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16 Jun 2010

Thanks for visiting!  (Are you in John MacLean’s English class? Click here.)

My most recent blog posts are below. But to see an overview of what I blog about here and where else I am online (now on trunk.ly), click Read more…

The Blue Parakeet – Scot McKnight

14 Jul 2011

I recently read The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight.  Here is an unpolished review I wrote mostly for myself.

Great book about how Christians read the Bible – in addition to encouraging a historical, cultural, literary approach, McKnight emphasizes the “picking and choosing” that all Christians do when reading the Bible.  He repeatedly points out that we all do it.  It is not wrong, but it is important to understand the reasons why we do it the way we do.  He lists five ways that Christians have read the Bible:

  1. Morsels of Law
  2. Morsels of Blessings and Promises
  3. Mirrors and (Rorschach) Inkblots
  4. Puzzling together the pieced to map God’s mind – creating the “grand system”  McKnight emphasizes God revealed the Bible as story, not as systematic theology. But his real problem with this approach seems to be that it can result in people thinking they have the Bible figured out or have mastery of it – they know what it says – they have “caged and tamed the Blue Parakeet” (p52) (IMO, this happens when people’s first question is not what does this mean, but how do I make this fit in my system (as Fee has observed in Reading the Bible for all Its Worth).  But many of us do this to some extent – esp. in the West where system is such a huge part of our culture.)
  5. Maestros – reading all of the Bible through a favorite Bible person (e.g. Paul, or even Jesus).  The problem is ONLY asking What would Jesus do? or What would Paul say? or How do I understand this using Paul’s categories and ways?

(ch 3)

He encourages a reading “with” rather than “through” tradition.

He also encourages an understanding of and reading informed and shaped by the story of the Bible –

  1. Creating Eikons (image bearers) – Oneness – Gen 1-2
  2. Cracked Eikons – Fall – Otherness – Gen 3-11
  3. Covenant community – Otherness expands – Gen 12-Malachi
  4. Christ, the perfect Eikon, redeems – One in Christ – Matt – Rev 20
  5. Consummation – Perfectly One – Rev 21-22

(p67)

The “wiki-stories” (as he calls them) that make up the big story also reflect this overall story (or parts of it).  The importance of keeping it all in mind as we read – or we can get off track.

In the last section of the book, McKnight applies these principles in reading the passages about women and leadership in the church.  He defends an egalitarian – or what he prefers to call a “mutuality” position.

 

Overall the book was a great presentation of these ideas at a basic / popular level.  However, I did feel that McKnight was at times a bit too dismissive and perhaps a bit unfair with others. While I think I understand the underlying reasons for it (related to typical hermeneutics and interpretive practice of different groups), the blurb on the back of the book was OTT – presenting McKnight as the first to offer middle ground between “out-of-touch fundamentalists [and] unrealistic liberals”.  I actually saw this turn someone off of the book.  While this kind of unfairness / hero-solving-huge-problem does not happen this egregiously in the book, there are hints of it.  (find and include example here)

Also in the book, we can see that McKnight obviously enjoys teaching the Bible to undergraduates and it seems he does a great job.  As a not-young-person who teaches undergraduates, I do wonder how some of his attempts to be “hip” come across to young people.  I can’t say.  I either never try or fail when I attempt this.  If he is succeeding, that is great – I just don’t know.

I do think the content is needed and useful for young people – even if they disagree with his position / application re women in the church.  I think the content is presented in a friendly, readable way.  I am giving the book to a couple of high school graduates at our church.

 

Three Cups of Tea?

20 Apr 2011

I previously posted about Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea.  It looks like there are some questions about the accuracy of his account.  I have not seen the 60 Minutes program, or looked into it much, but here are some news items about it:

Three Cups of Tea: The Pakistan and Afghan side
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13125953

Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea ‘inaccurate’ – CBS
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13112799
Publisher looks into Mortenson book fabrication claims
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-13126900

Son of Hamas

9 Mar 2011

Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices by Mosab Hassan Yousef

At first glance I was cautiously optimistic about this book.  I read the Postscript, his dedication / letter to his family, and the first chapter.  There seemed to be a better spirit and a fairer presentation than is typically found in this genre of books (Muslim terrorist becomes Christian – e.g. Kamal Saleem (The Blood of Lambs), Walid Shoebat, Zachariah Anani (see http://www.3xterrorists.com/biographies.php), and Ergun Caner).

And in many ways, this is true.  Mosab criticizes both Israeilis (settlers, the government, the military) and Palestinians (the PLO, Hamas, and others).  While he shows love and appreciation for his father, he despairs over his father’s “failure to see” that “the problem is Islam”.  He portrays the torture and abuse of both sides, as well as the corruption, self-serving orientation, petty bickering, in-fighting, and just plain evil.

However, the group that is, by far, portrayed the best (though not perfect) is Israel’s Shin Bet.  They come off as basically good guys who are the only ones doing any significant good in the conflict.  Given the goals and methods of any counterintelligence / internal security organization in the world, it seems to me that Mosab does not seem sufficiently aware of how he was used by them or what they did to him psychologically. (Not to mention many other things that Shin Bet does that many would consider evil.)

Also, while I agree that the core problem is people’s sin (to use a  Christian word for a concept that most looking at the conflict would agree exists), and that the ultimate solution – reconciliation – is truly only found through repentance, forgiveness and restoration, I am disappointed by Mosab’s shallow application of Christian principles to the conflict. I don’t remember any significant reference to any Christians or Christian organizations working for peace.

I guess my biggest question is why does he write an exciting, tell-all, espionage tale – which comprises most of the book?  He could have made many of his observations; could have told much of his story; could have offered critical analysis of the Israeli government, the IDF, Hamas, Fatah, other organizations, self-serving leaders, Islam, even his critique of his father; could have held up Christian principles as the ultimate solution – all without the spy tale.  Yes, this was his story.  But he had to realize the impact of this – and how it would be seen – by all of the audiences he mentions – Palestinian Muslims, Israelis, Christians, Middle East experts and policy makers.  I would argue that he could have made his points more effectively without the spy tale.  This is illustrated in his phone conversations with his father at the end of the book.  His father still accepted him when he found out his son was a Christian.  Communication ceased when he told his father he had been a spy for the enemy. (p245-6)  Basically, Mosab’s stated goals (p 247) and methods do not seem to be a good match.

I am also concerned about Mosab’s blog, sonofhamas.wordpress.org.  It is a mix of proclaiming a “no such thing as moderate Islam” message where he sees his father as sincere but not realizing that “true Islam” is the problem – and American exceptionalism (using “we” and “us” to include himself with the Americans) – at least based on two of the articles on the front page of the blog today (7 Mar 2011).  Here are a couple excerpts:

“One of the biggest lies that has kept Islam alive is the belief that there is a difference between radical and moderate Islam. Islam is one, no matter where someone stands on the ladder between culture and jihad.

Another is the nature of Muhammad. Today, 1.5 billion Muslims follow a man they don’t know. Modern Muhammad is the creation of their imaginations. He bears no resemblance to the vile man who built a self-serving dynasty by oppressing his people and killing, in God’s name, everyone who opposed him.”

–part of Up the revolution! In ISLAM on February 24, 2011 at 05:05 – on sonofhamas.wordpress.org

“But Mubarak is not the only object of Egyptian wrath. The United States is viewed as his co-conspirator, the muscle that enabled him to hold onto his dictatorship for 30 years.

The mobs hate him. They hate us.”

“Because the truth is that America is filled with good men and women. America is exceptional.”

–part of Middle East up for grabs In EGYPT on January 30, 2011 at 05:35 – on sonofhamas.wordpress.org

Finally, I want to say that I have no idea of what Mosab has gone through, but I can see how his experiences could have strongly affected him.  I would love to see him less categorical in declaring an extremist interpretation of Islam as “true Islam”.  I am sure he has very useful insights and critiques of extremist / fundamentalist Islam (some of which appeared in the book).  Already, as I mentioned above, Mosab’s book is better than other books in this genre, but I wonder how much more of a hearing he could get with a less one-sided view of Islam.  I don’t want Mosab to stop pointing out the problems he sees in Islam – he is in a unique position to do that – I would like to see him do it in a way that could be received and really considered by more people.

Bad news for Afghan women

16 Feb 2011

A friend who works with a NGO in Afghanistan told me about these two articles.  He said this will undoubtedly result in the death of many, many women in Afghanistan. One quote: “Under the new shelter regulations, if a woman’s family comes to claim her, she must be handed over.”

http://www.undispatch.com/afghan-government-cracks-down-on-womens-shelters

http://www.undispatch.com/facing-the-gatekeepers-afghan-women-fight-shelter-takeover


The Muslim Brotherhood and the Gospel of Christ

13 Feb 2011

Just read this piece in Christianity Today online:

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Gospel of Christ
Why Egypt’s Christians might actually be safer if the Muslim Brotherhood were a part of the ruling government.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/februaryweb-only/muslimbrotherhood.html

Encouraging to see an informed, respectful article about the Muslim Brotherhood in CT. Kubinec informs us of (a bit of) the complexity of MB’s history in Egypt and their current statements.  Rather than calling their statements deceptive ruses, he highlights the expectations of Egyptians and the world that the MB will live up to these statements as a part of a future government.  Rather than endorsing those who have and would continue to suppress them (including torturing them) and deny them full participation in democracy, Kubinec encourages their presence in a democratic process that would hold them accountable.  Neither Kubinec (I assume) nor I agree with many of their beliefs, positions or values – but this does not mean we cannot talk respectfully with them about these issues – and expect them to live up to their commitment to do the same.

Encouraging to see an informed, respectful article about the Muslim Brotherhood in CT. Kubinec informs us of (a bit of) the complexity of MB’s history in Egypt and their current statements. Rather than calling their statements deceptive ruses, he highlights the expectations of Egyptians and the world that the MB will live up to these statements as a part of a future government. Rather than endorsing those who have

Egypt 3

1 Feb 2011

Looks like mostly peaceful demonstrations so far today.  I have seen estimates ranging from 100,000 to 1,000,000 demonstrators in and around Tahrir Square.  However, some have reported that the army is limiting movement – blocking roads from Alexandria to Cairo, trains are not running.  Also I saw video yesterday of police (or maybe army?) using water canons against people trying to cross one of the main bridges over the Nile to get to Tahrir Square.  I understand that state-controlled Egyptian TV is broadcasting close-up shots of pro-Mubarak demonstrations.

It seems some want to march from Tahrir Square (the main site of the demonstration in Cairo) to the presidential palace, but others think it would be too far to walk and that if they leave Tahrir Square, security may take over the square and not let them back in.

The army’s statement not to use force against the people ( BBC News – Egyptian army statement vowing not to use … ) was unprecedented.  This has surely emboldened many to join the demonstrations.  I hope that people will not push this too far – for example by storming the presidential palace.

One humorous tweet I saw was “If the government wants people to stay at home and do nothing, then just turn back on the internet.”  The internet has now be totally cut off and journalists are still reporting that they are being roughed up and their cameras, computers and phones taken away.

Also, in Jordan, King Abdullah has dismissed the government, including Prime Minister Samir Rifai whom the demonstrations were primarily against.

This movement (Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan) could have huge consequences for totalitarian and dictatorial regimes around the world.  There are other places that would be ripe for this kind of revolt – but with governments which would not hesitate to put down such demonstrations very quickly and violently.  Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a statement to the BBC World Service (which may have had to be approved by the government?) acknowledged what was happening in a way that clearly referenced her country, but did not outright call for demonstrations: “I think after so many years, people have got tired of the military. I think what it showed is that people have much better means of getting in touch with each other and arranging mass public demonstrations. I think protests are one way of bringing about change, but not necessarily the best way. As for the president leaving, I think it depends on the situation in the country. I think if the situation has been such that there’s no other way, then surely they have take whatever opportunities they get.” (reported on BBC’s live news feed)

I have started using Trunk.ly for bookmarking – mostly news related stuff – and have several pages related to this bookmarked there. I have an interesting one on the propaganda on Egyptian State TV and another on some Arabic cartoons (with translation) about the current situation.

Continuing to hope and pray for a peaceful transition to a more democratic, more free, and more evenly prosperous country.

 

Egypt 2

31 Jan 2011

Here are a few other articles related to my post yesterday about Egypt and US foreign policy.  Interesting and important to think about, but, as I said yesterday, let’s not forget the people of Egypt who are facing uncertainty, possible food shortages, and possible violence (due to the conflict or lawlessness).

4 Reasons Why Egypt’s Revolution Is Not Islamic –  by Haroon Moghul
http://www.religiondispatches.org/dispatches/guest_bloggers/4133/4_reasons_why_egypt%E2%80%99s_revolution_is_not_islamic

Beware Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood –  by Leslie H. Gelb
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-01-29/beware-egypts-muslim-brotherhood/p

These first two articles disagree with each other.  Good to read both as both make valid points.  I especially appreciate what Gelb says at the end about how to speak in public and what to say only in private to the concerned parties – very important always, but especially in much of the non-West.

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama (from political scientists, historians, and researchers in related fields who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy)
http://www.accuracy.org/an-open-letter-to-president-barack-obama

There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy. On Friday you rightly said that “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.” For that reason we urge your administration to seize this chance, turn away from the policies that brought us here, and embark on a new course toward peace, democracy and prosperity for the people of the Middle East. And we call on you to undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.

Obama’s Mideast Moment of Truth
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-01-30/egypt-protests-palestinian-leaks-obamas-mideast-moment-of-truth

America is losing its grip on the region, as Egypt and the Palestinian WikiLeaks-style document dump shows. Thank goodness, writes Peter Beinart in this week’s Newsweek—now Obama must stop propping up their autocratic leaders.

What do the mass protests in Egypt and the leaked documents about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have in common? They show that the Middle East is spinning out of America’s control. For decades, Washington has backstopped Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship and chaperoned the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Today both efforts are on the brink of failure. No wonder that intermingled with the pro-democracy rhetoric coming out of the Obama administration is a truckload of fear.

It’s time for Obama to choose. George W. Bush spoke endlessly about Middle Eastern democracy, but at the end of the day, he opted for American control. He never seriously pressured Mubarak or other pro-U.S. autocrats. And when Hamas won the freest election in Palestinian history in 2006, his administration pushed Fatah to overturn the results by force.

Israel urges world to curb criticism of Egypt’s Mubarak
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israel-urges-world-to-curb-criticism-of-egypt-s-mubarak-1.340238

 

America is losing its grip on the region, as Egypt and the Palestinian WikiLeaks-style document dump shows. Thank goodness, writes Peter Beinart in this week’s Newsweek—now Obama must stop propping up their autocratic leaders.

What do the mass protests in Egypt and the leaked documents about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have in common? They show that the Middle East is spinning out of America’s control. For decades, Washington has backstopped Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship and chaperoned the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Today both efforts are on the brink of failure. No wonder that intermingled with the pro-democracy rhetoric coming out of the Obama administration is a truckload of fear.

It’s time for Obama to choose. George W. Bush spoke endlessly about Middle Eastern democracy, but at the end of the day, he opted for American control. He never seriously pressured Mubarak or other pro-U.S. autocrats. And when Hamas won the freest election in Palestinian history in 2006, his administration pushed Fatah to overturn the results by force.

Egypt

31 Jan 2011

Having lived there for six years in the 90’s and having just visited last Spring, I am very concerned about the unrest in Egypt.  I expect that the official estimates of 100 dead are low.   And it is not over yet.  I am, perhaps over-optimistically, hoping and praying for a peaceful transition to a more democratic, more free, and more evenly prosperous country.

The demonstrations, the boiling-over anger at Mubarak – and even the violence and the looting – are understandable given the corruption, the gulf between rich and poor, the lack of a voice, and the fear (of the human-rights-abusing secret police) people have been living under for decades.  But, I believe that American foreign policy, to some extent, has also contributed to this public explosion of discontent and anger.  The US government has a history of supporting oppressive regimes based pretty much on self-interest – the old “he might be a SOB, but he’s our SOB” attitude.  In the past it has been based on fighting the communists or securing affordable oil, but now it seems the new justification for propping up undemocratic and oppressive regimes is the “threat” of extremist Islamic regimes.  (It is easy to over-play this threat by playing on the fear and anger already present in some segments of society.)   See, for example, the comments of some conservative, Republican political figures:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/48405.html

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/01/28/amb-john-bolton-democracy-coming-eygpt/

I would not want to totally discount the possibility of extremist Islamic regimes coming to power, but the factors that determine how likely that would be are complex.  In any case, that is a separate (though related) argument from the question of whether supporting repressive “friendly” regimes is the best way to prevent the rise of extremist regimes.  In the following article another conservative Republican, Elliot Abrams, argues against Bolton, Santorum, and Huckabee.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/28/AR2011012803144_pf.html

While, from what I have read, I would strongly disagree with Abrams on almost every issue – especially his thoughts and positions on the Israel/Palestine conflict, I would agree with a lot of his analysis of the current situation in Egypt as expressed in this article:

Mubarak took the same tack for three decades. Ruling under an endless emergency law, he has crushed the moderate opposition while the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has thrived underground and in the mosques. Mubarak in effect created a two-party system – his ruling National Democratic Party and the Brotherhood – and then defended the lack of democracy by saying a free election would bring the Islamists to power.

Of course, neither he nor we can know for sure what Egyptians really think; last fall’s parliamentary election was even more corrupt than the one in 2005. And sometimes the results of a first free election will find the moderates so poorly organized that extreme groups can eke out a victory… But we do know for sure that regimes that make moderate politics impossible make extremism far more likely. Rule by emergency decree long enough, and you end up creating a genuine emergency. And Egypt has one now.

He also quoted George W. Bush, “In the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.”  Abrams also asked, “And will our own government learn that dictatorships are never truly stable? For beneath the calm surface enforced by myriad security forces, the pressure for change only grows – and it may grow in extreme and violent forms when real debate and political competition are denied.”  We need to be very careful and “long-term thoughtful” about who we support and how we do it.

However, I want to come back to what has happened / is happening to the people of Egypt.  As I said, I am hoping and praying for a peaceful transition to a more democratic, more free, and more evenly prosperous country.  I would love to see this kind of a country for my Muslim and Christian friends (and others) in Egypt.

Jewish Voice for Peace

25 Jan 2011

For a while I have wanted to mention Jewish organizations that are strongly working for a just peace in Israel / Palestine – and that strongly oppose the policies of the more recognized pro-settlement Jewish/Israeli individuals, organizations and lobbies.  I mentioned this very briefly in my previous post, Disturbed.  I just got an email from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVfP) which expresses some of my thoughts about the recent leak of documents related to peace negotiations.  I could not find a way to link to the letter online, so I have copied and pasted it below.  (I trust JVfP won’t mind me further disseminating the letter – if so, please let me know and I will remove it.)  Important note / disclaimer: My blogging about this letter does NOT mean that I necessarily agree with everything in the letter or with everything JVfP stands for, etc.  I do agree with the main ideas below, and I am very happy that there are significant numbers of Jewish/Israeli people who care deeply about the human rights of Palestinians and peace – and support / work for policies in concert with those values.  Also, see the four disclaimers on my previous post Disturbed.

Dear John ,

The recent release by Al Jazeera and the Guardian of some 16,000 documents related to nearly 20 years of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations sadly substantiates what Jewish Voice for Peace has said publicly for years- that the U.S. is not the neutral broker it claims to be.

The United States’ unconditional support for Israel has helped to perpetuate the occupation by promoting endless negotiations that have enabled Israel to expand settlements while claiming to work towards peace.

Israel’s lack of interest in ending the occupation and being a partner to peace
is now
nakedly revealed in documents which show its reaction to he Palestinian Authority’s unprecedented concessions, shocking because they far exceed the requirements of international law. Israel offered an intransigent ‘no’ to every concession, with the U.S. looking on in approval.

There is a chance, however, for the Obama Administration to differentiate itself from the ineffectual American actions revealed in the leaked documents.

Palestinians and their supporters have put forth a key resolution on the Israel-Palestine conflict that is now before the UN Security Council. Largely echoing stated U.S. policy, the resolution embraces negotiations, endorses the creation of a Palestinian state, and demands an immediate halt to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But even though the resolution echoes U.S. policy, President Obama is under heavy pressure to veto the UN resolution from forces in Washington who want to protect the Israeli occupation.

Will you join Jewish Voice for Peace and Just Foreign Policy in urging President Obama to support the UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem?


Prominent former diplomats, including Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Ambassador James Dobbins, have written to President Obama, urging him to instruct our Ambassador to the United Nations to vote yes on this initiative, noting that it echoes U.S. policy.[1]

But sixteen Senators, led by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, have urged Secretary of State Clinton to veto the resolution.[2]

It’s not an immutable law of the universe that the U.S. has to veto UN resolutions critical of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Indeed, last year, the U.S. promised the Palestinians to “consider allowing UN Security Council condemnation of any significant new Israeli settlement activity,” the Guardian reported. [3]

U.S. policy is at a cross-roads.

If the U.S. vetoes the UN resolution, it will signal implicit American support for illegal, Jewish-only settlements. Such support would be a departure from longstanding stated U.S. policy and would encourage accelerated settlement construction. A U.S. veto would also embolden the most reactionary forces in Israel, which have been escalating their efforts to silence Israeli dissent against the occupation.

This is a historic opportunity for President Obama to show leadership and back up the words of his speech in Cairo with deeds. Urge President Obama to support the UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a change in U.S. policy,

Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director
Sydney Levy, Director of Campaigns
Jewish Voice for Peace

References:

1. “Pickering, Hills, Sullivan, Beinart, Dobbins, More Ask Obama Administration to Support UN Resolution Condemning Illegal Israeli Settlements,” Steve Clemons, The Washington Note, Wednesday, Jan 19 2011, http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2011/01/pickering_hills/
2. “UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements Puts Obama in a Diplomatic Bind,” Tony Karon Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011,
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2043326,00.html
3. “U.S. gives Abbas private assurances over Israeli settlements: Americans consider withholding veto protecting Israel at UN if building goes ahead at Ramat Shlomo,” Rory McCarthy, Guardian, Thursday 29 April 2010,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/29/israel-settlement-building-peace-talks

Dear John ,

The recent release by Al Jazeera and the Guardian of some 16,000 documents related to nearly 20 years of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations sadly substantiates what Jewish Voice for Peace has said publicly for years- that the U.S. is not the neutral broker it claims to be.

The United States’ unconditional support for Israel has helped to perpetuate the occupation by promoting endless negotiations that have enabled Israel to expand settlements while claiming to work towards peace.

Israel’s lack of interest in ending the occupation and being a partner to peace
is now
nakedly revealed in documents which show its reaction to he Palestinian Authority’s unprecedented concessions, shocking because they far exceed the requirements of international law. Israel offered an intransigent ‘no’ to every concession, with the U.S. looking on in approval.

There is a chance, however, for the Obama Administration to differentiate itself from the ineffectual American actions revealed in the leaked documents.

Palestinians and their supporters have put forth a key resolution on the Israel-Palestine conflict that is now before the UN Security Council. Largely echoing stated U.S. policy, the resolution embraces negotiations, endorses the creation of a Palestinian state, and demands an immediate halt to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But even though the resolution echoes U.S. policy, President Obama is under heavy pressure to veto the UN resolution from forces in Washington who want to protect the Israeli occupation.

Will you join Jewish Voice for Peace and Just Foreign Policy in urging President Obama to support the UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem?


Prominent former diplomats, including Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Ambassador James Dobbins, have written to President Obama, urging him to instruct our Ambassador to the United Nations to vote yes on this initiative, noting that it echoes U.S. policy.[1]

But sixteen Senators, led by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand, have urged Secretary of State Clinton to veto the resolution.[2]

It’s not an immutable law of the universe that the U.S. has to veto UN resolutions critical of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Indeed, last year, the U.S. promised the Palestinians to “consider allowing UN Security Council condemnation of any significant new Israeli settlement activity,” the Guardian reported. [3]

U.S. policy is at a cross-roads.

If the U.S. vetoes the UN resolution, it will signal implicit American support for illegal, Jewish-only settlements. Such support would be a departure from longstanding stated U.S. policy and would encourage accelerated settlement construction. A U.S. veto would also embolden the most reactionary forces in Israel, which have been escalating their efforts to silence Israeli dissent against the occupation.

This is a historic opportunity for President Obama to show leadership and back up the words of his speech in Cairo with deeds. Urge President Obama to support the UN resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Thank you for all you do to help bring about a change in U.S. policy,

Cecilie Surasky, Deputy Director
Sydney Levy, Director of Campaigns
Jewish Voice for Peace

References:

1. “Pickering, Hills, Sullivan, Beinart, Dobbins, More Ask Obama Administration to Support UN Resolution Condemning Illegal Israeli Settlements,” Steve Clemons, The Washington Note, Wednesday, Jan 19 2011, http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2011/01/pickering_hills/
2. “UN Resolution on Israeli Settlements Puts Obama in a Diplomatic Bind,” Tony Karon Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011,
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2043326,00.html
3. “U.S. gives Abbas private assurances over Israeli settlements: Americans consider withholding veto protecting Israel at UN if building goes ahead at Ramat Shlomo,” Rory McCarthy, Guardian, Thursday 29 April 2010,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/29/israel-settlement-building-peace-talks

Disturbed

21 Jan 2011

Reading the following two articles really disturbed me.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/08/world/middleeast/08mideast.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/20/world/middleeast/20israel.html

First, let me assure / remind you of four things:

  1. I deplore all violence, especially violence against innocent civilians.
  2. I realize (and constantly seek to help others understand) that the Israel/Palestine conflict is a very complex problem with a long and violent history.
  3. Criticizing one side does NOT mean exonerating the other side for the wrongs they have perpetrated.  NOR does this criticism assert or imply any kind of moral equivalence.  (Moral calculus is very difficult to do – it involves tricky equations like “to whom much is given, much is required”.  Thus, most of us don’t do it – opting rather for the simpler “my side is good, the other side is bad”.)
  4. I do tend to speak or write in a way that is critical of the Israeli-settler perspective on this conflict*.   Surely, this is partially because of my life, experience, acquaintances, friendships, etc. in the Arab world.  However, it is also the case that many (but not all) of my friends and acquaintances generally have more opportunity to hear the perspectives of and the arguments for the Israeli-settler side.  In the spirit of Proverbs 18.17, (“The first to speak in court sounds right – until the cross-examination begins.”) I want to offer them another perspective.

Anyway, these news stories bothered me.  First, the sheer terror, tragedy, and loss experienced by Omar’s wife and family is incalculable.

But more disturbing to me is the actions of this elite, highly trained group of Israeli soldiers, the initial and later response by the military establishment, and the military culture that allowed this to happen (including both explicit aspects like “rules of engagement”, and tacit attitudes and values of which we see troubling hints).  I say this is more disturbing to me, not to denigrate in any way the tragic loss experienced by Omar’s family, but because if this “culture” is not truly acknowledged as a systemic problem by Israel, and something is done about it, this tragedy will be repeated – further fueling the conflict.

I don’t have time to explain in detail the three things I mention above, hopefully if you read the news stories, you will recognize the things I am referring to.  I want to highlight just one thing.  Highly trained, specialized troops stormed an apartment and woke a sleeping man.  We will probably never know exactly what happened.  Early, initial reports that Omar rushed at the soldiers seems to be contradicted by the physical evidence at the scene.  However, the first soldier to shoot Omar merely needed to testify that Omar made  “suspicious movement that caused [him] to feel that his life was threatened”  in order to be considered to be acting legally under the rules of engagement.

How would you react to being woken by heavily armed soldiers violently breaking into your home/bedroom?  What “suspicious movement” might you make in your shock and fear?  What movement could you make that could NOT in some way be interpreted by an aggressive, antagonistic soldier as “suspicious”?  It seems to me that the bar set by the IDF for legally killing someone is pretty low – scarily low.  Especially for a military that loves to proclaim that it is the “most moral army in the world”.

*I say Israeli-settler perspective, because there are many Israeli / Jewish perspectives on this conflict.

Busy

21 Jan 2011

I guess I have been busy as I haven’t  posted since August.  In December, I successfully completed my first semester of course work for my PhD in English Studies at Illinios State University.  It was a lot of work.  And then semester / Christmas break was busy getting other stuff done – and fun with my brother and family visiting.  Now I am 2 weeks into my second semester which looks like it will be just as busy.

Imam Rauf: Mosque planner has been mostly silent during noisy debate

23 Aug 2010

Imam Rauf: Mosque planner has been mostly silent during noisy debate -Washington Post – Annotated – See excerpts (bulleted) after my comments in the Read more.

The more I learn about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the more strange the whole situation seems. I would think his liberal interpretations of Islam – what Sharia law really is/should be, role of women, etc. would make him more unpopular with traditional, conservative Muslims, than with Americans. The way that some American conservatives are taking and twisting or misusing his nuanced statements is depressing and reveals, not an interest in truth, but an interest in supporting “my side” and attacking “the other”.  Remaining silent when faced with overwhelming opposition, giving nuanced answers that can be twisted, and being an impractical idealist may make him a poor PR guy, but they do not make him a supporter of extremism or violence.  See also the article I posted yesterday about him. Read more…

Feisal Abdul Rauf’s Balancing Act in Mosque Furor – NYTimes.com

23 Aug 2010

Feisal Abdul Rauf’s Balancing Act in Mosque Furor – NYTimes.comAnnotated – See excerpts (bulleted) after my comments in the Read more.

Good background on Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the “ground zero mosque”.  Some friends have been asking me about the leaders of the “ground zero mosque” and their views and statements about extremist Islam, terrorism, etc.  I think this article gives a good picture of this imam.  Read more…

More on the “Mosque at Ground Zero”

14 Aug 2010

Scott just commented on my previous post about the “Mosque at Ground Zero” or Cordoba House. He was troubled by the selective reporting of the Christian sources he had read which had not mentioned that the Muslims building the mosque were seeking to repudiate radical Islam.

I agree with Scott’s concern about these sources.  However, what is more troubling to me is that there are some Christian sources who DO mention this, but then immediately dismiss it with an argument like this: Read more…

“Mosque at Ground Zero” and religious freedom

14 Aug 2010

Freedom? Yes! Mosque? No! | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical ConvictionAnnotated – See excerpts (bulleted) after my comments in the Read more.

I am amazed at these statements of some of these big name Christians who don’t seem to “get” the idea that the Muslims building this mosque reject the interpretation of Islam held by those who engage in acts of terror. Should the acts of an extreme religious minority be reason to withhold some religious liberty to others of that religion (who disavow their actions)? Should the government deny Christians the right to build a church near the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City which the “Christian” Timothy McVeigh bombed, killing hundreds?

Among those who realize (or at least verbally acknowledge) this difference between extremists and the majority of Muslims Read more…

Response to The False Religion of Mideast Peace

11 Aug 2010

Responding to Aaron David Miller | Stephen M. WaltAnnotated – See excerpts (bulleted) after my comments in the Read more.

Walt’s questions / comments for Miller are spot on – very good challenges – and I would like to hear Miller’s comments. However, I expect that when they got down to talking, they would agree on quite a bit. As I said in my previous post, I think Miller’s analogy (“false religion”) is catchy, but overstates his point (as well as, perhaps, getting people who need to, to read his article).

Walt’s relating of the three problems with Miller’s essay and of his concern for the future is an excellent and concise presentation of some of the most significant aspects of this issue. Read more…

The False Religion of Mideast Peace: And Why I’m No Longer a Believer

11 Aug 2010

The False Religion of Mideast Peace: And Why I’m No Longer a Believer – By Aaron David Miller | Foreign PolicyAnnotated – See excerpts (bulleted) after my comments in the Read more.

Miller has a catchy way of presenting some very good points about Mideast peace. However, at first glance, he comes off as more negative than he really is (once you read the entire article).

I would agree with many of his points, but would want to highlight a couple. Read more…

BBC News – Foreign medical workers among 10 killed in Afghanistan

11 Aug 2010

BBC News – Foreign medical workers among 10 killed in AfghanistanAnnotated – See excerpts (bulleted) after my comments in the Read more.

Tragic news.

My previous post was about my talk at a church where I encouraged Christians to have Jesus-like interaction with Muslims.  A couple approached me after the service and told me that, while this was a nice idea and they were all for being like Jesus, it could not be done in certain situations.  They related a situation their daughter is in where she is verbally harassed by young Muslim men and does not feel safe. (I suggested that she locate a local Muslim leader and tell him what these young men are doing.)

However, after thinking about their daughter’s situation – and then hearing this news from Afghanistan (Christian medical workers killed by the Taliban), I realize I should have said two more things. Read more…

Thank you, E Free

31 Jul 2010

I want to thank the Evangelical Free Church of Bloomington, IL for inviting me to speak. I appreciate the chance to interact with you about something that is very important to me – how we, as Christians, should relate to our Muslim friends in a “Jesus-like” way.

Here are a few resources that relate to my message.

  • Here is a list of four articles that present or discuss good examples of “Jesus-like” relating.
  • If you are only going to read one book about the situation in the Middle East, I would recommend Blood Brothers, an autobiography of Elias Chacour (a Palestinian Christian), which tells of his family being forced from their ancestral home in the village of Biram (in northern Galilee) in1948 by Israeli soldiers.
  • Here is a copy of my presentation.

If you have any questions or interest, please look around this site for other resources. Also, feel free to email me (john AT mac6 D0T org).

Israel police raze ‘illegal’ Bedouin village

29 Jul 2010

Why do they do this? How can making 300 Bedouin who were living in the desert homeless possibly profit or benefit the Israeli government? And why do they uproot their olive trees? They must realize that this, and so many other of their actions and policies clearly appear racist. Yet they get so upset when they are accused of racism or apartheid. The Israeli government also must understand how this creates hatred and incites retaliatory violence. Yet when this happens they portray themselves as the innocent, peace-loving victim.

I must also say that I am encouraged that there are Jewish (and Arab) Israelis who fight against this kind of injustice, for example Read more…

What people laugh at tells us a lot

16 Jun 2010

BBC News – Israel apologises for spoof video mocking Gaza flotilla – see excerpts from this article (bulleted) below my comments

Regev’s comment on this (and no doubt Netanyahu’s thoughts on it as well) belie their expression of “regret” over the deaths as a result of their raid. Their actions as well as their attitudes show that they want to kill the peace process.

tags: Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Gaza

  • Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, told the UK’s Guardian newspaper: “I called my kids in to watch it because I thought it was funny. It is what Israelis feel. But the government has nothing to do with it.” Read more…

American Christian anti-Islamic literary polemics

16 Jun 2010

Mixed Message – see excerpts from this article (bulleted) below my comments

Doug Howard’s review of Kamal Saleem’s “memoir”, The Blood of Lambs (which tells of Saleem’s conversion from being a Muslim “terrorist” to Christianity).  A couple things are troubling to me about Saleem’s book and “ministry” – as well as others like him (e.g. Walid Shoebat and Zachariah Anani – see below). First, as Howard pointed out, there seems to be a reluctance on behalf of Saleem to be forthcoming about certain easily verifiable details of his story (whether due to lapses in memory or “security concerns”), while he provides very detailed accounts of events that would be near impossible to verify – e.g. what he did on secret missions in his former life.  There also seems to be reluctance on the part of those who like his message to be concerned about these potential problems of veracity.  (See my previous post, truth Matters)

I am also concerned about the attitude and approach to Islam that this encourages among Christians.  While, as Howard points out, Saleem does include the perfunctory “many Muslims are kind and gentle”, he presents a radical minority’s interpretation of Islam as what Islam is all about.  This is wrong.  Most Muslims do NOT interpret the Quran this way.  Would these Christians want Muslims telling them that the Bible supports racism – based on the interpretations of some white supremacists?   The effect of this misrepresentation is to increase fear and anger against Muslims among the Christians who listen to these “former terrorists” and accept what they say.

In a presentation at Calvin College, sponsored by the Calvin College Republicans (CCR), Saleem responded to skeptical questions and comments by local Muslims in a rude way.  (See the Calvin College student newspaper)  After a Muslim doctor challenged Saleem’s message, he reminded the audience that doctors played a role in the terrorist attacks in England!  Given this kind of interaction, I don’t understand how the CCR vice-chair, Paul Gehm, can describe Saleem’s message as “one of hope and redemption”.

tags: Islam, Muslim, extremist, fraud, terrorist, interfaith

  • …American Christian anti-Islamic literary polemics, including Kamal Saleem’s “memoir,” The Blood of Lambs. The book fits the familiar pattern of reassuring Christians of the superiority of their own faith tradition by negative comparisons with a dehumanized Islam. But Kamal Saleem’s titillating dance with violence and fame makes the book more complicated and more uncomfortable than most like it. By embracing the glamorous violence it claims to abhor, it raises readers’ hopes of touching secret human meanings through it.
  • The book tries to make readers feel ashamed for asking nagging questions, but I am unmoved. Every other chapter is devoted to coyly reminding us of the dangers Kamal Saleem faces when he speaks publicly against “Radical Islam.” Describing the controversy surrounding his 2008 appearance at the Air Force Academy, he writes that “a college professor specifically called me a ‘fraud.’ ” I was that college professor, and having now read his book, I see no reason to withdraw the assessment. I want to know why a person who so vividly recalls maneuvers carried out when he was seven years old has such vague memories of his twenties. How did he come to the United States, exactly? Read more…

truth Matters – letter to Bethany

16 Jun 2010

A few years ago, Christian friends of ours asked me to write a letter about “truth” to their daughter who was graduating from high school.  They asked many of their and her friends to write on various topics and compiled the letters into a book for their daughter.

I thought I would post my letter to Bethany here because it summarizes my approach to truth (for a Christian audience).

truth Matters[1]

Dear Bethany,

While I don’t feel I know you very well, I have appreciated the few chances I have had to talk with you and get to know you some – including the honor of observing your recent baptism.  I also appreciate your friendship with my daughters.  And I am excited for you as you head out – to grab and enjoy life, and to make a difference – starting with your year on the ship.  Your parents asked me to write ONE page on “truth matters” – to be part of your “Life Lessons” book.  Impossible, but here goes.

truth matters more than anything else.  I don’t want to believe anything – from the trivial (Topeka is the capital of Kansas.) to the life-changingly important (Jesus came back to life after he died.) – unless it is really true – unless it corresponds with reality.  Pursuing truth is the most basic foundation of my faith / worldview / philosophy / way I live my life.

But we have a problem.  We are finite and fallible.  So, how do we get at truth?  How do we know we know truth?[2]

Let’s take a look at history.[3]  For a long time before the Enlightenment, many thought we could know truth simply by listening to what God says – through the Bible and the Church.  A great idea!  Who can speak with more authority than the Creator of everything?

But then people like Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, and others (who were Christians) started discovering truths – like the Earth moving around the Sun, elliptical orbits of planets, Sun spots, etc. – that contradicted the “truths” of Scripture.  This did not bother these guys – they merely saw the need to reinterpret certain passages of Scripture based on their discoveries.  However, this did bother some in the Church quite a bit.  In 1633, the Church put Galileo on trial for heresy – forcing him to say that the Earth did not move.

This new way of looking at things (basically Francis Bacon’s inductive scientific method) was pretty radical at the time and resulted in quite a bit of scientific progress.  Many Christians, like Galileo, saw the scientific method as compatible with God and his revealed truth in the Scriptures.  However, others saw these developments as a reason to reject the idea of God and divine revelation, “Hey, we are pretty good on our own at figuring how things work and how things got to be the way they are.  Who needs God anyway?”

Centuries later postmodernists started suggesting that maybe we had been a bit (or more than a bit) too sure of ourselves and arrogant in our claims to knowledge of truth.  They pointed out how trapped we are by our language, culture and groups.  They questioned if truth was accessible – or even existed in any meaningful sense.  They wondered if language was only self-reflexive – the way groups construct meaning for themselves – rather than referring to any reality.

Why the history?  I think that by going backwards through this history – by successively taking on board and applying the correctives of later thought to earlier thought – we may come up with our best shot at a good, working epistemology (theory of knowing) that can be the basis of our pursuit of truth.

So, we start out with the lessons of postmodernism – our limitations, the real ways our language, culture, group, etc. affects how we see and understand ourselves, the universe and everything.  We can’t help but recognize the sense of – and accept the reality of – these limitations.  But it seems that these limitations do not necessarily lead to a self-referential morass – it seems we can get at least some partially accurate ideas of what is around us.  The evidence for this is that, much of the time, it works.  Given their scientific and technological achievements, it seems the Enlightenment thinkers were onto something.

Even if complete and fully accurate truth is not accessible to us, perhaps it is approachable.  Given who we are, could we, ironically, come closer to truth by holding onto it less dogmatically – by wanting truth more than certainty?  I am not advocating gullibility or drifting with any wave or current that comes along.  Rather, I would suggest a way of knowing that is realistically aware of our cultural, historic, linguistic situatedness and boundedness, that is willing to listen and consider, and that sees this critical exchange between the knower, other knowers, and the stuff to be known as a way of approaching, or spiraling in on truth.  Some would call this a critical realist epistemology.

At this point, I would suggest that we sometimes equivocate in our usage of the word “truth”.  One way we use “truth” is to describe a statement that corresponds with reality – let’s use truth (small t) for this meaning.  But we also use it to refer to a worldview or system that puts together and makes sense out of truths.  Let’s use Truth (capital T) for this meaning.  Disambiguating our usage can, among other things, help us make more sense out of statements like, “That’s True for you, but not True for me.”

We all, consciously or unconsciously, adopt a system, worldview, faith, religion, or way of looking at things – a Truth.  Some simply accept what parents and/or society orders or recommends.  Many others spend at least some time (and some of us a lot more time) searching – considering, analyzing, constructing, deconstructing, adopting, abandoning, and tweaking worldviews.  While we accept our limitations in perceiving truths, and admit the significant role of emotions and experiences, a core part of our search is an attempt to figure out what worldview has the best “fit” with all we “know” about “life, the universe and everything” – what Truth most elegantly incorporates all truths and resonates most deeply with all of who we are.

Then, as we go through life and come across new information, how do we evaluate it?  What do we ask first? “Is this true?”  (Does it correspond with reality?)  Or:  “Is this True?”  (Does this fit nicely with my adopted world view?)  Of course it is not all as simple as this and you could rightly accuse me of presenting a false dilemma.  However, I hope my point is clear – as expressed in the title of this letter – “truth Matters”.  It is much easier to simply throw out new information that does not fit nicely, than to carefully evaluate its truth and consider its implications.  Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (New and Old Testament professors, respectively), in their book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, tell of students who, when beginning study of a difficult Bible passage, don’t ask “What does this mean?”, but rather want to know how to explain it away or make it fit with their theology.

And this takes us back to Galileo, the Church, and listening to God.  Many Christians decided to become followers of Jesus and adopt a Christian worldview through a process like the one described two paragraphs above.  One integral part of a Christian worldview is the scripture that informs it.  Thus, having recognized the scripture-informed worldview’s fit with reality, I continue to explore – “listen to” – both God’s works (creation) and God’s word (scripture) in appropriate ways – and, as necessary, change or tweak my worldview.

Both Galileo and the Church were listening to God.  However, Galileo allowed his understanding of God’s works to tweak his understanding (interpretation) of God’s word.  The Catholic Church did not – at that time.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Catholic Church lessened its opposition to heliocentrism and eventually removed Galileo’s and Copernicus’ books from their Index of Forbidden Books.  But it was not until 1992 that Pope John Paul II formally admitted that the Church had been wrong in condemning him.  Galileo and the others didn’t get everything right either, but they clearly saw their work as scientists as “listening to” God.  Johannes Kepler spoke of his astronomy as “thinking God’s thoughts after him”.  Francis Bacon wrote that no one could be “too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works”.  (Interestingly, this quote was included in the frontispiece of the first edition of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.)  Today, although many see science and faith as necessarily clashing, many see them having a complementary relationship.  For example, check out Francis Collin’s new project – biologos.org

One more bit of history, if you will allow me.  In the second half of the 20th century, many, at least in America, became disillusioned with modernism on a personal level (as opposed to postmodernism’s philosophical challenges).  Sure, it was great to figure out how we and the universe evolved.  And how to mass produce fast cars and all sorts of other fun stuff.  And how to nuke our enemies.  And even how things like love and morals “really” work (just chemicals in the brain or societal constructs).  But something was missing.  Thus, many started to explore and pursue spirituality.  This was not so much a pursuit of religion – as that had clearly been debunked by Enlightenment thinking – but a searching for “something more”, for deeper meaning, purpose, etc.  More recently, in perhaps an admission of this lack in the traditional, naturalist worldview, we see the full-of-wonder atheists/agnostics amazed at the vastness and surprising mechanisms of our “determined” universe.

I think this is another way that a Christian worldview “fits” and makes sense of our experience of reality.  A personal God creating humans in his own image, and giving them free will.  Wanting a relationship with them, but allowing them to walk away.  Desiring them to come back, and providing a way, but not forcing them.  Leaving hints and echoes – beauty, music, desire, love, justice, poetry – in and around them.  Hoping for reconciliation. . .

In some way, I believe, God does interact with us personally – usually not in a “parting of the Red Sea” kind of undeniable clarity – but in both small and deep ways that resonate with our being both comfortingly and challengingly.  The Unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit desires to bring all of us and our diversity into the celebrating unity (not uniformity) of his love.  And, while I adopt, adapt, and live out a Jesus’ Kingdom worldview, I have faith in a person (not a system) – faith in God himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Well, Bethany, thank you for plowing through all three pages.  I am sure that there are parts that you might not understand, appreciate, or agree with.  But this explains a lot of where I am coming from.  And this is how I want to challenge you – and other young people who want to follow Jesus today.  truth Matters.  I hope I have given you some things to think about – both for now and the future.

I wish you God’s blessings and all the best as you enter the adventure of adult life – exploring and enjoying the beauty and diversity of all the things, the life, and the people God has made, and as you do, finding ways to make a unique difference wherever you go!

Peace.

-John MacLean


[1] As I just reviewed this (Mar, 2013) – several years after writing it, I noticed that I at times confound modernism and enlightenment, and I don’t mention modernism as a reaction to both enlightenment and romanticism –and romanticism’s reaction to enlightenment.  Also, I am sure that, if I revised this, there would be other ways I would want to change it as well.

[2] We could go on to ask more basic questions.  How do we know we are not in the Matrix?  Or a brain in a vat being poked by an evil demon?  But we will have to discuss Skepticism another time.

[3] I emphasize that what I am saying here is VERY rough – it couldn’t be otherwise in a few pages.  History and knowledge and life are much more complex.  Also, some of the framing of this comes from the beginning of NT Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God.  I would also recommend Hummel’s The Galileo Connection and a chapter in NT Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus – “Walking to Emmaus in a Postmodern World”.  Also, DA Carson in The Gagging of God, while challenging the conclusions of postmodernism, discusses the valid ways it challenges the arrogant hubris of modernism.

Faithful Presence

15 May 2010

I just read some reviews and reactions to a new book by James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (Oxford University Press, April 2010 368 pp., $27.95)  It seems he is fairly critical of other approaches and argues for “faithful presence”.

I am not sure what I think of his evaluation of culture – the stress on the importance of infrastructure, the importance of centrality, the elite, and the non-consequence of the periphery – I will have to read more. BUT I really resonate with much that he say about a Christian presence in the world – along the lines of what I would call a kenotic witness – really believing and acting out the upside-down, servant, self-emptying values of Jesus and his Kingdom.

See the excerpts I noted on three reviews / reactions to the book (including by those he criticized in the book) on my diigo – http://www.diigo.com/user/jmac62/hunter

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World

by James Davison Hunter

Oxford University Press, April 2010

368 pp., $27.95

Online Tools for Team Work and Managing Research Sources

25 Apr 2010

I have been invited to do a workshop again by the Center for Teaching and Learning.  I will introduce briefly several online tools for team work and research source / bibliographic management.  Most of the workshop focuses on Zotero – a powerful, research source management program, including how it can be used for team work.  This handout provides an overview of the workshop:

Online Tools for Team Work and Managing Research Sources,Zotero intro and explore

Religious Freedoms: Words for a faithful world

10 Apr 2010

Religious Freedoms: Words for a faithful world « The Immanent Frame by Chris Seiple – see excerpts from this article (bulleted) below my comments  (Original Article with my annotations)

Good, brief description of some issues involved with religious freedom and the perception of religious freedom. Sensitive to other cultures. (see my comment below) Would like to know more of his views on the value and function of foreign direct investment – seems pretty optimistic about it.

tags: religious freedom, faith, foreign policy, laicite

  • Some words, even with the very best of intentions, mean very different things to different audiences. Assuming we have been careful about our diction, what “we” say nevertheless is often not what “they” hear, and vice-versa.
  • At the Institute for Global Engagement, for example, we like to say that we build religious freedom at the intersection of culture and the rule of law. Every culture has a mechanism—from cultural understandings of hospitality to various tenets of local religions—for engendering and ensuring respect for the other. These are the anchor points for solutions to religious freedom violations. If the local culture doesn’t own the solution, it will never be sustainable. Giving credit to that culture can go a long way.
    • (my comment) I like the way he puts this – a good balance – taking seriously objections, while still maintaining that religious freedom (or whatever preferred word you want to use) is worth working for, AND recognizing the existence and value of various cultural “mechanisms” that address the issue
  • That said, the inviolability of a local culture can sometimes be invoked as an excuse to resist the perceived cultural imperialism of America’s religious freedom watch, and therefore it is also important to anchor advocacy of religious freedom in a country’s self-interest.
  • The key to the success of this ongoing discussion, however, is that scholars and practitioners alike must not compartmentalize the conversation to considerations of religion and religious freedom alone. In the real world, religious freedom is part and parcel of a “bundle” of different issues that are intricately intertwined.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

– see excerpts from this article (bulleted) below my comments

René Padilla, Integral Mission and dialog

30 Mar 2010

I had heard of him before, but prompted by the positive mention of René Padilla (humble, controversial, and misunderstood) by a good friend, I did some looking around and was impressed by some of his comments about justice, poverty and “integral mission”. You can see what I looked at and some comments here:

http://www.diigo.com/user/jmac62/”integral+mission”

The last thing I found was a whole issue of IJFM on “Word and Deed: A Century of Polarization”. And, of course, I think about dialog. It seems to me that dialog – listening and understanding the others, fairly representing them, seeking common ground, clearly and carefully identifying differences – is antithetical to polarization – not to disagreement, but to polarization – pushing the other to the far other side.  Unfortunately, as the title of the journal issue might lead us to believe, the polarization is not just happening in the past century.

While I only glanced at the concerned articles, I find Rene Padilla’s response to Little’s article troubling, “After reading this article, I feel that the author has either misunderstood what today is meant by Kingdom-of-God or holistic mission or he has intentionally built a straw man in order to show that his position, in contrast with the one he criticizes, is biblical. In either case, I do not know any advocate of integral or holistic mission who would agree with this description of it.” Like I said, I didn’t read the articles, I don’t know exactly what is happening, but I do know that dialog was not happening – among Christian brothers – and that makes me sad. Although, I do not know the editorial process this went through, this should not be happening at the published END of this kind of engagement and interaction – still these strong feelings of not being understood (whether the misunderstanding is real or imagined – or, most likely, some of both).

BUT, there is another part of me that is glad to see this – to see that this kind of attempt at dialog is happening, to see the messiness out there and not hidden away.  AND I have to hope that the dialog will continue.

Israel remains defiant amid allies’ growing anger

29 Mar 2010

BBC News – Israel remains defiant amid allies’ growing anger – see excerpts from this article (bulleted) below my comments

In addition to the range of comments by Israelis on this issue, I find the conclusion of Franks’ analysis interesting: But Israel’s belief in its exceptionalism, and the impatience currently shown by two of its closest allies, may point to a deeper rupture. Is there a chance that Britain and the US would finally temper some of their”guaranteed” support of Israel? Netanyahu is definitely not backing down in any real ways. He obviously thinks it is worth the gamble.

tags: news, Israel, Mossad, Britain

  • As relations between Britain and Israel continue to unravel, in Jerusalem many Israelis feel that the outside world still fails to understand the problems – and threats – their country is facing.
  • Such cordiality evaporated this week with the expulsion of a senior Israeli London-based diplomat who, by common consent, appears to have been the Mossad London station chief.

    The Government’s anger was stoked by the apparent use of fake British passports in the assassination of the top Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January.

  • A right-wing Israeli Member of Parliament reached into strangely Maoist terminology, and called the British “dogs”.

    A commentator in a right-of-centre newspaper argued that “millions of Muslims live in Britain, and Gordon Brown needs their votes in the upcoming elections”.

    At the other end of Israel’s brightly coloured political spectrum, a resident of one of the country’s most stalwartly socialist kibbutzim, or rural collectives, e-mailed me to say that “if Israel was directly or indirectly involved in the Dubai incident then there’s no limit, apparently, to the arrogance and stupidity of this regime/administration”.

  • But Israel’s belief in its exceptionalism, and the impatience currently shown by two of its closest allies, may point to a deeper rupture.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

US ‘may not veto UN resolution on Jerusalem’

29 Mar 2010

BBC News – US ‘may not veto UN resolution on Jerusalem’ see excerpts from this article (bulleted) below my comments

Now this would be something. Not exactly cutting off military aid (see my previous comments https://mac6org.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/netanyahu-wants-power-not-peace-2/ on 25 March), but a stronger signal than just not having a nice welcome for Netanyahu when he visited. It would be nice to see the pattern of the US automatically voting in favor of Israel broken.

tags: news, Israel, settlements, Palestine, UN, Netanyahu

  • The official said the US would “seriously consider abstaining” if the issue of Israeli settlements was put to the vote, a diplomat told the BBC.

    US officials in Washington have not confirmed the report.

    There are no concrete plans at present to table such a resolution at the UN.

    But it is likely that the US is considering how to maintain pressure, and a UN resolution would be one way, says BBC state department correspondent Kim Ghattas.

    The US usually blocks Security Council resolutions criticising Israel.

    But relations between the allies have been severely strained by the announcement of plans to build 1,600 homes in an East Jerusalem settlement during a recent visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.