What Is Terrorism

What is terrorism in the 21st Century? What is terrorism in a world of Hamas, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Israel and a renewed emerging ultra-nationalism around the world?

Here are a few thoughts that I think would be good places to start.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (more…)

The Other

scorchedearth89We stand upon the scorched and crushed ashes of cultures and societies and call it civilization. We call it progress and cherish it. We glory in the sanitation of our surroundings. The identification, segregation and ultimate elimination of the OTHER is the inertial and celebrated goal of civilization, our’s being simply the latest iteration. And nothing good will come of it. All of our potential good offerings to the world will ultimately come to naught as we breathe our last breath of defiance against the wickedness that lays at the heart of humanity. (more…)

Prayer

But the “excitement” of Easter cannot be given to man by man himself. Even more than his exinanition, Christ’s exaltation is the consequence reached by God himself through his power in action. God himself is the rector and the master and the king of this whole history which is his covenant with us. Either we understand God as master and subject of this history or we do not understand this history at all. Thus the question we have to answer now is not: “Can I admit that all this has occurred?” but: “Where do I stand vis-à-vis God the master? Do I live ‘with’ God? Do I live in keeping with God’s deeds?” And since we know these deeds mainly and primarily through the Scripture, the question of faith is first a question of reading the Bible. One cannot pray without reading the Bible, without getting a knowledge of the divine history directed by God wherein we discover what we need: faith in God the rector and sovereign and living master of Christ’s history which “comprehends,” that is, embodies, sums up, locates and fulfills our own history.

~Karl Barth “The Faith Of The Church”

Utopia and Reality

I think, at least regarding society and politics, this sums up well how I view the differences between the capacity of human society to grasp after and its actual limitations.

…it will never be possible to insure moral antidotes sufficiently potent to destroy the deleterious effects of the poison of power upon character. The future peace and justice of society therefore depend upon, not one but many, social strategies, in all of which moral and coercive factors are compounded in varying degrees. So difficult is it to avoid the Scylla of despotism and the Charybdis of anarchy that it is safe to hazard the prophecy that the dream of perpetual peace and brotherhood for human society is one which will never be fully realised. It is a vision prompted by the conscience and insight of individual man, but incapable of fulfillment by collective man. It is like all true religious visions, possible of approximation but not of realisation in actual history. The vitality of the vision is the measure of man’s rebellion against the fate which binds his collective life to the world of nature from which his soul recoils. The vision can be kept alive only by permitting it to overreach itself. But meanwhile collective man, must content himself with a more modest goal. His concern for some centuries to come is not the creation of an ideal society in which there will be uncoerced peace and justice, but a society in which there will be enough justice, and in which coercion  will be sufficiently non-violent to prevent his common enterprise from issuing into complete disaster. That goal will seen too modest for the romanticists; but the romanticists have so little understanding for the perils in which modern society lives, and overestimate the moral resources at the disposal of the collective so easily, that any goal regarded as worthy of achievement by them must necessarily be beyond attainment.

~ Reinhold Niebuhr “Moral Man and Immoral Society”

To The Disenchanted

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The reduction of Christianity to a mere belief, to simple immanence, barren of the transcendent, leaves christians of any people or nation easy prey to the carnivorous nature of political ideology. And this disenchantment of creation also fundamentally changes the way in which christians conceive of and pray to, God himself. The supplication, adoration and worship that are the elements of prayer are cast off and replaced by a conversation. A conversation with, because of the loss of transcendence, a deity that is always near, always immanent. So near, in fact, so as to be indistinguishable from oneself; prayer does, in fact, become just a conversation with a voice in your head. (more…)

The Problematic Nature Of Apologetics

As I’m reading through How (Not) To Be Secular by James K. A. Smith, some things just stick out as being both relevant and radical, yet comfortingly orthodox and in need of remembrance. What he says here is simple but being forgotten by wide swaths of Evangelicalism, if they even knew it. Highly reminiscent of Michael Horton, he says,

But to reject God’s personhood and agency entailed rejecting an entire fabric of Christianity that revolved around religion as communion…To depersonalize God is to deny the importance of communion and the community of communion that is the church, home to that meal that is called “Communion.”

Rings Of Power John Marshall Gave To Mortals

A year old, but still timely.

Cliches, Vagrants and Crooked Steps

Nine he gave to Mortal Men, proud and great, and so ensnared them. Long ago they fell under the dominion of the One, and they became Ringwraiths, shadows under his great Shadow, his most terrible servants. (LR, I, 2)

The Supreme Court has been an itch that I haven’t been able to scratch since, well, since I was in High School and got into what became quite a heated argument with a junior college president over the merits of judicial review and life terms. Granted, at that age my opinions were more pugnacious, my style pugilistic and my intentions more about antagonizing my betters than any real intellectual pursuit.

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Coram Deo

Coram Deo is a phrase little heard today — at least in my experience — among Christians of the protestant variety. Truthfully, it is a reality which strips away the defense of arrogance and freedom that is so inimical to humanity, it unmans a person; stripping us of the comforting delusion of the anonymity of our desires and actions. For those two, simple words of Latin come together to bind us to the truth that our lives, all the little pieces of love and hate, honor and betrayal, are done so before the face of God. That in concert with his transcendence he is intimately immanent, inescapable and that we are laid bare before his righteousness, all our machinations the feeble plans of petty creatures. It is a reminder of our need of not simply regeneration, but of the reformation of our hearts and will. And to live Coram Deo in conscious regard of its reality is both humbling and terrifying. It is the very light which shines upon the incredulity of our deluded goodness and demands that we recognize our redemption, of a reconciliation to God that is only possible as an external, transcendent act for us, that our salvation from the lives we lead in broken covenant with our creator must come extra nos, it must come from outside of us, beyond the ability of our captive and conditioned wills.

Our lives are on display…and what a mess we make of them. I find comfort in this,

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

— From the Heidelberg Catechism, written by Caspar Olevianus and Zacharius Ursinus in the 16th century

The Clock Doesn’t Stop On Ideas

Ours is a secular age. While the conditions of secularity — the nonaxiomatic nature of belief in God, the contestability of all ultimate beliefs — are not unrelated to the prescriptive project of secularism, there is no necessary connection between the two. A secular society could undergo religious revival where vast swaths of the populace embrace religious belief. But that could never turn back the clock on secularization; we would always know we used to believe something else, that there are plausible visions of meaning and significance on offer. We would also believe amidst the secular condition; indeed, conversion is a response to secularity, not an escape from it.

— “How (Not) To Be Secular” ~ James K. A. Smith

Fair-Trade Humanity

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A few thoughts that ran through my mind last night…

We never adjust for the humiliating reality that the money spent on military actions on foreign soil neglect and starve the needs of those in our own country. Because we don’t like to think about “those” people, the homeless, the poor, the mentally ill, the downtrodden of society of every color.

But war? War makes for one hell of a voyeuristic trip. But the point should be this, that anytime we use the methodology of the killing to ascribe more value to the lost, voyeuristically disassociating our collective conscience and moral responsibility from our carefully segregated homegrown tragedies—which in turn creates a bigger draw upon our will to act or intervene—we undermine any normative value for life and flat out deny that humanity has any inherent, constant and equitable value. Human life becomes the currency on the global market of power and politics.