mohammed, “not because of fear, but out of respect for the beliefs and sensibilities of the mass of Muslim believers about images of the Prophet.”
It might be consistent with their journalist practices when it comes to Islam but clearly it’s not when it comes to Christianity.
Now, I’m not saying CBC should pull the “Piss Christ” images from its site. I certainly find them objectionable as a Christian, but I recognize we live in a country that allows freedom of speech. Instead, I’m simply pointing out a clear double-standard.
Kudos to CBC’s Neil Macdonald for disagreeing publicly with the stance of his network. His report “Religion, Satire and where we draw the line” clearly spells out the difference in action. He was not allowed to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed. But a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Christ? Apparently that’s just fine.
CBC can say it’s simply respecting its historic practice of not publishing images offensive to members of religious groups. But when we actually examine those historic practices for ourselves, we see it’s simply not the case.
Thu 10 Jul 2014
The topic of assisted suicide and euthanasia is currently under fierce discussion in courts and newspapers across the country. The proposition is that the option of suicide in the face of uncontrollable suffering (whether physical, mental, or emotional) should be a fundamental right of all Canadians, and should be included in conscientious palliative care. Related is the idea of euthanasia, which is when the decision to bring about intentional death is made by a third party because the person believed to be suffering is unable to communicate a decision.
On the surface, this all sounds very compassionate. But couched in this compassionate-sounding language is a very harsh belief: that some lives are more worth prolonging than others, and that some people should choose to die.
So writes L. Block in a recent article for The Canadian Lutheran. I have read no more careful and compassionate article on this topic, and recommend it to your reading—especially in light of the fact that Quebec recently legalized euthanasia. Rather than write lots about Block’s article here, I’m just going to quote it at length.
Although presented as a choice, this “right to die” has the potential to become a “duty to die,” which would affect the most vulnerable people in our society. People who don’t want to die may choose suicide rather than become a burden to their families, or may be convinced to choose suicide for someone else’s perceived good, opening the door to widespread elder abuse.
And how would such a change affect our existing palliative care system? It isn’t hard to see that helping people end their lives is much less expensive than offering high quality palliative care for an extended period of time. There is also a very real possibility that the “right to die” could be extended beyond those with terminal illnesses to include people with disabilities, or even mental illness. In Belgium, where the option of assisted suicide exists for those deemed to be suffering psychological anguish, this has already happened. What kind of a message will that send? “Your life is hard, because you can’t see/hear/think/move like other people. You can die if you want to.”
How does that impart hope to those despairing in the grip of depression, or offer encouragement to those striving to succeed despite physical or mental handicap? And how would it affect the kind of resources available? It is clearly much less expensive to usher someone out of life quietly than find a high quality group home for them. Or pay for the wheel-chair-friendly renovations on their house now that they have a spinal cord injury. And what about those who are completely dependent on others for all their care, or who can’t communicate a desire to live?
If our attitude as a society shifts to embrace the notion that some people are worth less than other people, our willingness to care for them will shift as well. Expressed in offhand comments, facial expressions, or tone of voice, this negative perception would do untold damage to our most vulnerable.
And the Christian response:
All of this runs entirely counter to Christ’s model for the Church. Jesus Christ also preached compassion. He offered relief of suffering to the lepers, not by ending their lives, but by loving them. He reached out with physical and spiritual healing for the disabled. He opened His arms to the children, all the children, including the child afflicted by an evil spirit. Given for “the least of these,” this is real compassion. This is His model for us, too. We are not to be seduced by the idea of this world, that young people with perfect bodies and minds are somehow better and more deserving of life than those who are old, or ill, or dying, or disabled. We must speak up for those who cannot….
Euthanasia must not be used as a balm to ease the suffering of those who are witnessing the death, or the disability, or the pain. We cannot use it to ease our own consciences, to say, “We did the right thing.” No, as is often the case, the right thing is definitely not the easy thing. We cannot show compassion by being the hands of death; we must instead be the hands of Christ.
Go read it all at The Canadian Lutheran.
Wed 25 Sep 2013
“2013 has been a deadly year for Christians across the world.”
So begins a recent article of mine at The Canadian Lutheran, in an attempt to remind us all that, in many places of the world, bearing the Name of Christ is still deadly serious. These Christians need our prayers, that Christ would support them in the midst of persecution. He who suffered for them suffers with them. May He give them strength.
Mon 8 Apr 2013
The Doctor confronts the old god in “The Rings of Akhaten.”
In case you haven’t heard, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who. As a fan, I’ve wanted to pay homage to the show for some time, planning to write a post discussing the good Doctor and religion. Now seems as good a time as any, given that the most recent episode “The Rings of Akhaten” is a story in which the Doctor comes face to face with a “god.”
It’s a common enough theme in science fiction: the self-proclaimed deity who is unmasked as a pretender (think Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country—“What does God need with a starship?”). Still, the Doctor’s confrontations with religious beings are a little different than those in other science fiction series. He is, after all, a semi-divine figure himself. All space and time is at his disposal. He can go anywhere and anywhen. He’s more Q than Picard, if you will.
The Doctor’s confrontations with religious beings is different than in other science fiction. He is, after all, a semi-divine figure himself.
So when the Doctor comes up against a “god,” we know he’ll be able to expose it as a fraud. And it always is another a fraud. It might be a powerful being; it might be ancient. It might, as in the most recent episode, have existed for millennia, feeding on the offerings and worship of its followers. But whatever else it is, it is not truly divine. It is as much a part of the universe as anything else. It can always be explained. It can always be understood.
Except, perhaps, in one two-part story from the Tenth Doctor’s era. In this story, the Doctor again comes across someone professing godhood: he meets a being which claims to be the Beast, the devil himself. But the Doctor has faced many false gods in his day; they are all pretenders. “If you are the Beast,” he mocks, “then answer me this: Which one, hmm? Because the universe has been busy since you’ve been gone. There’s more religions than there are planets in the sky. There’s the Arkaphets, Christianity, Pash-Pash, New Judaism, San Claar, Church of the Tin Vagabond. Which devil are you?”
Only this time the devil is real. “Which devil are you?” the Doctor asks. “All of them,” the Beast replies. He is not lying.
Here the Doctor is confronted with something greater—and more terrifying—than he can imagine. Not merely because it is an unknown but instead because it is by its nature unknowable. When the Doctor asks the Beast when he came to be chained in the Pit, the latter answers, “Before time.” This answer makes no sense to the Doctor; he cannot conceive of a “before time.”
“What does ‘before time’ mean?” he asks.
“Before time and light and space and matter. Before the cataclysm. Before this universe was created.”
“You can’t have come from before the universe,” the Doctor responds incredulously. “That’s impossible.”
To which the Beast replies, “Is that your religion?”
The Doctor can only respond, “It’s a belief.”
The Beast scoffs, “You know nothing. All of you, so small.”
Here the Doctor, nigh on a deity himself, is confronted by something beyond him. Unknowable. Unthinkable. Impossible. He cannot conceive of existence before time and matter. His reason is too small; it cannot bend so far. He cannot comprehend it. He cannot measure it and test it. “If that thing had said it was from beyond the universe, I’d have believed it. But before? Impossible.”
So too did God question Job: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone?” (Job 38:4-6). The questions are, for Job, impossible to answer; they are beyond his understanding: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). But Job’s inability to answer God’s questions about creation—and the Doctor’s inability to comprehend existence “before time”—does not change the fact of their existence.
So then: the Doctor finds himself opposed by a power he cannot even comprehend. He has no more ideas. He has no more options. Even the TARDIS—and, consequently, the only chance of escape—has been lost. All hope is at an end. The situation is utterly and completely beyond him.
The situation is utterly and completely beyond him. How fitting then, that the solution must also come from beyond him.
How fitting then, that the solution must also come from beyond him. It has, in fact, been prepared in advance by those who first imprisoned the devil. The Beast had been imprisoned “before time,” he tells us, when “the Disciples of the Light rose up against me and chained me in the pit for all eternity.”
The Doctor meets the Devil in “The Satan Pit.”
It is impossible to miss the reference to Scripture here. “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:7-9). And again: “The angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day” (Jude 6).
As in the biblical text, the devil was defeated and chained in the darkness (in the television series, the devil is quite literally chained on an “impossible planet” fixed in space in the shadow of a black hole). But the Disciples of the Light seem to have foreseen both the Beast’s attempt to escape and the Doctor’s presence at the event. When all hope is lost, the Doctor finds the Disciples of Light have prepared a solution for him ahead of time—quite literally before time existed.
Having fallen into the Pit, the Doctor awakens to find he was “expected.” “I was given a safe landing and air,” he says to the Beast, asking why. Slowly it dawns on him: provision for his safe descent was not the devil’s doing; it was the work of the Disciples of Light. “That’s it!” he exclaims. “You didn’t give me air, your jailers did! They set this up. They need me alive, because if you’re escaping then I need to stop you!” The Doctor discovers what the Disciples of Light intend him to do, and he does it—knowing full well it will mean his own death.
Except it doesn’t. In a deus ex machina worthy of the name, the Doctor’s previously lost TARDIS is discovered to have also fallen into the Pit. In fact, it’s landed right where it needs to be, almost as if by plan. And perhaps it was by plan. That’s what’s so fascinating about this particular Doctor Who story: it leaves room for the possibility of something more—something beyond mortal comprehension, beyond even the super-human Doctor’s understanding. The Doctor lays down his life to defeat the devil, only to find his life restored to him in the end.
God out of the machine indeed.
The two-part story under discussion here is “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit.”
Cross-posted at A Christian Thing.
Thu 28 Feb 2013
Posted by Mathew Block under Articles, Main
So, it’s a day after people noticed my National Post article “Disagree with Christians? Fine. But do not silence them.” I have to say, I’m surprised it got quite the attention it did. In just one day, 130 comments had been posted on the article, and a couple dozen tweets for and against had flown through Twitter. Meanwhile on Facebook, there were 322 shares and likes of the article, with a fair amount of accompanying conversation. One thing’s for sure: it got people talking. But how fruitful exactly was the resulting conversation?
You’ll recall that my major concern in the article was a growing intolerance in Canada towards religious people (especially Christians). It was pretty clear early on in the day that my concerns were shared by others: “Thank goodness someone finally noticed,” wrote one person on Facebook. “We live in a world where you can be of any faith or no faith, except for Christian.” Another on Twitter wrote that it “seems like [people] nowadays only defend freedom of speech and religion for a select few, while silencing others.” Many Christians seem to feel a growing antipathy towards them.
While some people agreed with my article, many others did not. A number of their comments were insulting, questioning my sanity for believing in “Christian mythology.” But that of course did not mean their comments were bad. Distasteful, perhaps, but not unacceptable. I was arguing in my article on the importance of open discussion, of allowing Christians to speak freely in the public arena. And being given that privilege myself, I also have to respect the freedom of those who disagree with me to speak freely as well. One commenter agreed with another that I was a bit mad. “But we don’t silence him,” that person cautioned, “We just criticize and ridicule him.” Fair enough. The right to insult is also included in the right to freedom of speech. To be sure, I don’t think this is a very helpful sort of rhetoric; it tends to shut down dialogue, not keep it going. But censoring each other in the public realm isn’t the answer either. That’s something I and the commenter both agree on: censorship should be eschewed.
Of course, some commenters confirmed my article’s point by saying openly that they thought religion should be banned—that is to say, censored—from the public forum. “It is reasonable to expect sex as being an activity for consenting adults in the privacy of their bedrooms,” writes one commenter, “and that’s the best for religion too.” Some would indeed like to see Christians (and other religious groups) silenced—to keep their religion at home and not let it show up in the public square. It’s an opinion that I fear is growing, and it is at this type of intolerance my article was aimed: knee jerk, shut ’em up, anti-Christian rhetoric.
As for the actual subject of religious persecution, some commenters don’t seem to think it’s an injustice at all: “People killed for their religion are no more martyrs than soccer fans killed in a riot,” writes one commenter. I find it shocking that the targeted extermination of people solely based on their religion can be so callously disregarded, shrugged off as it were the natural consequence of doing something you knew was dangerous. You played the game, the commenter seems to say, and sometimes people die in that game. Them’s the breaks. Don’t like it? Get out of the game.
But there were also oddball comments on the other side too. One commenter suggested that negative online reaction to the Office for Religious Freedom was done mostly by people who “take a personal delight in the death of Christians.” When asked by another if they specifically meant that the CBC as an organization takes a personal delight in the death of Christians, the first commenter said yes.
Needless to say, that’s a radical departure from what I suggested in my article—and a despicable accusation to boot. I argue that there’s a growing intolerance in Canada to people of faith, and that we see a glimpse of that in the overly negative online reaction to the Office for Religious Freedom. But I’m careful to point out that this is intolerance; it’s not persecution, at least not in the sense that many religious and non-religious people face persecution in other parts of the world. Still, we should resist attempts to silence religious people in Canada, to affirm our right to be part of the public forum. Whatever our faith or non-faith, we live in this country together; we all have the right to discuss openly and freely our opinions on how our shared society should operate. We should feel free to be part of the dialogue.
I was grateful to see at least a little bit of that happening in some of the comments on my article. One religious and one non-religious commenter suggested that, while the online debate was polarized, it might be easier to get along in real life. “If we met, I am sure we would get along fine because we [would] see each other as people first,” writes one.
I hope that type of level-headedness prevails.
Mon 28 Jan 2013
Posted by Mathew Block under Main
Two hundred years ago today (January 28, 1813), Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was published. While the author is justly remembered and praised for her novels, less well-known is her strong Christian faith. What follows is a selection of one of her prayers – words still well worth the reading.
Above all other blessings Oh! God, for ourselves, and our fellow-creatures, we implore Thee to quicken our sense of thy Mercy in the redemption of the World, of the Value of that Holy Religion in which we have been brought up, that we may not, by our own neglect, throw away the salvation thou hast given us, nor be Christians only in name.
Amen. Amen indeed.