Saturday, November 11, 2017

violence - anger - mental health

Some have tried to blame the mass shootings and a lot of other violence in recent years on mental health issues in our society. But, according to Laura L. Hayes at Slate, mental health is not the problem.
Violence is not a product of mental illness. Nor is violence generally the action of ordinary, stable individuals who suddenly “break” and commit crimes of passion. Violent crimes are committed by violent people, those who do not have the skills to manage their anger. Most homicides are committed by people with a history of violence. Murderers are rarely ordinary, law-abiding citizens, and they are also rarely mentally ill. Violence is a product of compromised anger management skills.
In a summary of studies on murder and prior record of violence, Don Kates and Gary Mauser found that 80 to 90 percent of murderers had prior police records, in contrast to 15 percent of American adults overall. In a study of domestic murderers, 46 percent of the perpetrators had had a restraining order against them at some time. Family murders are preceded by prior domestic violence more than 90 percent of the time. Violent crimes are committed by people who lack the skills to modulate anger, express it constructively, and move beyond it.
Hayes quotes Paolo del Vecchio of the Federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration who has said, “Violence by those with mental illness is so small that even if you could somehow cure it all, 95 percent of violent crime would still exist.”
She also notes studies that show hat 80 to 90 percent of murderers had prior police records, in contrast to 15 percent of American adults overall, and that family murders are preceded by prior domestic violence more than 90 percent of the time. Nearly half of domestic murderers have had a restraining order against them at some point in time.
Laura L. Hayes puts her finger on how we are blaming the mentally ill and other factors while ignoring real causes of violence. Her final paragraph (emphasized in bold below) is wisdom worth its weight in gold:
The attribution of violent crime to people diagnosed with mental illness is increasing stigmatization of the mentally ill while virtually no effort is being made to address the much broader cultural problem of anger management. This broader problem encompasses not just mass murders but violence toward children and spouses, rape, road rage, assault, and violent robberies. We are a culture awash in anger.
Uncontrolled anger has become our No. 1 mental health issue. Though we have the understanding and the skills to treat the anger epidemic in this country, as a culture, we have been unwilling to accept the violence problem as one that belongs to each and every one of us. We have sought scapegoats in minority cultures, racial groups, and now the mentally ill. When we are ready to accept that the demon is within us all, we can begin to treat the cycle of anger and suffering.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Governor General science & faith?

Julie Payette, Canada’s Governor General, in a speech at the 9th annual Canadian Science Policy Convention in Ottawa, on 1 November 2017, set off a bit of a firestorm. 

Rather than speak on her areas of expertise, she decided to take on sciences outside her expertise and, in fact, whole disciplines (philosophy, religion) entirely beyond her training.

Payette brings a science background to the office of Governor General. She was trained as a computer engineer and later became an astronaut and licensed pilot and in 1999 was the first Canadian to board the International Space Station.

She urged her friends and former colleagues to take responsibility to shut down the misinformation about everything from health and medicine to climate change and even horoscopes that has flourished with the explosion of digital media. That part is good. And the previous Conservative government did a lot to hinder scientists from communicating clearly. But then, she went on:
“And we are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”
In her inaugural speech as Governor General, Ms. Payette emphasized “collective duty” and the need for teamwork to tackle difficult global issues such as climate change, poverty, and nuclear proliferation.

I trust and pray that our Governor General (which means she is Her Majesty’s representative – the Queen is also head of the Church of England), will take seriously her call for “collective duty” and “teamwork” and enter into real dialogue with scientists who are also people of faith.

Maybe she should read some books by scientists who are also people of faith. For a start: Francis Collins, John Lennox, Alister McGrath, and John Polkinghorne.

Her words, seem to me, to be minimizing and even discrediting the science done by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Shiks, 1st Nations people and others who hold to a belief in a Creator. 

Ms Payette, as Canada seeks to model a community that welcomes diverse beliefs, religions, cultures and languages, I am disappointed to hear remarks which could be understood as exclusionary and belittling. You are better than this.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Bill C-51

Omnibus bills are terrible.
An omnibus bill is a government bill that pulls together a variety of usually somewhat related issues. But it is also a great way to slip things in that on their own would never pass.

Bill C-51 has passed 2nd Reading and is currently before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. They meet again this afternoon (8 November 2017 at 3:30pm).

The legislation would:
  • Clarify certain aspects of sexual assault law relating to consent, admissibility of evidence and legal representation for the complainant;
  • Repeal or amend a number of provisions in the Criminal Code that have been found unconstitutional by appellate courts and other provisions that would likely be found unconstitutional;
  • Repeal several obsolete or redundant criminal offences; and
  • Require that the Minister of Justice table a Charter Statement in Parliament for every new government bill, setting out the bill’s potential effects on Charter rights and freedoms.
These are all good changes. Although there is much debate over whether the changes to aspects of sexual assault law really will make much difference.

However, Clause 14 of Bill C-51 would remove Section 176 of the Criminal Code which states:
176 (1) Every one who
(a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling, or
(b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a)
     (i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or
     (ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process,
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
Disturbing religious worship or certain meetings
(2) Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction. 

This change will reduce protection for worshippers and places of worship at a time when hate crimes against religious communities in Canada are on the rise.
EFC (Evangelical Fellowship of Canada) has more on this here.
I encourage you to write / email / call your MP and ask them to maintain protection for the free expression of faith in Canada. 
I have contacted my MP Bruce Stanton, Simcoe North & he will "work to convince the government to back down on these changes."

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

not good news: ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible

ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible"Theology should, first and foremost, be rooted in God’s Word. The goal of the ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible is to demonstrate how all Christian doctrine arises from the pages of the Bible. Created to help readers understand how Scripture forms the basis for our understanding of God, humanity, sin, salvation, and eternity, this study Bible features over 400 short in-text doctrinal summaries connecting Christian beliefs to specific Bible passages, 25 longer articles explaining important theological topics in greater depth, and introductions to each book of the Bible that highlight the unique ways each book contributes to the whole of Christian theology. Created by an outstanding team of editors and 26 contributors, this resource has been created to help Christians better connect what they believe about God with the very words of Scripture."

There is a new study Bible out: The ESV Systematic Theology Study Bible. I labelled this post "not good news." Not because I have a problem with the ESV. But because I have a problem with publishers confusing adding helpful aids (i.e. maps, definitions, background historical information) with adding a deliberate theological lens. 
Yes, I know that any Bible translation, brings with it, at least to some extent, the theological worldview of the translators. But, and here is the crux of the problem, when we bundle a specific way of interpreting the Bible with the Bible, we are doing a great disservice to the very people the publishers say they are trying to help. 
Rather than helping people read the Bible, and listen to the voice of the Spirit, they are saying, in effect, "you don't have to think, pray, listen - this (and this alone) is what it means." Sure, that may be exaggerating a little, but my past experience with people using study Bibles is that they:

  • rely more on the notes than on the Bible;
  • they accept the authority of the notes at least as much, if not more than the words of the Bible;
  • they let the notes do the thinking and praying and listening to the Spirit for them.
So, don't buy a study Bible. Read a Bible, Read multiple translations. Pray. Read books about the text. Listen to the Spirit. Find some people with whom you can interact with the text together. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

the Elbphilharmonie

It might have taken 7 years longer than planned, and it might have cost ten times more than the original budget, but Hamburg’s new concert hall was definitely worth the wait. The hall, called the Elbphilharmonie, can seat 2,100 people and cost a whopping $843 million USD. The designers used algorithms to create the auditorium’s 10,000 unique acoustic panels.
Made from gypsum fiber, each panel contains one million “cells” which line the ceilings, walls and balustrades of the central auditorium. When sound waves hit these panels, the “cells” help to shape the sound by either absorbing the waves or causing them to reverberate throughout the hall. No two panels absorb or scatter the sound waves in the same way, but together they create a perfectly balanced audio that can be heard from every corner of the auditorium. And it is perhaps the most beautiful auditorium in the world. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself:
Oh, yeah. One more thing: the outside of the building can do THIS!!!


Do not follow your heart; train it.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; 
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security. 
Take delight in the LORD, 
and he will give you the desires of your heart. 

Psalm 37:3-4

The heart is at the centre of our will, or our ability to make choices; to choose right from wrong; good or evil. 
Psalm 37 reminds us that one of the deepest desires of our heart is for security that comes through justice. However, the psalm also recognizes the human tendency to seek short-cuts to security through other means — wealth, power, possessions — which lead us to exploit our neighbour, and so undermine the very thing we desire. 

Those of you who run or bike or get out to the gym, you know that there are times when you don't simply "follow your heart"... you train it.

As followers of Jesus, we don't just "follow our heart" because our heart tends to want what pleases itself... we train our heart... to do what is on God's heart.

The answer is to take delight in the LORD. 
Do not follow your heart; train it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Galatians 6:14-16

At the end of his short letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul writes:
As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.
Galatians 6:14-16 NLT
For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can’t you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them!
Galatians 6:14-16 MSG

In these concluding sentences Paul declares that in Christ, because of Christ, through Christ, something brand new has and is happening. We have been transformed... we are the new people of God. Paul is saying (at least in part) that because of the cross (which is shorthand for the cross-resurrection-ascension) both Jews and Gentiles are the people of God - there is no more distinction based on ethnicity, class, sexuality, because the basis of inclusion in the people of God is not what we have done or hope to do, but what the triune God has done and is doing.

All those Old Testament laws were temporary not meant to be permanent
We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world.But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.
Galatians 4:3-7 NLT

We are welcomed as God's own children, not as slaves or citizens. And so Paul says 
now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws.
Galatians 4:9-12 NLT

If you are in Christ and Christ is in you, if you are child of God, loved by Father-Son-Spirit, then live that way. Live in the freedom and joy and release of that love, not trying to earn or conjure up some sort of religious experience. The old way is dead and crucified. You are a new person in Christ. And if we are new people in Christ, then,
  • we are free to worship (beyond our personal preferences); 
  • we are free to serve (beyond our comfort zones); 
  • we are free to bless other (beyond our selfish tendencies);
  • we are free to be who God sets us free to be.
The goal or purpose of being the people of God, is not simply for our own sake, but for others who are not in Christ. The promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12...
I will make you into a great nation.
I will bless you and make you famous,
and you will be a blessing to others.
I will bless those who bless you
and curse those who treat you with contempt.
All the families on earth will be blessed through you.
Genesis 12:2-3 NLT

was that all peoples would be blessed... and this would happen through God's people being a blessing to other peoples, ultimately being fulfilled in the radical forgiveness extended through God's love in Christ.


The Bible is the compost pile that provides material for new life. I do not use this figure as an irreverent metaphor to suggest that the Bible is “garbage.” Rather, I use it to suggest that the Bible itself is not the actual place of new growth. Our present life, when we undertake new growth, is often inadequate, arid, or even barren. It needs to be enriched, and for that enrichment, we go back to the deposits of old growth that have been discarded, but that continue to ferment and may contain resources for a way to new life.
Walter Brueggemann, "Texts Under Negotiation" p 61-62

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

mystery... awe & humility

“…advances in knowledge throw up problems that require rethinking the tradition… one of the tasks of theologians is to explore and restate central doctrines in the light of developments in human knowledge.
The doctrine of creation is now rethought in the light of what is taken to be the case in respect to cosmology or evolution or genetics but nevertheless it is still a doctrine of creation when it affirms that the universe and its life as we know them depend for their existence on a divine Creator.”
~Andrew T. Lincoln, Born of a Virgin?:
Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible,
Tradition, and Theology

“In light of our current understanding of the cosmos, the creedal claim 'I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth' is not diminished but magnified beyond comprehension.

“There are billions upon billions of galaxies in our universe, each containing billions upon billions of stars. We cannot remotely comprehend these numbers…  
“And at the other end of the spectrum we have subatomic particles – as if atoms weren’t small enough - and string theory…
“What claim can we have to speak for him (God), to think his thoughts are our thoughts? Who do we think we are, anyway?
“Here’s another thing that unsettles me into silence. According to the Christian tradition, this God who does literally incomprehensible things, is also willing to get very small – to line up next to us, to know us, even love us (as the Bible says again and again).
“If there really is a God like this – a God who understands and controls things so big my calculator has to use a letter to get it across, who is also a God who walked among a tiny tribe of ancient people called Israelites, who allowed them to write about him in their tiny ancient ways, and who subjected himself to suffering and death (what we work so hard to avoid), well…
“I think we’re talking mystery here, people.
“A God who does both. There are no words for this sort of thing….
“One God responsible for the unfathomably large, who is also near us…
“To take this all in, as far as I am concerned, is above our mortal pay grade. Those of us who believe this kind of God exists should feel put in our place, pretty much walking around with that “I can’t believe what I just saw” look in our eye.
“The Bible calls this humility and awe, which, as hard as it is to pull off, is at least something we can understand.”

~Pete Enns

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


I have a friend, who lives in Uganda, but who travels regularly into the Congo to bring encouragement to believers there. Congo, right now, is a very dangerous place. The media very seldom report on what is happening in that country. Violence seems to be the primary way of running the country. 

President Joseph Kabila was supposed to step down on 19 December 2016. But despite opposition and international condemnation, he has refused to relinquish power. It now looks like the election rescheduled for 2017 will not happen. Kabila is now talking about constitutional changes that will allow him to be President for Life. Whenever that has happened in Africa, it has not been good for the people or the nation as a whole - only for the President, his family, and closest advisors (who are obviously "yes" men).

Understanding the source of conflict in the Congo (formerly Zaire) is not all that difficult. There are two main factors.
  1. The mineral wealth of the country.
    Congo is a rich country, almost limitless water, from the world's second-largest river, the Congo; it's climate and rich soil make it fertile; and, beneath the soil are abundant deposits of copper, gold, diamonds, cobalt, uranium, coltan, and oil - just some of the resources that should make it one of the world's richest countries. For many years, it provided the world's largest supply of rubber for bicycle and automobile tires, as well electrical insulation.

    Instead, those resources have led to incredible abuses: forcing tribal groups off the land, without adequate compensation; destructive mining techniques; government, rebels, and others (from outside the country) involved in the conflicts taking the majority of the profits; outside countries and companies, including Canada, have made whatever deals necessary to get access to the resources, with little regard for the people.
  2. Congo's history.
    It was common, not too long ago, to blame the woes of an underdeveloped or developing country on the lack of leadership of the government - some even saying it was a clear sign that black people are not made to lead. But look at the history. Almost everything bad that we see happening in Congo (and sadly, some of the atrocities are repeated in too many places) happened under Western control.

    King Leopold II of Belgium, basically treated what he called the Congo Free State (although it was anything but free) as his personal property. Nearly all the infrastructure projects, such as roads and railways, were built so that assets could be removed from the county. During the time of rubber sales, the army was called in, to cut off the limbs of people who didn't make quota.

    As in many places, western freedoms were defended with Congo's resources while native Congolese were denied the right to vote, or form unions and political associations. They were denied anything beyond the most basic of education, which suited the mine owners just fine.

    But as a result, when independence came, in 1960, there were no home-grown experts who could run the country. Of the 5,000 government jobs, pre-independence, just t
    hree (3) were held by Congolese and there was not a single Congolese lawyer, doctor, economist or engineer. Within weeks of Independence, the majority of Belgians left the country. leaving behind a predictable disaster.

    As chaos threatened to engulf the region. The Cold War superpowers moved in to prevent the other gaining the upper hand. The Congolese leader, Patrice Lumumba, was horrifically beaten and executed by Western-backed rebels. A military strongman, Joseph-Desire Mobutu, who had a few years before been a sergeant in the colonial police force, took over. He became a tyrant. In 1972 he changed his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, meaning "the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake".
    The West (mostly the USA) tolerated him as long as the minerals flowed and the Congo was kept out of the Soviet orbit. Which has often been the way - the West doesn't really care about the people - all we care about is getting stuff. And so, the West installs and removes dictators and tyrants, based on selfish economic benefits.
The future does not look much better. Congolese leaders are following the example set before them by the Belgians and the French and the Americans. Millions have been killed in the last 20 years: many as a direct result of the many wars; many more as the result of the war-induced famine and rape of the land.

In recent years China is pushing its way into many places in Africa. They offer infrastructure projects and funding for government projects, but, they end up controlling the projects; they offer little in skills training, preferring to bring in their own people; leaders (again many of whom are extremely short-sighted) are selling the future of their country for immediate financial gain.

Joseph Conrad's statement is still true:
"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary: men alone are quite capable of every wickedness." ~Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes
Anyone who says they have a simple answer to resolve the issues in Congo, or in many other places, doesn't know or understand the Congo. I'm thankful for people like my friend who makes repeated trips into the Congo to help strengthen and encourage the church in holistic ways. Pray for the people of the Congo. Be aware of what is happening in our world beyond the headlines of the mainstream media. Respond, as God directs to give to credible organizations already on the ground.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

non western authors & books

We in the west have a narrow view of the world and the gospel - so what are some books & authors from other countries that we should read?
Here are some of the books & authors I have read, listed by country


The Kite Runner

Introducing Liberation TheologyLeonardo Boff & Clodovis Boff, 1987


Things Fall ApartChinua Achebe,1958


A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and SalvationGustavo GutiĆ©rrez, 1973

Festo Kivengere, 1977


Dead Aid – Why Aid is Not WorkingDambisa Moyo, 2010

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

book review: Inside the Mental

author: Kay Parley
title: Inside the Mental: Silence, Stigma, Psychiatry, and LSD
publisher: University of Regina Press
year: 2016

Kay Parley writes as both a patient at Weyburn Mental Hospital, in Weyburn Saskatchewan, and as a psychiatric nurse at that same hospital. This small (both in size and length) book reflects on her family upbringing, her own breakdowns and her journey to become a nurse working with patients at the same hospital.

As a child growing up, both her grandfather and her father were long term patients at Weyburn Mental Hospital. In fact, she never met her grandfather until she became a patient herself. And she had no contact with her father, after he was admitted, until sometime after she was admitted.

Kay writes both about what was good at the hospital and what was not so good.

Inside the Mental, doesn't take long to read, but is a good look back at the emerging fields of group therapy, the developing ethics of psychiatry, the beginning of patient rights, and her role in the groundbreaking experiments with LSD.


"Truth is, in our world, undergoing a terrific battle to maintain its existence. It shines brightly at times but many clouds obscure it. It is being ravished, prostituted, and distorted but it is fighting bravely and the battle ebbs and flows."
~Dr Winchell, in a note to Kay Parley, when she was in the Weyburn (Saskatchewan) Mental Hospital, (Kay Parley, "Inside the Mental: Silence, Stigma, Psychiatry, and LSD", 2016)