Sunday, January 31, 2016

Continual? Or repeatedly?

Interesting item I just ran across in editing The Greek Verb Revisited. This is from Stephen Levinsohn's contribution on periphrastics:
Both imperfectives [imperfect and periphrastic] occur in Acts 12:5 (ὁ μὲν οὖν Πέτρος ἐτηρεῖτο ἐν τῇ φυλακῇ· προσευχὴ δὲ ἦν ἐκτενῶς γινομένη ὑπὸ τῆς ἐκκλησίας πρὸς τὸν θεὸν περὶ αὐτοῦ [NA28] “While Peter was kept in prison, the church prayed fervently to God for him”). The simple one (ἐτηρεῖτο) is consistent with Peter being kept continuously in the prison. The copular form (ἦν … γινομένη), being more stative, suggests that, while prayer was being repeatedly offered for him, it may not have been continual, around the clock prayer.[1]

[1] “The word [ἐκτενῶς] has rather the idea that their prayer was earnest and fervent, than that it was constant” (Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, III: The Acts of the Apostles [Glasgow: Blackie, 1846], 217) (emphasis original).

<idle musing>
Hmmm...this is often used as a prooftext for 24 hour prayer vigils. If Levinsohn is correct—and I think he is!—then maybe we need to rethink the rational behind them. Maybe the duration isn't as important as the fervency and earnestness? I would say that is more consistent with NT principals than the around-the-clock view.

Isn't grammar fun? Nothing like a little Greek to upset your received theology, is there?
</idle musing>

Friday, January 29, 2016

But it doesn't work

The most likely person to do us harm already has a key to the house. Strangers or criminals do not commit most of America’s murders and assaults; they are committed by family members, friends, and acquaintances, who, in acts of passion, turn to the instruments originally purchased to protect “us” against “them.” Guns purchased for protection are eleven times more likely to be used in a murder, an assault, an accident, or to be stolen and used in a crime than they are to stop an intruder.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 92–93

<idle musing>
ironic, isn't it? But, again, when violence is seen as an option, it too easily becomes the option of choice. And if there is a firearm available, it will be the option of choice for the violence.

In many ways, it reminds me of Hosea, in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. The Israelites went to Baal in hopes of fertility—and they got infertility. Only God can give fertility. The same is true for firearms—only God can give true security.

Just an
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Do I even know my neighbor?

I’m convinced at least part of the reason why so many of us place faith in guns is related to the decline of cohesive, homogenous communities where everybody knew one another. It has been said, “We used to be a people who depended on our neighbors and didn’t worry much about strangers. Today, we’ve become a people who are totally dependent on strangers and are afraid of our neighbors.” Instead of reaching out and getting to know neighbors, far too many of us build walls.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 88

There's hope!

God did not create us to live in the prisons of fear of our own making. God made us for life abundant and for joy, love, and peace. The good news is we are not condemned to live in fear. The Christian hope for salvation and God’s promise to build a Peaceable Kingdom begins with the messenger from heaven who declared to us all, “Do not be afraid—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 87

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Who's my neighbor?

To keep us safe from threats of enemies near and far is the rationale behind the commissioning of more aircraft carriers and submarines, building more sophisticated jet fighters, refurbishing more nuclear bombs, and selling billions of dollars of armaments to desperately poor countries. Many wealthy people make a lot of money warning us of our enemies or potential enemies.

To promote fear of the other nations increases exponentially the possibility of future conflicts with them. Our fears give birth to suspicion and distrust, which we are told requires the stockpiling of more arms to defend the country against would-be attackers. Meanwhile, our response to protect ourselves with more and more powerful arms is regarded as evidence of our hostile intent against them. Time and again we have seen this played out on the world’s scene, and it is regularly the content of the evening news.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 86–87

<idle musing>
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God....
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:3–9, 43–48 NIV

But, we all know that those words aren't meant for us, right? We have an obligation to live in fear, right? Right?

And Jesus says, 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" Matt 7:21–23

But that sounds so unfair! You mean I can't do it my way?! Come on! I'm an American! I can do what I want, when I want, and in the way I want! And nobody can tell me otherwise or I'll blow them apart! (In the name of Christ, of course!).

I don't think that attitude is from Christ...
</idle musing>

More on fear

With advancing years, I’ve come to believe that the most fearful thing in the world is a strong country that is afraid.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 86

Creating Fear

The greatest strength of the idols of power and deadly force is their ability to create fear in the human heart by deceiving those who are afraid. When people are controlled by their fears, those who are different are seen as dangerous. Each of us has experienced fear when informed of threats from peoples across the seas or by other ethnic, racial, or religious groups across town.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 85

<idle musing>
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

"We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister." 1 John 4:18–21 NIV

What more is there to say? John says it all...
</idle musing>

Monday, January 25, 2016

It's a theological thing

I once debated an Orthodox Presbyterian clergyman whose devotion to firearms was as strong as his faith in Jesus Christ. The reverend’s beliefs were based on the idea that God ordained the man to be the head of the household and it is his duty, not only to his family, but also to God, to protect them in the most effective way. The reverend unabashedly believes God calls him to carry a handgun at all times, and he was clear in stating that Jesus would carry a gun if he were walking our streets today.

Bear in mind he was referring to the same Jesus of Nazareth who instructed his disciples to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, and who laid down his life even for the man who put a spear in his side.

Notwithstanding, this reverend and other Christians in gun cults are certain God does not want the head of the household using a trigger lock on his gun. His duties to protect the family require that he be ready at a moment’s notice to come to their defense.

This theology is blasphemous, but it is a theology nevertheless.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 81–82

Friday, January 22, 2016

And in the end...death

To believe in God is to gamble that truth is more powerful than lies. Lies cannot last forever because they dishonor God and are an affront to God’s people. When people discover they have been lied to and manipulated by powerful elites they grow angry. People will eventually rise up and dismantle the power of the idols that carry within the seeds of their own destruction.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 76

I agree with the suggestion that the erosion of biblical knowledge and theological understanding on the part of average American citizens leaves an open door for the idols of power and deadly force to place a blasphemous “Christian veneer” on their policies and products. Attaching God’s name to what people value creates false theological assumptions that God would encourage the purchase of an assault pistol. Such assumptions, loudly publicized, give the idol control over those who are fascinated with violence and its tools. Although the Gun Empire regularly proclaims the social benefits of weapons, the inevitable consequences of their veneration are deaths and injuries.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 79

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Does the augment mean past time?

From The Greek Verb Revisited (forthcoming):
The traditional view of the augment as a past tense marker is also more plausible from a historical point of view. An attractive etymology of the augment is that it goes back to a PIE distal deictic (first spatial and then temporal?) adverb or proclitic particles *h1e(-) “there, then,” of which relics can be also found in ἐ-κεῖνος and ἐ-χθές.
And on the next page or so:
It should be noted that the augment already had lost much of its original function by Homer’s time: the fuzziness of the distributional rules shows that the occurrence of the augment is also determined by metrical factors. The distributional tendencies can therefore only be regarded as traces of the augment’s older distribution. The semantic change from Homeric to Classical Greek can be seen as a form of generalization and bleaching. The augment becomes obligatory on all secondary indicative forms and it develops semantically from a marker highlighting past time reference to a neutral past tense marker. The introduction of the augment brings Ancient Greek into alignment with the typological tendency for past tenses to be the morphologically marked category with respect to the (often morphologically unmarked) present tense (see, e.g., Östen Dahl, Tense and Aspect Systems [Oxford: Blackwell, 1985], 117). (emphasis original)
<idle musing>
This is going to be a great volume! Preorder it now! I'm having a blast editing it.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ouch! Guilty!

I'm reading through, almost as a devotional, Zondervan's delightful little book I (Still) Believe. I hit this one last night, and it was a real "aha!" moment:
A group of Korean women and I were gathered around the text of Judges 4–5. They were quite appreciative of Jael's exploits in her killing of Sisera, while I explained that I and most U.S. women like me had a difficult time with this part of the story. From the opposite end of the long table one Korean lay woman leaned forward to respond with passion and authority:"If you women in the U.S. would just realize that your place in this story is [not with Jael but rather] with Sisera's mother, waiting to collect the spoil of your interventions across the world..." (p. 220, citing Women, Gender, and Christian Community, ed. J.D. Douglas and J.F. Kay [Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997], 22)

Mao's little red book?

The idols of power and deadly force command immense “spiritual influence” over those who are tricked into believing that power and deadly force are essential for reconciliation between nations and for solving human conflicts here at home. Americans have not always been quite so gullible. I was in high school during the Chinese Cultural revolution when Chairman Mao Tse Tung issued his famous declaration: “Power comes from the barrel of a gun.” From coast to coast we let out a collective gasp. We were furious over the blasphemy. The American church quickly denounced his heresy. We knew instantaneously Mao’s words were evil.

Alas, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, many of us appear to be converts to Mao’s philosophy. When the Gun Empire repeats comparable comments, there is hardly a whisper of dissent. Wayne La Pierre, the chief spokesperson for the NRA, has repeatedly proclaimed, “In America, the ones with the guns make the rules.” His friend and colleague, David Kopel of the Cato Institute and adjunct Professor of Law at Denver University adds: “Guns are the tools of political dissent . . . and they should be privately owned and unregulated.” Those who are armed will determine what kind of country this will be. As they proclaim the authority of bullets over ballots in our democratic society, there isn’t even a whimper from the White House or Congress, and to our shame, the church house is as quiet as its church mice.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 74

<idle musing>
I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but if violence is considered an option, it soon becomes the only option. "Blessed are the peacemakers" has been co-opted from Jesus and become the nickname of the Colt .45. What a travesty!
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Good review

Just read a very good review (of an Eisenbrauns book) over at Jesus Creed. I gotta read the book now—and the Greek novella Ephesiaca, too (here's a link to the Greek text on Perseus).
Ephesiaca gives us a window into Ephesian life, the cult of Artemis, the function of the Artemisium, codes of shame and honor, attitudes to wealth, women, slaves, and benefaction. Word studies reveal significant overlap in the use of certain words in both 1 Timothy and Ephesiaca. Through his study, Hoag demonstrates six fixtures or social institutions that embody the cultural norms and rules that governed life and society for rich Ephesians: honor/shame, identity, kinship, exchange/benefaction, envy, and purity. He spells out the following: (1) rich people were expected to behave honorably and with modesty; (2) relationships (i.e. who you were related to and how), and not wealth, determined identity; (3) kinship ties were strong, protective, and paternalistic. Female honor was embedded in the honor of a male. He concludes that honorable wealthy Ephesians valued kinship over wealth, whereas the greedy in antiquity placed gaining wealth over kinship ties, and envy was regarded as the ‘most insidious evil to threaten human relationships’. (p.56) One of his key points is that Artemis ‘not only owned the rich and expected their support, but they, in turn, owned Artemis.’ (p.32) The link is inextricable.

It is into this context that Paul’s gospel was first preached, and the context that Timothy will minister in, with Paul’s advice ringing in his ears. I would really recommend reading this book for yourself, but here are some of Hoag’s key conclusions.

Grab the book and let me know what you think. I'll (hopefully!) get to reading it myself soon and post sections of it here...meanwhile, here's the skinny:
Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy

Wealth in Ancient Ephesus and the First Letter to Timothy
Fresh Insights from Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus
Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplement - BBRSup 11
by Gary G. Hoag
Eisenbrauns, 2015
Pp. xii + 258, English
ISBN: 9781575068299
List Price: $49.50
Your Price: $44.55

Real world?

The principalities and powers are the super-patriots of our day and claim the highest of human values such as democracy, freedom, and our American way of life. They extol wealth, privilege, and power in the name of God and all that is virtuous. Their greatest strength lies in their ability to deceive people into believing that in the real world violence is required in the pursuit of peace and democracy.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 71 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Did you catch that? The "real world" as opposed to the world that Christ calls us to live in. Our materialistic outlook has blinded us to anything that can't be touched, tasted, or sold. (I mean materialistic in a philosophical sense, not in the sense of being consumers, although the two overlap.)

Again, if violence is considered an option, it soon becomes the option of choice. From there is rapidly becomes the only option. Lord! Deliver us! Open our eyes that we may see that the material world isn't the only "real" world!
</idle musing>

Monday, January 18, 2016

One difference

Americans are not meaner or more violent than citizens of Europe, China, or Japan. They too are fascinated with violence. They watch the same violent movies, engage in violent sports, play the same video games, sell the same kinds of toys, read the same comics, etc. The only difference is most Americans can get a gun within a few hours or a few minutes. Some of us call such access to guns freedom. As a gun owner who has ministered to gun victims and their families, I call such easy access tragedies getting ready to happen.

The NRA calls any limitations on purchasing guns onerous and burdensome. But what do people of other nations think? In spite of not being able to quickly get their hands on guns, citizens in the other developed countries of the world persist in saying they are happy, fulfilled, and free people. Are they delusional? Is it a miracle their streets are safe? America should be so blessed.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 69(emphasis original)

Peace through...what?

Redemptive violence is an attractive but idolatrous trust that weapons and tools of violence can be the means of shalom for nations and individuals, that ultimate good can come from the barrels of our weapons. Jesus reminded us: that which we sow, we reap, and we should not expect to gather figs from grape vines.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 68 (emphasis original)

Friday, January 15, 2016

A compelling temptation

Leaders in faith communities must understand the compelling temptation to feel powerful and in charge. The violence of today’s movies and video games, dramatic explosions, the pin-point accuracy of an air-strike from a jet or helicopter, an attack by a predator drone guided by computers thousands of miles away, a firefight by the marines in Afghanistan seen in full color on our television screens, have an immense trickle-down attraction for citizens who feel at risk because of the violence in their communities that is reported daily. Watching a war on television or the evening news convinces many that they too need weapons for protection in suburbia or the inner city. Violence begets violence is not a rumor; it is a reality. Violence done anywhere escalates violence everywhere.

Those who place their faith in weapons often ask derisively, “Can a nation or a home be too secure? Can we be too safe?” The appeal of redemptive violence is the spirit of the age in which we live and it affects all humanity. It is virulent in the United States as it impacts our foreign policy, dictates what our national budgets will be, governs the military industrial complex and Gun Empire, inspires our media and even televangelism; it fuels our national myth that both our homes and the world can be secure with enough firepower.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 68 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Broken record time: If violence is seen as an option, it soon becomes the option of choice and then becomes the only option...

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27 NIV (emphasis added)
</idle musing>

Thursday, January 14, 2016

About that concealed weapons permit...

The Gun Empire spreads the myth that those with CCWP [Concealed-carry weapons permit] are society’s most trustworthy citizens and its best defense against dangerous individuals. Between 1996 and 2000, the Violence Policy Center examined those assertions and came to other conclusions. They conducted major studies of permit holders in Texas and Florida. In Texas they discovered CCWP holders were arrested for weapon-related offenses at a rate 81 percent higher than that of the general population aged 21 and older.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 66

<idle musing>
Once again, when violence is perceived as an option, it soon becomes the option of choice. It's like a god that brooks no rivals, but in its wake are broken lives. It promises shalom but delivers heartbreak.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The myth of redemptive violence, cont.

The myth of redemptive violence is nationalism become absolute. This myth speaks for God; it does not listen for God to speak. It invokes the sovereignty of God as its own; it does not entertain the prophetic possibility of radical denunciation and negation by God. It misappropriates the language, symbols, and scriptures of Christianity. It does not seek God in order to change; it claims God in order to prevent change. Its God is not the impartial ruler of all nations but a biased and partial tribal god worshipped as an idol. Its metaphor is not the journey but a fortress. Its symbol is not the cross but a rod of iron. Its offer is not forgiveness but victory. Its good news is not the unconditional love of enemies but their final liquidation. Its salvation is not a new heart but a successful foreign policy. It usurps the revelation of God’s purposes for humanity in Jesus. It is blasphemous. It is idolatrous.—Walter Wink as quoted in America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 66

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A strong myth

Redemptive violence is tough-minded. It understands that the evil in the world must be confronted and controlled. The spirit of redemptive violence must be obeyed because we have enemies who are out to destroy us. The cartoon character Pogo was famous for saying, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Pogo’s more humble assessment and willingness to see the contradictions and evil in oneself, is a biblically sound approach to any conflict that might arise, whether in an individual or a national context. However, those who proclaim the values in redemptive violence are convinced that the evil in the world is because of our enemy’s purposes and plans. That is, “those people” who are not like us are out to destroy us. Redemptive violence stands or falls in its ability to blame others for our problems: the communists, the gays, the straights, the blacks, the whites, the liberals, the conservatives, the Republicans, the Democrats, the Hispanics, and the Muslims. For those who trust redemptive violence, the evil in the world is always someone else’s fault.

The blasphemy of redemptive violence is that we consider ourselves to be God’s chosen people and therefore responsible and entitled to bring violence upon others whose intentions and purposes are, or may be, contrary to ours. When we lead the world in military procurements, it is to maintain the highest of human ideals; when the Russians and Chinese manufacture their tools of violence, it is perceived as warmongering. When we place arms in our bedside tables, we are simply protecting our vulnerable families from “those people” whose values are so out of kilter that they want to do us harm.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 65 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
If you look around you, you see this myth operative everywhere. I would say it is the myth we live by—whether right or left, Christian or not. And that is scary!

As I said the other day, if violence is considered an option, it soon becomes the option of choice. And from there it becomes the only option.

Lord! Set us free from our idolatry!
</idle musing>

Monday, January 11, 2016

Keep this in mind when reading

Reading usually proceeds from a written record. The written record of [Ta], however, is obviously not quite identical with [Ta] itself, since most writing systems, the Hebrew script included, only partially encode the information by which texts are determined. Therefore, in order to retrieve a text from a given written document, the reader is expected and required to provide additional information not found in the written record, but to be drawn from his own experience and cultural knowledge. If a specific reader is fully aware of the cultural codes and horizons of [Ta], he might be able to supply the necessary details and to apply them on the written document in the way required to (re-)create [Ta(1)] as a full equivalent of the original [Ta]. If this is not the case, however, he is likely to produce [Tb] in a way only partially compliant with [Ta].

This problem, inherent to script and the written transmission of documents in general as mentioned before, seems to have been even more grave with regard to the Hebrew Bible. The reason is that the Hebrew script is not able to record vowels, with the exception of the so-called vowel letters (matres lectionis), although the distinctiveness of a certain vocalization may carry important semantic information. As a result, the Hebrew Bible contains in fact a large number of words with different meaning, which had been homographs before the invention of the Masoretic pointing.—Stefan Schorch in Empirical Models Challenging Biblical Criticism, edited by Raymond F. Person, Jr. and Robert Rezetko, forthcoming from SBL Press

Love your neighbor—by killing him!

As the Gun Empire shouts “Guns save lives” they tell us their first priority is not to love their neighbor, but to defend themselves against their neighbor, and if the situation demands it, to kill him.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 64

Redemptive violence?

Does our fascination with violence today stem from the Gun Empire, which spews out millions of efficient handguns that can shoot dozens of rounds in a few seconds and penetrate bulletproof vests? Or does our faith in violence come from the military Industrial Complex whose products can obliterate an entire city with sophisticated missiles fired from submarines under the sea or by drones guided to their targets from thousands of miles away? It is a chicken and egg question, for each form of violence is controlled by the same animating spirit. Together they illustrate our national faith in the values and effectiveness of obeying the dictates of redemptive violence.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 64

<idle musing>
He's hit the nail on the head here. Our national faith is redemptive violence. From the showdown at high noon, to the masked man on the horse, to the cavalry coming over the hill at the last moment, we believe that violence can be redemptive.

But is that in the New Testament? Think about that for a moment. If you think it is, then you had better excise a good bit of the New Testament to make it fit. Anything that talks about the emptying of self, of death to self has to go. And I believe that is the core of the gospel. Our life dies so that Christ's life can live in us...despite some of the photoshopped pictures out there, I don't believe for a second that Jesus would carry a gun.
</idle musing>

Friday, January 08, 2016

Whence this love for violence?

My purpose in writing about our dark side is not to heap scorn upon the country I love, but rather to encourage the church of Jesus Christ to dig deep and examine where our penchant for violence comes from, and to ask why we place such great confidence in weapons of war and defensive handguns. Do we have an excessive need to be in control? Do we trust the tools of violence more than other countries? Those of us who believe in the love of God revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth must get in touch with our American obsession for dominance, power, and violence. We must admit them. We must confess these “needs” and put in their place a born-again trust in the efficacy of the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22–23).—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 62–63

<idle musing>
I've noticed over the years that if violence is admitted as an option, it soon becomes the default option. If someone initially says they will only use violence in defending someone else, it isn't long before they begin to see violence as an option in self-defense as well. Violence is like a virus that takes over the whole thought process and makes it sick.

If, on the other hand, you start from the initial viewpoint that violence in never an option, it's amazing how many creative ways you can come up with to manage the situation. Once again, Lakoff and Johnson are correct, metaphors matter. How we describe things does affect the way we see solutions.

Thursday, January 07, 2016


Infatuation with our power is still alive and well among us, and most of us have not even considered the possibility that this is hubris and that fixation on our power might in the long run carry with it enormous risks for our long-term security. President John Adams, aware of the new nation’s large national appetites, wrote Thomas Jefferson in February, 1816: “Power always thinks it has great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all of God’s laws.” more recently George Orwell observed, “We not only do not disapprove of atrocities committed by our side, but have a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 62

<idle musing>
Indeed—especially the Orwell quotation. We don't even hear the atrocities "our side" commits because we don't want to.

"Let those who have ears..." as Jesus said. We are more like "blind leaders of the blind."

Lord, open our eyes that we may see and repent!
</idle musing>

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


Why do American people need such enormous levels of firepower in both weapons of war and domestic handguns? Why do we need extended magazines for semi-automatic weapons filled with cop-killer bullets to penetrate so-called bulletproof vests? Why do law-abiding citizens need silencers for their guns, or grenades, or the latest assault weapons that are issued to the 101st Airborne and the U.S. Marines?—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 61 (emphasis original)

<idle musing>
Indeed! Why? Unless they are living a fantasy?

I suspect it is the the myth of redemptive violence playing out. The lone hero, rescuing the damsel in distress. Or showdown at high noon on Main Street. The problem is that those are myths. They didn't really happen and the don't really happen—except in Hollywood.

Instead, real people, people with flesh and blood, people that Jesus died for, frequently your own family, get seriously injured or killed.

Is that worth it? Apparently 2/3 of the U.S. doesn't think so; they don't own a firearm (see here [HT: Jim West]). Even most Texans don't! Only about 36% own a gun.

That figure makes me pause. If 2/3 don't own a weapon, but there are enough guns in the U.S. for 90% to own one, then those who own a firearm are likely to own 3 or more.

So, let's extrapolate a bit more. One-third of Americans own guns, but most guns are owned by males. So, if you own one firearm, you likely own 6. How does the gun industry keep selling more weapons? Either they try to expand their market into the other 66% of Americans, or they sell more to those who already own 6 or more.

What's the best way to sell guns? Fear! How convenient for them that fear works to expand their market and sell more weapons to those who already could outfit their own militia!

Perfect love casts out all fear. I John

A big gun casts out all fear! NRA

Turn the other cheek. Vengeance belongs to the LORD. Jesus

You have a responsibility to defend your property/country/family and a big gun is the way to do it. NRA

Which are you going to choose? Yes, I do believe it really is that stark a difference and contrast.

Just an
</idle musing>

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Good and generous!

There is little doubt that America’s readiness to use violence to keep our nation and/or our homes safe and secure, stems from our confidence that “we are a Christian nation” and a good and generous people whose motives are beyond reproach. Such self-understanding gives birth to a sure sense of privilege to use any means necessary to advance the cause of democracy and freedom as well as to protect our homes and private property. Such is the work of patriots. Because we are a good and generous people, the violence we may be forced to use to accomplish God’s purposes is not to be considered deplorable, only necessary. In the final analysis violence can be praised and glorified, even construed as redemptive. Nothing is nobler than defending the honor of our Creator, protecting our precious families, or safeguarding the cause of freedom and democracy. Using violence when necessary in support of these righteous causes is not only justified, it is a moral obligation.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 56

<idle musing>
I'd say he pegged the situation, wouldn't you?

But, what if the first proposition is wrong? What if we aren't "a Christian nation"? And how do you define Christian nation? Wesley attacked that problem with respect to England way back in the 1700s! His conclusion? England—and every other country!—fell far short! (See the sermons entitled "Scriptural Christianity" [sermon 4] and "The General Spread of the Gospel" [sermon 63] for details)

Further, the second proposition, that we are a "good and generous people" is questionable. If we are good and generous, then why the drone strikes? If by good and generous, you mean good at sending an unmanned missile at a target and generous in the sense of doing it repeatedly, I concur! We are good at doing the equivalent of V-1 & V-2 German rockets in WWII! But, I suspect that's not what people mean, is it?

Perhaps you mean good at exporting a materialistic outlook on life? Yes, we are very generous with our materialistic outlook! Our self-indulgence is exported to the ends of the earth! Look for the Coke and McDonald's (just to name two) outlets all over the world! We're good at it—and generous, too! Why, we even gave away Coke for free in China—to get them hooked! How is that different from the drug pusher who gives away a few pills, knowing that the person will be enslaved to them for life?

Or perhaps you mean pornography? We're good at that! So good that some estimate as many as 70% of males are addicted to it (personally, I think that number is a bit high, but still...). And generous? Why, to a fault! We make it available freely on the Internet!

A Christian nation? I think we should reread the Gospels at the bare minimum, starting with Matthew 5–7...

Just an
</idle musing>

Monday, January 04, 2016

What's your religion?

Violence is the ethos of our times. It is the spirituality of the modern world. It has been accorded the status of a religion, demanding from its devotees an absolute obedience to death. Its followers are not aware, however, that the devotion they pay to violence is a form of religious piety. Violence is successful as a myth precisely because it does not seem to be mythic in the least. Violence simply appears to be the nature of things. It is what works. It is inevitable, the last, and often, the first resort in conflicts. It is embraced with equal alacrity by people on the left and on the right, by religious liberals and religious conservatives. The threat of violence, it is believed, alone can deter aggressors. Some would argue the threat of nuclear annihilation has bought the world sixty-six years of peace. Violence is thriving as never before in every sector of American popular culture, civil religion, nationalism, and foreign policy. Violence, not Christianity, is the real religion of America.—Walter Wink, as quoted in America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, pages 52–53

Baal requires lots of sacrifices

More American citizens were killed with guns in the eighteen-year period between 1979 and 1997 (651,697) than all servicemen and women killed in battle in all of the United States’ wars since 1775 (650,858).—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 52

<idle musing>
Ok, maybe it's Milcom/Molek who requires them, but you get the point. We don't think twice about the human cost of our love affair with shiny bullets. It's the cost of being "free"—free to be killed, free to kill others.

I'm reminded of the lyrics to a Randy Stonehill song from the 1970s: We are all like foolish puppets who desiring to be kings
Now lie pitifully crippled after cutting our own strings
Too true...
</idle musing>

Friday, January 01, 2016

Watch the language!

I challenge us all to think about the words we use in daily conversation and to remove the most violent from our vocabularies. We could take some risks and call attention to one another’s use of violent words and phrases. If we confess our own struggles and use humor, raising a question or two about word choices might help create a kinder and gentler society. Who knows? The truth is that where violence is a problem, words really matter.—America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose, page 51

<idle musing>
I'm not a New Year's Resolution kind of guy, but this would make a good one for those of you who are...

Of course, that will last about 10 days, so why not let the Holy Spirit take your speech and season it with salt? That will definitely be more lasting!
</idle musing>