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Turning the Bible Into Behavior

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Justice

It’s Okay, They’re Just Indians

I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me.

sitting-bull-394471_1280That title is offensive on several levels. First, the culturally appropriate word for them is Native Americans. Second, the idea that “they’re just” is a pretty odious sentiment. It conveys they idea that how we treat people can be based on who they are rather than on who WE are or on an intrinsic value that lies within all humanity.

Unfortunately, this seems to be precisely the sentiment many people are taking towards the Standing Rock Sioux and the Dakota Access Pipeline. In case you’ve been living under a rock:

The pipeline is currently under construction by Dakota Access, LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, L.P. The minor partners involved in the project are Phillips 66, Enbridge, and Marathon Petroleum. The route begins in the Bakken oil fields in northwest North Dakota and travels in a more or less straight line south-east, through South Dakota and Iowa, and ends at the oil tank farm near Patoka, Illinois.

The Sioux are protesting the pipeline, saying “that the pipeline threatens the Tribe’s environmental and economic well-being, and would damage and destroy sites of great historic, religious, and cultural significance.”

I’m not particularly concerned with environmental issues in this post (that’s a conversation for a different post). What I am concerned with is how we treat people. Christians have a biblical mandate to treat people well. In fact, we’re called to treat people well even when people mistreat us (one of the Bible’s most difficult teachings regarding suffering under evil rulers and masters). Additionally, people of faith are called to be honorable in how we deal with others.

Do you remember the last time someone broke a promise to you? How did it make you feel? The Bible refers to vows or promises and that God’s people are supposed to known as vow keepers.

If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. ~ Numbers 30:2

Since God himself is a covenant maker and covenant keeper, we are also supposed to be like that. Yet our government has been notoriously bad at keeping covenants with Native American tribes. Historically, when we have desired something that was on Native American land, we would break treaties, take what we desired, and relocate the people to new land and/or new promises.

I’m reminded of the words of the prophet in Hosea 10:4:

They speak mere words, With worthless oaths they make covenants; And judgment sprouts like poisonous weeds in the furrows of the field.

You don’t have to agree with the politics of the thing, but when it comes to honoring covenants and how we treat people, I believe Christians ought to be the first to stand with the Standing Rock Reservation. Here’s a page outlining 10 ways you can help support the Standing Rock Sioux.

It doesn’t matter who the people are – we are called to treat people well. The Bible says that we’re supposed to treat others as BETTER than we treat ourselves. Unless the covenant is an immoral or ungodly covenant, we are called to be covenant keepers just as God is a covenant keeper with us.

Forget Forgiveness – I Want Rapists to Suffer

courtroom-898931_1280I needed a couple days to cool off before I wrote on this topic. By now, everyone in America has heard of Brock Turner, the man who was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman last year. While the prosecution asked for a 6 year sentence, the judge thought that a long prison term would have “a severe impact” on the criminal and gave a sentence of 6 months, of which there is a possibility he may only serve 3.

When I heard that I nearly lost my mind.

3 months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman. What has this world come to? There are no words that can express the depth of loathing I have for the man who assaulted the woman and the judge who is refusing to bring justice against the vile perpetrator.

But Chris, what about Jesus’s words about forgiveness? Wouldn’t Jesus want us to forgive and move on?

NO!

The context of Jesus’s words is not even remotely close to dealing with one person raping another. Jesus said,

“Even if your brother wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks for forgiveness, forgive him.” (Luke 17:4)

Jesus wasn’t being literal. He wasn’t advocating a 7-time forgiveness, but it you get to number 8 you’re free to withhold forgiveness. Jesus was trying to teach people about a character issue – are we willing to be people of forgiveness when people who wrong us repent and seek forgiveness. Jesus wasn’t talking about legal justice.

And Brock Turner has never repented or asked for forgiveness. He’s given excuses – he had too much to drink. There is no ownership or responsibility. There is no repentance.  All we need here is justice. And the Bible is not short on discussing justice.

  • To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.(Proverbs 21:3)
  • When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers. (Proverbs 21:15)
  • He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
  • Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.(Isaiah 1:17)
  • For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13:4)

That’s just a few. We ought to be pursuing justice against evil people who wreak havoc on the lives of the innocent. This man Turner should not be allowed to escape justice for ANY reason. I tend to hold more to the thinking of the Psalmist who, when contemplating Israel’s enemies, blesses those who dash the heads of the enemy’s babies against the rocks.

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,

blessed shall he be who repays you

with what you have done to us!

Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones

and dashes them against the rock!
(Psalm 137:7-9)

So I confess openly that I wrestle with developing a heart of forgiveness and seeing this evil man suffer. I know that, as a society, we must do better to protect people from assault and to pursue REAL justice against the evil people who perpetrate it on others.
————————————————————————-

What do you think? How do you feel about forgiveness vs. justice? Just keep your comments polite towards each other, even in disagreement.

Subway, Jared Fogle, and Sex Trafficking

You have to be living under a rock if you haven’t heard the news about Jared Fogle,Jared Fogle the formerly obese man who dropped a ton of weight by eating only Subway sandwiches who was then hired by Subway to be a spokesperson for the sandwich chain who was investigated for possession of child pornography who, it turns out, did a lot more than simply posses the material.

This whole case has brought two major thoughts to my mind.

1. He was a spokesman for a sandwich chain! I’m rather frustrated by the people who are treating this as a terrible fall from grace. Turns out the sandwich dude was a real scumbag. He was never hired to be a beacon of morality and virtue in a dark and dreary land. He was obese. He dropped a bunch of weight. I cannot believe the level of celebrity afforded this guy.

2. The REAL tragedy and story is revolves around human trafficking. If Jared’s case does anything, please let it point to the problems this world faces when it comes to human trafficking, Human Trafficking one of the fastest and most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world today.

Whether it be for sex or manual labor, human trafficking now generates over $32 billion a year.

$32.

Billion.

Let Jared point to this travesty. His trips to New York trying to find 14 year old prostitutes isn’t about his own issues. There’s a bigger problem – the 14 year old trapped in prostitution.

No 13 year old wakes up and says, “You know what I wanna do next year? I want to be a prostitute.”

There is no country in the world that isn’t touched by human trafficking in some way. This is not right. This must change. We cannot treat people like this.

This blog is about helping turn the Bible into behavior. So let’s be clear on this.

The Bible is quite clear that humanity, all humanity, bears the Imago Dei – the Image of God. This means that every single human being on earth has some intrinsic value that goes beyond what we say and do or even how we behave. While some of us behave poorly, we all bear the Image of God. We all have a measure of worth and can be redeemed.

When we abuse and mistreat others we are not simply treating people poorly – we are abusing the Image of God. The Bible makes clear that God created us and knew us from before our birth. Human trafficking messes with what God has designed, created, and has known before taking a single breath.

Okay, great. I think every decent person will agree that human trafficking violates God’s creation.

But let’s take it a step further.

The Bible also tells us to be people who love and pursue justice. JusticeWhen it comes to human trafficking, it’s not enough to read stories about people like Jared and simply shake our heads. We ought to be pursuing justice for the victims of human trafficking and seeking to put an end to future trafficking.

This is the only course of action Christians should find acceptable. We cannot be passive about it.

– You can support organizations that rescue people from slavery.
– You can keep your eyes open for possible situations around you and report it when you see it.
– You can educate others about the worldwide problem that is human trafficking.
– You can go to http://traffickingresourcecenter.org/ to get more info about this human travesty.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking you can call right now 1-888-373-7888 and get help.

So please – let’s take the focus off of Jared and put it on to a problem we can do something about.

For the victims’ sake.

For God’s sake, people.

Don’t You Wish You Were a Straight White Male Like Me?

straight-pride

I’m sure you’ve seen posts like it. I’ve seen it before.

The other day I saw it again – something to the effect of:

When people post about gay pride they’re heroes.
When I post about straight pride I’m a bigot.

That might not be the EXACT wording, but you get the idea.

Straight people complain about those who tout gay pride.
White people complain about those to promote black power.

black power

It always comes down to the same argument: If it’s okay for them to be proud and promote their empowerment why is it wrong for me to be proud and promote my empowerment?

The answer is simple, really. I don’t need to be proud and promote my empowerment because I’m the one in power.

Think about it. What we’re really talking about is the language of power and disenfranchisement. People who have typically been looked down on, discriminated against, or held down (socially, politically, economically, etc.) use language to bring their causes to light.

Why should those of us who are in power complain about people promoting their empowerment while we are not able to promote our own power?

We shouldn’t.

Jesus isn’t about promoting our own empowerment. In fact, biblical faith is all about supporting the disenfranchised and unempowered. James 1:27 says:

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

The widow and orphan were individuals who had no chance to care for themselves; no family to lean on and no chance for making something of themselves. They were outsiders in society.

Jesus’ ministry was financially supported by women, people seen as less-than in the grand scheme of society. He regularly ate with social outcasts.

Jesus wasn’t about keep people from being empowered – he was all about loving people regardless of their status.

As Christians we ought to be leading the way in making sure that the disenfranchised are treated with equality and are given justice. Even when we disagree with someone’s life choice, we don’t have to make a stink about the language they use in their search for empowerment.

Those of us in power don’t need to flaunt our power in the face of others.

So, white people – stop complaining about “black power.” You don’t need to promote white power (you’ve already got it).
Straight people – stop complaining about “gay pride.” You don’t need to promote straight pride (you’ve already got it).
Men – stop complaining about women’s rights. You don’t need to promote men’s rights (you’ve already got them).

Do you get the picture? Rather than being upset when the disenfranchised rise up, we ought to be asking, “What can I do as a Christian to show love and support in a way that honors God?”

And maybe, just maybe, if those of us “in power” started behaving this way then those “without power” would have no need to make empowering statements – because WE would be the ones demanding justice in the first place.

And THAT is a message worth sharing with the world…

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