Romans 13:1-8 is a passage that has been used in ways that are unjust. It has been used to justify the divine right of kings, to justify slavery, to justify apartheid and segregation. This text has been used in support of the Just War Theory. It’s still used in the church to justify oppressive policing and discounting of immigrant’s basic human rights. If people would just obey the law, the logic goes, then they will be left alone. But is that what this passage means? Is Paul saying that that all laws are good? Is he saying that all people are treated equally under the law? Is he saying that laws should be obeyed without question? These things are often read into the passage making these verses something like a sword to keep oppressed people in their place. I don’t believe that was Paul’s intent.
Just because a particular action is legal does not mean it is just. As God’s people it’s imperative that we carefully discern and think through texts like these so that we might walk well in the way of Jesus. How shall we view this set of scriptures? Continue reading Re-thinking Romans 13
What is Philoxenia? When I first heard this word, I wondered if I had just stumbled upon a new kind of flower, Philoxenia… sort of like a Xenia or phlox or a Xenia crossed with a phlox to create a whole new flower. It’s not a flower, it is the Greek word for Hospitality. It literally means Philo or Love; Xenia or Stranger; put together it means LOVE OF STRANGER.
Hospitality then is the act of making strangers feel loved, as if they belong, welcome—like family. Hospitality is another thread that is woven throughout the entire Bible.
Growing up in the church, hospitality was more about making sure the coffee was on and the donuts and cookies were placed out on the serving table. We had a hospitality committee, usually made up of women, who made sure there were plenty of good things to eat and coffee to drink—cool-aid for the children and decaf for the senior folks. And we would gather in the fellowship hall after the morning service to share in a time of “fellowship”. Because what else would one do in a fellowship hall? I loved this time because it meant that I could play just a bit longer with my friends before we all went home for Sunday dinner. Continue reading Philoxenia: Love of the Stranger
How might we find our way Biblically around DACA? If the Bible is our compass and guide, what might we find that would give us direction as believers on various immigration issues such as DACA? And what insights can we gain to discern about the construction of walls? As one following the legislation currently being debated, lawmakers are considering tying the building of a wall between Mexico and the US to DACA legislation. As a means of self-disclosure, I favor a comprehensive immigration reform to create a better, more humane immigration system in this country.
What is DACA?
DACA recipients are the DREAMERS who long to be welcome and have a future within the country they grew up. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. What that means is that if a person came as a child, deportation action could be deferred. Those who came to this country as children did not have the ability to choose but came with their parents. Many young people who came as children grew up in this country and it is the only country they have ever known. According to a Supreme Court decision in the 1980’s, the court determined that it was in the best interests of this nation that unauthorized children should be allowed to receive a public education. We have approximately 790,000 unauthorized immigrants who have received DACA status. DACA was to be renewable every two years provided the conditions were met. Continue reading Why Every Bible-Believing Christian Should Support DACA
What does the Bible have to say about sexual harassment, sexual assault and the #MeToo experiences that are coming to light? And how might the Bible reveal how the distortion of power can create conditions for a #MeToo culture.
I believe God is a purging our country today and powerful people are being exposed because they have abused their power and have exploited men and women sexually. Many believe that sexual harassment and assault are primarily about sex and desire and indeed sex has something to do with it but harassment, assault ,abuse and rape are about entitlement, power and about powerful people exploiting the vulnerabilities of others. Sometimes that power is physical strength but often times that power is from a higher position entailing more social status or the power to offer jobs or take them away. Sometimes it is the power of an older adult exploiting the inexperience and gullibility of the young. Continue reading Biblical #MeToo Stories
The Bible is filled with images of Jesus eating with people, hanging out with people, welcoming people, eating with all sorts of seemly and unseemly people. He was accused of eating with tax collectors and sinners… seriously, the worst kind of people. While invited to the table of Simon the Pharisee (who did not wash his feet and welcome him) in Luke 7, he was adequately welcomed by the sinful woman who crashed the party and washed Jesus feet with her hair.
Even in the book of Acts one of their first controversies was over who they should eat with… Gentiles or their own kind and whether they should eat–meat sacrificed to idols or not? Paul and Peter clashed in the Epistles over the fact that Peter had avoided eating with Gentiles because the Judizer’s might disapprove and consider him defiled for sharing the table with Gentile believers. Somehow the idea of eating and drinking is tied up with the new community that has been created in Christ Jesus. Continue reading The Lord’s Supper Crosses All Borders
One of the most challenging issues in the church is this idea that marriage involves a husband having authority OVER his wife. I can’t tell you how many marriages have been harmed by this teaching and how often a marriage is reduced by teachings such as this. Marriage is not a business or a corporation in which one person is leader over the other and decides what is best for another person. Marriage is about two human beings being in an intimate relationship with one another within which each one is honored and respected. It is in the family that we and our children learn how to live justly in community. That is why mutual submission is so important.
This idea of husbands being in authority over a wife comes from the patriarchal ideals common in the first century when women were given to further the honor or wealth of a given family. She was more of a traded commodity than a person. In the first century women were considered less human, imperfect or less formed males, and inferior beings with less rational abilities. They were also considered more easily deceived and childlike, therefore in need of a ruler. Continue reading Mutual Submission in a Christlike Marriage
I’ve been reflecting on recent headlines about the emergence or re-emergence of white supremacy. I’ve been especially disturbed by how quiet my tribe is and by how defensive conversations around race are among my faith group. I can’t speak for everyone but I can share about some of the myths that were commonly discussed when I was growing up.
I grew up in a rural/suburban mostly white culture around good hardworking people who went to church, loved their neighbors and were largely good citizens. Most would never march or support a white supremacist cause or overtly try to hurt anyone. In fact the unspoken rule was “don’t hurt anyone and be nice to everyone.” Nevertheless, racism was a part of the folk Christianity that I grew up with. And I use the word folk Christianity because I believe these myths are aberrations and not a part of true Christianity. I hope to refute these myths as simply as I can.
The first myth I encountered was the “Curse of Ham.” The curse of Ham was drawn from the story of Noah found in Genesis 9:18-27. Noah had planted a vineyard and made some wine and after an evening of drinking he became drunk and naked. One of his son’s noticed that he was naked and told the others who walked in backwards and covered him with a robe. Ham the one who found his father drunk and naked was cursed. Ham founded the Canaanites. As folk religion does, this text was applied to African-Americans who had come from Africa in slave ships to the US serving many years in forced slavery. The curse implied that Ham’s descendents would serve his brothers Shem and Japheth. Then I was shown a map of where each son of Noah settled and naturally the map showed that Ham settled in Africa. It was inferred then that such people were cursed by God and destined for service to the people who settled in Europe and the Americas. Continue reading 6 Ways The Bible Was Hijacked to Support Racism.