English, Theologie

Inerrant God and the Spirit of the Bible

I am still dealing in my head with Agent X’s article „Prophets of Consumerist Doom“. We entered a serious debate over at his blog and I have also added an article on my blog to the discussion.

As I want to keep things more approachable also for other readers, I write another blog article rather than another comment on the Fat Beggar’s School of Prophet’s blog. After all, the Web 2.0 was about building up networks, right. Maybe some of my readers wants to jump in to the discussion and write an article on his/her blog…

But before I get deeper into the discussion, I think it is necessary for the sake of clearing premisses, that I write a bit about how I see the bible. Because honestly, I feel like the different approaches towards the bible without clearing them for oneself and for others, brings most of today’s misunderstandings about. And in the end, it is all about calling others names like heathens and infidels and what not. I think we need to understand first, as understanding makes love easier and love hinders condemnation.

So let’s talk a bit about what the bible is – in my opinion – and how to use the bible and what to get from it, using it that way.

What is the bible?

Stupid questions get stupid answers, and so one could be tempted to say: „A book.“ Right as the answer is on the one hand, it appears to bring us no further in our quest – or does it?

Because, being a book, one could presume several things, for example, that there need to be one or several author(s). Also, books do have one or several purpose(s). Both is true for the bible, and both is, as I think, a matter of intense debate.

So who is the author of the bible? Some might feel tempted to say „God“, but I hesitate, because not even the bible says so. God is nowhere in the bible said to have put up a pen and written down any one book of the bible, or even the bible as a whole. He didn’t. There’s no such claim. So I won’t make this claim up. I stick with what we know of authorships (to some extent by the bible itself), that there were several human beings (most of all men from the middle east) who wrote down parts of the bible each.

And I do stick to what I learned at university, that there has been a long process of writing, rewriting, redaction, „corrections“ and what not on the bible text, before what we have today in our modern language bibles, be it KJV, NIV, German Luther translation or Volxbibel. Whoever had a look into textual criticism knows, this is also true for ancient language bibles, we have nothing that we could call the original, though deviations of the different original language texts from one another is in most cases not very big.

So the bible is a book, composed by mostly men of middle eastern descent, from cultures that are different to our own cultures, that even differ within themselves: Whoever composed the Miriam-Song lived in a completely different reality than whoever composed the Apocalypse of John.

Apocalypse of John? Didn’t John write it? Some folks seem to be obsessed with such questions, they seem to think that if John did not write the Apocalypse of John, all other things written down might be lies, too, and if that’d be so, what use would it to be to even look at the bible?

You see we also touch the next question, how to use the bible, but we have not yet been talking about the purpose. So what would be the purpose of the bible being written?

Some folks might say: To give directions to true believers to know whatever they are to do in any situation, or to reveal the will of God Almighty or something along these lines.

I think of it a bit differently. I think there were men who had an experience with God and wanted to write it down, one way or another. And other people read that, because it gave them something. And they retold the story, and it was changed to fit other circumstances, but sometimes it was also kept, the different story parts might have gone through quite some change as they turned into the composition of the bible we have today. It is a lengthy process.

Now one thing is important to me. No, make that two: One thing is that the people involved did not (for the most part – we are all sinners, aren’t we?) do it for some evil plans to be fulfilled, they wanted to tell of God, how they experienced Him. Whether they used the form of fiction (similar to C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkin), historical setting (Ken Follet?) or whatever form of literature – they wanted to tell of what they experienced with God.They were sincere.

And they were read by the community that passed on their writings. So the community approved of what they found. We would not pass on literature that we consider bad, or morally questionable. There might be others in our times who would, but they wouldn’t consider the literature bad or questionable as we do, they’d like it for some reason or another.

So I come to the conclusion, that the bible is a book, composed by many people who expressed their experiences with God, and that book is approved by believers throughout times. Just as we read the Old Testament texts, Jesus read them. And just like we read Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the Galatians themselves read it. Maybe there were some differences in their actual copies, but most was at least very similar.

We share through the bible community with other readers throughout the times, other sisters and brothers in faith, who read the same texts and were lifted up by the witness of the texts, the experiences of other sisters and brothers (mostly brothers though) brought into the form of literature.

Looking at it as this is, the question whether John wrote the Apocalypse is at most boring. Which John anyway? I don’t care about the name, I care about what experience he had with our (his and my) God. I care about how this was considered relevant to fellow Christians from the first reader all down the line to me and my fellow sisters and brothers in these times.

The purpose for the bible to be written was to tell of God. And when I read the bible, I hear of God.

How to use the bible?

„So all I have to do to hear of God is to open the bible and read?“

„Yes.“

„So what I read there is the word of God? So God is the author still?“

„No, the bible is not the Word of God, it contains the Word of God. You yourself cannot do anything to get the Word of God out of it. It’s God’s to open the bible up to you trough His Holy Ghost (or is it Holy Spirit? I am never sure which is the right English term.).

Of course we can read in the bible. And we might get some interesting insights into biblical history, poetry and what not. You can analyse it like any book, but that will lead you nowhere.

Well, not exactly nowhere, but where reading and analysing Shakespeare or any other worldly writer would bring you too: greater knowledge in a certain field of literature. As God didn’t write it, we cannot get His will directly from it.

You can read the bible all your life and be an atheist. And you can read one verse and start to believe. God makes the difference, and we cannot do anything about it really.

The difference God makes, I suppose, is that between a distanced look at literature and an existential look at the literature of my community. I can be entertained by Shakespeare, but the team songs of my favourite football team touch deeper. They have to do with me.

And as I am Christian, the bible has to do with me. I am a sinner and might be making mistakes, but I seek to get something from the experiences other believers had with God. Some understanding, relieve maybe. And as God didn’t write it, I won’t get anything about Him by quoting single verses. This will get me to the actual author. But the author tells a longer story, and the story is about life with God. And the God is the same God in all stories, so I expect there to be a general picture of this God to shine through.

Yes, there are all kind of contradictions and cruelties that lead people to say this God must be mad or a monster, but actually, I think this is not God you see in there, but the sinners that wrote the text. I think you can look beyond this, but you might have to need the Spirit to do so. Luckily, as Christians we have the Spirit not in our pockets, but sent to us by our Lord and saviour to comfort us. And He does, opening up the bible to us.

And in all this we need to remain humble. You can never be too sure whether the Spirit guides you or your own desires. The bible is only one voice to listen to. We also have the Spirit talking directly to our hearts (whereas we still cannot be too sure which Spirit is talking at any given time), we have our fellow Christians with whom we share community and hopefully the one or the other talk about how God is making Himself heard in our lives, maybe there are testimonies as well… and last but not least we have our brains to make sense of all that.
With none of these we can be too sure, nothing gives us a clear direction, we cannot step back, out of responsibility. We will be responsible for what we consider right and wrong, so I consider it a bad thing to point to a bible verse prohibiting others certain things, like premarital sex or homosexuality or Rock’n Roll music. We are responsible for ourselves and others for themselves. We need to talk, because we are brothers and sisters, we need to understand, else there will be division in the body of Christ, which shall not be.

What to get from the bible?

So what do I get from the bible, from reading the bible? Nothing much, if I look for a 1-2-3 plan for my life or for other’s lives or anything like that. It’s not a short cut to circumvent own thinking, own responsibility for thought and claims.

But what we do get is an idea of God, an idea of community and an object around which community can form, as we talk about it, as we gather to hear from it. All directed towards the triune God, not the text, but with the text as some kind of catalyst if you like. Plus, you get quite some good literature. After all, the bible is an all time best-seller, and certainly not only because of the tradition of having a bible copy as a Christian. Some folks do really read it and enjoy it.

Post Scriptum

You might have realised that I did not argue biblically. I do not intend to give biblical proof for what I wrote here, because that would be a circle, wouldn’t it. I mean you wouldn’t even consider it to be true if you found a paper with two sentences on it:

The world is flat. What is written on this paper is true.

The bible declaring itself to be true is no better argument than a person claiming to be no liar. The bible itself, the person itself is hardly proof. You need proof from other sources: The Spirit, fellow Christians, your brains. I chose the route via the brains here, though I have the impression that the Spirit doesn’t tell me a very different story, so I ask you, my Christian brothers and sister for your comments as a further corrective. We need this talking, this forms community – especially here on the internet where we cannot share bread and wine.

Commenting Media, English, Glaube, Theologie

„I want to know what Jesus would do“

Agent X of the Far Beggar’s School of Prophets wrote an article called „Prophets of Consumerist Doom“. The main argument of the article is, that there are many prophets around who remind us of the problems in this world.

Speaking of Pop music, I’d think of Guns ’n Roses‘ „Civil War“, Papa Roach’s „Broken Home“ or „Schrei nach Liebe“ by „Die Ärzte“.

Agent X brought up an old video, that addresses the problem of consumism in the „western?) world, which offers remedy that is not exactly Christian.

The question Agent X asks is more or less the headline of this article:

I want to know what Jesus would do

But first, the video:

Youtube blocked the once here embedded video for copyright reasons, sorry.

I will be honest here, I have not seen the whole video. It is very very long, and I just do not have the time. But I think I found a rough ground-structure of the video, which is a us vs them dichotomy:

It explains the world as consistent of two groups: The exploited on the one hand and the exploiters on the other. And while I agree that there are exploited people as well as there are exploiters, I think this is a false view of reality.

And I think this would be a first answer to Agent X’s question:

I ask my Christian brothers and sisters to talk about how Jesus addresses the world depicted here.  Seriously.

The world depicted here is a depiction through a broken lens. 1Cor 13:12 comes to mind. So what I think is Jesus would question this way of looking at the world. He would not ask who (among all others) the exploiters are, He’d say something along the lines of „woe, you exploiters“ and then make us realize our role in all this.

After all, aren’t we the consumers? Agent X agrees in a comment:

We don’t need all this junk. We don’t need all this mindless frenzy. It is killing our planet and making us glutted fat slobs. We need to repent.

Agent X also writes, the US were part of the problem. Well, they are also part of the victims of the problem, namely the homeless people of America (among others), which does always have an impact on every one person, so we do all sit in one boat.

But back to looking for solutions. To me it seems, most if not all man made solutions seek to replace the head in order to change the system. Democracy in Iraq? Kill Saddam and have free elections. But afterwards there were still the tribes, the different religions and national groups. Oopsie. Similar in Afghanistan? Establish Democracy? Easy: Defeat the Taliban and have elections. Well, who could know you need democrats (people who actually believe in democracy, not the US political party) for a democracy to work (hint: Maybe Germans who paid attention in history class,because this is more or less what happened here between the two world wars: Kaiser Wilhelm was resigned and democracy was established, though the people longed for a strong man like the Kaiser. They got Hitler…).

I disgress…

Also you find it in Marx’s communist manifesto: Establish a leadership of the avantgarde of the worker’s class  to lead the actual system from what it is via socialism to communism. In fact, only the heads have been exchanged. Was the Kaiser worse than Hitler? Was the Czar worse than Stalin? Was Saddam worse than Daesh?

But what to do? For me it is essential to see that you do not change the system when you change the heads. Of course, the ones call themselves socialists, the others fascists or fundamentalists. Each care for different groups of people, each consider different groups of people evil, the enemy, the oppressor. Bankers, Jews, Infidels… it’s always some outgroup that is considered responsible. But in fact they all care for their own and oppress the other. They dehumanize them and then kill them – in big scale.

The system is always the same,and we are more then willing to play our part. Agent X is right, we need to repent. And I think this is what Jesus would ask us to do.

And that would mean to refuse, as far as possible, to be part of the system. We won’t be able to avoid it at all, but we have our chances. If we succeed, we might be nailed to a cross. Or just shot dead, like Martin Luther King. And there are other names: Paul Schneider, Oscar Romero

It’s not that hard to find a way to oppose the system. If you find something going wrong, don’t be silenced. Speak out. You do not need to take action more than that. Telling the truth in a world of lies is a powerful act. Like Paul Schneider. The Nazis were so afraid of their power being undermines by the words of a pastor of a village in the province, that they killed him in a concentration camp even before the organised genocide stared in the early 1940s.

Of course, there’s always more you can do: Act and help other people who are downtrodden by the system. There is nothing wrong with helping e.g. a communist in a fascist system, after all, he is a human being and a child of God. But don’t be surprised if he won’t thank you too much after the heads have been exchanged. He might as well seek to kill you, once the system works for him and you still oppose it. We don’t do this to be loved by men…

And even more you can do: Use the means within the actual political version of the system to better things, to act on behalf of the downtrodden. If you live in a democracy, do politics, get elected or convince your representatives. Luther wrote, we are all simul iustus et peccator, both just and sinners. This is true for our representatives as well. Government programs can help a bunch so that charity can focus on more special cases.

In doing what you do, you can break laws, as long as you do it openly and willing to take upon you the punishment, as Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail.

But what crosses the line is, when you start taking over the logic of the system, when you start to exchange heads in order to better things. This is where I am not sure how close I am to Bonhoeffer. Maybe what he had in mind falls into the section of breaking laws openly, but I am not sure. But I disgress again.

The logic of the system builds upon power and fear. Just like Satan in the desert, people are lured with power or ability, maybe even ability to help the poor. But then they are scared, they might loose their newfound powers, their abilities, because of others who seek to have these powers, or some of it. This can start with little things like being anxious of going to church service stinking and end with killing opposing province pastors. In the first we are afraid to loose our good reputation, in the latter we are afraid to loose grip on the people we rule…

To be clear, I compare the structure underneath our deeds, I do not compare Agent X to Hitler, far from it! But I think the fear he described before going to church stinking has something to do with dictatorships‘ fear of opposition. In both cases you run the risk of loosing approvement from other people. But, to make it even more clear: Agent X got beyond this actually going to church stinking, while the Nazis tried to shut up every opposing voice. They did not confront their fears.

You break the logic of the system, by controlling your fear, by facing it, by  nnot avoiding it, by finally getting over it.

And I think this is where the cross comes in. If you know, all will be wonderful in the end, you can endure a lot. As Unbelievers we cannot be sure that all is wonderful in the end. What we know is that in the end – we are dead. So we have to make the most out of our lives.

This and the fact that we are not perfect and are again and again confronted with doubts in our believe, makes the system so strong. Agent X wrote about this to be a struggle with demons, and it is. The system is the realm of the demons, you could as well call it hell or death. It’s basically all the same.

As believers in the cross and resurrection of the Christ, we know all will be fine in the end, because we are saved. And this is the force that will brake the system, which actually broke it already 2000 yeas ago. What we witness is only the drawback fight of the demons. They are still strong, and they bring about their share of hurt for people, but in the cross they are ultimately defeated.

So what we can do is actually: Take up our own crosses, like Jesus said, be open about the system and where it hurts people, refuse to take part in it, work not directly against it to avoid the risk of trying to exchange heads, but do what is right and leave what is wrong. That’s already a hard thing to do. But nothing is impossible for those, who believe.

Post scriptum: I tend to put things to extremes. It’s not all about dictatorships and death camps. I try to use these extremes to show, where things are heading. Most of the things we see are way less extreme, but still hurting people. Most of the time the system does not go to such extremes, this doesn’t mean it is defeated in times when there are no death camps, when we have democracies instead of dictatorships. The above video shows very well, how the system does work well within western democracies. And it will work with any political (sub)system, we will finally overcome the system only in the kingdom of God.

English, Gesellschaft, Politik, Religion

Us, Them, and the Bible

I wrote one article as answer to Agent X’s „Prophets of Consumerist Doom„, I wrote another one in which I tried to describe my approach towards the bible and now I shall write a third (and hopefully not last) one in which I try to bring the debate a bit further, addressing Agent X’s challenges to my answer. So here we go:

In my experience, by far, most of my Christian brothers and sisters hardly bother with a Bible. They seem to have their own agendas baptized, and just believe whatever they feel – which often is guided with a measure of morality, and sense of heritage, and sometimes seasoned with a few proof texts.

I pledge guilty. Honestly this is why I emphasise on taking the bible as a corrective among others. This is before all a challenge to myself, as I know I am doing this nearly all the time. And it is understandable, isn’t it? I mean we all *know* the bible, we know what it’s about and what spoke to you in the first place. Of course we want to pass on what touched us, and we tend to loose track, because our own agendas mix in as we go. We can’t hinder this, as the point where the bible touched us must have something to do with our agenda, otherwise it would not have touched us. It’s a basic flaw we can’t get rid of. So we need correctives, like the bible, the Holy Ghost (or what we consider it to be) or the community of Christian Brothers and Sisters. If we didn’t have that flaw, there’d be no need for community. Wouldn’t this be an even greater flaw?

But I hope to challenge them to open their Bible and really look and listen.

Challenge accepted. Though you won’t see me tossing bible verses proof-texting what I wrote. As I wrote, I consider the bible a work of men, men who were moved by God, but still men. I want to take this into account, too.

But I appreciate Scripture at a very high level. I am not one of those who runs around in some nervous need to claim inerrancy and all that, but I believe it is the Word of God and as such the stuff of life.

I believe the bible contains the word of God, but there is no identity. You can’t carry God’s word around in your pocket. And we won’t get the word of God out of the bible without the Holy Ghost, who is not at our disposal either.

So my first question would be: Does the Bible teach us to sidestep the “Us vs. Them” thing? And if so, where?, how?, to what extent?, and perhaps a few related things such as that. I can certainly imaging running straight to some of the great UNITY passages in St Paul or St. John etc. And I find St. Paul telling the Philippians to have one mind, one spirit, striving together and in so doing they are a sign of destruction to their opponents and of their own salvation. Destroying your opponents with your unity sounds incredible to me!

But it speaks of destroying opponents. And this is an “Us vs Them” thing at that bigger level then.

Most unity passages that come to my mind are reduced to Christians, so looking at this, there’d still be an us Christians vs them Non-Christians. And you find us vs them throughout the bible when speaking about enemy nations such as Amalekites, Philistines and what not in the OT or Jews and Gentiles in the NT, also there are sinners and saints, Pharisees and prostitutes… That’s like people always try to put up some kind of own order, categorising others. And thus we get this us vs them all the time when people are involved.

And I think you can find a development in the bible. While the „us vs them“ is in the OT more or less along national boundaries: Us Israelites vs them Gentiles, it changes more and more throughout the times. The prophets tell Israel to not be too sure of themselves just for being God’s chosen people. So already in the OT the lines are changed from national categories to moral categories, when walking in the way of God becomes more important than being of God’s people. The NT takes this to extreme, when it has Jesus proclaiming God could turn mere stones into children of Abraham. Thus gentiles come into focus more and more. With the declaration of everybody being a sinner, the newer moral categorisation starts tumbling, too. All you now have to draw lines is faith (and along this line the stakes were burning in the middle ages).

This also lead to terrible wars between Christians of different denominations, most prominent maybe the 30 years war from 1618-1648, which literally destroyed most of central Europe, but we got past this – for the most part.

Actually, looking at the development I wonder whether God really intends to make any distinguishment between people.

After all, we are all sinners and in need of mercy. We as Christians know, that we have it – glory be to God! Yes there is „us vs them“ in the bible, but most seem to be nothing but humane category building. I mean isn’t it normal to wish the worst to those who are out to harm you? I think this is what we find in texts that deal with Amalekites and the like. I for my part see not the Spirit of God in this (and yes, I know here I run the risk of putting my own agenda into it). I just wonder what would „qualify“ me to be in the „them“ group from God’s perspective. After all He’s all our father.

St Paul also says our war is not with flesh and blood but with authorities, with principalities – the stoichea. We might begin debating what those powers are and how to go about fighting them. I think the state of the argument, as I present it is open to that. But I am clear that there is an Us vs Them going on there that mere sociology does not address.

Right. As sociology does not care about the powers, does not even presume their existence, it doesn’t address all that. For that you’d need some kind of demonology or such, but these are mostly speculations.

Still I tend to lean towards an own brand of speculation in this field: I think of them less like own personalities or such, no other beings with horns and what not, but rather emotions, structures of thought and feeling – I still need a word.

These powers keep us captive. They control our lives, not actively like a person would, but passively, they bind us like a cord would bind us. The cord does nothing active, it doesn’t intend to harm us in any way. It is just there. This is the reality of the fallen world.

God through Jesus on the cross unbound us, by revelation of the vanity involved in our binding. In faith we are unbound. Once we know God controls everything and not the powers that keep us captive, our captivity is over. We just walk away from the powers towards God.

I can see no „them“ in all this as I do not consider the powers „someone“.

You ask how to fight the powers. I think best would be in testifying the liberating God, and showing it in our lives. Like Agent X does with his work for and with the homeless.

What does self-sacrificial LOVE look like in that photo? Where is worship of YHWH, God, or the cross of Jesus??? in that photo?
Not at all, it’s men vs men, so it’s evil vs evil. As long as there’s no self-sacrificial love, there’s no God, maybe one god or more, but not God.

I doubt it’s possible to do anything when two parts are up for a fight. Neither the police nor the protesters intend to go into the scene with self-sacrificial love. I’m afraid all you can do is stand besides and bandage their wounds. If one side is intending to do the self-sacrificial love thing: Well, look at Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Something along these lines would be good, I think. I wonder if such tactics would also work for law enforcement. But you cannot take a policeman to be beaten up in order to calm things…

I don’t know. I need to pray on this. But when I look at that photo and grieve it so, I want to find out. I want to go there and play the Jesus card. I want my church to do this too.

Maybe put in a Jesus perspective. That would be to call to repentance for the protesters: You criticise greed, now how greedy are you yourself? Are you not only in envy for the 1% having more opportunities? WOuldn’t you do the same thing if you were in their place? Things like this. This would take a prophet I think.

On the other side you can take up their good criticism and bring a Christian answer to it: Start in your field. Become a better person yourself, become the change you want from others – if you give a good example, more people might follow you.

Someone – a famous preacher, but I forget who – said many years ago that if the church of America is serious and REALLY wants to end abortion, then rather than pressuring congress to change the laws, what we really need to do is all get together (One mind, one spirit???) and take out a full-page ad in ever major newspaper across the country stating that we, the church, will take ANY unwanted baby in ANY condition no matter what, no questions asked.

Personally I always wondered why pro life people only focus on what they think the mother should do but do not waste the tiniest thought on what they could do to save lives. Us vs them. We the Holy tell the sinners how to become better people like we are. Reminds me of the Pharisee and the publican in the temple.

We have yet to do that. But I don’t think most of my brothers and sisters even begin to consider it, or think of it at all, much less count the cost. We cant even get the idea out.

I like the idea. I wonder where one would start to get this actually going.

What if we took prayer and communion right to the breach between the 1% and the 99%? What would happen? Shouldn’t we try it? I am interested. Let’s at least talk about it.
God works miraculous ways, so you can never know what happens, we can only use our earthly minds to address this. My first thought is: Once there is communion, there is community, and you’ll have problems distinguishing the 1% from the 99%, at least for the moment. Like you can hardly differ between the slave Onesimus and the slave-owner Philemon once they see they are brothers in Christ and behave accordingly. The role of their respective status decreases. I just wonder if any in the Occupy protest would come to the cup of the Lord and break their bread jointly…

I seriously love your passion here. While you can bring prayer and communion there, I am not sure if anybody would listen. I wonder if they would be able to even understand what you are doing there. Still, God works wonderful ways, so it might also turn out to be an extreme success. I just wonder if anybody would come and join the communion. But the idea to find a common ground for both groups is something. This might be communion, but it could well be another thing. Blessed are the peacemakers.

In this final analysis, at the Spiritual height of all this, I think we do want to topple Saddam, but not with Democracy and not by means of military might. I think LOVE is more powerful, and Jesus, when he is KING there, really beats the system.

The thing is not to topple Saddam, he is just one figure that could easily be replaced by anybody else. The thing is to end oppression, and I think oppression is based in fear. Saddam’s (or any dictator’s) fear of being replaced and then be hung. Think Saddam, think Gaddahfi, think Ceaucescu, think Louis XIV, think Hitler…
When leaders are exchanged, the old leaders most often are disposed, i.e. killed. If your choice is to be killed or to oppress any opposition, guess what you’d do, except you were so full of love that you didn’t fear death…Then the powers wouldn’t bind you. But most dictators are bound. I wonder if you can be liberated by God and still be a dictator…

 

English, Gesellschaft

Do not share Challenge

The church does not look like this because of the truck running into a Christmas market next to it on monday. What it looks like is the final result of right wing agitation!
By No machine-readable author provided. Angr assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The church does not look like this because of the truck running into a Christmas market next to it on monday. What it looks like is the final result of right wing agitation!

After a truck ran into a Christmas market at Breitscheidplatz, Berlin this monday, I realized something strange:

People decided not to retweet rumours about what happened. It was unfamiliarly silent in my Twitter timeline.

That is, not exactly everybody did so. Right wing populists, I shall better call them what they are: Nazis, were fast to name the offender and the cause of what happened, and I also read some English language tweets, some with rather reasonable speculations about the incident. I also read about the nearby Gedächtniskirche (picture above) being in that condition because of the „terrorist attack“ – it doesn’t.

This experience has an impact on me. I wonder, what if we did not share any of the filth right wingers post in social media to provoke? What if we decide not to be their amplifiers? I struggle myself, I am easily disgusted by some content and tend to react by sharing and commenting how disgusting I find this. I spread their filth to show people how filthy the provokers are, and by this I play their game.

I think „playing their game“ is common these days, also among the right wingers: They play the game of the jihadists, but not only this, the play in the same team.

Of course, jihadists and right wingers want people to think it is a game us vs them, east vs west, Muslims vs Christians. I believe this is wrong. It is the game hate vs love, chaos vs peace. Both, jihadists and right wingers, are on the team that tries to crack society into two blocks: „them“ and „us“. And of course, „we“ are the good guys who must use any weapon at our hand to defeat the bad guys, „them“.

I think our job, being on the other team, the team of love, peace and unity, is to heal society, to do whatever we can to hinder the cracking.

As cracking is done e.g. by so called „fake news“ (let’s call it what it is: propaganda and lies), avoiding the crack would mean to not spread these news, however upset we are about it. And to not consume any media that does spread these. Right wingers have been on many talk shows in Germany recently. Why not stop watching them, so they can spread their filth elsewhere.

Media runs by the mechanisms of the markets: Whatever sells, will be produced. Let’s not buy.

This is why I challenge YOU, to not share, retweet or consume the propaganda of these haters. Their propaganda is nothing the world needs to know about. It is nothing we need to talk about. Let us not help them any more.

In days of old there was a saying: „Don’t feed the troll“. It belonged to the newsgroups, where eventually people showed up who seemed to have fun provoking and thus destroying good debates. The rule was to not talk to these „trolls“, so they will give up eventually.

What I challenge you is similar, but not identical. Do not spread their lies and propaganda, do not tell what they do, but use the social media to speak with them. Shatter their world view, get into the debate, point out any prejudice they bring up, so they understand people do see they are lying and name it in public. After all, we want to heal society, to not crack it up. Which means we will have to form one society with them afterwards. Take the first step, because they won’t.

I know this can be frustrating, but it is worth the efforts I am sure. What else can we do to defeat the team of hate? Whenever we use methods of hate and separation, they win.

 

English, Gesellschaft

Envisioning Europe

So the UK has voted to leave the EU. They didn’t like it any more to be a member. It was a democratic decision and like all democratic decisions, we all have to deal with it and take the consequences – whatever they might be.

I think we need to look into the future, the past is past and cannot be changed.

And while some speculated today about the UK being „ripped apart“, as Scotland, Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and London voted „Remain“, it is not the business of us who stay in the EU to decide upon all that. It’s the business of the Scots, Northern Irish, Gibraltans and Londoners.

As Europeans, we have to think about what to do with this Europe of ours.

Sidenote: With „Europe“ I do mean the EU here. That is not to say Great Britain wasn’t part of geographical Europe.It is and remains part of this subcontinent, just like Belarus, Transnistria or Crimea.

We need some kind of vision,or greater idea of Europe. The founders seem to have had this as a community of nations that live together in freedom, peace and wealth.

Back then they didn’t have either. They have lived in the 2nd World War, maybe even seen the 1st, they have seen how nationalism and dictatorships lead the whole subcontinent into destruction.

One can guess that this is a very impressive experience that you would want to avoid for your self and your children and you children’s children’s children…

Lucky as we are, we lack this experience. Maybe we don’t value this anymore, the peace and wealth and freedom we have – relatively to the rest of the world!

We see the burden: before all bureaucracy in Brussels and almost incomprehensible paths legislation takes there. Things do happen and we hardly understand why and on which grounds. And then we end up in blaming Greeks for supposingly wasting our money or blaming Germans for the austerity policy.

We do not act like one people, with supporters of different political ideas everywhere, but like several people fighting each other for the benefit of the own people (whether or not we in our class within our people would also benefit – and not only those in another class).

One could talk about every kind of political issue but I want to talk about structures.

I think what we need are transparent and democratic structures within the EU. So that everyone knows how laws come into existence and doesn’t feel like being controlled by others (you know, that „monster in Brussels“).

After all, it’s us who vote our national governments and our representatives in the European Parliament.

I heard that campaigners for both sides in Britain named numbers of costs and benefits from EU membership without anybody being able to confirm or repudiate. I think people should be able to check upon whether politicians do tell the truth or make things up. This would also be a strong weapon against populism of any kind, just saying.

I also think the European Parliament should have more power, at least the power to start legislation itself, and not having to wait for other European Institutions to do so. And the power to decide upon every law, like any other national Parliament within the EU.

People need to see that they are part of the whole thing and that they do actually have a say with their vote.

And then we need a narrative. The narrative of peace and wealth might still work. Maybe the narrative of how today people of the different nations cross borders and meet people from neighbouring countries like it’s the most normal thing to do, even to live there if you please. And I speak of ordinary people, not the small elites who always had the freedom to travel to other countries, learn their language and have friends there, maybe even finding their spouse.

Maybe we’d also have to celebrate it more, living in peace and being so close to one another. Is there yet a day of European Unity?

I grew up in a uniting Europe, I did benefit a lot from integration. I remember the border controls when I was a child, and how these affected life. How you always had to change money when crossing the border and what to do with the foreign coins you had left when you came back and that no bank would exchange back (I also remeber stickers in the windows of shops that read „Nous acceptons des Francs Francaises“ – translated „We accept French Francs“, but that was only in the last years before we got the Euro).

It hurts to see Europe being ripped apart, although I do think one has to respect the democratic decisions of peoples. Borders will be closed again. Nationalisms will continue to be on the rise. And I am afraid that when a war and the will to overcome that danger stood at the beginning of the process of European integration, what will be waiting for us in the end after European disintegration.

It is our obligation to shape our future and it is necessary to develop a vision of the future to do so. What is your vision?

English, Politik

Safe Meriam

Maybe you heard about Meriam Yahia Ibrahim. She is sitting in prison in Sudan for apostasy from Islam, though she has been a Christian for all her life. With her in the prison are her 20 months old son and the baby she’s currently pregnant with. She is not allowed to receive medical aid or have visitors. You can read about the story here, here and here.

There is also a form where you can write to the Sudanese embassy. Visit:

http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=88&ea.campaign.id=28508

And please reshare whereever possible.

English, Theologie

Is God for capitalism?

In an article by Jim Finn he argues that God was for capitalism and against socialism. Socialism, according to Jim, is redistribution:

He plainly told Joe the plumber he was for redistribution of wealth, which is socialism at its very core.

I mention this to avoid misunderstandings. Europeans tend to have a different understanding of what socialism means. I don’t know of a special term for redistribution, maybe because there’s redistribution all around. I produce something and sell it for money, to the money is redistributed to me and the product is redistributed to the buyer. The state needs more police and rises the taxes to pay them, so my money is redistributed to the new police officers and their time is redistributed to my security (in the best case). I earn more than I need right now and give it to social security so whenever I might earn less than I need to live, social security will support me. There’s redistribution everywhere, you give and you take, some are strong and give more because they can, and some are weak and take more, because they need.

I wrote some comments there, trying to make the opposite strong: That God was not for the stronger to press the weaker (which is the effect of capitalism) but for people to help one another (which means redistribution which is according to Jim „socialism“). The problem there was that Jim wanted bible proof, and I really had a hard time, because actually the society and the government systems in biblical times were a lot different from today and you rather need to read and understand the whole bible to get the point, rather than using it as a quarry to break out those verses that support your point. So I decided to write this article, not to prove my point, because from a very close to bible perspective it is hard to speak out for anything in our modern world. One could even claim without a big problem that God was against democracy, because it is never mentioned in the bible, while kings or judges as rulers can be found everywhere… This is why I am not going to prove my point here, but disprove Jim’s position, which I shall try to do from a close to the bible text perspective, so Jim and I can actually talk with one another. We couldn’t if I’d stick to more liberal ways.

So if you were looking for an argument for „socialism“ from a position of faith, but also comprehendable for the liberal reader, you might just want to look here.

Jim starts by stating the following:

The Bible is always up to date. It has always been ahead of the times. There is no way to ever catch God off guard. God has something to say concerning most everything and that includes systems of governing and economics.

I would agree that the bible is always up to date. We need no new one (though some seem to think we do). And certainly we never catch God off guard (though I hope we can agree God is not the bible, but no, let’s not discuss this here). What I want to point out is that while God certainly has something to say on everything, we have no reason to think it would all be in the bible. There are plenty things the bible says nothing about. We can get an idea of things, reading the bible and using our reasoning to find out what it would mean today, but that’s it. Even the bible doesn’t say that the bible would give us recipes for every problem, right?

The first thing before delving into the subject is to recognize there is no fool-proof system as to fairness.  No system has all the answers. Jesus Christ is the answer for mankind, not socialism, not capitalism and not a system in between.

Or beyond. Right. No problem with that.

The Bible commands us to give to the poor. God even expects poor people to give.

He bases this on Mk 12, 41-44. I wouldn’t say God expects poor people to give, but He praises poor people who give. Jesus didn’t say it was the woman’s obligation to give what she had. It’s about the faith of the woman rather than about the giving, though the giving proves the faith.

Then he makes a point that God wants a cheerful giver, which is right, and he quotes 2. Corinthians 9, 7-8:

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work

From this Jim draws the conclusion:

When you force someone to give what is theirs, you violate Scripture.

I don’t know where he finds this. 2. Cor speaks about Paul collecting for the Christians in Jerusalem. In this situation Paul says no one shall give of necessity or grundgingly. I don’t know how this could mean that generally „forced giving“ would violate scripture. It’s not charity, right. I wouldn’t even call it giving, but this does not say that any forced giving does violate scripture. Taxes are forced, still Jesus says that taxes should be paid (Mt 22, 21). You could maybe argue that forced giving does not count like giving to the poor out of free decision, I’d agree here, so if you try to fill your account of good deeds, you cannot count paying taxes to it, for example. Or any other time where you have the obligation to give. But the existence of obligations to give itself does not violate scripture.

Jim goes on:

There is no Scripture that contradicts 2nd Corinthians 9:7-8 If you can find it to be so please show me.

No, why should there? Paul certainly didn’t want to push Christians to give for Jerusalem, how would he have even been able to do so? But I could ask as well: Am I allowed to give money to charities that help landmine victims? In Jim’s logic, we can only do what the bible allows. Free giving is allowed, but there is no verse about „forced giving“, so it’s not allowed. Giving to the poor is allowed, you’d find verses about that I’m sure. But where in the bible are landmine victims mentioned?

Still we would consider it ridiculous, if someone claimed, we were not allowed by God to give to landmine victims, right? Nonetheless I can say there is no scripture saying that giving to landmine victims was allowed.

I’d say we better see what the bible prohibits, and take a close look to not get the wrong impression (otherwise it’s farewell to pork meat and lobster).

Then Jim quotes Ps 37,25:

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

and Phil 4, 19-20:

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and
ever and ever. Amen.

Now Jim claims God dictated the bible (which I don’t believe and even the bible doesn’t claim) and says these prove that God would not let down anybody. He says it’s not King David in Ps 37 but God Himself who’d say that. I’d say of you want to stick to the text of the bible, we have to agree that David did not see the righteous forsaken (he never met Job). What David sees has nothing to do with what is happening. Besides? Who is righteous?

Romans 3, 10 claims:

There is none righteous, no, not one

and is quoting Ps 14 with this. So if there is no righteous person, no righteous person will be forsaken, right? And remeber: As long as you believe the bible is dictated by God, this also applies to Romans and Ps 14!

What about Philippians? Well, it might be my bad English, but I learned that „shall“ does not equal „is“. What we have in Philippians is a prayer, and I wish that it comes true for many. And: Paul is writing there to the Philippians, not all mankind. But anyway, it is not supporting, what Jim claims:

God always takes care of His children no matter what. Gods children has never one time suffered for basic needs. I did not says wants, I said needs.

By the way, being a child of God does not mean, that child had to be righteous.

If you say no child of God has ever suffered for basic needs and you see children starving, this would either mean: Yes, well, they are not children of God, so why even bother, which would be more than hardhearted. Or you’d say: Yes, they starve, but still they cannot fall deeper than into God’s hands, even if they die. That’s not better.

Maybe it becomes clearer when we think of all the aborted children. Are they not children of God? Have they gotten all their needs? So why even bother about abortion?

Many and much more Scripture could I add.

Yes, Jim, I think you’d need to bring in more, because what you brought up to now is by no means convincing. This has nothing to do with me not believing in God or the bible. I just looked at the bible and saw what is written there. And it is, as for what you have brought forth, much less than you claim. So it seems you are adding to scripture here (I said seems, you can prove me wrong by bringing more convincing scripture).

Of course as Christians we are told by God that we are supposed to be a generous people but if you think for one minute that God lacks power because of our disobedience, you better be careful in you accusation.

The point is not at all that God would lack power. In fact I fear that power a lot. Because when the poor are not being taken care of, we will feel His power in the results of their poverty: Crime, insecurity and finally the collaps. It’s gotten worse and worse since we have not properly taken care of the weak and poor. Our wealth is nothing granted, we don’t have it for our hard work, because you can work hard and still have nothing. God has the power to turn down corrupt systems that feed the rich and starve the poor. Without redistribution, this is what happens.

Socialism rewards according to need as opposed to work down so says the Webster dictionary.

Wasn’t it God who would give according to need? Just a few lines up? Now it’s socialism!

Then, Jim uses Mt 25, 14-30 as a proof for profit being good. And concludes:

 Profit is increase and according to Jesus profit is good not bad.

Actually, I do not see Jesus saying here that profit was good, He rather describes the kingdom of heaven like a man who gains without doing, which is quite the opposite of rewarding a man’s hard work with profits…

Nonetheless I would agree that profit itself is nothing bad. It’s good to have profits and to enjoy the fruits of your work.

Notice, not one time does Jesus mention the profit should be distributed to those whom did not earn the profit.

Right, because it isn’t about economy but a description of the kingdom of heaven. A parable. Just look at the first verse!

As a Christian we are supposed to work for our needs.

Agree. What if there are no jobs?

We have no right to consider our needs to be a right or something that others owe us.

Depends. If I work hard and the employer is giving me less than is fair and takes all the profits for himself, I have a right to say it is wrong. After all, he owes me for working hard so he can make profits. But basically, if I do nothing and am not part of a bigger context, nobody owes me. Right.

God says if a man is able but refuses to work, that man should not eat and we should have no company with such a person.

The problem is that many are not able to work because there is no work, and others are able to work and do work and still do not eat.

Ah, the part with nothing to do with them disturbs me a bit. Jim gets this from 2. Cor 3,14. There Paul writes about people who would not work and live on the expense of the congregation. What it is basically saying is: Don’t feed him, let him work.

But this is not about shunning the unemployed.

That’s basically all he writes. He didn’t even properly address „socialism“. It’s all about having to work (which nobody questions) and giving freely (which is something God wants us to do). He somehow tries to connect this all in a way so that it looks God would disapprove of social security systems. And this doesn’t work, because the bible is not anti social security. And there is nothing wrong with social security. You pay in when you have and you take out when you need. In some cases you are forced into such a system, which is also not wrong but in most cases for the good of most. God does not tell governments how to do their jobs, He just wants them to support justice, which includes the downtrodden. If a government decides to meet this end with a social security system, there is nothing wrong about it, as long as it’s a fair system where justice is served. And it’s just to care for the weak, and it’s just to have the strong bear more. Tomorrow the strong might be weak and the weak strong, whatever God gives.

God is neither for capitalism nor for socialism. He’s for justice. There are just elements in capitalism and in socialism. The trick is to use them both, and get rid of the injust parts.

God bless

English, Theologie

Sin, Hell and Gospel

There is one sentence in the article of Jim Finn, which I wrote about yesterday, that I wanted to add some thoughts to separately. But first the sentence:

Remove sin from the Bible, remove Hell from the Bible and there can be no Gospel.

Jim is right here. Somehow, because the gospel means liberation, and without anybody being captive or anything keeping someone captive, there’s no sense in liberation. If you are free (or consider yourself free) you won’t see the point in someone offering you freedom.

But still, there’s a problem to this. Because the gospel isn’t about sin, it’s about how sin is overcome and defeated. Not that you wouldn’t sin anymore. We are all sinners and we will have to bear with that, but sin won’t have power over us any more.

The basic message of the gospel, if you’d want me to put it in one sentence, is:

God loves you.

Plain simple, and maybe too simple for many. Because the whole background is being left out. All that talk about sin, about how Adam and Eve ate from the fruit and all that.

A simple „God loves you“ won’t help a thing, if you don’t understand it. If you consider yourself a nice person, this message about God loving you maybe wouldn’t surprise you too much. Of course He does. Everybody does, right? But if that is your mindset, you wouldn’t very likely listen to how sinful you are. You’d rather think: Yeah, this person speaking about hell and all really has big issues with self esteem or something. As long as you consider yourself great, all of this will hardly touch you.

But consider to opposite: What if you run into problems? What if you see that you are not such a nice person? If you are aware of your flaws, the pain you caused. Maybe it’s gone so far that you’d hate yourself. What then? Would the talk of hell and sin help you out? No. Would it change anything? No, because you already hate yourself, sin and hell would only be the proof for the hate you have for yourself. But what about „God loves you“? This might come like a surprise. Maybe you’d think someone is making fun of you. How can God love a person like me? And maybe then you would realize that it isn’t about what you did, but who you are. That love based on deeds isn’t love at all, and that God loves you and always have, because you are His child, but that He hates your deeds like you do.

Here the message „God loves you“ can really be the point, where change comes in. Even without talking of sin and hell.

After all we don’t understand and wouldn’t even listen to talks about the severity of sin and how people go to hell and all. We even would either consider it normal that God loves us, or we’d consider it the most natural thing in the world, without coming to faith.

But this is something, we cannot decide on our own, this is given by God, out of grace.

So as a practical note, I’d say don’t use the fire and hell part of Christianity too offensively. Give witness when asked, but when you talk to people, especially to weak or painful people, start with the love of God without declaring everything they do good. It’s possible. And true.

God bless you all