Not My President!

Not My President?!

Oh, I know the frustration of not having the candidate of your choosing win an election. That’s right, the results of the elections in 2008 and 2012 were struggles for me. I took the results, and the resultant years, in as much of a stoic fashion as I could muster. And I’m not at all satisfied this time around either.

I keep hearing voices proclaiming, despite his apparently legitimate electoral success, that Donald J. Trump is “not my president.” Of course, this would work perfectly well for any Canadian, for any citizen of a European or African or Asian nation (that is unless they have dual citizenship). But will it work for American citizens? I find that prospect rather doubtful. Since the refrain continues to resonate, here are a few of my own thoughts.

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10 Presentations You Must See

10 Presentations You Must See

Lists like this are a bit of a gimmick. “Click bait” is the term, I believe. But I’m listing them here out of a conviction that the presentations that follow are, in fact, worth your time. While other presentations surely are just as worthy of your time, these are ten that have impressed me as worth hearing here at the end of 2016 (and, no, these aren’t necessarily presentations made or posted in 2016).

Now, I struggled with even the thought of attempting to rank these, or even to put them here in any particular order. Different considerations would result in a different ordering. But I’m not ranking or ordering them in terms of importance. I feel like each is important is significant and notable ways. So, I offer you ten presentations I believe you’ll want to watch or hear.

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Islam, Refugees, and the Kingdom of God: A Potpourri of Thoughts

Islam, Refugees, and the Kingdom of God

A Potpourri of Thoughts

Kevin James Bywater

• • •

The world simply won’t stop spinning—more like wobbling on its axis. So much is happening right now, and so quickly, that many have retreated to the morally corrupting and mentally dulling practice of argument by meme regarding refugees. God forbid! Beyond this, there is simply a swirling torrent of very energetic and hasty opinions expressed on social media. Some seek the solace of slogans. Others establish cliques around clichés. We might suppose that it is all simply like the fog of war. I suspect it more likely is simply the heady fog of not thinking with care, of not caring to think, of failing to practice the discipline of seeking to enhance the well-being of others. Again, this is no more evident than in so many verbal ejaculations on social media. Of course, blurting and chiding, taunting and demeaning—such emissions may bring us pleasure, but they neither enhance nor reproduce life.  

Thinking about Refugees

How can we see through this fog? There is no easy answer, as if one could simply drive up, speak into a box, move forward, pay a modest fee, and get your answer in a small paper bag. Rather, I think it is a discipline, a patient discipline that we develop over years – years complete with a menagerie of missteps and mistakes and misperceptions and misconceptions. But they are years lived with friends and mentors and neighbors, listening to those who emulate the wisdom and uprightness, the charity and clarity that provide guidance through the cacophony of voices that distract us from diligence and yet vie for our allegiance. 

Below are some bullet-pointed thoughts interspersed with some resources that may help anyone interested in escaping the morass of memed opinions sloshing about online.

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Preaching Isaiah – Divine Affections and Aversions

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege and honor of preaching at our church, St. Leonard’s Church in Eynsham. We are at the beginning of a sermon series in Isaiah. I’ll attach the audio at the end of this post. My text was Isaiah 2:1-5, a grand vision of the nations streaming to the mountain of God to be instructed in God’s ways for the practice of peace.

mountains

Provocative Poets

I imagine each of us has been instructed that there are two subjects one should avoid when in polite company: religion and politics. What I take away from this is that the biblical prophets most definitely were not polite company.Indeed, the prophets were poets who provoked people to repent and reprioritize.

Consider these pointed words by a contemporary Christian poet residing in London.

“Chance”

If chance be
the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear

state of emergency
sniper kills ten
troops on rampage
whites go looting
bomb blasts school

it is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.

–Steve Turner, Up To Date

A prophet is a provocative poet, but also one who pronounces hope to God’s troubled people. Prophets don’t only cry for justice; they confront injustice. They don’t simply proclaim that we should have faith in God, they point up infidelity and put it on parade. None of which is very polite, to be sure, though it is the word and will of the LORD.

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Facebook’s New Community Standards? — No Beheading of Blasphemers

The recent horrific events in France have resulted in a tremendous wave of support for freedom of speech — even speech that may offend — as well as a comparable wave of disdain for anti-blasphemy laws and those who would threaten or enact violence.

Violence? Yes, as witnessed not only by the recent events in France, but in many such events over the last decades. And yet…and yet.

On 26 June 2013 I received the following note from Facebook gatekeepers.

Facebook - June 2013 - Behead blaphemers

I had reported the page, “Behead Those Who Disrespect Our Prophet P.B.U.H.,” as violating Facebook’s Community Standards. While the original report on my Support Dashboard no longer exists (as Facebook has now “revised” its decision), it used to say that they had reviewed my report and decided that the reported page’s content did not violate Facebook’s “Community Standards.”

What? What?! How in the world could such a page not be in violation of Facebook’s Community Standards?

I was deeply offended by this, though perhaps not terribly surprised. After all, so many social media gatekeepers appear to be self-serving ideologues who’d rather suppress speech that is contrary to their convictions (asserting that it promotes “a culture of violence”) than shut down pages that actually and overtly promote violence.

Facebook wouldn’t take down a page that actually called for people’s heads to be cut off? They must have lost their minds?! 

But the bloodshed of the innocent can bring clarity.

Last week’s horrific events in Paris appear to have pricked Facebook’s gatekeepers’ consciences just enough that they have “revised” their decision regarding my report of the page in question. Here is a screenshot of an email just received this afternoon.

Facebook - 12 Jan 2015 - behead blasphemers

Perhaps a modicum of sanity has emerged within the gatekeepers who examine complaints to see if material has violated their Community Standards.

It is, of course, a bit late to take such a stance, what with the moral high ground now muddied by the blood of Parisians.

Better late than never? I don’t know. Political convenience? Perhaps. It just is so very difficult to see how Facebook’s gatekeepers could have been so morally obtuse as not to see a page that actually intends to incite violence as in gross violation of their stated Community Standards.

To understand more about the relationship between Islam, Islamic Law (sharia), and violence, read “Liberty or Islamic Law.”

In Defence of War: Nigel Biggar

There has been a bit of a glut lately of articles and books discussing war and peace, and the place of Christian participation in either or both. Perhaps the most recent publication is that of Nigel Biggar, In Defence of WarBiggar is Regis Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, and Director of the McDonaldCentre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life at Oxford University. I have come into brief contact with Biggar, and have two friends who have been advised by him in their studies here in Oxford. 

I am slowing working through parts of In Defence of War and aim to post some quotes from it here and there. I am not usually very good at following through on such plans, however, so please do not feel a need to depends on my doing so. Regardless, here are some gems from chapter 1, “Against Christian pacifism.”

Not even pacifists object simply to acts that result in the deaths of other people, for they themselves are prepared to perform deliberate acts of omission, which permit innocents to die at the hands of the unjust. (30)

I am apt to sum up this point by noting that the peacemaker is willing to lay down her life for others while the pacifist is willing that others lay down their lives. Of course, the peacemaker also is (reluctantly) willing to lay down the lives of the unjust to protect the innocent. 

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