When David became king of Israel, certain groups gathered around him, each faction precisely gifted in ways that contributed to his ability to rule with wisdom and integrity. Far from being threatened, David welcomed them. He held the position of king for the sake of the nation and wanted all the help he could get to encourage the wellbeing of his people rather than undermine it, as rulers can so easily do.
One key group to join him were members of the Tribe of Issachar, described in the Bible as ‘men who knew the times and understood what Israel ought to do’. (I Chronicles 12:32) It’s worth remembering that Issachar’s mandate was not contingent on David’s willingness to listen to them. Even if he’d rejected their insights they would still have followed through on their specific, God-given aptitude to recognize and understand the times they were living in, and look for ways to influence the culture of the nation.
After David died, the people of Issachar with their uncanny ability to see what was really happening underneath the hype, were no longer valued or utilised by succeeding kings. Continue reading The Perils of Group Think
by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.
Throughout the Old Testament, we find Israel spoken of as God’s “chosen nation.” The Israelites were to be a nation of priests whom God wanted to use to unite the world under him (Ex 19:6). Since nationalism and violence inevitably go hand in hand, as Jacque Ellul and others have noted, the covenant God made with Israel naturally included protection from their enemies in exchange for their compliance with his law (e.g. Deut. 27-28).
By the time Jesus came on the scene, however, Israel had fallen into exile. For most Jews, this could only be explained as an aspect of a covenantal curse. They were being punished because of their disobedience. Though they were in their land, they were yet in spiritual exile. (This is the argument made throughout the work of N.T. Wright. See his The New Testament and the People of God, pages 268-272.) Yet, based on a number of OT prophecies, most Jews continued to look for a future Messiah who would restore Israel’s loyalty to Yahweh, lead Israel in a military conquest over her Roman oppressors and make Israel once again a sovereign nation, thereby demonstrating to the world the supremacy of Yahweh and their own chosen status under him. In other words, many if not most Jews of Jesus’ time wanted and expected a militaristic and nationalistic Messiah.
Though Jesus’ miracles gave people reason to believe he was the Messiah, he refused to play this role. In fact, though it is deeply woven into the OT, Jesus repudiated Jewish nationalism and the violence that came with it. This much is clear in his inaugural sermon given in his hometown synagogue. Jesus read from Isaiah 61, a passage that declared that God’s anointed one would bring good news to the poor, set captives free and declare the year of the Lord’s favor. Amazingly, Jesus announced that this prophecy was in the process of being fulfilled in him (Lk 4:18-19). Continue reading Jesus and Nationalistic Violence
I’ve listened to the political dialogue around how our nation should respond to migrants, asylees and refugees and have noticed the assumptions that we begin with and how those assumptions form our responses. I want to talk about that in this blog post because who we think migrants are shapes how we respond to them. In addition, how we think about migrants shapes the policy discussions that we have. And then I want us to reflect on whether or not our assumptions reflect our faith and how we might consider seeking a truly Christian response to this crisis.
Our beginning assumptions shape how we see:
If we begin with the assumption that migrants or refugees are a threat to our way of life–our culture, if they are a threat to our jobs, if they are a threat to our faith or if they are a threat to our well-being, if they are a threat to our social strength, then we must create policy and enact various security measures to protect ourselves. If we think of migrants as invaders, then we would need to use military force to protect ourselves from an invasion. That is the logical flow from our assumptions to our actions.
If our beginning point regarding migrants and refugees is that all of those heading to our borders are criminals coming to harm us, then we must of course stop them from coming into our country at all costs. Naturally we would not want more violent people or drug dealers. Continue reading Finding A Christian Response to Migrants
These days, love of God is often mixed up with love of country, patriotism and national pride. This was not the case with most early Pentecostals. In line with their pacifism, many influential Spirit-filled leaders criticized patriotism and nationalism. Here are some examples:
Charles Fox Parham (4 June 1873 – c. 29 January 1929) was an American preacher who was instrumental in the formation of Pentecostalism.
The past order of civilization was upheld by the power of nationalism, which in turn was upheld by the spirit of patriotism, which divided the peoples of the world by geographical boundaries, over which each fought the other until they turned the world into a shamble. The ruling power of this old order has always been the rich, who exploited the masses for profit or drove them en masse to war, to perpetuate their misrule.
The principle teachers of patriotism maintaining nationalism were the churches, who have lost their spiritual power and been forsaken of God. Thus, on the side of the old order in the coming struggle, will be arrayed the governments, the rich, and the churches, and whatever forces they can drive or patriotically inspire to fight for them. On the other hand the new order that rises out of the sea of humanity knows no national boundaries, believing in the universal brotherhood of mankind and the establishment of the teachings of Jesus Christ as a foundation for all laws, whether political or social.
Charles F. Parham, Everlasting Gospel, pp. 27-28. Continue reading Early Pentecostals on Patriotism and Nationalism
by Ramone Romero.
Recently a friend I honor and respect pulled the “You’re in Japan” card on me. This is something that a few people have done over the years to imply that I can’t understand how things “really” are in America because I live in Japan.
I haven’t counted the number of times I’ve heard it, but I can remember the context of a few times. I think the first time was when the Bush administration was preparing the country with its propaganda about the need to go to war against Iraq in 2003, and I objected on Facebook and in emails that there was no evidence to support the drive to go to war. Later, other friends (always politically conservative) used the “You’re in Japan” card on me with issues like American healthcare, race relations, the Trump campaign and presidency, and Confederate flags and monuments.
Obviously there’s some significant truth to the fact that, being far away, I can’t get a complete picture of how things are “on the ground” in America. At the same time, there is a lot that can be learned online, from reading comments and articles, etc. I’m not a novice in filtering news and reports, or taking the first thing I hear as the gospel truth of a situation. I think most of my friends realize that I try to discern very carefully, and don’t just re-post or write things without critical thought. Continue reading The “You’re in Japan” Card
I have a challenge for my American readers this day. Before you wave the banner of your empire and enjoy billions of dollars being blown up in fireworks, pray that God will help you love all people, including all those harmed by American consumerism, militarism and racism, and that He will help you pledge allegiance to His Kingdom first and foremost.
After all, Scripture says that we are foreigners and strangers on earth (Hebr 11:13) and that we are citizens in Heaven (Phil 3:20). We are called to love all people as ourselves (Lk 10:25-37) and while the early Christians didn’t revolt against the Roman empire, they were known for pledging allegiance to another king than the emperor, namely Christ (Acts 17:7). I think Shane Claiborne nails it in his altar call on Red Letter Christians about celebrating interdependence day rather than independence day:
Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of us all being bound up in an “inescapable web of mutuality.” He talked of how we have encountered half the world by the time we have put on our clothes, brushed our teeth, drunk our coffee and eaten our breakfast, as there are invisible faces that make our lives possible every day. That’s why I’ve always struggled with “Independence Day.”
Continue reading The Problem with Patriotism
by Faith Totushek.
Mark 11:12-22 tells us the remarkable account of the fig tree and the temple. These stories are strung together to teach us a number of things about how our faith might be hi-jacked to represent not the character, image and heart of God but nationalism and earthly systems of power, oppression and corruption.
As Jesus is riding into Jerusalem, he notices a fig tree and examines it to see if there is fruit. Finding no fruit, he curses it, saying, “may no one eat fruit from you again.” What’s going on? Why would Jesus do this? What does he have against fig trees? The cursing of the fig tree is a prophetic act that hints at what might happen in Jerusalem.
When Jesus arrives in Jerusalem he makes his way to the temple. Actually, if you look at verse 11, you will notice that Jesus had been to the temple the night before but returned to where he was staying because it was late. I find this curious, wondering if he took note of what was occurring in the temple and what it stood for and returned home to consider what he saw.
In the morning we see Jesus entering the Temple and driving out the animals and money changers and those who were selling animals for sacrifice. And Jesus says this, “My house will be a house of prayer for all nations but you have made it a den of thieves.” Was he concerned about selling stuff in the Temple? Was he concerned that the activity would disrupt prayer time? Seriously, this is how the account is often taught.
But there is some much deeper taking place. Continue reading How the Fig Tree that Jesus Cursed Represents Nationalism