Tuesday, January 26, 2010

True Christian Love in Haiti

Haitian Orphanage Refuses to Turn People Away

Baptist Press reports that one orphanage in Haiti has found itself caring for the wider community after last week's earthquake. Cabaret Children's Home, located 30 miles north of Port-au-Prince, has welcomed hundreds of people who have lost their homes in the Jan. 12 earthquake. "When people come to us, we cannot cross our arms, meaning, we cannot turn them away," Haitian worker Pierre Prinvil said through translator David Garret. "Obviously feeding is going on for displaced folks [at the compound]," said Garrett, a church and community director with the Southern Baptist Convention. "They are sharing their food with people who have nowhere else to be." The orphanage's older students have helped feed younger children outside the compound, and the orphanage has used its own supplies to feed famished the famished Haitians who keep arriving. "They are such a resilient people," Garrett said.

-From Religion Today Summaries

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Spiritual Principles of Avatar

After two viewings of Avatar, I realized that there are some deep spiritual principles to be found in this film. If all you see is a tree-god and anti-American sentiment or a pretty weak statement about race, you're missing the deeper message. If you've seen the movie, read through these principles and see if they resonate with you, or your understanding of the film:

There is a empire, ruling the world, and its focus is to increase the wealth of a limited few, even if that hurts others. Everyone within the empire is a part of this system of greed, even if they superficially attempt to oppose it.

There is an alternative system which focuses on relationships, community and spiritual power.

The secret of the spiritual community is empathy. It is the sign that one is a part of the spiritual community, the unifying principle as well as the power. One has empathy with all life. Even if one must kill to survive, empathy requires that one feels the death of the other, and give it the respect that one would demand. The minimal amount of empathy is treating other’s life as one would be treated.

All empathy begins with understanding, with listening. Eventually, one can “see” another, deeply understanding the other, placing them as an equal in importance to oneself. Those who do not have the ability to understand, to empathize, are insane and cannot exist in the spiritual community.

But some relationships have deeper empathy, a full bond. In those relationships, two share their minds, their lives, their souls. And once bonded, the bond cannot be broken except through death. This is love.

The opposite to empathy, to bonding, is fear. To fear the other is to separate from the other. To listen to the other, one must receive the other; to accept the other, one must trust; to bond with the other one must unite.

Those of the empire cannot empathize. Yes, they can understand intellectually the other different from oneself, but they cannot truly see them as equals to themselves. They are so caught up in building their own empire for those like themselves, that they cannot see the other. So they outcast those who truly empathize, because the desires of empathy is opposite to the greed of the empire.

The evil empire wants the resources of the spiritual community and will ignore all the concerns of the spiritual community to get it. On the surface, the evil empire is more powerful than the spiritual community, and the spiritual community is in threat of extinction.

For the spiritual community to survive, there must be a mediator—one who knows what it is to be spiritual and one who has lived amidst the empire. He or she must be born of both worlds, but the Mediator does not straddle the fence. The Mediator must be on the side of the spiritual community, the weak, the oppressed, if they are to survive.

In the end, there will be conflict—disasterous conflict—between the empire and the spiritual community. And although the empire seems to have the greater power, the fact is that the spiritual community has a source that is at the core of all life. The only way to connect to that Source is through prayer. Thus, though the Mediator may use many different resources, the true power is found in prayer. Prayer is what changes the course for the spiritual community.

One must recognize, however, that the Source does not take sides between the empire and the spiritual community. The Source is on the side of all life, of order and balance. However, as long as the spiritual community is on the side of the Source, then the Source will act for them. And this action is more powerful than anything else they might conceive themselves.

Eventually, the spiritual community of empathy will rule the world and force the empire out. But this will only happen when the truly are united in Empathy. Only then will many in the Empire become united with the Source of all life, and seek balance.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why I Absolutely Despise Inglorious Basterds

I am a grudging fan of Quentin Tarantino.

His films are over-gory and glorify violence. They take the most dispicable characters and make you think about their motivations, which may not be the best kind of meditation. As a follower of Jesus, they made me uncomfortable, at best.

But after watching Pulp Fiction, I had to admit, he's amazing. The script is sparkling, brilliant, like a philosophy of religion class dressed as a 70s B movie. The characters revel in their hypocrisy, and allows us to look at our own, and as they explain their philosophy of life, they cause us to reflect on our own.

Kill Bill, especially Part 2, is the same. It was a Hollywood version of a Hong Kong violence fest, and then it becomes a reflection of life and motherhood and relationships and... wow. So much there to think about. And the possible connection to Buddhism is fantastic, even if Tarantino never meant to put that in.

Reservoir Dogs is intense, and the characters are perfect. And Deathproof? Well, it's a salute to 70's B movies and while revenge isn't my thing, it was cool to see women take charge in an action flick.

But after Inglorious Basterds I need to keep my distance away from Tarantino again.

Again, the script is brilliant, the dialog witty and sometimes deep and the film impossible to not look at in wonder. It begins with a teen fantasy premise, as Tarantino films often do-- a group of Jewish Americans in a created WWII scenario dropped in the middle of occupied France to do one thing-- kill as many Nazis as possible. And they do this task with glee.

However, compared to other Tarantino films, there is much less violence and gore. Most of the action takes place off the screen, which will disappoint some, I'm sure. But I was pleased, and was just waiting for the twist he often puts in his films, the moral glimpse at these violent purposes.

It never happened. (Here's the part where if you want to see the film, you stop reading, because I'm going to ruin it for you, if you continue) Sure, there was a twist. Unlike most WWII films, even the fantasy ones, they give a nod to reality, trying to fit their script to fit history as we know it. Not Tarantino. He shrugs off reality and gives us the end of the war as most Americans wished it would be like: A bloody, savage destruction of all the leaders of the Nazi party, including Hitler, with them all knowing that they are being killed by a Jew.

In the most amazing scene in the film, the climax, the beautiful face of Shoshanna is displayed on a screen of smoke, coming up from the fire that will burn down the theatre that all of the leaders of the Nazi party are locked in, and she is gleefully, almost Satanically, mocking them, "This is the face of Jewish vengeance!"

In this film, Tarantino goes back to an older form of the war epic-- there are good guys and there are bad guys. And the good guys, no matter how bloody they are or how many people they kill, they remain on the side of justice. And the bad guys are always bad and they always deserve to die. This fits a certain modern concept of war. Sure, the Nazis have been replaced with terrorists (read: Muslims) and the bad guys don't wear uniforms any more, but war is to create justice, and eventually to create peace because once you get rid of the bad guys then the world is free to do right again.

However, I've always been put off by that kind of movie, and Tarantino's is the most obvious example of it. This is because war doesn't just kill the bad guys-- some of them-- but a lot of misguided good people too. And both the "good" side and the "bad" side kill innocents-- on purpose at times. And what war really does is take the people interested in justice and peace and makes them the bad guys. People interested in doing evil to the other side, no matter what the cost, no matter what the personal moral sacrifice. They turn themselves into the very people they think they are destroying.

The best films on war recognize this. Both Full Metal Jacket and Apocalypse Now delve into the self-destruction of the one who participates in war, morally, spiritually and mentally. Saving Private Ryan and The Hurt Locker, while more subtle and realistic, clearly speak of a cost of war, of the personal sacrifice, and of a situation that any sane person would find impossible to live with.

Inglorious Basterds, however, is a full-on glorification of the worst of war. Although it is the company of Jews that are named the title, it is truly the Nazis themselves Tarantino sees as the inglorious bastards and they deserve to be killed in the most gruesome, bloody, horrific manner-- and Tarantino is going to give them violent justice in a way reality never did.

And he expects us to glory in it. To joyfully revel in shooting Hitler up to such a degree that his face couldn't even be pieced back together. I don't know how many people realize, however, that in sitting before this movie, reveling in all their deaths, that makes us just the same as those Nazis, reveling and chortling and shouting in glee over the hundreds of deaths of Americans.

Maybe I spoke too soon. Maybe Tarantino is more subtle than I realized. Maybe he truly is making that point. "If you enjoy this scene-- you are a Nazi too". It is true, really true. If we leave this movie happy to see this vengeance taken, then we are a Nazi, glorifying in the horrific destruction of our enemies. If, however, we are horrified, disgusted by the blood bath, then maybe there is some hope for us. Maybe it is simply a litmus test of our morality.

But somehow, I doubt it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Praise Amidst Tragedy

Reported in Religion Today Summary:

Haitians Praise God after Apocalyptic Quake

The Washington Times reports that Haitians still waiting for food and water did not wait to praise God over the weekend. "Why give thanks to God? Because we are here," the Rev. Eric Toussaint said. "We say 'Thank you God.' What happened is the will of God. We are in the hands of God now." Across the devastated city of Port-au-Prince on Sunday, small congregations gathered at the remains of their churches to pray, sing hymns and give thanks even as dead bodies still lay in the street. Rescuers have continued their push for survivors, though most still trapped in the rubble are presumed dead. The death toll is now estimated at 50,000 ot 100,000 people, according to the Pan American Health Organization. Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive said 100,000 would "seem to be the minimum."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Persecution" in Nigeria

News report from Religion Today Summaries:

More than 40 Killed in Nigerian Church Attack

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that more than 40 people have been killed in the Nigerian city of Jos after Muslim youths attacked Christians near a Catholic Church. Around 200 Muslim youths claimed to gather yesterday to renovate a house next to St. Michael's Catholic Church, but allegedly launched an unprovoked assault on female passerby before attacks those in the church. The attacks escalated to torched houses, business, and other local churches. Angered by the violence, Christian youths gathered to launch a counter attack, and the violence soon spread to other areas of Jos North.

The history of "persecution" in Nigeria has simply been the history of the Christians there refusing to submit to authorities. When the ruling Muslims imposed their law, instead of submitting to it, they rioted and acted violently. And now there is a cycle of violence between the Christians and the Muslims there.

If the Christians really want God's deliverance, then they need to respond like Jesus-- in submission to the punishment that is given and then God will sweep in and take out the unjust authority-- Psalm 82. Vengeance is God's, not the Christians'. Let us give to God that which He demands for Himself.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Molly In Haiti

This woman gave up her life in the U.S. to spend it for the children in Haiti. Her body was just found this last week.

Please check out her blog 525,600 Minutes to appreciate her love and joy in loving.
525,600 Minutes

Friday, January 15, 2010

Speaking With The Government

My daughter is going to interview Nick Fish, a city commissioner, today, as part of her school. I had a few words that I thought she could tell him, but decided better of it. After all, it's her discussion with the city, not mine.

But if we are citizens of the kingdom of God, then what should we be saying to government? Some say that we hold dual citizenship and so are full participants in both governments. That's too confusing for me. If I go to government, it is as an ambassador of the Kingdom of God, not as a citizen.

So my task, in speaking to government, is that which God wants me to speak to them, no more, no less. I may have personal opinions, but God's will must be primary. I need to uphold the oppressed and downtrodden, to recognize that the government won't save anyone, but they also must be ready to support the needy.

Salvation is not found in government, but in Jesus.

I've had a brief discussion with someone who says we should support the troops. I am saddened for the troops because they've been brainwashed into obeying the military's orders. I think they are put in a terrible situation. But it is the troops which is the weapon that kills. The Iraqis, Afghanis and others need Jesus, not the American military. And they can't have both. Because to them, Westerners represent "Christians", whether they are followers of Jesus or not. And if people come with guns and killing innocents, that is who is representing Jesus to them. Jesus does not support killers. He supports martyrs.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Disaster = Apocalypse?

Yesterday, it was mentioned that some folks are saying that this disaster in Haiti is a sign of the apocalypse. My initial response was, "If a terrible disaster among the poor is a sign of the end, then it should have come a long, long time ago."

We need to take care what seems to be the signs of the end. Jesus said that there would be earthquakes, famines, wars, etc, but "the end is not come." All the things that we often say are signs of the end aren't them.

Scripturally, there are two signs of the end: The desecration of the temple, which happened in 70AD. This event is what both Jesus and Paul point to. Revelation sees a different event, which Jesus also hints at: A massive, worldwide attempt to destroy all the followers of God. This did occur from the 290s to the early 300s. The only reason that the end didn't come then is because the Roman Empire repented.

But if today, we see an organized attempt by almost all the governments of the world to wipe out Christianity (and Judaism), then we will soon see God act in a powerful, destructive way, to take out those governments and replace them with His own.

In the meantime, pray for the current sufferers for Jesus throughout the world. And pray for Haiti. Help if you can. Get more info on how to help Haiti here:

Being Jesus

Just got a question in: "Is being Jesus a Scriptural Principle?" Well, let's look:

I John 2:6
By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

I Corinthians 11:1
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

II Thessalonians 3:5
May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

Matthew 20:26-28
It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

Philippians 2:3-8
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Matthew 10:24-25
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!

Luke 9:22-24
The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day. If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

I Peter 2:19-23
God is pleased, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps— he who committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth; and while being reviled, he did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.

Romans 8:16-17
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

I Timothy 1:16
Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

John 20:21
Jesus said to them, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

John 14:12-13
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

John 15:7
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Revelation 3:21
He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.

Revelation 2:26-27
He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations—and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces— as I also have received authority from My Father

John 17:22-23
The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.

John 15:11
These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

So we are to live like Jesus, act out His teachings and we receive His suffering, His resurrection, His glory, His peace and His joy. It seems that the Christian life is the life of Jesus.