Radio Interview on Life FM

Radio Interview on Life FM

I recently got the chance to do a radio interview on a show called The Forum with George Penk on Life FM in New Zealand. It was a lot of fun talking with George and getting a chance to interact around some ideas which I have written about recently!

The topic from our first broadcasted conversation is around 'Loving Your Enemy'.

On this Valentine's Day, when we celebrate love, let's also remember that Jesus challenges us to be WAY more loving than any of us would choose if left to our own ways and means.

Check it out!

When is violence the answer?

In the aftermath of the Parisian attacks last month, French President Francois Hollande vowed a "merciless" responseagainst ISIS.Within days, France had bombed an ISIS target in Syria and performed numerous raids within France itself, killing and capturing several terror suspects.

We can all understand this response. Terrorist attacks against civilians are horrifying. In an effort to seek justice for the slaughtered and to prevent future attacks, we turn to violence in our response.

As a Christian, should I have a problem with this?

How To Respond to Terrorism

We've seen an increasing number of mass shootings in the United States recently (353 in 2015, so far), not to mention attacks in places like Paris, Nigeria and Mali. When we find out about the latest violence, it can be tempting to shake our heads and long for the day when believers in Jesus get to escape this world and live for all eternity in heaven where there is no pain or tears.

The problem is, that viewpoint is completely antithetical to what the Christian scriptures teach.

The Bible teaches that Christ followers are supposed to engage in the world, not escape from it.

The Danger in Borders: Valuing Refugees in the Age of Terrorism

The prophet Jonah received direction from God to go and preach to the people of the city of Nineveh, warning them of their impending destruction. Jonah instead, as you may be aware, immediately undertook a journey in the opposite direction from Nineveh.

Later in the book of the prophet, we learn why Jonah did this.

"I knew that you [God] are gracious. You are tender and kind. You are slow to get angry. You are full of love. You are a God who takes pity on people. You don’t want to destroy them [the Ninevites]."

Jonah hated the people of Nineveh. Perhaps the people of Nineveh, a brutal people, had wronged Israelite, or perhaps their reputation simply preceded them. Whatever the reason, Jonah did not want to see forgiveness given to these people who existed outside the land of God's chosen people - the Jews.

Jonah valued the identity of his fellow countymen and women so much, he was unable to provide ministry leading essentially to the salvation of the people of another nation-state.

It was only after God went to great lengths that Jonah complied with the direction of a God who, much to his dismay, held affection for his enemies.

God would not allow his prophet to love borders more than people.

Humanizing Monsters

human_fragility_by_djoeI'm reading a book called Radical by Maajid Nawaz. He grew up in the UK to a Pakistani family and became an Islamic Radical, but eventually came to disagree with the viewpoints he once embraced. He said one of the things he had to do in his journey back from a place of great hate was to learn to humanize everyone, even (especially?) those who dehumanize others. He describes how he went from celebrating 9/11 to mourning the London attacks in 2005.

As I read about what happened in Charleston, my reaction is to want to dehumanize the man who murdered 9 people in Emanuel AME Church.

He's a monster. Or a demon. Or something else that allows me to pretend that he's not a fellow human.

But that's not true.

He was born. He has a mother and a father. He eats. He drinks. He breathes. His heart beats.

He's human. And if I take the narrative of the bible to be true, he's a fellow child of God. Loved by God.

I want to be very clear: I'm not supporting or accepting of what he did.

As I read that he spent an hour sitting in a worship service with these people before murdering them, I can't fathom how after that time, he pulled out a gun and started shooting them.

I remember that at Columbine, in the original modern day mass shooting, crosses were erected for all the victims. Someone erected two smaller crosses for the shooters, which were angrily torn down. It's painful to recognize that someone who has caused so much harm may also deserve some measure of compassion.

We like to live in a binary, black and white world. Someone is 'good' or 'bad'. But life isn't so cut and dried. Someone can be guilty of terrible things and still deserve compassion.

The Colorado movie shooter suffered from mental illness. Instead of having to choose whether this affects his guilt or innocence as the legal system must do, can I not see it as a place where I should have compassion?

I'm not seeking to humanize the Charleston shooter because he deserves it or because I am ignoring what he did.

I'm seeking to humanize him because it's true.

It is also the only way we can hope to stem the tide of shootings at schools and malls and workplaces and houses of worship.

Because if these actions are the work of monsters and demons, I am powerless to stop them. I can only shake my head and feel sad that such beings cannot be stopped.

But if I'm dealing with humans, I can have hope. Hope that messages of love and acceptance and peace can be heard.

When I see an Islamic Radical come to the conclusion that 'an eye for an eye' simply doesn't work; and when I learn about the US Civil Rights movement through a film like Selma, I see clearly that only when we treat our adversaries as humans - no matter how flawed - can we hope to prevail in our cause.

In this case, the cause is that all humans are valuable. All people need dignity and acceptance.

That doesn't mean approval of all their actions, but that leads us into conflict resolution, which is not the point of this post.

So as you continue to hear about Charleston, mourn with those who mourn. These were also fellow humans who were killed.

I'm so saddened to hear of the death of my brothers and sisters in Christ. But I also have hope in a God of resurrection who says that He has the final word.

So in the meantime, I will hope that the shooter may get a glimpse of the loving God worshiped at Emanuel AME.

Because every human needs to know that God loves us, even as we must accept consequences for our actions.

A Christian View of Tragedy

BostonToday, America again experienced an attack of mass violence. The detonations near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed 3 people, maimed many more, and injured more than a hundred.

One of the two victims, it has been confirmed, was 8 years old. My oldest daughter is 8 years old, so this information was particularly impacting to me. I’m not sure how it would feel to lose any of my kids, and I certainly hope I never have to find out.

This comes after the terrible events late late year in Newtown, Connecticut where 26 children and adults lost their lives in another mass attack.

In the recent past, we have seen attacks in movie theaters, malls, schools and colleges.

I am of the opinion that these types of events, for the foreseeable future, will continue. (Until the depression, mental illness, anger, frustration, etc that cause these events has been dealt with, I don’t assume peoples’ actions will suddenly go in a different direction.)

Columbine, a decade ago shocked us to our core. If that event happened again today, we would shake our head and lament it as the latest event in a series of others. The 13 deaths in that event (Or 15, if you include the shooters who took their own lives) may be viewed as thankfully lower than Virginia Tech, Newtown or Norway.

How are the believers in an all-powerful and all-loving God supposed to view these events?

Are they part of God’s mysterious plan?

That would leave us in the place where we must bury our questions and our feelings of deep sadness - for to do otherwise would be to doubt God. I reject that stance completely.

I think God is just as saddened as we are by these events. I mentioned the pain I would feel if my daughter was killed.

Well, each person is a son or a daughter to God. Their loss is great to him. And also painful is the fact that one of his children committed the terrible act.

Jesus, after all, wept at the grave of his dear friend Lazarus - and he knew that he was about to resurrect Lazarus!

Jesus understands the pain of personal loss. The idea of a need to be stoic - that is, essentially emotionless - in the face of such event is foreign to the Jesus I see in the scriptures.

In fact, Jesus specifically addressed two events of mass violence and tragedy that were on the mind of people who were listening to his message.

In Luke 13, Jesus is informed that Pilate (the same one who would eventually sentence Jesus to death) had just executed some people as they were offering sacrifices at God’s temple.

You can be sure that this news hit the ears of those in Israel as hard as the news of Newtown hit mine and yours.

In response, Jesus reminds his followers of another recent tragedy, where a building fell on and killed 18 people.

And Jesus tells them this: That these people were no better or worse than anybody else.

They didn’t die because they were bad or evil. They died because Pilate was cruel. Or they died because a building was poorly constructed.

Jesus doesn’t go into a long explanation about mankind having free-will, and therefore at fault. He doesn’t  start talking about how God works in mysterious ways, or that it was ‘just these people’s time’.

He says “Unless you turn to God, you, too will die.” (Luke 13:1-5 The Message)

In other words, the only thing you can control is whether or not you are ready to stand before God.

Jesus says as plain as day that we will have to deal with tragedy and pain in this world. (John 16:33) There is no way around it. Following Jesus isn’t insurance against pain.

But here is what he guarantees: That he’ll never leave us. He’ll never forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) He also guarantees that he’ll make something beautiful out of the mess (Romans 8:28)

C.S. Lewis said that God “whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.”

You don’t need to believe that God causes pain, but I encourage you to believe him when he says that his kindgom is overtaking us, and that he brings with himself the healing and peace that we all long for.

I don’t know when or where the next act of mass violence will occur in our nation. And I can’t tell you that it’s part of God’s plan.

But I can tell you that it won’t derail God’s plan.

And I can tell you that he invites all of us to be a part of his plan to restore this world.

In the second to last chapter of the Bible, God says he is making all things new.

We’re not there yet, but I assure you that God fulfills his promises.