When I See Pictures of Victims

To be sure, a cityscape is not made of flesh. Still, sheared-off buildings are almost as eloquent as bodies in the street.

-Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

A photograph of refugees streaming out of war-torn Yarmouk introduces an online article. A humanitarian advertisement displays a malnourished dog, mostly skin and bones, on the brink of death. A Facebook friend posts infrared photographs of helicopter pilots firing rounds into a group of footsoldiers.

Violent images inundate my daily world.

Which is disturbing. Infuriating. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve seen that I would rather not see. Maybe should not see. My gut reacts and screams these pictures should not exist!

But another part of me thinks that they should. Read more “When I See Pictures of Victims”

The Christian community validates Jesus’ legitimacy (or at least it should)

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This is the transcription of a sermon that I preached at Elk Grove Congregational Church on 6/29/14. It is, in fact, the first transcript I’ve ever shared and the form is different from what I normally post on an irenicon.
[Lectionary: Jer 28:5-9   |  Mat 10:40-42]

Good morning, friends.

Thank you, James, for this opportunity to speak and, as he says, “it’s better when we’re together.” It’s good to be with you all.

My name is Allen and, as some of you know, I am a recent seminary graduate. In my past life I was a youth pastor, had even received my bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies, but attending Seminary has given me a  new (and ever growing) appreciation for the significance of what we do.

It’s a big thing to speak the words of God.
It’s a big thing to identify as a Christian and claim to know that God would have us do “X” or that God would have us do “Y.” Read more “The Christian community validates Jesus’ legitimacy (or at least it should)”

Remembering Differently: Memorial Day

If my Facebook newsfeed is any indication, Americans do not approach Memorial Day in a uniform way. Some Americans barbecue, party, and celebrate their day off work while others lament the national disconnect with “what the holiday is all about.”

So there’s these two sides of the conversation: Read more “Remembering Differently: Memorial Day”

Create Your Own Caption: Nifty Gifty U.S. Military Crosses

Nifty-Gifty Military Crosses
Nifty-Gifty Military Crosses

The irony here is strong.  In order to explore the depths of meaning behind these souvenirs recently discovered at a shop in Gorman, California, we’re having a caption contest.  Create a caption for this picture and leave it in the comments.  Good luck and in hoc signo vinces!

UPDATE/DISCLAIMERThere is no disrespect intended by this post, or the subsequent comments, toward the members of our military.  One must realize, however, how crazy the idea of a cross imprinted with the seal of the United States military is.

Our Beliefs About The End Times Might Be Poisoning Us

Popular Christian belief about the future might be preventing us from obeying Jesus.  Even if you haven’t heard of premillennialism, chances are your church subscribes to some form of it (for Evangelicals, anyway). This particular brand of end times theology teaches of a tribulation to come, a veritable hell on earth, ushered in by discernible clues.

And many believe it starts with peace in the Middle East. Read more “Our Beliefs About The End Times Might Be Poisoning Us”

Anguished Coptics and Loving Muslims

[I wrote this article for my church’s publication, The Messenger.]

The shooting in Arizona this past week placed two things solidly in my mind; the fragility of life, and the veritable blessing it is to live in a place free from widespread violence.  For many of our brothers and sisters in different communities around the globe, however, reminders of life’s fragility are unneeded and freedom from violence is novelty.

The Coptic Christian Church in Egypt is one such community.  On New Years, a suicide bomber attacked a midnight mass, killing 21 worshipers and injuring 97 more.  This act of violence was the latest in a long history of Muslim/Christian hostility evidenced by shootings and riots.  Some Christians struck out in violent protest, others prayed, and all suffered at the hands of continuing atrocity.

(Photo Credit: abc)
(Photo Credit: abc)

Muslims in Egypt responded to the bombing and subsequent hostilities by attending Christmas Mass last Thursday, serving as human shields against the cruelty of a radical Muslim minority.  Thousands stood shoulder to shoulder with Christians in their services, even though the threat of death remained very real.  Their presence paid as much tribute to the Prince of Peace as the Christmas celebration itself; after all, it was the Prince that said “Greater Read more “Anguished Coptics and Loving Muslims”