Category Archives: christarchy

Micael Grenholm on God and wealth…


silver_denarius_augustusSwedish blogger Micael Grenholm, who blogs at Holy Spirit activism about stuff like humanitarian issues, christian pacifism, the gifts of the Spirit  and signs and miracles. (Seems like a rare combination, but I say it shouldn’t be, biblically it’s a very logical combination if we look at the gospels) is kicking against some holy cows again with a must-read series on God an wealth.

(introduction)

Part 1: It’s Wrong to Be Rich

Part 2: Equality

Part 3: Sharing Everything

Part 4: The Church Fathers

Part 5: three heresies

I’m not sure what exactly I believe on this issue, but I do kinda think we as Christians are called to be both generous and to live simple. I always bump into the question ‘does God hate the rich’ when I read the sermon on the plain (blessed are the poor, woe to the rich…) or the ‘easier it is for a camel…’ saying that is found in all 3 synoptic gospels.

But it is also followed by the ‘What’s impossible for humans is possible for God’ line’ (I’m paraphrasing from memory and translating here) so it is more complicated. If we cling to our possessions, like most modern Westerners probably do, there might be a dimension of the Kingdom of God that we miss.

I personally think that the Story of Zaccheaus, who gave away most of his money when he repented, might be a good paradigm for the salvation of the rich (if he was still rich afterwards that is…)

What do you people think?

shalom

Bram

Meditating on sexy models


Note: I write as a straight white male, and I do write from my own perspective. I do think a lot of what I say could be relevant to other readers that are not straight males, but for readability I don’t make everything gender-inclusive. If you are a person who is visually aroused in a sensual way by male bodies, or by both sexes, just read the sex you’re attracted to instead of female and your own gender instead of male.

I’ve been thinking a lot about some discussions I had on my facebook wall after I posted this next cartoon:

(Probably irrelevant note on this cartoon: I must confess that I do find sunglasses more unattractive than the Niqab the woman is wearing. I also find that sunglasses + bikini make it easier to turn a woman into something abstract than anything that shows the eyes)

I have the creepy idea that both our Western pornification and the Eastern way of hiding women are 2 sides of the same rotten coin, in which women (and more generally humans) get reduced to sexual objects that can be either pursued as such (in our heads or in real life) or should be avoided as a cause of sin, and this covered up and hidden from sight.

I’m not a fan of what I’ve just called the ‘Eastern’ view because I find it completely dehumanizing. I’ve read about ‘bleeding Pharisees’ who were alleged to be so afraid to see a woman that they did look away all the time when walking on the streaky and so bumped into everything that stood in their way in the street. [I hope that this is just a dumb religious urban legend] I also remember a conversation with a Muslim colleague in a former job, who explained to me that women had to be covered up because men just can’t control themselves when seeing one.

All of this is not just sexist towards women, I’m also quite infuriated by the low view of man that is espoused here, and I am afraid that men who are trained to think like this might indeed grow into the type of man that cannot watch a woman without having wrong sexual thoughts about her. As a Christ-follower I do try to take the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount serious:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

Yes, looking lustfully at a woman, using her as a sex-object in your head, is adultery of the heart. Auch; Note also: Jesus clearly speaks to the watching man as the responsible party, not about the woman. Our thoughts, and the way we look at women, are our responsibility. Jesus himself never practised the ‘run-away-from-everything-female-that-might-seduce-you’ tactics at all. He speaks with the woman at the well as an equal for example,  which goes against his culture. Even his followers are surprised by that. And in other places in the gospels we see that Jesus nowhere treats women as sex objects or dangerous sources of sexual sin, but as human beings.

anyway, let’s not blame just the oldschool guys and the Muslims faraway, and their Christian counterparts in certain more fundamentalist corners. We enlightened neoliberal capitalist Westerners are even worse. Billboards everywhere with sexy bodies on it, that are made to make us spend our money on completely unrelated crap. And I’m not even talking about porn here. The line of thought is scarily similar: men will not control their thoughts when seeing a sexy female body. Only we do not at all attempt to control it, we cultivate it, and some industries use it to make a lot of money. And I suppose the porn industry is making even more money than the advertisement industry that I’m criticizing right now.

Let’s go back to the billboards with half-naked women that I talked about. We are not able to avoid advertisements that are put there for everyone to see sometimes, and I do not believe at all that the ‘bleeding pharisees’ are a healthy model to copy at all…;We as Christians should exhibit a scandalous love towards all humans, including those abused sisters on those pictures!

The solution is not to always look away, we don’t do anything about the root problem then: women remain just something that makes us sin, instead of human beings made in the divine image. We have to learn HOW to look if we can’t avoid it.

Just running away solves nothing. Forming character is important. Which means sometimes that you actively have to form your habits, and that’s not always an easy task. But what I’ve been doing lately when I saw such female figures that I couldn’t avoid looking at was a small meditation, which did open my  eyes.

So here it is, as the title promised: a meditation on sexy models, to be performed while looking at a billboard of a sexy body that is used to sell something completely unrelated to the female human. And indeed, maybe it’s not very healthy to go looking for an occasion for such a thing, but when you’re already in the staring situation, this kind of meditation might be a good turnaround:

1.  first ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, for His eyes to look at people… Ask for forgiveness on any wrong dehumanizing thoughts (looking at her as either a sex object or a dirty slut!) if you have had any of those. Thoughts can not always be avoided, but they can be stopped. (The bible even speaks of ‘taking thoughts captive in Christ!)  And if the Spirit would say to look away, ignore this meditation. Your path might not be mine. But even then,

2. Look at her as a whole, as a person. Look for her eyes. Try to find the person behind it. (If possible) Maybe try to think about the photograph, how it was taken. About the fotoshoot, about how she was working and ‘acting’.

3. Think about her as a child, being with her grandparents. Or other very human situations. She is a person just like you, with friends and troubles, with hopes and dreams and little and big frustrations.

4. Remind yourself this: This is a human being, made in the image of God. Try to see it. She might be abused by a capitalist system, she might be abusing her body herself, but nothing of that will take away she still is a human being like you, incredably valuable since SHE IS CREATED IN THE DIVINE IMAGE, just like you are. Let that sink in. She should not be reduced to a sex object, but neither should she looked down upon as a ‘slut’ or whatever categories you have in your head for ‘sinful women’. She is your sister, and should be looked at this way.

5. Pray for her, for her life to be invaded by Gods kingdom.

6. Pray for God to help you look at every woman the way He does.

Remember that rewiring thought patterns is hard. But that does not mean that you cannot change and be modelled more and more to the mind of Christ.

This kind of exercises is also very good with other people that you tend to dehumanize in very different ways, like ‘your enemies’ (only if you love them and pray for them you will be ‘sons of god’ in Matthew 5:45-46)  those with, whom you disagree so much you don’t take them serious as a human being, those far away dying in wars on TV, etc… All of those are Human beings, created in Gods image, of immense worth! Even the worst criminal!

My question now: If those things are so important to Jesus in the gospel (loving our fellow humans, even loving our enemies) why aren’t these the things we train ourselves in as Christians, and train ourselves some more in it, and invite the Spirit to help us grow in it? Why isn’t this one of our top priorities?

so, what do you think? Am I crazy? Unrealistic? any other comments?

shalom

Bram

The lost psalters interview (from August ’11, Kortrijk)


Last August the psalters, one of the most remarkable, unique and impressing band of the planet, were in Belgium to play their amazing music, and they did a show in Kortrijk. I was happy to be the opening act, with just a crappy guitar as a substitute backing band, but I actually hardly remember anything of that, since the psalters concert itself that came after my set was much, much more impressing. (one bootlegged song of my own set, called ‘Ellulian glasses’ can be found here)

As was their new CD ‘carry the bones’, which was for me the best CD of 2011! You can mail order it through their site now btw. Do it, you won’t regret it! The real CD has a very cool package and does sound lots and lots better than mp3’s of it at 128 bpm.

I also did a very interesting interview that night for a Flemish website with the mysterious ‘Captain Napkins’, as the CD booklets call him), one of the two leading forces behind the band. Browsing through my old files I found the English version again today, and I found it way too interesting to not share it with the world. Sharing is what makes us humans…

So here it is (drum roll on oil barrel), the psalters interview from Kortrijk, Belgium on 8/23/2011, done by myself (Bram), originally for cultuurshock.net (read the shorter Dutch version here!)

Bram: So this is your second time in Belgium. please tell us about the first time you were here:

Captain Napkins: Well, the fist time here in Belgium we got to play in Antwerp. We were invited by some cool folks to stay in a squat-house, that used to be a customs building on the bay. It was an amazing experience to stay in there, and then on top of that we played a show in a squat bar (the Scheld’apen) The interesting thing was that Antwerp had just kicked a lot of gypsies out of the city and given them some land right next to the bar to camp out, so when we were there was a couple of acres full of gypsies and then there was anarchists, punks and different folks all together. It just made for an amazing night.

There was a big tree-house right behind the bar, a huge tree-house even, like a real house in a tree, And there was lots of good beer. It was one of our favorite shows that we have ever done, very intense, The place was packed. Yes, we loved it! We absolutely loved Belgium!

Bram: What’s the difference between playing your music in Europe and playing it in america?

Captain Napkins: Sometimes it overlaps, you know: There are places in America that we’ve played that remind me a lot of some places that we’ve played in Europe. But I guess as a generalization, I would say more consistently people in Europe take what we’re doing much more seriously, like they think of us more a like we’re trying to be ourselves: as an organization, as a community, as a movement of combining worshop and justice, and ehm, fighting the empires that we humans create. In America, I think a lot of venues and places see all of that as just a gimmick, and at the end of the day we’re just a band…. So I think in Europe people have been taking us more seriously, which has been great. Plus the shows in Europe, it seems like people take music more seriously, not just us, but in general. The venues seem to take sound more seriously, like they’re very apologetic if they don’t have exactly what we need.

Bram: I heard the same from an interview with Dave Edwards (frontman of woven hand and 16 horsepower) once. Who said that Belgium was the most receptive country for just listening to the music, and taking it very seriously, even in the details.

Captain Napkins: Yeah, but I would say lot of the countries we’ve been to in Europe. The venues seem to take the music and the show a little more seriously, you know they put more work in it. but Belgium is one of our favorite places, for sure.

Bram: Okay, let’s switch to another subject: you guys are known to be both Christians and anarchists, how do you combine that?

Captain Napkins: It’s not at all a matter of combining, for me, for us… Well, anarchy… (pauses) We’re Christians, In a way I’m a Christian and I’m just a Christian, but I like to articulate ourselves as anarchists because the concept of anarchy helps people to understand better what we’re talking about: that there’s no system of man that works. All systems of man end up oppressing other people and elevating some people at the expense of others, and for us end up in the way of God, the One who created this world, so, yeah.

Bram: I understand that, but some people might not: I’ve just heard that there is a group of anarchists here in Kortrijk that refused to go come to your show tonight just because you’re Christians. How would you react to that?

Captain Napkins: I understand that. There’s a lot of Christians that have been very judgemental and hurtful to a lot of people. You know been jerks basically, so I totally understand that. There’s also been times for that we’ve been invited to play in a place and we found out that they were Christian and we didn’t want to play, you know.

Bram: Well, I heard that about Christians too, when hearing that you were anarchists, didn’t want to hear your music…

Captain Napkins: yeah, same thing

Bram: I remember when I let someone hear the song ‘come now and join the feast, right here in the belly of the beast’, they thought you were satanists. So how do the common Christians in America react to your music and your message?

Captain Napkins: yeah we’ve been shut down sometimes. We’ve played some shows.We’re very anti, we’re very unpatriotic, you know, like I love, I love the people of my country, I love the l…

Bram: (interrupting quite impulsively) Belgians are the most unpatriotic people of the world.

Captain Napkins: Okay

Bram: We actually just don’t care, we still don’t have a government now for I one year and a half and we don’t even care.

Captain Napkins: That’s maybe similar… that’s how we feel. I’m sure Belgians love each other, and they love the land. That’s how I feel, you know, I love the land from where I come. I love the people, but I don’t care about the government, I don’t care about those people more than other people. so in all those ways I’m not patriotic at all. and that offends of some Christians, and so we’ve kinda shut down

Bram: In America?

Captain Napkins: some of them are very conservative people and we’re not….

Bram: So, conservatives in America are really patriotic?

Captain Napkins: yeah the conservatives in America are patriotic and they tend to be violent.

Bram: recognize this T-shirt? (show T-shirt of the ordinary radicals)

Captain Napkins: yeah

Bram: I guess you know the ‘litany of resistance’, where Shane Claiborne says something like ‘I pledge allegiance to the transnational church that transcends all borders’ or something like that. (losing my words) So, when you’re thinking of Christianity and being part of a country, part of a nation, whatever, Being a Christian and being part of a people, part of a nation, what’s the connection?

Captain Napkins: for me, I don’t consider myself a part of the nation. I just am a part of the

(We arrive at the bar, looking for a good Belgian Beer, and decide to get a Hopus, a rather strong one)

Bram (to bartender): He’s from America, he’ll really appreciate it, he’s the leader of the band who played.

Bartender: yeah, I know man, it was so nice.

Bram: He deserves a hopus, really!

Bartender: yeah man, of course, of course, of course!

Captain Napkins: yeah, we have a lot of Belgian beers in Philly, in Philadelphia, my city where I’m from they love Belgian beers.

Bartender: Belgian beers are the best.

Bram: So, let’s get back to the interview: one of the guy frsom the squat-house where you stayed last time couldn’t be here tonight but he really likes your sound. He said you were the most tight band heever heard. Like one voice playing together, like there’s no ego in the band. How do you do that?

Captain Napkins: Well it’s interesting. I haven’t really, eh

Bram: You’re just tight together without ego’s, like one band with one vision, musically.

Captain Napkins: (thoughtful) Well, if that’s true, well I mean I haven’t head that a lot, it’s a new thing to me actually. But if it’s true, then what makes it happen is that there is a theology to what we’re doing, there is a vision and a mission that.

Bram: A theology?

Captain Napkins: I mean it’s built on a whole thesis, you know.

Bram: I’ve read a short version of it on your website and I’m still waiting for the whole version to be released.

Captain Napkins: Yeah, I need to write it out… that’s what I want to do when I get back from Europe. some more writing. I wrote it long time ago when I was in college. it’s for college, so it’s not, you know, there is a lot that needs to be changed.

Bram: What would you change?

Captain Napkins: Well, not even so much change as I would just add a lot, there is a lot that needs to be added and kinda updated maybe. I still agree with pretty much everything that’s in there, just a lot of things need to be updated…

Bram: Okay, on to something else, and maybe very strange question: what’s the gospel for you as a Christian anarchist? That’s the most important question for a Christian: What exactly is the good news?

Captain Napkins: Well, for me it’s about… (pauses) Eh… This might sound a little bit vague, but it’s important to me. When you ask that question I think of how God is love and loved us all into existence. He loves creation into existence and because of that our faith is about being in relationship with God, with each other and with creation. And that’s where anarchy comes in, and that’s where radical justice comes in: because the world fights against creation, the world fights against the Creator, the world fights against relationships. But for me it starts with the idea that God is love, God loved us into existence and God wants us to be in a a relationship with Him, with each other, and with his creation.

Bram: Makes a lot of sense to me. When I hear this I’m reminded of the controversy of Rob Bell’s ‘love wins’ book, so maybe let’s just ask one of the hardest questions of our faith: what do you think about hell?

Captain Napkins: (pauses) Wow, about hell? I actually was just talking to somebody last night about that and, eh, I do think that there is a hell. I don’t really know, but Jesus talks about it a lot, and our scriptures talk about it a lot, and eh… I’m uncomfortable, but at the same time I think that, eh, you know, I don’t know what it is and I don’t know who goes there, but I think that God is all-powerful (pauses) There is this woman, Julian of Norwich, who’s the first woman ever published in English. She is way back in the 12th century and she wrote something like she had a vision of hell, and she wrote something about like “and all is well and all will be well and all matter of things shall be well”. And it was just this, like it sounds redundant, but it was just her saying that God is kinda makes it work. And God makes it right, and God bring the healing but it’s tough how, I don’t know man, I mean it’s too tough.

I’m not one of those people that thinks that people who don’t confess Jesus automatically go there and stuff. I mean, I don’t know who goes there. I’m not one to decide who goes to hell and who doesn’t, you know, I do believe. I don’t even want to say that people definitely go to hell for eternity and all I think maybe that’s something that’s out of our understanding I’m also one to not say that hell does not exist, I think that hell does exist. And I think there is this suffering. there’s this horrible mess that’s out there and I think that there is such a thing as justice. I think that when injustice happens there is a need for retribution.

Bram: Would you say that there is retribution in justice, or just only putting things right and cleaning up evil without taking revenge?

Captain Napkins: yeah, I don’t necessarily believe in revenge, but I think when something evil happens I think that something needs to be made right, and it isn’t simply forgiven. It’s not a matter of like this horrible thing happens and well, it’s just okay now. No, I believe that like, when people, when a whole village is slaughtered by another group of people, that evil isn’t simply forgiven by God, there is a payment for it, there is a suffering that makes it right again.

Bram: And Jesus took that on him to give us forgiveness. (looks at watch) Looks like it’s getting late, so it’s time to end the interview. So I’ll have one last question: If I’d ask what you’d say to Christian people in Belgium, just regular Christian people, what would you say? What would you challenge them to?

Captain Napkins: Well, eh… People respect authority too much. People respect the Powers that Be too much. Because maybe the governments here are better than our government and so it’s easy…

Bram: Well, we kinda do have healthcare…

Captain Napkins: Yeah, yeah so there’s a lot of good things, and, ehm, it’s easy to not respect the American government but maybe it’s harder for Europeans to not respect theirs. But still I think that any government,and any system still falls short to the Kingdom of God. I think we always have to question them, and that we first have to be citizens of the Kingdom of God, and not citizens of a human government or a King. Maybe I’d say something like that…

Bram: Thank you very much! One more beer?

Some interesting things elsewhere


Travelling missiologist Andrew Jones, the blogger also known as Tallskinnykiwi, wants to write a book (that I want to read!!!) and needs some help with money to be able to do the stuff he’s doing, which is travelling around with his family to meet with all of gods children on planet Terra, and helping all kinds of Christians and Christian communities around the world.  There’s only one Andrew Jones on the whole planet Terra who does what he does, so consider helping him! Or at least read what he’s up to on the blogpost I’ve linked to…

Matt stone on glocal Christianity has started a very interesting series, which starts with six different Christian approaches to war and peace, something we need in times when it seems like a false dichotomy between ‘just war’ and ‘pacifism’ (which sometimes is explained really poorly) is dominating the discussion, while there are much forms of Christian pacifism on one hand, and ‘just war theory’ isn’t really followed by much people on the other hand actually.  His position is ‘apocalyptic pacifism’, and the other posts are OT bible verses that he sees as pacifist prophecies (part 1, part 2, part 3) to back his position up.

Apocalyptic pacifism starts from an ‘already and not yet’ framework, in which the ‘coming age’ (the Kingdom of God)  is breaking in into this age, and in which we as Christians are already living in the reality of that new age. Living as radical peacemakers is one dimension of the Kingdom, but if we read the gospels there is another one that can’t be denied: the supernatural signs of the kingdom are as clear and confronting in the gospels as the radical love for our fellow humans that includes enemy-love… And Ray Hollenbach has a very interesting meditation on this aspect of the Kingdom of God on Students of Jesus. The anabaptist peace tradition and vineyard Kingdom charismatics can learn a  lot from each other and make the Kingdom vision more complete together!

He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9: 1 – 2)

[The perfect soundtrack here would be this gungor song, that we've sung last sunday in Vineyard Antwerpen. I love me some bluesfunk from time to time, and Michael is a very good musician!!]

And then for something else: Laura Ziesel has an interesting series on Christianity, intersex people and eunuchs in the bible. Thanks to Sarah Moon for  making me aware of them and posting an orderly list of them! We should stop seeing this kind of things as ‘issues’ and start looking at it as people who are loved by Christ and should be loved by us all the same!

shalom

Bram

bible/qur’an and minority/majority positions of our religion


Matt Stone on glocal Christianity has quoted me on his blog as saying the following  on facebook:

I have read the entire Qur’an and can find no guidance in it on how Muslims should live as a minority in a society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find no guidance in it on how Christians should live as a majority.

Now this is not at all something I said myself, but something I quoted from an article I had just posted from Philip Yancey on Christianity today that can be found here. So these weren’t not my own words, but actually the quote is not from Philip Yancey either, but these words were told him by  a not further identified  muslim who told him this.

Which makes it a lot more interesting, in my opinion, if these are the words not of a Christian, like me or Mr. Yancey, but by a muslim.

I must say that I didn’t read the whole qor’an myself (and I guess wouldn’t understand itat all like a muslim would if I did, since I do not understand the old arabic langguage with its related concepts and paradigm) but what I know from Islam is indeed that they do not separate ‘mosque and state’ and their perspective of ‘Dar-el-Islaam’ seems to strive towards a dominant islamic society. We can also see in the history of Islam that they did take over the Arabian peninsula and the surrounding world to make them dominantly islamic, where (even if examples of the opposite and Christian domination indeed do abound) it’s much more common for Christians to just ‘infiltrate’ a culture and bring the good news, sometimes to the poorest and most downtrodden who don’t mean anything in a society. Like the garbage Christians in egypt or like Jacky Pullinger going to the dirtiets criminal city to bring the good news to the most hopeless of all…

what I did read is the NT, and some bits of the oldest church fathers, and they start from a minority position, and instead of wanting everybody to become Christians the christians of the first centuries actually made it very hard to join them.(Which changed around the time of Constantine, and the rest is history…) But that’s not how we do know Christianity from our history lessons, we do know it from the empires and Christian abuse of power, which goes straight against the words of the New testament itself, even of Christ Himself…

If a muslim is able to see this in the NT, why aren’t so much christians able to see the evident?

shalom

Bram

 

Why fear non-violence as a christian?


Scot McKnight, who himself self-identifies as an anabaptist, links on his blog to an article from the American spectator that poses the question if a ‘mennonite take-over’ is going on.

Now i’m still a european who doesn’t understand much of American politics, but after reading the American Spectator I sense a bit of fear of what they percieve as ‘mennonite’, even though most of the names they give are in fact not at all mennonites. What they seem to be affraid of is the growing influence of peace church thought and pacifism in christianity, which they for some reason see as agressive.

(I guess they are affraid of the other side of the american 2-party system, and of the ‘socialism’ monster of the cold war indoctrination, but what I see in both Shane Claibornes ‘Jesus for president’ and Greg Boyds ‘the myth of a Christian nation’ is rejecting both parties alike, and not putting much faith in governments at all, and it shows more a down-top grass-roots anarchism which does not wait on the State to do things…)

Most of the names they give, like Greg boyd and Shane Claiborne, are in fact not mennonites, but it surely can not be denied that they are gravely influenced by postmodern neo-anabaptist christian non-violence. Which is why I like them by the way. One of the things I like most about certain parts of the post-evangelical christianity and the emerging church dialogue is exactly that: a commitment to Jesus and His words, the sermon on the mount and to radical discipleship, even to enemy-love.

I do think this ‘neo-anabaptist’ emphasis in post(modern) evangelicalism is not only very important, but also a move of the Holy Spirit and a call to go back to the core of our faith. A call to first be a citizen of the Kingdom of God before being part of the systems of this world (or ‘empire’) I’m not only thinking of Shane Claiborne, and Greg Boyd, but of Scot McKnight himself, and Rob Bell or even Brian McLaren.

Like Derek Webb sings:

my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it’s to a king & a kingdom

We as Christians need to be serious that our first commitment is not to any nation, but to Jesus, and to the ‘transnational church that transcends all artificial borders’, like Shane Claiborne says in his ‘litany of resistance‘, which the reporter of the American spectator finds “angry and defamatory“. The first Christians were known to be willing to die for their faith, but not to kill. This is a serious way of following Christ, even into a possible death, but it’s also very powerful. It trancends the so-called myth of redemptive violence.

Like Bonhoeffer said, “…when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match.” (thanks to JoeyS) Or like Walter Wink says “Violent revolution fails because it is not revolutionary enough.”

These are the things that make me want to be a christian. But it seems that exactly these things scare some people, even some Christians… They are too far from our natural human way of thinking. But isn’t that exactly what Christianity is supposed to be. Jesus nor the Holy Spirit can be boxed or put before our cart, and neither can any genuine follower.

No we should not completely withdraw from the world, as some anabaptists tend to do (think about the Amish) Neither should we take over all the values of the world, we belong to Christ. We are to be in the world, but not of the world, like light and salt… We are not to take over with violence, but to love the hell out of this world…

Not by might,
Not by power
by my spirit
says the Lord

Shalom

Bram

A call to subversive Love!!!


hi readers

I will start with a quote from Zack’s response to my last post on cross-gender friendshios (which is worth reading, giving a good explanation of the things I was talking about, from the perception of the culture he was born into):

We don’t often find Jesus bending over backwards to not offend His culture. On the contrary, He went against the grain precisely to demonstrate how backwards their culture was, and to reveal to them what God’s love looks like in society.

That’s the context in which I would place the whole subject of cross-gender friendships, but this topic of subversive love is so much broader that this, and it must have a central place in our Christian life if we want it to make any sense at all. Jesus, Paul and the early Christianity did not only summarise the whole law in the ‘Love God above all and you neigbor as yourself’, but they also lived that way, which was not just a choice, but also an orientation, and a lifestyle, a transformation, a whole new way of being and relating to the world.

So when we look again at the story of the woman at the well (see john 4), we clearly see this revolutionary way of lovingly relating at work. No jewish rabbi at that time would ever even think about being seen with a woman of questionable reputation, even if she wouldn’t have been samaritan. There was a great segregation of the sexes, and a looking down on sinners, and the way Jews reacted to samaritans would be considered racist by todays standards. But against all those cultural taboos, Jesus just talked to her, in a friendly and egalitarian way. No matter how we try, we will not realise how subversive and not done such a thing was. And we are called to follow Jesus and do likewise as He did.

The well-meaning intentions of people who are abstaining from stuff like being seen with people of the other sex or sinners or other wrong company might stem from an honest trying to do good, but it’s far away from Jesus’ teachings and example. And it may be much closer to the one kind of people Jesus always rebuked: the religious elite of his time, like the pharisees and sadducees. He was the one who hung out with sinners and the pariahs of his age, with litteral lepers and traitors of Gods chosen people. We are not called to carefully watch our reputation, we are called to embody christs love, and we are called blessed when we are persecuted for that (see the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5)

In our christian communities we should be one, without distinctions based on race, gender, age, musical preference or social class. Neither greek or Jew, male or female as St-Paul calls it. The first christians lived that way, and so did countless other christian communities in all kinds of situations in the last 2000 years, from old to new monastics, from anabaptists to Jesus people communes. And those communities were not only focussed to keep thier love inwards, but also to sharing it with the world, with hospitality, generosity, charity.

A comment here is that, while I do believe that we have to contextualise the gospel and translate it into each culture we are in ourselves, we do not have to let the culture and it’s definitions and taboos, or even definitions alter the gospel. Au contraire, we should let the gospel transform the culture, just as we need to be transformed ourselves! We come as we are, but no way that we will stay as we are, otherwise our good news does not make any sense at all…

And this may come down to something you could call christian anarchism, or better Love-archy. We don’t listen to then written or unwritten rules that try to put boundaries on our love, just like Jesus who talked with the woman at the well as if it wasn’t special at all to do such a thing…

And I know that I fall short in any way. Both in my personal life and in communal life with my brothers and sisters in christ, and I want to repent of that. I don’t want to see the prayer of st-Francis as inspirational but faraway from my daily life. I don’t want 1 Cor 13 and verses like ‘perfect love drives out all fear’ to be hypothetical theory, but I want to learn how to live them.

This is my new motto for my life:

I want to learn how to love, the rest are details.

will you guide me, Spirit of love?

will you join me, my brothers and sisters?

will you be my all, Christ?

shalom

Bram


ps, for some inspiration go look at the revolt collective or read shane Claiborne’s book ‘the irresistible revolution’. Or look at those countless hero’s and examples that we have in the history of our faith who lived a life of subversive love. We are surrounded by a witness cloud!!

On cross-gender friendships and christians…


hi readers;

Sometimes I am amazed how some things, while they are totally non-issues to me, can be such big issues to others. I suppose that this statement may mean that I’m just an unworldly weirdo, but the only perspective I can speak of is just mine. So if I’m not convincing in my arguments, listen to me as a native of another world… One of those issues, and the topic for this post today is that of cross-gender friendships, non-romantic friendly relationships between men and women or boys and girls. Everything I know and have experienced says that this is not only possible, but also good and healthy, and something we as Christians should offer to this lost and broken world. But yet some people live in a world where the opposite truth is proclaimed and lived and even institutionalised, and to my big surprise and frustration a lot of them appear to be christians.

Currently I’m waiting for a very interesting book to arrive in my mailbox: Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between Men and Women” by Dan Brennan. I’m glad to finally see a book like this on the Christian market. I will definitely be writing more about it when I have read it. I think it’s a very important subject, when we talk about love and following Jesus and overcoming the brokenness of this world in our own life.

But some christians do think differently. They are affraid to be seen with a member of the opposite sex, because ‘people might think something’. They are affraid to be alone with a woman that’s not their wife, and will refuse to be wlone with a woman in an elevator or a car. There probably are good explanations for all this stuff; but to me it’s as alien as a little green man mith antennas flying a saucer-like vehicle… And not very Christlike. and very sexist, and mostly I’m just shocked by hearing about such things.

It has always been a total non-issue for me… And for most of my friends, who were mostly somewhere between students, artistic/hippy and middleclass people. Maybe it’s me who has always connected with like-minded people, but I’ve hardly ever seen male-female friendship considered a problem for people people my age and younger (I’m turning 30 in october) And yes, I’m the kind of guy who tens to friend girls more easily than guys… Mostly even girls that I would never have a relationship with. I Have always been this way, and getting married didn’t change much in that area. My wife is my best friend, and we both do have friends of the opposite sex, and it would be very strange in a world where such a thing would not be possible. And it would be a stupid world and not much fun.

But I know it’s not the same for everybody. It was a big clash for me when I worked with working class people,  the way the sexes were segregated. There were indeed guys for whom it would be unthinkable to be friends with a woman, or even true to look at a women that where even the least bit attractive without thinking about having sex with her. Some of these guys were so porn-minded and women-unfriendly. Men who were hurting and hurt by women because of this big division and misunderstanding between the sexes, and I think it must have been the same at the other side of the great divide with the females… I only saw hurt and brokenness and nothing I would ever want in my own life or the life of anyone I love. Nobody should be so sexually fucked-up, broken and disconnected and there are big groups of people for whom this seems to be the norm. (This is not meant to be judgenmental on working class people, it only was in such an environment that I encountered this. But there also are lots of sexually fucked-up and disconnected people who are middle class or higher class, and there are fanstastic loving people in the working class)

So… This kind of disconnect between man and woman is not very healthy… And the christian version to me seemed to come out of a similar worldview, with a reduction of the opposite sex (mostly the female from a male perspective) to merely an object of sexual desire in the first place. And this alone is a big evil that hurts and destroys people and makes a lot of money in our entertainment and advertisement industry. But no woman on this planet (even if they themselves are hurt so bad that they can only believe it that way) is just a body a man can have sex with. Even sexy lingery models on a billboard are persons like us. Just think about this the next time you see one of these billboards… Think about this girl, her hopes and dreams, and how heartbroken and hurt she might be.

The answer to this is not to run away from every woman we see that is not our own wife. The answer is to see and appreciate women as the persons that they are. I would think that for a Christian such a thing is 100% logical, but how naieve can I be sometimes…

Jesus was a very cool example for me. His talk with the woman at the well crosses all this kind of taboos and barriers like they existed in his culture. So why don’t we break loose of this nonsense? We are called to love. Friendship is a form of love.

Like I’ve said at the beginning of this piece, some people live in the opposite world, where heakthy cross-gender friendships are taboo, unhealthy, dangerous and a very subversive idea. It might be like a self-fulfilling prophecy, and if that’s the case, I choose the side of love, the side of friendship, and the example of Jesus, even if it would be against the whole world, to love every woman as my sister, mother or daughter…

Isn’t that just basic for us followers of Jesus?

shalom

Bram

ps: there is more that can be said about this subject. I hope to blog more on this when I’ve recieved and read Dan Brennan’s book.

a prayer from Shane Claiborne


I was watching a video with some preaching by ‘new monastic celebrity’ Shane Claiborne, a speaker which I like a lot, because he gives me hope for a different kind of Christianity that makes a difference in the lives of people.

I noticed again that he tends to tell the same stories again and again, but I don’t mind, they are strong stories; and his message is something that needs to become real more in my life. So if you have time, watch it. And think about it.

But what I really liked was his ending prayer. It is something to be prayed together by a group, so I wish to pray it together with all my readers, even if we are separated in time and space:

spirit of the Living God
fall on us
mould us into new creations
give us imagination with the way that we live
that we might not conform to the patterns of this world
but that we might be transformed
by the renewing of our minds
give us a new way of thinking about
our lives and our vocations
teach us to be your church

God we pray that all that You are
would take root in us
that the fruits of the Spirit
would so be inside of us
that everyone we come in contact with
would feel the goodness of Your love
that they would feel
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, gentleness, faithfullness, selfcontrol
and all of the things that You are
in the name of Jesus
Amen

I say Amen too

Bram

‘Male christianity’ vs Mother Teresa


I was reading this article (it was linked by Christine Sine on her blog) about ‘cage fighting for Jesus’. And I just don’t know what to think about this… The first reaction is just one of total disconnect. I’m just not the type of man who would ever be interested in violent sports, so I guess I’m not the target audience anyway. All things macho are just something that I can’t take serious I’m affraid… But there are more serious doubts about this kind of stuff that I have on a more theological level.

It’s a problem that I have with the whole movement of ‘male christianity’, especially in the USA. In fact, most of it seems totally intermingled with the American culture too for my european eyes anyway…

Thr first problem is that you cannot push people into exact gender roles. Men can also be totally differen from other men, and women from other women, and sex is only one factor. For example; the difference between me and my wife is a lot smaller than the difference between me and some other man (let’s say driscoll, Eldredge and those Christian fight club dudes), you just cant lump people together because they are of the same sex… You cannot force your own preference and stereotypes on people just because they are male or female. Especially not if those stereotypes are just cultural, and not even part of my culture (sorry Mr. Driscoll, your gender roles are not biblical, just american) when I read the men are from Mars book, I sometimes recognised myself in the men fom Mars, sure, but at other times I did find myself more in the description of women, or I felt like coming from Jupiter or maybe Sedna

When it becomes a male-female dichotomy, and the other sex becomes something bad that can be used as a derogatery word (like Driscolls word ‘chickified’) something is wrong. This is sexism, and there is no place for it in the church. ‘Bad masculinity’ is nothing like femininity…

But there is something more that bothers me about the whole ‘be a man, be violent’ stuff. Let’s take for example the qoute at which I finally stopped reading the book ‘wild at heart’ by John Eldredge, after not recognising myself in it from the beginning on. “Jesus is no pale-faced altar boy with his hair parted in the middle, speaking softly, avoiding confrontation, who at last gets himself killed because he has no way out. He works with wood, commands the loyalty of dockworkers. He is the Lord of hosts, the captain of angel armies. And when Christ returns, he will be at the head of a dreadful company, mounted on a white horse, with a double-edged sword, his robe dipped in blood. Now that sounds a lot more like William Wallace than it does Mother Teresa. No question about it, there is something fierce in the heart of God.” (p 19)

The critique of Mother Teresa was too much to read on through a book that already troubled me. I guess eldredge just uses her as a caricature, but I’m sorry, she may be a woman, but she may be more Christlike than all those Jesus-cavemen lumped together… And if for some autistic reason a woman can’t be an example for you, then take St-Francis, or our belgian St-Damien of Molokai, or Stephen in acts… Jesus was God, the Almighty, who laid of His power, and came as a baby, and suffered with us. When they came to arrest Him, the disciples started fighting, but he rebuked them and healed the ear of the soldier who was wounded by Peter. so if Mark Driscoll says “I cannot worship a guy I can beat up”, he misses the point entirely. He came to be beat up, and worse…

The fighting of the good fight is a methaphor, (just as the double-edged sword) It has nothing to do with our fleshly muscles, and endorphines and adrenaline… No, those are things of the flesh, which are not the core of the Kindom fo God, which comes

Not by might, nor by power,
but by my Spirit says the Lord…

I believe Jesus didn’t came to teach us violence. Hhe didn’t say ‘blessed are the bruise-makers’ (or even the cheesemakers) but blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the Children of God. He doesn’t break the bruised reed or quench the smouldering wick, and we are called to follow in His way.

The Kingdom of God will not come through Martial arts… But through His strength when we are weak. And that may be impopular for us who want to be strong and in control, but in the end, we are to be weak, so He can be strong through us… And if our false idols of so-called manhood have to go in that process, so be it…

Shalom

Bram