samedi, novembre 10, 2007

Intelligencer Journal from today

Amish know we are citizens of God’s kingdomBy Elizabeth
Published: Nov 10, 2007 12:34 AM EST
The Amish get something many American Christians seem to have a hard time grasping: We are citizens of God's kingdom first. As such, we have loyalties that may very well put us at odds with the state.
Recently, the boundaries between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God have been blurred by American believers — whether the issue is creationism or euthanasia — who sought to remake the state in their image.
Their chances of succeeding are minimal.
The Amish, on the other hand, look to the Gospel mandates for guidance on how to forgive, love their enemies and trust in God's providential care for them.
For Christians who struggle with the way their faith can be diluted and warped in cultural practice, the purity of the way in which the Amish responded to last October's West Nickel Mines school shootings offered a lesson in cultural and religious integrity.
In his recent book, "Amish Grace" (co-authored with Steven Nolt of Goshen College and David Weaver-Zercher of Messiah College), Elizabethtown College sociologist Donald Kraybill examines the ways in which Amish culture, history and "two-kingdom" theology prepared our Amish neighbors to swiftly forgive the man who killed five of their own children and injured five others.
Gentle and unpretentious, Kraybill, a national expert on Anabaptist culture, has become, in an informal way, the public voice of a profoundly private people.
With a Bible-based commitment to forgiveness, the Amish reached out to the dead gunman's family quietly, privately, practically and quickly, extending grace that built bridges.
For the Amish, there are two kingdoms: that of the world and that of the Kingdom of God.
"The state is responsible for justice and punishment," said Kraybill, who noted that while they may occasionally ask for leniency, Amish believe offenders should be held accountable for their behavior.
But as people with a blood-drenched history of martyrdom for their beliefs, the Amish, who rely heavily on Jesus' command to forgive others "seventy times seven" [Matthew 18:22], embrace an ethic of nonretaliation, nonviolence and love for enemies, Kraybill noted.
"The moral gravity of forgiveness is a very heavy mandate in terms of the way the Amish understand their faith" said Kraybill, who himself was raised in the Anabaptist tradition.
Just days before the Nickel Mines tragedy, an Amish family invited the woman who killed their young son in a hit-and-run accident to come to their home to be forgiven. Reading about the offer in a local paper, the woman visited and was forgiven by the child's parents.
As Kraybill and his co-authors remind readers, the Amish drive to forgive doesn't liberate them from experiencing grief.
What it does mean is that they try to take the words of Jesus and apply them to their own lives with a simplicity and practicality that seems, to us on the outside, to be both admirable and perhaps a little naïve.
After all, as Kraybill reminds us, the vast majority of us are not Amish. We who choose to live in the turmoil of a state in which religion, morality and politics are constantly colliding often find ourselves tightrope walking through questions that have many or no easy solutions.
But even in our individualistic culture, we can learn a few lessons from seeing how the Amish practice forgiveness, Kraybill believes.
We all experience injustice. We can prepare for forgiveness before an incident happens. Try to find points of empathy with those who wrong you instead of quickly seeking revenge.
Seeking forgiveness is not only good for the person who harmed you, but it is a good and wholesome practice for your mental health, Kraybill said, noting that modern psychology has confirmed this insight in numerous studies.
No, we can't become Amish. But we can choose to challenge our cultural idols — efficiency, complexity, revenge, easy answers. In the process, God willing, we may find we have more in common with our Amish neighbors than we ever thought we did.

jeudi, novembre 08, 2007

Wanna see something really scary?

Check out this link above on what's going on with the US dollar. Part of the issue is the crisis in the subprime mortgage market-no one knows how bad that will get. Another issue is China, which is threatening to move its investments out of US markets. A third factor is our huge deficit spending-GB makes a very odd deficit hawk when up until now he's been party-hearty with our tax dollars. While the economy may still have signs of strength, we are in for rough seas, kiddos.

mercredi, novembre 07, 2007

It's incredible to think that one powerful nation, guided by a megalomaniac Administration, could cause so much damage in the world.

And no, I'm not talking about France.

Watching the crackdown in Pakistan on CNN yesterday evening at the Y, I was struck by the crisis in foreign policy that arose out of the US reaction to 9/11.

We went to war in Afghanistan against the Taliban, killing many civilians in the process. The Taliban is back and growing more mighty.

We were particularly cozy with General Musharraf , our Pakistani ally, so that we could go after Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden is in hiding, and some commentators argue that his group is also getting stronger.

Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds. No one is sure what will happen if the Kurds kill more guards in Turkey. It may be the relative affluence of the Kurds and the Turks that averts all out war.

And, of course, there is the endless fighting in Iraq.

To say that he couldn't have known what he was doing doesn't excuse him-or us. It will be a long time before other nations come to us for advice on democracy.

dimanche, novembre 04, 2007

For all of us who wish we had a chance to heal the past

Oh, I guess you might call it sentimental. Even shamelessly so. But I still love "Field of Dreams" the Kevin Costner movie about being able to redeem the wounds of the gone and long gone.

There's something nutty about a guy who builds a baseball diamond in his cornfield-isn't there? America does have a long-lasting love affair with the sport that even the scandals can't take away. I wish we didn't have to deal with asterisked superstars. I wish they'd put Shoeless Joe Jackson in the Hall of Fame. I wish there were no scandals and everyone played simply for the joy of watching the batter finally connect with the ball.

There is still joy at Little League Games. The kids in their uniforms, the grass and dirt on their pants from where they made contact with the bases, the coaches who cheer everyone, whether they hit or struck out or walked the batter.

Take away some scary parents, and it would be perfect.

Thinking of my dad, so ill, and my brother, long gone, and the kid's dad, also ill, I wept for wounds that might not heal-in this life, anyhow. Colin, who liked the movie, didn't know why I was sobbing. Nonetheless he crept over and put his arms around me. For him, it was a nice fairy tale. For me, the film provoked the notion that healing is still possible-when we simply don't expect it to happen.