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asian american

Pastor Ray Chang and Dr. Michelle Reyes have collaborated with leaders across the U.S. to combat the rising racism against Asian Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Under the umbrella of the Asian American Christian Collaborative (AACC), these leaders have released the “Statement on Anti-Asian Racism in the Time of Covid-19.”

“We call for an immediate end to the xenophobic rhetoric, hate crimes, and violence against our people and communities,” write the authors. “We invite all Americans to join us in combating these contagions and work with us for the welfare of all.” The authors go on to say:

In the last two weeks of March 2020, Asian Americans have reported nearly 1,000 incidents of racism, and without mitigation, we expect that number to rise in the weeks ahead. Many of these were violent attacks against life and human dignity, and many more incidents have gone unreported.

The statement recalls previous incidents of racism against Asian Americans in the U.S. during World War II, as well as the racism Middle Eastern Americans experienced following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Noting the two greatest commandments to love God and neighbor, the authors write,

We urge you to speak without ambiguity against racism of every kind. Faithful Christian witness requires anti-racist work, and silence only perpetuates the sins not addressed. This includes going beyond shallow acknowledgement of the most obvious incidents of racism to taking responsibility in confronting the longstanding tendencies of people to discount and dismiss the realities of racism. It also includes addressing the disbelief and disobedience of your constituents who continue to ignore members of the body of Christ who are in pain and under threat.

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Fighting Fear in Uncertain Times – Annie Holmquist

Recently a friend asked me, “What’s it like over there?”

“Pretty quiet,” I replied. “Rainy. Normal. Looking out the window, life seems fine.”

It’s when one looks away from the peaceful window scene and begins looking at headlines that the sky seems to be falling. Whether it’s the threat of viruses, the implosion of the stock market, a potential job loss, or even the next election, fear creeps in quickly.

How do we handle that fear? Do we dismiss it entirely and become flippant in our response to life’s challenges? Do we yield to it, hunkering down and putting the Y2K preppers of yore to shame?

It’s a delicate balancing act, particularly when we are facing the unknown. Yet we are not the first to wrestle with the reality of fear, nor will we be the last.

Take Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A German theologian and pastor in the 1930s, Bonhoeffer became famous for resisting the Nazi regime and for his role in an attempted assassination of Hitler, actions for which he paid the ultimate price.

The winds of change were beginning to roar in early 1933. Hitler’s rise to German Chancellor, the burning of the Reichstag, and the rise of the Third Reich were fast approaching. Bonhoeffer likely sensed the fear these changes caused and sought to comfort his congregation, describing the warning signs and dangers that fear brings:

1. Fear Destroys

Fear gnaws away at the inmost being of a person. “It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down,” Bonhoeffer explained. It also destroys their connections to God and others that are vital in the face of need and danger.

2. Fear Mocks

When a person is in the grip of fear, “fear leers” at that person, blasting him with mocking words:

Here we are all by our­selves, you and I, now I’m showing you my true face. And anyone who has seen naked fear revealed, who has been its victim in terrifying loneliness— fear of an important decision; fear of a heavy stroke of fate, losing one’s job, an illness; fear of a vice that one can no longer resist, to which one is enslaved; fear of disgrace; fear of another person; fear of dying—that per­son knows that fear is only one of the faces of evil itself, one form by which the world, at enmity with God, grasps for someone.

3. Fear Weakens

“Fear takes away a person’s humanity,” Bonhoeffer explains, distorting him and taking away his dignity. “This is not what the creature made by God looks like—this per­son belongs to the devil, this enslaved, broken-down, sick creature.”

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I know many evangelicals support Donald Trump. I personally don’t know any who sees him as the chosen one of God. No doubt, they are out there. Trump is far from Hitler! ~Bryan

Authoritarian Oppression Is Rampant

To The Editor:

I want to write about many expressions of authoritarian oppression which are rampant in our county, our state, and our nation. I don’t have space to address them all, so I’ll start at the top.

I am shocked by the support that many so-called evangelical church leaders espouse for Donald Trump. They need to study church history in Nazi Germany. An excellent resource is “A Church Undone: Documents from the German Christian Faith Movement 1932-1940” by Mary M. Solberg.

In this book, one can read translations from original documents, testimonials such as, “…Adolf Hitler, with his faith in Germany, as the instrument of our God…” and “in the person of the Führer we see the one God has sent…”

From our historical perspective, we can clearly see that the pro-Nazi Protestants in Germany were wrong about Adolf Hitler. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke truth and said “No” to Hitler and his followers, and Bonhoeffer was hung for his resistance.

Today, human beings who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear need to recognize the similarities between those Protestants who supported the Führer Hitler and the Protestants who proclaim that President Trump is God’s chosen one to do God’s will.

For the rest of the letter…

by Elizabeth Davey

church
(Photo: Unsplash/MattBotsford)

We are all aware of the rising consumer approach to church. We have even begun to use the phrase ‘church shopping’ when talking about finding a new church, and often make our decision based on whether the worship was good, if we liked the preacher, or even who has the best coffee!

As consumerism increased with the rise of disposable income after the Second World War, and church attendance fell as a result of the increasingly secularist influence in society, many churches felt they had to adapt or else be left behind. Unfortunately, this adaptation has not been exclusively left to the different tastes in coffee or music. In an age where we are offended easily, the gospel message has been tailored to the particular demands of the acceptance-based, tolerance-promoting culture. Grace included.

First up, we have Paul’s free grace – ‘for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’ We like a good bargain and the idea of God’s grace at no price is a pretty good deal.

But we like to have our options, don’t we? Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship is a Christian classic, with his phrase ‘costly grace’ being well known, perhaps primarily due to Bonhoeffer’s own costly witness. With this offer, however, grace is not the free gift we see advertised by Paul, but a more costly endeavor.

For the consumer church, Bonhoeffer’s writing on the cost of grace is unappetizing when the free grace of Romans 3 is on offer. Indeed, because of this many churches feed into the consumer mentality by promoting the free gift that all can receive, almost like when you sign up for a new gym membership and get a free water bottle in return.

The trouble with this is that the gift of grace has been read with the modern context in mind. Any good interpreter of Scripture knows that in order to understand what implications the Bible has today, the original context must first be considered. Whilst today we understand a gift as being free in the sense of pure altruism, that is, without the expectation or demand of a response, this is not what was understood in the first century.

John Barclay in his incredible work Paul and the Gift, shows how the first century Greek society practised gift giving. Whilst a gift could be a result of profound generosity by the giver, the recipient was aware that if they accepted the gift, it was ‘crucial to give a well-measure return.’ Paul would have been well aware of the implication of gift giving in his society.

Nevertheless, the shock factor of God’s gift of grace is that, unlike Greek society where gifts would have been given only if the giver was sure their gift would be equally reciprocated, God gives without regard as to whether or not we will reciprocate, fully aware that we cannot give an equal return. The gift of grace comes through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. What do we have that would even come close to an equal return for this? Paul talks of free gift when he considers the giver, who gives with no prior regard for our ability to respond.

This does not mean that we are exempt from reciprocation, however. Though God gives without calculating whether or not we can respond equally, if we accept the gift we are entering into a relationship with God where we must respond in return. This is where Bonhoeffer’s ‘costly grace’ is put into practice. Jesus talks of the cost of discipleship in Luke 14, instructing his disciples to bear their own crosses (v.27) and to count the cost (v.28). The only response close to what God has given us through His Son, is to give our own lives in return. That’s the cost of the gift of grace.

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Here is another perspective from an evangelical Christian and his support of President Trump. ~ Bryan
By Shane Idleman, CP Guest Contributor
(Photo: Shane Idleman)

Like many, I’m perplexed by the divide in the Christian community over President Trump — but I’m not surprised. The media is fueling lies, and the world is listening. This was demonstrated in a worship song by Daniel Deitrich (talk about the wrong place to express political views). Deitrich’s song was written in response to the 81% of white evangelical Protestant voters who supported Donald Trump in 2016. Here are the lyrics: They started putting kids in cages. Ripping mothers from their babies. And I looked to you to speak on their behalf.

This, of course, is in response to what is “perceived” as happening at the border. I assume that Mr. Deitrich is sincere and his heart truly wants to help people, but we must get our facts from reputable sources or first-hand experience. God willing, I’m touring the border with other California pastors very soon and hope to gain that perspective personally (look for that op-ed in mid-February).

Some say, “How can you follow Jesus and Donald Trump?” We are not following a man, we are shaping a movement. A better question to be asking, though, is “What direction is the country heading?” If a leader lacks Christian character but is pointing the nation back to God, is that a bad thing? If they are minimizing murdering babies and maximizing godly values, is that a bad thing? If they are being a terror to terrorists and making America secure, is that a bad thing? If they are honoring hard work and minimizing free handouts, is that a bad thing? God doesn’t judge a nation based on the character of one man; He judges it based on the spiritual health of her people. Never forget that.

I regularly say that we Christians love refugees and immigrants and are eager to help with food, lodging, and jobs. But at the national level, the president is to put the safety and provision of the American people first. When an airplane loses cabin pressure, parents put on their oxygen masks first to better assist their child. This isn’t selfishness; it’s wisdom. Opening the borders parallels cabin pressure falling and a limited supply of masks. Our law enforcement officers could not sustain the load, nor could our nation. Let’s streamline the process and welcome God-fearing immigrants and have them contribute to society so everyone benefits. The truth is, kids are not being put in cages and ripped from their mothers, as the song accuses.

The majority of news outlets spin everything (yes, everything) to put President Trump in a bad light. Their hatred for him trumps the truth. Their agenda is simple and clear: remove him from office at any cost! And I hope you realize this: they are really coming after you, me, and our  Christian values.

The push toward open borders is more about votes than truly helping people. Open borders would be like me telling my kids to leave their windows open in case a stranger needs a warm night’s sleep. That would be severe parental neglect because many harmful things could also enter through those open windows. Open borders would parallel that type of irresponsibility. Additionally, our financial system cannot support people flooding in who need assistance. How is that using wisdom? It’s not a matter of if this type of financial irresponsibility causes damage but when and how much. Our California representatives in Sacramento need to wake up to this fact—and wake up quickly. There is a better way, but our leaders must repent and seek God for wisdom.

Most critics don’t care what the facts are. Their hatred for the president overshadows their desperate need for humility. Let this sink in: innocent children are being protected, godly counsel is surrounding President Trump, terror is being restrained, good judges are being selected, socialism is being resisted, families are being encouraged via employment (black employment is at an all-time high), prayer is being brought back in schools, God’s wisdom is being sought, and on and on it goes. So again, we are not following a man, we are revitalizing a movement — a movement back to God. I’m more concerned with our nation’s national character than I am with the president’s personal character.

An analogy that I often use will bring this point home. The head of a neighborhood watch program, who took the late-night watches, had previously had an affair. He was occasionally gruff and impulsive, and sometimes his words were crass and offensive, but he watched over the neighborhood diligently each night. Each week he invited church leaders into his home to pray for him and his family and to seek their advice. He often stood against others on the committee who wanted to enact policies harmful to the neighborhood and to the children, such as advocating an open-door policy where residents were required to allow anyone into their homes at all hours of the day for handouts.

Is this not the kind of person you would want leading your neighborhood watch? Does his past or his demeanor matter more than the results he is accomplishing? If you are intellectually honest, the answer is not difficult. In the same way, the answer is simple for America.

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Dustin Messer

If you asked me last year what a post #MeToo half time show at the Super Bowl would look like, a pole-dancing Jennifer Lopez wouldn’t have been my first guess. But perhaps it should have been. You see, today’s sexual libertinism isn’t a bug, it’s a feature of Modernity. As Malcolm Muggeridge put it, “The orgasm has replaced the Cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment.”

One television show that captures modern culture well is “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Even if you haven’t seen the show, stay with me, the show’s plot isn’t hard to summarize: A once married housewife finds freedom on the stage as she travels from one dive bar to another preforming stand-up comedy. She and her husband divorce, but the separation isn’t as tragic as it is transformative: “I am, for the first time in my life,” she says, “taking charge of my destiny, and Joel is taking charge of his.”

Ultimately, her cheating husband is as much a victim as she: both of whom were duped into aping the traditional sexual ethic of the 1950’s. As the 60’s dawn, she and Mr. Maisel find fulfillment outside of the home as they grab destiny by the microphone.

The hero of Mrs. Maisel is the controversial comic Lenny Bruce. His critics, those who see his vulgarity as the fruit of a rotten culture, are the show’s repressed villains. While watching the power his critics wield in the show, it’s easy to forget just how quickly the arguments against the sexual revolution became passé. Writing in 1970, William F. Buckley questions whether or not Bruce’s act could create the stir it did only a few years prior:

“I don’t think Lenny Bruce would be arrested today in New York, the movement having been in the direction of permissiveness in the past four or five years. The question really is: Do we—or do I, I guess—approve of the trend, and I’m not so sure that I do. A society that abandons all of its taboos abandons reverence.”

The irony of where Buckley wrote those words—Playboy—isn’t lost on me. “It’s the fastest way to communicate with my seventeen-year-old son,” he jokingly said of his collaboration with the magazine. His point is right, nonetheless. Taboos reflect not only what is deemed bad in a culture, but what, by way of contrast, is seen as true, good, and beautiful.

This is why I should have guessed pole-dancing wouldn’t go the way of Harvey Weinstein. Expression, sexual or otherwise, is that which our culture prizes above all else. In such a milieu, it is chastity that is now the taboo. As the “Church Curmudgeon” quipped on Twitter, “If they really want to shock and offend people, they should have the Gaithers do the halftime show next year.”

It’s time for the question to be asked – has the script provided to us by the sexual revolution made us happier and healthier? Pop-culture would have us believe so.

While set at a different time, Mrs. Maisel follows the rhythm set by the earlier Amy Sherman-Palladino project, “Gilmore Girls.” The witty Lorelai and Rory Gilmore are living their best lives: each deciding to raise a child alone, albeit with the financial support of show’s up-tightly traditional grandparents. That money goes a long way in allowing Sherman-Palladino to paint an unrealistically quaint ethos for her characters. If Stars Hollow were a trailer park in Tulsa, Gilmore Girls would be a tragedy.

Like Mrs. Maisel, the wealth and glamour surrounding the characters in the show gild the clearly sad plot with a façade of charm. The half-time show did the same thing. J-Lo may have pulled it off with a team of event planners and make-up artists, but I’m betting if you went into a strip club off the highway, the tragedy of a 50-year-old pole-dancer would become quickly evident.

Stanley Hauerwas makes the point that the modern idea of freedom—freedom from constraint, limitation, and nature—is leading to “lives of quiet desperate loneliness.” It’s not that freedom and expression are bad, it’s that they can’t be ultimate. In his wonderful book The Second Mountain, David Brooks makes just this point:

“The perfectly free life is the unattached and unremembered life. Freedom is not an ocean you want to swim in; it is a river you want to cross so that you can plant yourself on the other side.”

For all the talk about how bad the half-time show was—and it was—I haven’t heard much talk about what’s good. And that’s what’s so desperately needed today: a fresh vision of the true, good, and beautiful.

For all the talk about negative freedom—”freedom from”—few people are articulating a compelling positive freedom—”freedom to.” The gospel offers such a positive freedom. It offers us a place to plant our ourselves so that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way (1 Tim. 2:2).

One of the greatest lies told us by the world, the flesh, and the devil is that the life of faith is the life of denial and self-deprivation.

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In the age of Trump, the life and works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer are often used to justify the removal of President Donald Trump from office. President Trump (yes, he is my President. So was Barack Obama!) generates both hate for him or love for him. I struggle with some of his tweets and statements. I don’t hate him. To compare him to Hitler is silly. And to compare those who voted for him (I did and will again) to those who mindlessly fell under the curse of Hitler is just as silly. Hitler was a monster who was responsible for over 60 million deaths! Anyway, here is yet another attempt to use Dietrich Bonhoeffer to try to get rid of Trump. Blessings to all! ~ Bryan

Two years ago, Sojourners magazine released our February 2018 cover story, asking the question, “Is This a Bonhoeffer Moment?” This week, the board of directors of the International Bonhoeffer Society — an organization dedicated to research and scholarship on the life and writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — issued an answer from their discernment.

Here is how the statement, obtained exclusively by Sojourners, begins:

As grateful recipients, and now custodians, of the theological, ethical, and political legacy of the German pastor-theologian and Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we believe all persons of faith and conscience should prayerfully consider whether our democracy can endure a second term under the presidency of Donald Trump. We believe it cannot. In 2017, we issued a statement expressing our grave concerns about the rise in hateful rhetoric and violence, the rise in deep divisions and distrust in our country, and the weakening of respectful public discourse ushered in by the election of Donald Trump. We articulated the need for Christians to engage in honest and courageous theological reflection in the face of the threat posed by his leadership. Over the last three years, the need for such discernment has grown more urgent.

The statement starts where any Christian statement in a time like this should — by evaluating a political regime by the standards of the gospel — how their governance affects those on the margins of society. They say:

A hallmark of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s legacy is his insistence that we see the great events of world history from “the view from below” (1942). That is, he urges us to see from the perspective of those who suffer. The policies of the Trump administration both threaten and disempower the most vulnerable members of our society, including people of color, members of the LGBTQ communities, Muslims and other religious minorities, immigrants, refugees, the poor, the marginally employed, and the unemployed. Moreover, Donald Trump has now taken ill-advised military action that raises the specter of war. One of the greatest lessons learned from the history of the Christian churches during Germany’s Third Reich is that it is crucial to respond to threats to human life, integrity, and community when they first appear, and to continue to challenge them.

The signers of this statement are not megachurch pastors, powerful leaders of religious institutions, or influential figures to whom the media typically pays attention. Rather they identify themselves, “As Bonhoeffer scholars, religious leaders, and confessing Christians,” who have “a special responsibility to name crises and discern responsible actions of resistance and healing.”

And this is the significant and sobering conclusion the Bonhoeffer Society leaders have reached:

We believe that one crucial step in this reckoning is ending Donald Trump’s presidency.

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President Donald Trump is often compared to Hitler. And American Evangelical Christians are compared to the German Christians who supported Hitler and saw him as a savior for the nation. Sad to say, it seems that many Christians in America are placing more faith in Trump than Jesus. Leaders come and go, but the worship of Jesus will last forever. As far as Trump’s faith, I don’t know! I am a Trump supporter. Is he a brother in the Lord? I don’t know.

~ Bryan

Eric-Metaxas-Graphic-TBN

Stephen Haynes is the Albert Bruce Curry Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.  He is a Dietrich Bonhoeffer scholar and author of The Battle for Bonhoeffer: Debating Discipleship  in the Age of Trump (Eeerdmans, 2018). In this book, Haynes examines “populist” readings of Bonhoeffer, including court evangelical Eric Metaxas’s book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Today Eerdmans has published the postscript to The Battle for Bonhoeffer.  It is titled “An Open Letter to Christians Who Love Bonhoeffer but (Still) Support Trump.  Some of you may recall that Eric Metaxas recently published an op-ed at The Wall Street Journal under the title “The Christian Case for Trump.”

Here is a taste of Haynes’s piece:

Your embrace of Trump is eerily reminiscent of German Christians’ attachment to Hitler in the early 1930s. I make this point not to convince you that Trump is Hitler but to remind you of the troubling ways Christians have compromised themselves in endorsing political movements in which they perceived the hand of God. I developed a scholarly interest in the churches’ role during the Nazi era in part so I could help ensure that Christians would never repeat the mistakes they made under Hitler. Similarly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my heroes in part because he was able to resist the wave of Hitler worship that swept up many German Protestants.

Being familiar with this history, I have been struck by how reminiscent many of your responses to Trump are of the way Christians in Germany embraced a strong leader they were convinced would restore the country’s moral order. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, many Christians in Germany let themselves be persuaded that Hitler was a deeply pious man, placed in power by God through a graceful act of intervention in German history. Hitler encouraged these ideas not by claiming any allegiance to Christ but by employing vague religious language, promising a return to the “good old days,” and posing for photographs as he left church, prayed, and entertained ecclesiastical leaders.

Here are a few examples of how Protestant Christian leaders in Germany spoke about God’s role in Hitler’s accession to power:

• “With National Socialism an epoch in German history has begun that is at least as decisive for the German people, as for example the epoch of Martin Luther.”
• “No one could welcome January 30, 1933 more profoundly or more joyfully than the German Christian leadership.”
• “Adolf Hitler, with his faith in Germany, as the instrument of our God became the framer of German destiny and the liberator of our people from their spiritual misery and division.”
• “[Hitler is] the best man imaginable, a man shaped in a mold made of unity, piety, energy and strength of character.”

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Start the New Year with a box of Luden’s Cough Drops

by Ray Howell III

Dec 28, 2019

Whenever I see Luden’s Cough Drops in the store I have this great desire to purchase a box, even if I don’t have a cough. It takes me back to the fourth grade when the most popular kid in the class was the one with the box of Luden’s.

We were not allowed to bring candy to class, but this was medicine — right?

Watch a kid start coughing and bring out a box of Luden’s. Remember what happened? Every other kid sitting close to him also starting coughing and the next thing you knew, the newly anointed most popular kid was passing out Luden’s Cough Drops to all of his friends.

There is a reason that Luden’s Cough Drops taste a lot like candy. In its heyday, in addition to the much desired cough drops, the company produced more than 500 varieties of candy. Sure, they do help a little if you have a cough, but their greatest benefit is being able to share something good with your friends.

I think I will buy a box of Luden’s for the New Year. It’s always good to have something to share. There are some more important boxes that need sharing in the New Year, beginning with the box of kindness.

I can’t think of anything we need more in today’s world than kindness. There is something that is more important than being right and that is being kind. Kindness is contagious. Be kind to someone, and they will be kind to you. Kindness cannot only make a difference in our world, it can transform it.

Along with kindness, we need to have a box of compassion. Compassion is powerful because it enables us to defeat indifference, intolerance and injustice. Compassion is impossible unless we place ourselves in the situation that evokes our concern. When we do, we are able to treat everyone as equals, realizing that every human being is a person of worth, created in the image of God.

Acts of compassion can transform people, both the one who gives and the one who receives. Compassion is the bond that unites all of humanity.

The New Year is a great time for us to focus on the needs of others and make a positive difference. When we do, we realize that our problems are not as big as we imagine them to be. We also find a tremendous amount of fulfillment and well being, knowing that we can give hope to many who are suffering.

It felt good to be the most popular kid in the class, passing out those Luden’s Cough Drops. It feels good as an adult to know that you are passing out the gifts of kindness, compassion, love and mercy to those who have great needs.

There is one more thing I need to go buy. I believe I will buy some boxes of civility and cooperation and send them to our friends in government. We place our hand over our heart and pledge that we are “one nation, under God.” Is this still true?

The poisonous rancor of division and hatred has replaced reason and cooperation. The art of political compromise has been lost in a sea of vitriol and acrimony. I pray that we will see the day when our leaders will show respect and have a sense of dignity for those with differing views. Until then, it is impossible to have a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

The great German pastor and Christian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that we should “Live every day as if it were our last, yet live in faith and responsibility as though there were a great future.”

For the rest of the post…

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