2008-03-31 0 comments

The Nature of Human Rights Violations

(Update: Western diplomatic sources say Robert Mugabe close to resignation after negotiations with opposition party)

The question is this: what constitutes a human rights violation?

Now, the mind conjures all sorts of things when you think of that phrase. Genocide. Rape. War. Abu Ghraib. 9/11.

What about a bad economy? Are basic human rights violated when a loaf of bread costs thousands of dollars?

Zimbabwe strong man Robert Mugabe has presided over a government that is the very portrait of economic ineptitude. This guy has been in power since 1980 and, despite a recent election that opponents say was rigged, he appears poised to remain the head of state in Zimbabwe for another six years. He is 84 years-old.

Yes, Mugabe has been accused of having political opponents killed, but that, arguably, isn't his worst crime. Consider this: Zimbabwe has the world's worst rate of inflation. Toilet paper costs $147--for a single piece. Unemployment is at 80 percent. Most agree it is Mugabe's grip on power, and his inability to govern with any semblance of competence, that has led to one of the worst economies in the world...the results of which are just as deadly as outright violence. Indeed, it might be worse. Death from poverty is much more painful than death by a bullet, is it not?

So, how does one measure human rights violations? By the dead bodies on the evening news, or by the cries of untold millions whose stories are never told?

Look, part of the justification of taking military action against Iraq was that by removing Saddam Hussein, our government was removing the source of much human suffering in that country. No doubt he was responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent lives. And they hanged him for it.

But, again, human rights violations are not so easily quantified by the definable body count. Yes, hundreds of Kurds suffered a most painful death by Saddam's gas attacks. But was their suffering any less than the poorest of the poor, begging for bread on the streets of Harare? If they deserve justice--and they do--who is to deliver it to them?

We will. No, not by sending the Marines to liberate the people from an oppressive government, only to give them an oppressive military occupation. It will take the Church, operating both individually and corporately, putting its faith in action. My brothers and sisters in Christ--and those friends and colleagues of mine who are unBelievers--understand that situations like this presents to us an opportunity to make a true difference in the world. People are suffering. People are dying. Men like Robert Mugabe are agents of evil in a fallen world. We can be agents of change.

* The United Nations operates a Web site called ReliefWeb, which is a repository for humanitarian information throughout the world. You can do directly to the Zimbabwe section here, or visit the home page here.

* World Vision is one of the finest relief organizations in the world. While there are organizations to which you can donate vast sums of money, World Vision operates on an individual level, providing you an opportunity to impact a single child's life through sponsorship. Visit the World Vision Web site here. (Perhaps it is a sign of just how bad things are on the ground in Zimbabwe that World Vision sponsorship isn't available there.)

* International Rescue Committee has been providing relief to humanitarian crises since the 1930s. Visit its Web site here.

* Samaritan's Purse operates both locally and globally, and its mission partners real, your-hands-get-dirty volunteer work with a Christ-centric message.

* Finally, the lazy man's version of philanthropy is Ripple. You'll find a Ripple button on the right-hand side of this page. Each time you click on one of the four items on the button--water, food, education, money--real dollars are donated via Ripple to a relief organization that supplies relief based on the chosen resource. So, give it a click and see how it works.

(For more information about what's going on in Zimbabwe, click here. To read an old story about its economic woes, click here. Visit Robert Mugabe's Wikipedia entry here.)

I welcome all comments. E-mail feedback to CandidChristian@gmail.com, or use the social media buttons below.

All works on CandidChristian.com are governed by a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike license. Inquiries seeking exceptions to this particular license are welcomed; e-mail CandidChristian@gmail.com for more information.
2008-03-29 0 comments

Missing N.Y. pastor found at Ohio strip club

Source: MSNBC

Great. Just great. Just love how these goobers give us all a bad name.


4 a.m. and all's well ...

... except that I can't sleep, anyway.

My wife's headed out to San Diego for the weekend, so you might pray that's she'll have a safe trip to and fro. Or, that she'll have "travel mercies," as the Baptists call it.

And pray that I'll have "patience mercies," as I'll have two toddlers to deal with, on my own, for the NEXT FIVE DAYS! Yes, I'm terrified. Sadly, I take my wife for granted ... I think God is going to reveal to me just how much in the next few days.

Thinking about a site re-design in the next few weeks. Anyone care to weigh in?

OK. Just rambling. Grace and peace...

E-mail comments to CandidChristian@gmail.com, or use the social media buttons below.

All works on CandidChristian.com are governed by a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike license. Inquiries seeking exceptions to this particular license are welcomed; e-mail CandidChristian@gmail.com for more information.
2008-03-27 0 comments

Nuts and bolts

Don't you just love to say it?

It's not my fault. It's not my fault. It's not my fault. Man, that feels good. After all, it seems our culture places a value on never taking responsibility for one's actions. Hey, it's one of the seven steps to a better you, or one of the five steps to unlocking your inner potential, or one of the 15 steps to finding your life's purpose which, of course, involves driving an expensive, gas-guzzling SUV! You deserve it! Feel good about yourselves, folks...you're not to blame! Yay!

(Wow. Don't know where that came from. Sorry...it's 4 a.m. and I can't sleep.)

But, in this case, it's really not my fault. In fact, it's Google's fault...that you can't comment on my blog anymore.

Here's the deal: because I want CandidChristian.com to have some semblance of design originality, I chose the option of being able to manipulate the HTML coding back when Blogger let you do that sort of thing. Maybe if Blogger's available templates were any good--or if there were more than 15 or so from which to choose--I'd stick with theirs. But probably not.

I digress. There are two ramifications as a result of my choosing to handle my own coding. No. 1, I have very little idea what I'm doing, so my rudimentary HTML design skills consists of little more than high-tech trial-and-error. It's also why the sidebar looks as cluttered as a 14 year-old's bedroom. And, two, it means that I can't get as good tech support from Blogger simply because my template, after tons and tons of changes by a rank amateur (yep, that's me), is a mess that would take a skilled hand indeed to clean up.

So, when I realized that no one could comment on the site--and that's a big problem for me, especially in light of the social media blitz I've been doing for the past few months as a way to boost traffic and tell more people about Jesus--I simply assumed it was because I'd screwed up somewhere. And when I tried to sort through all of this massive coding, I was hopelessly lost trying to find a fix.

But it's not my fault. Or, at least if it is, my only fault is in deciding to stick with my own template instead of picking a cookie cutter look that, while easy to maintain, is terribly boring. See, there's a bug on Blogger. When they did some tinkering back in February--having the nerve to call it "bug fixing"--a glitch developed in which bloggers who have their own unique template no longer had access to Blogger's comment pagination system.

The good news is that it's one of Blogger's "known issues." The bad news is that it's been a problem since early February, and these things are usually fixed by now.

S0, while it's not my fault--lovin' sayin' that--it's still my problem. Isn't that the way it always works.

Please, then, use e-mail to
CandidChristian@gmail.com to comment, I'll then approve and re-post here. Or, you're always welcome--and encouraged--to use the social media buttons below.

Grace and peace...

2008-03-23 0 comments

The Passion of the Christ: A Running Diary

First, read the set up here.

Now, onto the running diary...

Well, it's Isaiah 53:5 to be specific...aw, heck, let's look at the whole context. And, as the movie is pointing out, let's remember this was written 700 years before the birth of Christ.

Great mood music, ethnic, chilling.

First chill bumps...Jesus calling His Father/Lord's name in Hebrew: "Adonai! Adonai!"

"Are you in danger? Should we flee, Master?" Remember, he had fled traps before...the religious leaders were after Him for some time. This time, though, it was different. Think the disciples knew?

Poor disciples...how would they have known what to think, to see their Master, their Rabbi, their Messiah, afraid and "sorrowful even to death."

Think Satan confronted Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Notice that? He referred to His Father as "Abba," which is more informal, more akin to saying "Daddy." Whew...chilling. The portrait of conflict between Son of God and Son of Man, of divinity vs. humanity. He had been saying "Adonai," or "Lord." Now he's pleading to His "daddy," literally asking, "Is there some other way?" Surely He knew the answer was no...and that was the crux of His mental anguish. Still, "Not my will, but yours be done."

Even more interesting now, at least in terms of how the movie is portraying it. Again, it's not scripture. But you can hear Jesus praying, and now He's using every word for God He can think of: "Elohim"...."Abba"...."Adonai." Literally anything to get God's attention and, perhaps, save Himself from the anguish that is to come.

Love that...stomping on the snake. More creative liberty, of course, but nice.

Man, I bet Peter wanted to smack the taste out of Judas' mouth.

Even being betrayed, look at the sympathy on Jesus' face. Only He could realize the depths of the betrayal, and what it would set in motion.

Would I have run? Fearing arrest, would I have left my Messiah there? Would I, like Peter, have fought?

Interesting thing going on. I would imagine Jesus would have been torn in a way I hadn't considered. He would be sad at His having to leave His earthly mother and nostalgic at His memories here, but surely He was, on some level, pleased to be able to leave the confines of a broken world to be back with His father in Heaven.

And there's the kicker. A kangaroo court, convened illegally, witness testimonies contradicting each other...yet Jesus effectively seals His own fate. "I AM!"

Peter, Peter, Peter...how tragic to bail on your best friend, your Messiah, your God, just to save your own skin. Of course, they all bailed on Him and, heck, we're still doing it today.

"My kingdom is not of this world." The key distinction no one understood. Once those waving palm branches just a week eariler understood He had no intention of overthrowing Roman rule, they were finished with Him.

Not sure I can watch the cat-o-nine-tails flogging. I remember seeing it in the theater and turning away, and God immediately bringing to mind the scripture in Isaiah: "....and we hid, as it were, our faces from Him...." When I looked away, and remembered that scripture, I wept bitterly.

Not in scripture, but Mary's thoughts here are striking and must have been on her and the disciples' minds: "How will you choose to be delivered of this?" When did they realize He had no intention of being delivered, but instead would follow it all the way to death at Calvary?

Tears flowing now. This is the part of the movie that always gets me...the cut from the Roman soldiers' bloody feet to a flashback to Jesus washing His disciples' feet. Christ as servant, first in a symbolic act of washing feet, then the real deal: His sacrificial death as the ultimate act of service.

Flashback scene to the woman caught in adultery. Ever wonder what Jesus wrote in the sand? I heard someone once say He was writing the sins of each of those who had brought the woman to Him for judgment. If that's true...wow.

"Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more."

How many chances did Jesus have go get Himself off the hook? That was the last one. Pilate: "Don't you know I can set you free?" Jesus: "You really think that? You have diddly-squat. Any power you have has been given by God...and it looks like He's already made up His mind." I should go back through the Gospels and count how many chances Jesus had to get Himself out of trouble--and I'm talking legit chances, not just the causing-angels-to-appear-and-wipe-everyone-out kind. Tangible, earthly chances where He could have just walked away. This was the last one.

Look at how He embraces the cross, as if it were a friend. If only we had that attitude..."If any man be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me." So, if you do that, where is Jesus going...to where are you following Him? To the cross. To Calvary.

The scene between Jesus and His mother...no words. As a parent, I can't imagine. Now consider our Heavenly Father's response, and what love it required to allow such a thing to happen in the name of an unworthy people's salvation.

Perfect illustration of substitutionary atonement. Simon saying "I'm innocent, and He is condemned." It was our guilt that caused it in the first place. "He became sin who knew no sin so that we might be called the children of righteousness."

Here's the crux of the whole thing..."No one takes my life from me. But I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and power to take it up again."

Wow. Never noticed that before. After Simon helps lay the cross down, the soldiers tell him "You're free to go." Exactly. Who really belonged on that cross, on that hill, who really deserved that death? You. Me. Everyone.
As Mark Driscoll says, "He lived the life we could not live. He died the death we should have died."

Another great cinematic juxtaposition. Christ, in the upper room, pulling the cloth off the bread for that first communion, then cutting to Christ's body being exposed as the soldiers rip the clothes from Him, the Bread of Life.

Great camera shot. Jesus' blood dripping as, in the background, Mary Magdalene lies seemingly beneath it.

Ahhhh...the Resurrection. He is risen indeed. "You come looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified? He is not here. He is risen. Come see the place where He lay!"

Grace and peace...you must accept the first before you can have the second.

Grace. And Peace.

Comments? E-mail to CandidChristian@gmail.com, or use social media sites below...


The Passtion of the Christ: A Running Diary

So here's an experiment in 21st century evangelism.

But, first, the set up: each Good Friday, I watch The Passion of the Christ with my wife. When my daughters are old enough--they are 2 1/2 years and 17 months, respectively, so it will be awhile--they'll join in.

Now, we only watch the movie once a year. The reason is, I don't want to trivialize it. It's like the first scene of Saving Private Ryan. Remember the first time you saw it? Took your breath, right? Now, because it's one of my favorite movies, I've seen it quite a few times and that sense of shock and awe has gone away. I never want that to happen to The Passion of the Christ. That's why I'm not eating popcorn, not drinking a Coke, not doing anything that makes this movie anything akin to entertainment. That's not why I'm watching it. Indeed, I enter into it very prayerfully and very seriously. It's not scripture, but it is an artistic response to a literal event. Symbolism, if you will. And throughout history, as was pointed out in the Easter sermon this morning, God has used symbolism to point His people toward a spiritual truth. Think communion, baptism and other means of grace/spiritual ordinances.

I think this movie is no different. For those of you in Emmaus, you'll get the reference: I think this movie is a modern means of grace (at least it is for me) because it is a time when Christ is RE-presented to me through one person's artistic response to Jesus Christ's salvific sacrifice for human sin. Not only that, but watching the film is, for me, an act of worship.

Now, I'm home alone tonight. My wife and kids are out of town with my in-laws; I came back early because I'm not off work tomorrow and she is. Given that we didn't watch The Passion of the Christ on Good Friday, I'm watching it myself here. I'm properly "prayed up" and ready to go.

So, back to the experiment: I am writing a running diary of my watching the film while also providing real-time commentary on Twitter. It's an interesting experiment, I think. I'll both keep the diary on the blog as I watch and wait to publish them all when I'm finished. In the meantime, I'll be posting my initial thoughts on Twitter (which only allows 140 characters, so any deep exposition is impossible) before culling them together for a final running diary I'll post here an hour or so after the movie is finished.

Well, gotta run. I'm getting ready to push "play."

Praise God, for He is risen indeed: "You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here; He is risen. Come see the place where He lay."

Grace and peace...
2008-03-21 0 comments

Has the Notion of Sin Been Lost?

Great article on USA Today. Check it out, and I'll add some comments later. I have quite a few, and I'm sure a lot of you do, too.

2008-03-20 0 comments

How Would Jesus Vote? Black Liberation Theology

I certainly won't claim any expertise on the subject--or even a great amount of knowledge--but it's big news these days in light of Barack Obama's ties to Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and its controversial former pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

So, here's a piece from RedBlueChristian. I don't agree with all the suppositions or conclusions the blog makes--such as the assertion that liberation theology ceases to be Christian; I've long known it is, at best, presumptuous of me (a sinful but redeemed Christian) to make claims on others' relationship with Christ because/in spite of their theological bent and, at worst, it's arrogant to make such a claim. But this piece gives a good overview of the chatter among evangelicals in relation to the controversy.

I particularly like this statement, again, courtesy of RedBlueChristian:

"There have been numerous positive contributions by Black Liberation Theology of which Ron Rhodes of the Christian Research Institute highlights four.
(disclaimer: the Wikipedia entry for Black Liberation Theology contains no citations; take with a grain of salt, as its veracity cannot be independently verified)

  1. It has served as a reminder that our theology must find practical expression in society if Christians are going to meet 21st century needs.
  2. It reminds us that God is involved with His people in real life situations.
  3. Focuses our attention on the need to reach out to others in the body of Christ who are suffering.
  4. It has served as an indictment on racist views that have been all-too-present (but not always) among white people.

Note that the emphasis on the first point is mine: this is one of the key hallmarks of the emerging church movement, and I wholeheartedly agree with this missional focus on the 21st century Church in general and Christians in particular.

Also, I direct your attention to yesterday's "All Things Considered," which featured an interview with the new pastor of Trinity Evangelical Church of Christ, the Rev. Otis Moss III. It was, at times, an insightful interview. Give it a listen, and take a look at NPR's overview of Black Liberation Theology.

Grace and Peace...

2008-03-18 0 comments

Sorry folks...

...been very, very busy.

Stay tuned...
2008-03-05 0 comments

Reader poll: What role should politics play on CandidChristian.com?

2008-03-04 0 comments

Social bookmarking

From now on, you're going to start seeing this at the bottom of every blog entry:

If you're unfamiliar with social bookmarking, now is a good time to hop on the bandwagon and, in the meantime, you'll help drive traffic to my site each time you bookmark an entry on del.icio.us, Digg or Stumble, among others.

And the more people who come to this site, the more people who learn about Jesus...and that's the whole ever-lovin' reason the site exists.
2008-03-03 0 comments

The Emerging Church

Howdy folks. Hope you had a good Sunday, spent it worshiping God and are juiced to start your work week.
I just finished up listening to a pair of sermons/lectures from Mark Driscoll, the Gen X Billy Graham--think reformed theology and fundamentalism wrapped in a black T-shirt and with Snoop Dogg on the iPod. If you've read this blog for any length of time--or keep abreast of what's going on in the 21st century church as emerging generations take increasingly prominent roles in its adminstration and theological focus--then you know who Mark Driscoll is.
(You can read about him here, here, here and here, or visit his church's website here. And, yes, that's his picture right there.)
Now, Driscoll has steered away from the emerging church conversation in recent years, and I think a big reason for that is simple: he's too busy telling people about Jesus to spend his time wondering how others label his brand of Christian spirituality. After all, make no mistake about: Driscoll is a Jesus guy, through and through. Don't belive me? Watch his welcome video here.
His reluctance comes from another source, though: his personal friendships with some of the more radical voices in the emerging church movement...guys like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt. He was involved with those guys a few years back, when the emerging church "conversation" really started picking up steam. He stepped away when certain of those guys got a little too radical. (McLaren, for instance, reportedly denies the existence of a literal hell, and downplays substitutionary atonement.)
At issue is the depth to which emerging church leaders are re-evaluating what it means to be a Christian in light of an increasingly post-Christian society. The Church, the clergy, lay Christians...none of these institutions or people, for whatever reasons (and the theories on those reasons are wide-ranging and diverse), engender the same amount of respect from mainstream society as they once did. Now, you combine that with a culture that has transitioned from modernism (a worldview that argues that man has the ability and responsibility to shape his own environment based on radical advances in science, technology, industry, art, etc.) to post-modernism (a worldview that takes into account a perceived collective disillusionment of in post-World War II society; thus, culture is devoid of any central structure and the result is collective ambiguity, a lack of truth, etc.), and throw in emerging generations that are bombarded with information, are savvy, are jaded...well, you can understand how muddy culture's waters have become. How else can you explain the fact that, among emerging generations (those in their mid-30s to twentysomethings and teens), Christians are generally regarded as ignorant, opinionated and narrow-minded rubes while Jesus Christ is upheld as a symbol of virtue and revered as a great man. Ashton Kutcher, after all, has a "Jesus is my Homeboy" shirt in his closet.
So, where does Jesus Himself fit into all of this mumbo-jumbo? That's the question emerging church leaders are asking in what is being defined as a "conversation" rather than a "movement." And the conclusions that are being reached are as varied as the culture in which we live.
Guys like Driscoll get it right: they understand that we simply can't rely on the same evangelical paradigms to get our message out. Sometimes it's as simple as having a worship band with a tattooed lead singer rocking out with a guitar instead of a robed choir operatically belting out "How Great Thou Art." Sometimes it's showing mainstream movies on a Friday night, then having a pastor give a review while pointing out the theological themes from, say, "Juno." (And, yes, there are theological themes in that movie.) Understanding and embracing (but not idolizing) popular culture is a means to an end, a pathway to conversation. If I can't speak with some comfort and knowledge about, say, which movie should have won the Oscar (and, yes, it should have been Juno, doggone it), then my ability to relate to society is greatly diminished. If all I know is MercyMe and Casting Crowns, but my non-believing friend is wearing a Nirvana T-shirt, how do I have any credibility? This is where the emerging church movement gets it right.
Look, guys like Driscoll aren't capitulating on core doctrine. Heck, he--and many, many other emerging church leaders--are as theologically conservative as Charles Stanley. It's just that Driscoll wears T-shirts in the pulpit, stands next to a power-point presentation, compares Jesus to UFC fighters and preaches in a sanctuary that looks like this instead of this.
A lot of good has come from the emerging church movement, and it's not just a matter of style. For instance, there is a renewed emphasis on being missional, on really putting your money where your mouth is. It's not enough to go to church on Sundays, guys like Driscoll are saying. It's time to get calluses on your hands for Jesus.
But, conversely, McLaren and the Emergent Village crowd are re-thinking everything, and that's where you start getting into trouble. Or, as Driscoll puts it,
"There is a strong drift toward the hard theological left. Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a Pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up. I fear some are becoming more cultural than Christian, and without a big Jesus who has authority and hates sin as revealed in the Bible, we will have less and less Christians, and more and more confused, spiritually self-righteous blogger critics of Christianity."
So, rather than try, with my meager intellect and/or understanding, to point out the fallacies and problems of the more radical fringe of the emerging church, I'll let my boy Driscoll do it. You can watch his sermon on the emerging church, given to his congregation, by clicking here. Or, on that same page, you can download either the video or the audio, and listen at your leisure.
Want more? Download a lecture Driscoll gave to the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as part of its Convergent Conference last September (which I actually liked better than his sermon, mostly because he goes into greater detail into his involvement and subsequent withdrawal from his formal association with prominent emerging church leaders). You can hear/download that lecture by clicking here.
Read more about the emerging church movement by clicking here and especially here.
2008-03-01 0 comments

Links, links, and more links...

Don't Call Me Post-Conservative (Christianity Today)
A look at the future of the Conservative movement?

Born-Again Virgins Claim to Re-Write the Past (MSNBC)
Spiritually, it's true. Christ's forgiveness is unconditional.

The Paradox of Community (BuildingSmallGroups.com)
Confession: I know how important community is. Jesus talked about it. Paul talked about it. The book of Acts talks about it. Problem is, a lot of the time I'd just rather be alone. Sorry. It's true.

The Hunger Site
Just click and give. It's that easy. Charity for the lazy. (Not that service should be easy. Heck, most of the time it should be very, very hard. I believe God honors difficult service. But, still, wouldn't it be nice just to give from your desktop every once in awhile? With this site, you can.)

One more way to make giving easy. I include this site because I have a Ripple button included on the right-hand side of the page now. So, every day and as often as you like, you can come here, to this site, and click on the Ripple button and give until your heart's content. If none of that makes sense, go to Ripple and see what I mean.

Jackson Pollack
No explanation for this site, sorry. Just head on over there and see. I promise: you'll have a blast.

Find Sounds
Ever wanted a site where you can find high-quality MP3s of chinchillas, an accordion, or a tea kettle? Hasn't everyone?

The Human Clock
What time is it? Find out here.