All posts tagged “peace

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Repaso: September 20, 2013

1. Good neighbors on the crowded margins
Kent Annan (@kentannan), whose work I’ve discussed here and here, wrote this month’s cover story for CT on the New Friars who are serving incarnationally in some of the world’s most difficult slums:

The New Friars don’t seem to merit high-profile attention. Their efforts to alleviate poverty are small next to the work of many missionary and nonprofit groups and the problems they address. Yet we do well to listen to the New Friars, because of the way they themselves are listening to God and neighbor, to suffering and hope on the crowded margins of society. They address vital questions about missions today, and about how all Christians might practice our vocations with sacrifice, devotion, and hope. I knew some of these missionaries. I had read books by others. I had experimented with similar ideals in my own life. So I was eager to see their ideas in action. What better time to do so than over the weekend marking the culmination of Jesus’ life?


2. Architecture and the common good
An insightful half-hour (or so) interview with architect David Greusel (@lesuerg) from the good folks at Cardus. Greusel specializes in designing places where people gather publicly, and he has some great thoughts here on why architecture matters.

3. Go with God
Stanley Hauerwas wrote a letter a few autumns ago to incoming college freshmen who are Christians. It is long, rambling, and wonderful – for college students and for all of us:

You are a Christian. This means you cannot go to college just to get a better job. These days, people talk about college as an investment because they think of education as a bank account: You deposit the knowledge and expertise you’ve earned, and when it comes time to get a job, you make a withdrawal, putting all that stuff on a résumé and making money off the investment of your four years. Christians need jobs just like anybody else, but the years you spend as an undergraduate are like everything else in your life. They’re not yours to do with as you please. They’re Christ’s.

4. Religion at its best and worst
Chris Seiple (@CSeiple), the president of the Institute for Global Engagement, raises some important questions about the role religion has played in the conflict in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, and the extent to which faith groups could be part of the solution – if given the chance:

If religion is a part of the problem, can it be a part of the solution? Can the best of faith defeat the worst of religion? Can practical, multi-faith peace-building efforts and standing structures pre-empt religiously motivated violence? … Are peaceful faith-based organizations prepared to engage in the diplomatic realm of states, and are state diplomats prepared to not only receive, but also proactively engage such possibilities?

5. Giving
A surprisingly heartfelt three minute spot from Thai telecommunications conglomerate True that’s been making the rounds.

[Image: Word Made Flesh via Facebook]

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Miroslav Volf on forgiveness and common grace

From a Christian perspective, there’s no mystery as to why non-Christians forgive, and often forgive so impressively. They are responsive to the one Word – to the giving and forgiving God working among them and in them, mostly incognito. God may employ their religious convictions and practices, or God may work apart from those convictions and practices. And so they forgive. That’s partly how the giving and forgiving God works in Christians too, often using but sometimes circumventing their convictions and practices.”

– Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

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Repaso: May 31, 2013

1. Beauty will save the world
Mako Fujimura (@iamfujimura) gave the commencement address this year at Messiah College. Here’s an excerpt:

You are graduating toward a world full of bullet holes. What should we, then, turn our attention to? What should we run toward? Can we, too, turn back to the flowers we have trampled upon? What does it mean to “graduate”? “Graduate” can mean to “rise above.” We are to rise above the darkened realities, the confounding problems of our time. We are to rise above the rancor of discord, above our ideological warfare, above civil wars and World Wars. We are to rise above ourselves, our selfishness, our own drive to master the world, our desire to map out our own destiny apart from God.


2. Food, famine, and aid
At the Q 2012 gathering, Gabe Lyons (@GabeLyons) facilitated a discussion with Stephan Bauman (@stephanjbauman) David Beckmann (@davidbeckmann), and Paul Weisenfeld on aid and development:

The split between the “haves” and “have-nots” is ever-apparent, but the reality of world crises isn’t always accurately depicted and the proposed solutions sometimes hurt more than they help. How can we discern the truth about global needs so we can effectively meet them? And what types of solutions are best? This Q panel convenes experts on global humanitarian crises to discuss what is behind these problems and how we should respond.

3. Putting war on trial
Danny Carroll, the Guatemalan-American biblical scholar I included in Repaso two weeks ago, has written a nuanced piece reflecting on mixed opinions about the legacy of Rios Montt, and invites Christians to reexamine our attitudes about war itself:

Decades after his rule in Guatemala, the Ríos Montt trial is an opportunity for Christians to rethink attitudes toward war. The genocide verdict should lead us to reflect more broadly on why we continue to endorse politics of violence. We must learn from that dreadful time that the political end cannot justify inhumane means for those who claim the faith.

4. Putting y’all back in the Bible
John Dyer (@johndyer) introduces Texas Bible, a software project that makes up for the second person plural deficit many of us non-Texans unknowingly bring with us to readings of Scripture. At first glance it may seem silly, but I’ve been convinced for quite a while that we misread Scripture when we read every “you” in the singular without a second thought. Here’s some of Dyer’s background on the project:

Here in Texas (and in the Southern US more generally), I tell my audience that we have a perfect equivalent to the original Greek/Hebrew second person plural: “y’all” the contraction of “you all.” This of course always gets me a good laugh. And this is not unique to the Southern US – many other areas of the English speaking world also have spoken forms of you plural such as “you guys,” “yinz,” and “you lot.” A few weeks ago, I decided to see how many times this happens. It turns out there are at least 4,720 verses (2,698 in the Hebrew Bible and 2,022 in the Greek) with you plural translated as English “you” which could lead a reader to think it is directed at him or her personally rather than the Church as a community.

5. Transcending the job description
My father-in-law Thom Olmstead was profiled by Christy Tennant Krispin (@ctk206) for This Is Our City about his 37 years of faithfulness as a public school teacher in an unglamorous school district. It makes all of us pretty proud.


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Crossing the line (Guatemala, Day 3)


For many years, La Limonada has been divided into eleven distinct colonias, or neighborhoods. Lemonade International’s two academies are in Lourdes I and Lourdes II, respectively. Other colonias have names like Lomas del Edén (Hills of Eden), El Esfuerzo (The Effort), Buena Vista (Good View), 15 de Agosto (August 15), and 5 de Octubre (October 5).

There are decades-old stories behind these names, and the lines of demarcation between colonias, while not visible on any map or to any outsider’s eye, are for that reason no less real.

In fact, unlike the porous boundaries between neighborhoods in cities in the United States – even between so-called “good” and “bad” areas – the lines between the neighborhoods of La Limonada are simply not to be crossed under any circumstances. Each colonia is controlled by a pandilla, a youth street gang, and they aren’t in the habit of forgiving trespassers.

On Sunday night, just before we arrived in La Limonada for the first time on Monday morning, there was a shooting in front of one of Lemonade International’s academies. It was part of a skirmish between pandillas representing neighboring colonias. This kind of thing happens somewhat regularly, invariably putting everyone on edge and leading many parents to keep their kids home from school. This shooting, as it happened, was a case of mistaken identity; gang members in pursuit of a particular enemy mistakenly shot at an innocent passerby in the leg.

Considering all of this, today was an historic day. The designated presidents of five of La Limonada’s colonias – including two who have a reputation for downright hating each other – came together for an unprecedented meeting in hopes of collaborating on ways to better serve their communities and to seek the common good of La Limonada as a whole. The meeting was convened by a small group of university students of industrial design who were given the assignment by a professor acquainted with a Lemonade International staff member.


As the meeting got underway, the 26 of us broke the ice by going around the room, each sharing our name and one positive attribute about ourselves, as well as the names and attributes of each previous person. There was a bit of awkward forgetfulness and a lot of laughter, but we were all surprised at how many names and positive attributes we could remember about others – most of whom we’d just met. And this set the stage for what came next.

We were divided into a handful of groups, and each group was assigned a concept to draw on a sheet of butcher paper. My group, which included one of the colonia presidents (pictured with me below), was asked to depict in pictures what comes to mind when we think of “agents of change.” We drew stick figures of a leader in conversation with the people of the community. We drew a person looking forward, not stuck in the past. We drew hands coming together, forging bonds of friendship and trust. And we drew a picture of a man washing someone else’s feet. That last one, the president explained to everyone, represented what we can learn from the example of Jesus, who humbled himself and became a servant.


The university students who convened the gathering plan to put together a book that details the history of La Limonada based on the combined and synthesized accounts of these colonia presidents. This is particularly exciting to the staff of Lemonade International, since nothing of its kind exists, and because those who can remember La Limonada’s early days are getting up in years.

The lines of demarcation between the colonias still exist, but today steps were taken to unite these communities that have so much in common, in hopes that together they can accomplish more to change La Limonada than they ever could apart.

What I didn’t mention until now is that this meeting took place at one of Lemonade International’s academies, and that Tita has been the key link making this kind of gathering possible. Through child sponsorship, scholarships, micro-finance, vocational training, and more, Lemonade International is directly impacting the lives of hundreds of individual people for the better.

But as a group of faithful, courageous Christians, the organization is doing something more – making a way for sworn enemies with decades of enmity behind them and between them to come together, to look each other in the eye, to say each other’s names, to praise each other’s attributes, to laugh, to fidget, and certainly not least, to dream of a common future in which, God only knows, colonia presidents may even stoop to wash each other’s feet.


[Photos by Scott Bennett]

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The good news about the limits of activism


There’s been a recurring theme on this blog early in 2013. In my very positive review of Ken Wytsma’s Pursuing Justice, I put forward a gentle critique of the optimistic way he talks about “changing the world.” Soon afterwards, I offered some thoughts on James Davison Hunter’s sobering assertion that Christians would do well to practice “faithful presence” rather than thinking that changing the world is particularly within grasp. Then, in the pages of a book on faith and learning by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., I thought I found a sort of middle ground.

16211575Then along came the timely and much discussed book by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, The World Is Not Ours To Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good (IVP). Wigg-Stevenson leads the Two Futures Project, an evangelical movement aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons. If there ever was a “world-changing” undertaking, this is it. Yet Wigg-Stevenson, a dedicated activist, wants to tell us that the world is not ours to change, or at least it’s not ours to save. And he insists this is good news.

It’s good news because God is the one saving the world. If, like the man in the book cover illustration, we feel that the weight of the world is on our shoulders, we won’t last very long. The task is simply too burdensome. Rather, for those of us who confess that Jesus is Lord and that he is making all things new, we experience a freedom and a hope unattainable to activists who insist on carrying the weight themselves.

We can do good without demanding that our good works immediately usher in the kingdom. We relinquish the control and, to a certain extent, the results. In exchange we get to participate in a mission whose ultimate outcome is sure.

Wigg-Stevenson tells a bit of his personal story, including how he got involved in anti-nuclear activism and lessons he’s learned along the way. He winsomely weaves reflections on scripture together with his own experiences around the world, from naked peace marches in San Francisco (note: the author remained fully clothed) to heartbreaking experiences in the Holy Land.

For a guy whose life mission is abolishing nuclear weapons, the book sure doesn’t read like a PR piece for a particular cause. Rather, it seems Wigg-Stevenson – who does have a Master of Divinity degree – is sincerely intent on offering a bit of pastoral care for a younger generation still hyped up on its inflated chances of saving the world. That hype will inevitably waver and the vision will surely fade. And when it does, young activists will find in this book a treasure trove of good news. Will they listen before their lives depend on it? I hope so.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts.