Wednesday, June 29, 2016

social media is not enough

We live in a world of conflict and violence. A world where, it seems, everything becomes a high priority issue. 

  • If you post something you are criticized
  • If you don't post something you are criticized.

We live in a world of what used to be called "sound bites" but are now more likely to be "social media posts." Complex issues [and you know how much I dislike the term "issue" because "issues" always involve people and relationships who are much more than the "issue"] get reduced to 140 characters in a tweet, or maybe an Instagram post, or more often, some limited, often inaccurate Facebook post.

And, more than often, that means that people simply post stuff at one another: which is little more than the social media version of kids lobbing rocks at each other across a fence.

In the complexity of life and all the "issues" we have lost the ability, or at least the will, to think, to reflect, to interact, dialogue, have a conversation with someone who thinks differently. We get offended far too easily. We over-simplify. We label others. And we miss out on the opportunity to mature.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bill C-14

The Senate has made seven (7) changes to Bill C-14. This means that Bill C-14 returns to the House of Commons for debate. Details on the amendments are outlined in this CBC article.

Two of the amendments are minor. 
  • One is a drafting error. 
  • Another is fixing the French translation of one of the other amendments.

Four of the amendments are helpful and demonstrate the Senate's value of "sober second thought."
  • The 3rd amendment requires that a report on issues arising from MAID [Medical Assistance In Dying - Bill C-14] be issued within two years. [Yes, it needs to be reviewed. A specific timeframe is very helpful.]
  • A 4th amendment requires that all patients considering physician-assisted dying get a full briefing on available palliative care options. [This is a no-brainer. And please more funding for palliative care.]
  • A 5th amendment would compel the health minister to draft regulations around death certificates and provide greater clarity on what information is collected by medical practitioners. [Let's not hide euthanasia as the Province of Quebec is trying to do with their legislation.]
  • A 6th amendment would restrict who can help a person in their assisted death, tightening the rules around what role a person who would materially benefit from the death could do. [This makes sense]
This final amendment is the one that causes the most concern.
  • This amendment proposes to drop the "reasonably foreseeable" condition and replace it with all Canadians with "a grievous and irremediable medical condition" causing "enduring suffering" would be able to access an assisted death — a much broader definition than initially intended.
This amendment opens the way to removing protection from the most vulnerable in our society. In the Netherlands earlier this spring, a woman in her 20's, who had been sexually abused, underwent euthanasia via lethal injection.

Pray and write to your MP. I believe that the first six amendments listed are good ones. It is this final one that will cause so much more pain.
A recent Macleans editorial put it well when it wrote:
"The Supreme Court has an extremely important role to play in Canada’s democracy. But its role is not to write laws, or put elected representatives on the clock."
It is parliament, our elected representatives, that are to write laws, not the courts. Legislators must be allowed to legislate. Yes, those laws may be challenged or tested in the courts. But to begin with the courts is to reduce the role of the legislature to that of being scribes for the courts.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

This post will probably make some people mad

I’ve been thinking about what to say, and if I should say anything about the Orlando killings.

To say nothing is not an option – that is a cope out.

Some will say this is too late – but life happens. Sometimes there are more than enough people and events and activities to fill the day that you simply don't have the time to think carefully and thoughtfully about situations like this. There have been far too many inappropriate things said in the last few days, to rush any comments. As I said in a tweet “I have no words for what happened in Orlando but I would hate for my silence to be taken as anything other than shock, grief and sadness.

Our first response is to grieve with those who grieve, to weep with those who weep, to mourn with those who mourn. Some will say that is not enough, and they are probably right; but, if we don’t begin there, we deny our humanity and we deny the humanity of those who were shot.

So what can I say that speaks to the situation?

I want to say this carefully and loudly. Nothing that follows, is in anyway a minimization of the hurt and pain that the LGBTQ community feels over this shooting. That action was wrong – no matter what the race, religion, creed, or sexuality of the perpetrator; no matter what the race, religion, creed, or sexuality of those who were shot. It was more than wrong. It was more than tragic. It was evil. You can’t make sense of evil.

But there is something deeper here, than the hatred that the LGBTQ community feels. I need to say this again: nothing that follows in anyway minimizes the hurt and pain that the LGBTQ community feels. And when we – whether that’s evangelical Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, whatever stripe you call yourself, or simply as human beings – when we fail to grieve with those who are grieving we are acting as less than people.

So yes, the perpetrator was Muslim. Yes, the victims were, I can only assume, largely LGBTQ. Yes, there is some suggestion of mental health issues. Yes, guns were involved. But if we make what happened about one of those things (there’s no good word that I am aware of to pull all of these together. I don’t want to use the world “issue” as that is so dehumanizing) we end up with a too narrow view of what happened.

Stay with me.
  • The media has labelled this the worst mass shooting in USA history. It is part of a string of mass shootings, going back well over a 100 years. It’s not the worst: people have conveniently forgotten the Wounded Knee Massacre of 29 December 1890, when 150-300 Lakota Indians – men, women and children – were shot by the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.
  • I haven’t been able to find the numbers, but gun violence has taken more lives since the Orlando killings. The site, www.gunviolencearchive.org, says that 6,051 people in the USA have been killed by gun violence between 1 January 2016 and 14 June 2016.
  • The US and to some extent Canada loves the idea of personal rights. This often gets defined as “I should be able to do whatever I want.” If that means carry assault weapons, or have the right to kill myself, I should be able to do that.
  • Our neighbours in the USA execute criminals, despite the fact that many of those executed are poor, black, with mental health issues and poorly represented in court.
  • Here in Canada, the Supreme Court has said that the unborn child is not a person and can be killed at anytime prior to birth. Some abortions take place later than pre-mature births. And yet neither the Courts nor the Government see the irony of this. Some are now using the language of post-birth abortion for infanticide.
  • We are in the final stages of passing a law on Euthanasia (of course, we have replaced that word with the much nicer sounding MAID – Medical Assistance In Dying), while we remove protection for the most vulnerable, and reduce funding for palliative care.
Those items listed above, highlight the fact that we live in a culture of violence, hatred and death. Some of the reactions to the Orlando shootings highlight this. There are some within the Christian community who – and this is grieves my heart – who have made comments that have (this list is not in any priority order):
  • condemned Muslims;
  • condemned the LGBTQ community;
  • condemned those who argue for restrictions on guns (no matter how minor the changes);
  • ignored the pain and hurt of those both within and outside the LGBTQ community who have lost family and friends;
  • called this God’s wrath or judgement;
  • made excuses; and,
  • said “everything happens for a reason.” No it doesn’t. Evil has no reason. It is anti-reason, anti-love.
All of this is wrong.

The central issue here is:
  • not Muslim vs Christian;
  • not how much violence is rooted in Islam;
  • not terrorism or ISIS/ISIL;
  • not LGBTQ rights;
  • not gun control;
but how do we as followers of Jesus, speak and live (we need to do both) the good news of the Kingdom:
  • in the midst of a world full of violence and hate (and too often Christians have been the ones who have propagated that violence and hate);
  • announcing that there is room at the Table for everyone (not everyone “except…”, or everyone “but…”);
  • welcoming and inviting people to Jesus who welcomes and invites everyone to come to him, to meet him, to be loved by him, to be transformed by him.
When we participate, actively or passively, in the dehumanizing caricatures of those we disagree with and those we fear because they are “other”; when we broadcast those fears; when we don’t discern, in community, the impact of our words and actions and lack of action; we are failing to incarnate the gospel. We are failing to live what Jesus said: 
You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48, NLT
This post is obviously a partial and incomplete response. The solutions are not easy.

However…
Jesus came to us in love:
  • not while we were at our best, but while we were at our worst.
  • not when we were treating him as a friend, but when we were treating him as an enemy.”
As recipients of God’s amazing grace, may we show love and grace to our LGBTQ family, neighbours, friends and co-workers during a time where they feel judged and hated. This is a time for love and compassion from the church. This is a time where we can enter in their suffering with them.
As recipients of God’s amazing grace, may we show love and grace to our Muslim family, neighbours, family, friends and co-workers during a time where they feel judged and hated. This is a time for love and compassion from the church. This is a time where we can enter in their suffering with them.
As recipients of God’s amazing grace, may we show love and grace to all who are victims of injustice. This is a time for love and compassion from the church. This is a time where we can enter in their suffering with them.
Jesus loved the outcasts and the oppressed so passionately, it made religious heads spin. May God’s rescuing, redeeming, transforming grace continue its work, so that more and more, we love our neighbours as scandalously as Jesus did.
The teacher of the law asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan – the one close to you is your neighbour. Let’s love our neighbours.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

book review: Answering Jihad


Title: Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward
Author: Nabeel Qureshi
Publisher: Zondervan 
Date: 2016


Nabeel Qureshi, in his recent book, Answering Jihad, says that there is a better way forward to address the Jihadi movements of ISIS, Al Qaida, Boko Haram, Paris and others – a way that must uphold both truth and compassion.

Qureshi is a former devout Muslim and thoroughly versed in Islam, the Quran, Hadiths and the reigning worldview of Muslims. His previous book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (Zondervan, 2014), is his story of coming to faith in Jesus.

In Answering Jihad, he traces the seemingly recent rise of Jihadi movements as a radical return to the roots of Islam. He argues that the historical foundation of Islam is terroristic. He argues that Islam is not a religion of peace.

Answering Jihad is essentially Qureshi’s answers to eighteen (18) common questions:
Question 1: What Is Islam?
Question 2: Is Islam “a Religion of Peace”?
Question 3: What Is Jihad?
Question 4: Is Jihad in the Quran and the Life of Muhammad?
Question 5: What Is Sharia?
Question 6: Was Islam Spread by the Sword?
Question 7: What Is Radical Islam?
Question 8: Does Islam Need a Reformation?
Question 9: Who Are Al-Qaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram?
Question 10: Who Are the True Muslims—Violent or Peaceful Muslims?
Question 11: Why Are Muslims Being Radicalized?
Question 12: Are Muslims Trying to Take Over the West with Sharia? 
Question 13: Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?
Question 14: Why Do Some Christians Call God “Allah”?
Question 15: How Does Jihad Compare with Old Testament Warfare?
Question 16: What Does Jesus Teach about Violence?
Question 17: How Does Jihad Compare with the Crusades?
Question 18: What Does Jesus Have to Do with Jihad?

Qureshi argues that Islam is not Muslims, and Muslims are not Islam. Although Muslims are adherents of Islam, and Islam is the worldview of Muslims, the two are not the same. He says that we in the West often misunderstand Islam. At one end of the spectrum, many assume that if the Quran teaches something then all Muslims believe it. That is false. Many Muslims have not heard of a given teaching; some might interpret it differently; and, others do their best to ignore it.

Qureshi points out that although the average American Muslim agrees that the Quran and hadith are the ultimate basis of their faith, many have not critically read either and would be surprised to find violent, offensive jihad shot through the foundations of Islam. The Quranic revelations reflect the development in Muhammad’s life as he moved from a peaceful trajectory to a violent one, culminating in surah 9 of the Quran, chronologically the last major chapter of the Quran and its most expansively violent teaching. Surah 9 is a command to disavow all treaties with polytheists and to subjugate Jews and Christians so that Islam may “prevail over every faith.” The scope of this violence has no clear limits, so it’s fair to wonder whether any non-Muslims in the world are immune from being attacked, subdued, or assimilated under this command. Muslims must fight, according to this final surah of the Quran, and if they do not, then their faith is called into question and they are counted among the hypocrites. If they do fight, they are promised one of two rewards, either spoils of war or heaven through martyrdom. Allah has made a bargain with the mujahid who obeys: Kill or be killed in battle, and paradise awaits.

And so many western politicians, pundits and academics, fail to comprehend what pure or radical Islam is about.

While making it clear what the truth of Islam is and that it must be acknowledged in order to prepare for ongoing radicalization, Qureshi pleads for proactive love, friendship and compassion. “Fear and fighting fuel radical fires… we need something that breaks the cycle, and I think that can only be love” (p146). This is not the final step in answering jihad, but it is the correct first step, and it offers a better way forward.

This book is a clear, concise, maybe a little too concise at points, summary an response to Jihad from a Christian perspective. Well worth reading.

DisclosureI received this book free from the publisher
through the BookLook Bloggers book review program.
I was not required to write a positive review.
The opinions I have expressed are my own.
 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

book review: black and white bible, black and blue wife

Title: black and white bible, black and blue wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse
Author: Ruth A. Tucker
Date: 2016
Publisher: Zondervan
Ruth Tucker, whom I first learned about, with her excellent book “From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions” (Zondervan, 1983). In this most recent book, she tells the story of being abused by her husband who was also a pastor
This is an important book for describing the theological implications of pushing a theological viewpoint to it’s extreme. Tucker says clearly that “the doctrine of male headship has sometimes been used as a cover to perpetrate violence against women” (p.23 my emphasis). She also says “I acknowledge that the headship model is a valid way to interpret the Bible (p.23 her emphasis). Sadly, many complementarians see the headship model as the only way to interpret the Bible
Dr. Tucker’s abusive husband saw the possibility of women elders as them seeking “power – women trying to take control” (p.73 her emphasis). The only appropriate response, in his eyes, was “submission to his views” (p.73).
Dr. Tucker says that “one of the reasons a fresh hermeneutic us so critical is the inherent white make bias of past interpreters” (p.75). How we are raised, not just in terms of our individual families, but also in terms of our culture (and sub-cultures) shapes how we think. (This is true no matter where you see yourself fitting in the cultural-theological landscape). Those who deny that are shaped by culture a lot more than they imagine.
As I read about Dr. Tucker’s references to Calvinist-Arminian debates, rooting theology in Calvin and Kuyper and Barth, debates about whether Calvin had feminist leanings, and the such, I wonder if theology, especially that of those in the reformed and the neo-reformed camp, is more important than how theology gets lived out as lives that are full of God’s life.
Dr. Tucker’s harrowing story of abuse at the hands of her husband—a well-educated, charming preacher no less—is written with the hope that her story would help other women caught in a cycle of domestic violence. She offer a biblical approach to counter the ignoring of abuse by pastors and counselors. Weaving together her story, stories of other women, with reflection on biblical, theological, historical, and contemporary issues surrounding domestic violence, she makes a compelling case for mutuality in marriage and helps women and men become more aware of potential dangers in a doctrine of male headship.
After I finished reading her story, I read a few reviews of her book. Some of those were very disappointing. Excuses all over the place why her understanding of equalitarianism is simply wrong, and you cannot blame the abuse she suffered on the theological system her husband lived in. Some argue that Dr. Tucker’s biography as theology fits within the increasingly popular trend to arrive at meaning via shared personal experience, what is called a storied approach to understanding our world. They argue that this ignores biblical truth. Of those that took this approach, few acknowledged the depth of the abuse Dr. Tucker and her son Carlton suffered (in fact most ignored Carlton’s beatings. Is that because he is male and so his abuse messes up the theological rationale for mistreating and abusing women? I know that sounds harsh, but it is a question that needs to be raised).
Whatever you think about Dr. Tucker’s egalitarian theology of marriage and her story, her experience and the questions she raises should push us to strive for greater understanding of Scripture, while remembering that people at the heart of the issues about which we debate endlessly.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

book review: fellowship of differents

title A Fellowship of Differents
author Scot McKnight
date 2015
publisher Zondervan

Scot McKnight in A Fellowship of Differents: Showing the World God’s Design for Life Together, argues that our Christian lives are formed by our experiences in and with the church. And so, the shape of the church is of profound importance to understand and embrace because, like it or not, “churches determine the direction of our discipleship.”

McKnight obverses that far too often the church is organized around the principle of “likes” and becomes a gathering of those who are similar in theological persuasion, socio-economic status, race or some other organizing principle (missional, liturgical, contemporary, etc.). But he argues that this kind of homogenization, though definitely easier, short-circuits God's purpose for the church. The main image McKnight uses (surprisingly) is a salad bowl. As he walks the reader through some key texts in the New Testament, he argues that the church is a fellowship of difference and differents all tossed together in one, big, mixed-up, not-always-happy family. 


And this, McKnight acknowledges, is hard work. 

McKnight contends that “we often attend church for ourselves” which stops us from thinking of church as a communal commitment we make to each other, for the sake of others. This type of commitment can help us look past personal preferences and draws us to love those who are different around us. “We don’t love others for who they are now” he argues, “but for what God will make them in the kingdom.” This is not simply tolerance (which is meaningless word in our western culture), but a deep and foundational commitment to “transcend our differences while remaining different as we live with one another. Our difference is not eliminated, for difference is the vitality of our fellowship.”

McKnight calls the church to unity – not uniformity. Living together in the salad bowl has many challenges, but if we can allow for healthy “differents,” perhaps the church can play a wonderful part in showing the world God’s design for life together.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Book Review: The Jihad of Jesus

Title: The Jihad of Jesus
Author: Dave Andrews
Date: 2015
Publisher: Wipf and Stock

Dave Andrews' book "The Jihad of Jesus" is written out more than 40 years experience of living and working in intentional communities with marginalised groups of people in Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Dave Andrews doesn’t take the time to demonstrate what we have in common with Muslims – other than to point out that both Christians and Muslims have been guilty of bloody, war-mongering and various atrocities in the name of God. The first half of the book, "The Jihad of Dajjal" deals with this history of violence, and is rather negative in it's approach.

After the opening couple of chapters entitled:
  1. Remembering Our So-Called Christian “Holy Wars”
  2. Remembering Our So-Called Muslim “Holy Wars”
Andrews asks the question:
"Are the atrocities that are done in the name of Christianity or Islam true indicators of the nature of Christianity or Islam, or not?
If the answer to this question is that these atrocities are not true indicators—but mere aberrations—then we have nothing to fear from the continued expansion of Christianity or Islam. But, if the answer to this question is, as I suspect, that these cruelties are true indicators—and inevitable consequences—of the way we have constructed our religions, then we have everything to fear from Christianity or Islam in the coming millennium."
It's the second part of the book "The Jihad of Isa" that I found the most fascinating and insightful. He starts in Chapter 4 with “Reframing Jihad as a Method of Nonviolent Struggle”. This chapter unpacks an excellent overview of another book called “On Killing” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman about how men are not really “natural born killers”. On the contrary, it is the pervasive tendency for men to avoid killing others that motivates the military to systematically re-train “brainwash” their soldiers to overcome that tendency. Andrews goes on to point out how these same methods are employed by the media to condition us towards the redemptive qualities of violence. 

Violence is an almost inescapable part of our culture today. It’s no wonder that our world views violence as a means to solve problems or to achieve a better world. Andrews, in this book, is attempting to awaken us to this deception of the age. And I agree fully with him on this.

Later on, in this same chapter, Andrews goes on to say:
“Separating religion from politics does not mean we do not bring our faith and the ethics derived from our faith to bear on our politics in terms of our discussions about politics. To the contrary, all real believers cannot help but bring their faith and ethics derived from their faith to bear on their politics… But separating religion from politics means not using our particular religion for party political purposes as a means of manipulation or exploitation to gain or retain power. For our faith to be “non-political” means for it to be “non-partisan” and “not-imposed”.”
I couldn’t agree more.

Chapter 5: "Reclaiming Jesus as a Model of Nonviolent Struggle" continues this argument. He begins by saying:
Many conversations between Christians and Muslims about Isa or Jesus deteriorate from dialogue into debate and from debate into dispute, generating more heat than light on the subject. Often this occurs because both sides want to impose their own particular view of Isa or Jesus on the other and are unable and/or unwilling to respect the other person’s particular point of view. 
In order to avoid such unproductive disputations, I have written the following observations based on those views of Isa or Jesus that both the Qur’an and the Injil or the Gospel (as recorded in the Gospels in the New Testament, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) have in common. 
While I acknowledge the significant differences Christians and Muslims have about Isa/Jesus, I have intentionally tried to focus on those beliefs about him that Christians and Muslims have in common as the place for us to start our conversations, treating “common ground” not as suspect compromise, but as “sacred ground” on which we can stand and speak to one another. 
Andrews' conclusion, after building a strong foundation for us which provided details about how both Islam and Christianity have been polluted by those who seek to manipulate the faithful and circumvent the peaceful aspects of their founder’s teachings in order to reframe faith and nationalism as a singular idealogy, is that the Jihad of Jesus is to the struggle to incarnate the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Andrews ends with a look at the Sermon on the Mount. He suggests that Christians should return to the manifesto of Jesus if they truly seek to accomplish the will of God and to become peacemakers who follow the example of Jesus.
Let us be frank, on first hearing the call to be poor, hungry, sad, and unpopular is not an attractive option, is it? It’s exactly the opposite of what most of us aspire to. 
But on second hearing, the call to be poor—to be with the poor in spirit; to be hungry—and to be hungry for justice; to be sad—because we are weeping with those that weep; and to be unpopular—because we are committed to follow the way of Christ with integrity—is quite intriguing, quite challenging, quite exciting. 
And the more we think about it, the more we begin to slowly but surely realize that the call to be with the poor in spirit, to be hungry for justice, to be sad because we are weeping with those that weep, and to be unpopular because we are committed to follow the way of Christ with integrity, is in fact the only way that the kingdom of God can be ours, the only way that God can satisfy our hunger for justice, and the only way that we can have the last laugh as part of that great tradition of people with integrity, who suffered scorn, but triumphed at the end. As my friend Brian McLaren says, “The kingdom of heaven comes to people who crave not victory but justice, who seek not revenge but mercy, who strive for peace and who are courageously eager to suffer pain for the cause of justice, not inflict it.”
And in the light of that knowledge we know we need to make a choice: to be—or not to be—the change we want to see.
Overall, while maybe a little academic for some, this book is a much needed exploration of Islam and Christianity, without all the over-the-top emotional nonsense that far too often permeates discussions these days.

If you’re willing to lay aside prejudices about Muslims and enter into a thoughtful study of how followers of Jesus might actually reach out and bring peace to our world today, I think “The Jihad of Jesus” is an great place to begin.


DISCLOSURE: 
I was provided with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
#SpeakeasyTheJihadofJesus


Friday, February 19, 2016

Movie Review: Risen (2016)

Risen is the recent movie co-written and directed by Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) starring Joseph Fiennes as Clavius, a Roman tribune, second to Pontius Pilate, charged with maintaining law and order in an uncompromising fashion. 

Yeshua (Cliff Curtis) has been crucified, and Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) is anxious that there are no disturbances on his watch in the lead-up to the arrival of Emperor Tiberius in Jerusalem. But in the aftermath of the crucifixion, Yeshua’s body disappears and rumours of resurrection sweep the city. Pilate needs to shut down the rumors quickly, so he tasks the Roman Centurion Clavius Aquila Valerius Niger to find out what happened. While being tough, Clavius is also a fair man, so he weighs the evidence. It’s kind of this collision of The Passion of the Christ and Murdock Mysteries.

In some senses, Risen is an odd hybrid. It has very little of the violence of The Passion Of The Christ. It almost feels like an old-school biblical epic on a smaller scale.

After the recent Hollywood failures of Noah (2014) and the story of Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014), Risen actually gets a Bible story right. Like The Passion of the Christ (2004) this film presents a historically accurate, compelling, and intriguing story.

Hollywood gets the history right: 
  • Pilate is anxious to please the emperor and maintain peace among the revolting Jews.
  • The Sanhedrin are anxious to disprove the rumors of Yeshua’s resurrection.
  • The disciples are fearful, yet confident in their knowledge of the earth-shattering event. 
There are some minor quibbles with historical accuracy:

  • Tiberius did not visit Judea.
  • The ascension scene (which I really liked) should have occurred after the return to Judea, but another trip would have added more complexity. 
  • Peter would not have felt so comfortable with a Roman – much less a tribune – before Peter gets to Acts 10, when God had to reveal to him that he could associate with a centurion and his household. 
  • Perhaps the cheesiest moment, is when Jesus’ burial cloths is shown to bear the same image as the Turin Shroud.

There are some clunky places:

  • Pilate comes across as a bit of a wimpish wheeler dealer.
  • The two soldiers guarding Yeshua’s tomb seem a little clueless.
  • Some of the disciples are a played a bit simplistic. Bartholomew (Stephen Hagan) comes across as giddy and nervous giddy, rather unconvincing. In fact, Risen presents Yeshua’s disciples as carefree, inexplicably happy and peaceful – in some places, almost reminiscent of Godspell’s(1973) hippie culture. Whereas in the Gospels, the disciples come across as a much more complicated bunch, theologically sophisticated and full of pride, confusion, and doubt.

Other characters are well done:

  • Peter (Stewart Scudamore) is well nuanced.
  • Yeshua (Cliff Curtis) comes across as wonderfully mysterious.
  • Clavius is stoic throughout, and his impassivity is very effective.

I won’t retell the story, most of you know the biblical account of the crucifixion and resurrection and the appearances through to the ascension.

Risen is surprisingly restrained. It downplays, but doesn’t ignore, the miraculous. I found the ascension scene well done and loved how they merged the Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8 passages.

As Christians we know the resurrection is no hoax. But by placing Clavius as the main character, we see a doubter, a skeptic, unravel the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This brings a fresh outsider’s perspective to the Gospel’s account of the most important event in human history. Obviously in taking this approach, Risen adds some fictional, although believable elements to give us a view of events from a Roman’s eyes. 

Clavius is driven by ambition. He seeks power so that he can make money, and money so that he can live a good life. His goal is “an end to travail, a day without death, peace.” He is “everyman,” a character with whom the audience can readily relate, and he becomes a religious seeker, willing to question his own background to come closer to the truth.

The power of this movie rests on the fact that the story is shown from the eyes of a Roman soldier instead of the eyes of Jesus' disciples. The familiar story becomes fresh. Risen is honest about his struggle. This is no quick conversion story. But it is about coming to faith in the risen Yeshua.

Risen does a wonderful job illustrating the struggle to believe and the joy of discovering faith in Christ. 

Overall Risen is intriguing. The depictions, acting and casting are well done. Risen isn’t just thematically and historically accurate, it also succeeds as a film. Impressive cinematography captures each powerful scene: from the stunning courtyard of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, to the pomp of the Roman palace, to the sprawling desert wastes and the tragedy of the crucifixion.

Although the story line surrounding the central character is fictitious, the movie otherwise stays close to the biblical script. Anyone willing to learn from something partly fictitious (i.e. anyone who reads fiction, watches movies or cartoons, or even Jesus’ parables) will enjoy it. Films like Risen help us to explore more deeply the biblical stories with which we have sometimes become too familiar. It's well worth seeing and talking about.


I saw the movie a couple of days before it was released
thanks to some tickets from Life 100.3

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

book review: a Lost God in a Lost World

Title: A Lost God in a Lost World
Author: Melvin Tinker
Publisher: Evangelical Press
Date: 2015

"A Lost God in a Lost WorldFrom deception to deliverance: a plea for authentic Christianity."

I wasn't sure what the book was going to be about. And having read it, I think I understand, but it will still leave people some what lost.

Tinker's writing is a little suggish, or maybe I was overly tired when I was reading it. It just didn't seem to flow or connect. 

The book is a series of scriptural expositions, which, while well done, left me wondering how these would be helpful to "a lost world."

My struggle was less with the content, his studies are good, but how does our world find God. He writes that the book is presenting the key truths about 
"the lostness of man, the greatness of God and the glory of the future which will correct much wrong thinking and behavior within the church, and so enable the church to effectively confront the world by holding out the Gospel." He writes his book "to enable Christians to trust 'the God who is there' and his gospel and so enable them to move confidently into the world," (p. 22).
Yes, God's people, have often lost a healthy view of who God is, but it seems to me that Tinker is preaching more to the choir, without helping them understand how to connect and speak into a world that is lost and needs a framework to understand and experience God.


I received this book free from Cross Focused Reviews. 
I was not required to write a positive review. 
The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Monday, November 23, 2015

banning the Lord's prayer

The Church of England has produced a 60 second commercial. The only words are the words of the Lord's Prayer, said by a variety of people. It’s a well produced film. 

The plan was to show the film before the Christmas screens of the new Star Wars film, as a way to encourage people to think about prayer and to pray. The commercial points to Just Pray.uk

But the powers that be - the distributors have declared that the Lord's Prayer is unsuitable for screening. They believe it carries the risk of upsetting or offending audiences. 

And so, as expected, indignation from the press, from the Archbishop, from all sorts of people. Debate begin about free speech, a possible challenge in the courts and a storm on social media.

Atheist, Richard Dawkins, says it should be shown, saying, 
“I strongly object to suppressing the ads on the grounds that they might ‘offend’ people. If anybody is ‘offended’ by something so trivial as a prayer, they deserve to be offended.”
The assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, said he was: 
“flabbergasted that anyone would find this prayer offensive to anybody, including people of no particular religious belief.” 
Ironically, the commercial was scheduled to be screened before the new Star Wars film – which has spawned its own religion with 177,000 claiming Jedi to be their religion in the 2011 British Census.

But maybe there is something else here...

I am not a big fan of enforced religion and prayer. I think it often, as Dawkins says, trivializes prayer and faith. It makes it an add on, something optional, something of little consequence: "would you like a heated steering wheel in your new car?"

When you look at and begin to pray the Lord's prayer (and it is really our prayer as his followers) it is a powerful prayer worthy of being banned by the demigods of consumer commerce.
Our Father in heaven 
Holy is your name 
May your kingdom come soon 
May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven 
Give us today the food we need 
And forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us 
And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one
For yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
74 words (in the above version). 

It takes less than a minute to say it. (It takes a lifetime to pray it.)

Yet these words shape our identity, give purpose to our lives, check our greed, remind us of our imperfections, offer a way of reconciliation, build resilience in our spirits and call us to live to the glory of our creator. 

No wonder they have been banned in the boardrooms of consumer culture.