Colorado burning (again)

This is an updated version of a post I wrote last year, as the Waldo Canyon fire burned in Colorado Springs. This week another fire raged, this time in Black Forest, on the northeast corner of the city.

Around 380 homes have been destroyed so far. At least one friend had to evacuate. Another lives in the middle of the burn zone. No word yet on his house, but several homes near his were destroyed. 

Events like this are a sobering reminder of what to say — and what not to say — when those around us suffer loss. 

damaged homes


Yesterday, photos of smoke, ash, and devastation began to fill my Facebook feed.

I have a lot of friends in Colorado Springs.

I heard from one who spent the evening watching ash descend on his house and praying it wouldn’t light. Another spent the morning watering her roof.

Then came the updates from those forced to evacuate — who don’t yet know whether their homes are still there.

As Christians, all we can say is Kyrie eleison. Lord, have mercy.

But sadly, not everyone stops there when disaster strikes.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, John Hagee declared it to be God’s judgment on gays and lesbians.

When an earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Pat Robertson blamed more than 300,000 deaths on a pact supposedly made between their ancestors and the devil centuries ago.

When a tornado threatened Minneapolis as the left-leaning ELCA gathered for its convention in 2009, John Piper speculated that the near-miss was God’s “gentle but firm warning” to repent.

But this time, it’s Colorado Springs. The home of Focus on the Family, Compassion International, The Navigators, and a hundred other evangelical, mostly conservative ministries. This is the veritable Jerusalem of the Rockies, with not one but three Christian radio stations.

So who’s going to stand up and explain this disaster for us? Who’s going to claim the prophet’s mantle, the inside track into the mind of God? Who’s going to tell us why he allowed and/or inflicted this disaster on Colorado Springs — and who he’s angry at this time?

Since Colorado Springs is a bastion of conservative evangelicalism, should we interpret the fire as God’s judgment on the religious right?

Of course not.

You see, whether or not God is meticulously sovereign — whether he just allows bad things to happen or determines each and every one of them — it takes takes a colossal amount of hubris for anyone to point a finger at someone else and say, “God brought this disaster on YOU.”

God may have used calamity to judge people in the past, but you and I are utterly without authority to say which disasters (if any) are divine judgments today.


“But unless you repent, you will all perish.”

In 2009, a tornado hit Minneapolis, just as ELCA leaders gathered to debate (among other things) their position on homosexuality. Within hours, John Piper took to his blog and quoted Luke 13:1-5 as proof the cyclone was God’s judgment against the Lutheran denomination.

The text in question reads:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

PIper assumed the tornado was divine retribution, in keeping with his belief that every disaster, natural or manmade, represents the judgment of a perpetually angry God.

But take a closer look at Luke 13.

Jesus learned that a number of Galileans — his people — had been slaughtered in the temple, on the orders of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Galilee at the time was a tinderbox of resentment against Roman occupation. (See this post for more about the political climate of first-century Galilee.) It’s likely these Galileans were killed in retaliation for some challenge to Pilate’s authority. Whether they were instigators or just “collateral damage” is unclear.

Whatever the case, the Galileans had long desired to be rid of their Roman oppressors. All they needed was a messiah who would rise up and lead them to a blood-soaked victory.

But when Jesus heard about these martyrs for the cause, he didn’t mince words. He told his listeners, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

This was not a sweeping call to repentance, lest some disaster overtake you. It was a warning to Jesus’ listeners: “Abandon your plans for armed revolt. Unless you repent of this futile uprising, the entire nation will perish.”

Which is exactly what happened in A.D. 70, when the temple was razed and Jerusalem destroyed.

Again, it was not a natural disaster Jesus was talking about in Luke 13. It wasn’t even divine judgment. It was manmade and self-inflicted.

The Bible gives no support to those who interpret every act of human suffering as divine judgment. Just the opposite. There’s one story where three individuals, too smart for their own good, are rebuked for doing what Piper, Hagee, and Robertson have done in our day.

When disaster strikes, we have but one response — whether the victims are our friends, strangers, or even our enemies. We are told simply to “mourn with those who mourn.”

So as Colorado burns, we put our hands over our mouths and say,

Kyrie eleison. 

A Palestinian Christian’s view of the occupation

This is part 2 of a series on rethinking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a Christian, inspired by the most recent assault on Gaza. Part 1 can be read here.  

When I was a kid, I had a t-shirt with a picture of Snoopy carrying an Israeli flag, trailed by Woodstock marching with an American flag. The caption below read, “America is right behind you.”

So yeah, I guess you could say I was pro-Israel. After all, how could you be an evangelical and not be a supporter of the Israeli state?

The dominant narrative of the American evangelical subculture says the Holy Land belongs to Israel alone. It’s an everlasting inheritance rooted in an irrevocable, unchanging covenant with God himself. (More on that in another post perhaps.)

The establishment of the Israeli state in 1948 is looked on not just as an important event in the life of the Jewish people, but as nothing less than the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, inaugurating the beginning of the end times.

Israel’s defense, then, is America’s sacred responsibility, our first and greatest foreign policy commitment. (That was something both candidates in the recent presidential campaign actually agreed on.) As such, no criticism of Israel will be brooked. Palestinians are, at best, squatters with no rightful claim to the land — and at worst, terrorists who would ignite a second Holocaust, given the chance.

Add to the mix our present-day worries about “radical Islam” and our tendency to paint all Arabs with the same brush, and it becomes far too easy for us to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in simple terms of good guys vs. bad guys. Christians and Jews together on one side, presumably, and Palestinian Islamists on the other.

That is, until cracks begin to appear in the façade we’ve created to help ourselves sleep at night.

Like the fact that many of those working hardest for peace among Jews and Palestinians are members of the Jewish community. Organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace belie the supposition, popular in evangelical circles, that Jews and Palestinians are destined to be forever at war.

Or the fact that not all Palestinians fit the radical-jihadist-with-a-bomb-strapped-to-his-chest caricature. Not by a long shot. Not only are most Palestinians nonviolent (whatever their religion); many happen to be Christian. My spiritual brothers and sisters, united by a common faith.

For some reason, in my church we never talked about Palestinian Christians. Oh, we discussed at length the persecution of Christians in other part of the world, but never the suffering of our fellow believers in Palestine. We were oblivious to their existence.

For me, that changed four years ago, during what until this month had been the last major assault on the Gaza Strip. One of my colleagues at the time was a Palestinian Christian who grew up in the West Bank and later moved to America.

One day, she told me about her experience in the West Bank.

She and her family had no freedom of movement, thanks to the 430-mile barrier the Israeli government began building in the mid-1990s. The barrier is rationalized as keeping would-be suicide bombers out of Israel. Yet it doesn’t just separate Israel from the West Bank; it cuts into the West Bank at several points, isolating Palestinian villages from each other.

For my colleague, this meant being cut off from her family in the next village over. Going to church meant risking arrest because there were just too many checkpoints. She wasn’t just deprived of her freedom of movement; she was deprived of her freedom to worship.

Freedom of movement is considered a fundamental human right, as is the freedom to worship. Both are enshrined in our Constitution. If these violations happened anywhere else, we would protest that freedom itself was under attack. We would call it persecution.

My colleague also described the experience of Palestinian children who have to walk past Israeli settlements on their way to and from school, subjected to taunts and physical violence from other children who’ve been taught by their parents to hate the Palestinians. Imagine if this were your daughter’s walk to school:

My colleague told me of Palestinian friends — particularly in East Jerusalem — whose homes were demolished by the Israeli government, usually on the pretext of not having the proper permits. (Never mind the homes and their occupants have been there for years.) In many cases, families have just minutes to gather what belongings they can carry before the bulldozers close in. They have no recourse, no due process.

Finally, my colleague revealed that she had no idea whether she’d ever get to see her family again. You see, if you’re Palestinian and you leave your homeland, the Israeli government (which controls who comes and goes in the West Bank) may not let you back in. Consider this example, reported in the Baltimore Sun a few years ago:

Abdelhakeem Itayem, a Palestinian with American citizenship, was counting on a simple overnight stay when he traveled from the West Bank to Jordan on a business trip. Six months later, he is still there, trapped in bureaucratic limbo.

Itayem, 41, said the long delay has kept him away from his wife, Lisa, and their seven children, who remain in the family’s home near Ramallah. It has also cost him his job as a manager for a Palestinian distributor of foreign consumer goods. “It’s breaking my heart,” he said.

Activists say scores of Palestinians who carry foreign passports, mostly American, have been denied entry this year after Israel moved to close a loophole that once allowed residents to enter repeatedly on renewable Israeli tourist visas.

The policy has created a quandary for the Palestinian Americans who remain: If they leave to get a new three-month stamp, they might not be allowed back. If they stay, their current Israeli visas will expire. Many say their past applications for formal residency in the Palestinian territories were rejected by Israel or never acted upon.

These and other tactics are part of a concerted effort to make life as unbearable as possible for the Palestinians. Then, when they leave, the Israeli government locks the door behind them.

Similar measures have been taken against people in Gaza, arguably the world’s largest refugee camp. Israel controls everything that goes in and out of that tiny, arid strip of land; Gaza’s fishermen can’t even fish their own waters on the Mediterranean coast without fear of being shelled by Israeli warships. In 2006, one advisor to the Israeli prime minister revealed that his country was deliberately trying to impoverish the people of Gaza. “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet,” he said, “but not to make them die of hunger.”

Imagine if a vastly superior military power had brought you and your community to the brink of starvation in order to teach you a lesson. How would you feel? How would you react? Would you be tempted to fight back?
And even if you believe modern-day Israel is one and the same with the Israel of the Bible …

Even if you believe the biblical covenant that promised the land to ancient Israel is somehow still in force today…

Even if you think Palestinians are outsiders with no rightful claim to the land (despite the fact they’ve been living there for hundreds of years)…

If that’s how you rationalize what’s going on in Palestine today, then surely you accept that Israel is duty-bound to follow the whole covenant, not just the part that supposedly gives them the land?

So what about Leviticus 19?

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

What about Deuteronomy 10?

You are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

Ancient Israel knew what it felt like to be a refugee population at the mercy of a far more powerful nation. They were told by their God never to forget — and never to repeat — the hostility which they experienced at the hands of the Egyptians.

So can it be said the Israeli government truly loves the Palestinians in their midst? Can they claim to have treated the Palestinians as they treat their own? Or have they already forgotten what it feels like to be a refugee?

Because if they have forgotten, then they have broken the very covenant that promised the land to their ancestors.

Doing the right thing when it counts

Eight years ago, John Kerry ran for president against then-incumbent George W. Bush. The campaign was seen by many as a referendum on President Bush’s foreign policy, particularly the misguided war in Iraq.

There was just one problem, and it wound up costing Kerry the election.

Kerry, like most Senate Democrats, voted in 2002 to authorize the invasion of Iraq. At the time, President Bush still enjoyed post-9/11 meteoric approval ratings. Democrats were keen not to be labeled “weak” on foreign policy or “soft” on terror. So when the call to arms was sounded, the opposition marched obligingly in step.

By 2004, the public was souring on the ongoing occupation of Iraq, which put candidate Kerry in the awkward position of opposing a war he had once voted to authorize. To many, Kerry’s shifting position on Iraq looked more like political posturing than a principled stand. And for good reason.

Kerry’s ill-fated presidential campaign offers a cautionary tale on to those who would wait to do the right thing until it becomes the socially acceptable thing to do.

It seems the Church of England will have to learn this lesson the hard way. Having narrowly failed to approve women serving as bishops, the CofE found itself the subject of scorn, derision, and intense pressure from all corners. Last week even saw Britain’s conservative prime minister telling the Church to “get with the programme.”

So now, having failed to do the right thing for the right reason, the CofE faces the unenviable prospect of being pressured to do the right thing for all the wrong reasons.

The problem, summarized by N.T. Wright, is that progress isn’t always progress. The Church of England shouldn’t assent to women bishops because David Cameron tells it to or because it’s the sort of thing that social progress demands. It shouldn’t do so in order to salvage its last vestiges of cultural relevance.

The Church should embrace women bishops because Jesus accepted women as fully participating members of his kingdom — long before it was popular or politically correct to do so. Initially, the Church led on matters of equality; it’s only in recent history that it’s been leapfrogged by much of the rest of the world.

In the New Testament, women were the first to announce the resurrection of Jesus — the first to proclaim central message of the kingdom of God. Women were numbered among the apostles and deacons of the early church. To quote N.T. Wright:

All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual, and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an “apostle” called Junia (Romans 16:7). He entrusted that letter to a “deacon” called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman.

The kingdom of God carries a promise that all the old barriers which divide us will be swept away by the new creation — a new kingdom where all are welcome.

Sometimes it’s taken a while for the Church to give full expression to this ideal. (It took 1,800 years for the abolition of slavery to come about, for example.) Sometimes we’ve lost our way. When that happens, it’s the resurrection we should turn to, so we can be pointed in the right direction again.

Today, the main reason the Church of England should reconsider women bishops isn’t to appease an offended culture but so it may return to the values which Jesus instilled in his Church from the beginning — values which likely helped pave the way for the broader cultural embrace of gender equality.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the myth of “moral symmetry”

This is part 1 of a series on rethinking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a Christian, inspired by the most recent assault on Gaza. Part 2 can be read here.  

Here’s a little perspective on the conflict in Gaza…


Update (03/21/13): An earlier version of this infographic ended with an iconic photo of BBC journalist Jihad Mishrawi carrying the wrapped body of his son, Omar, who was thought at the time to have been killed in an Israeli air strike. A report was publicized last week suggesting that Omar may have been killed by a Hamas rocket instead. So as not to distract from the larger point being made, I’ve removed the photo. What remains unchanged, in my opinion, is: (1) firing rockets at someone is never, ever justified, and (2) Israel has utilized disproportionate force to subjugate the Palestinians. Until both sides renounce violence as a misguided path to security, the death toll is sure to rise.

Rejecting Junia

Over the past several years, my faith journey has taken me away from nondenominational, non-institutional expressions of the church. Since then, I’ve found myself belonging to the mother of all Christian institutions (well, apart from the Catholic Church): the Anglican Communion.

This journey might not have taken place if it weren’t for a wonderful little Church of England parish my wife and I belonged to when we were living in the UK in 2008. Being part of an active worshipping community that had been gathering in the same place since the 1300s has a way of putting my own faith journey into perspective. As I entered the sanctuary every Sunday, walking past tombstones of those who’d been dead for centuries, I was reminded: Christianity doesn’t begin or end with me. I am a tiny part of something so much bigger.

And so I’ve come to appreciate what the institutional church, for all its flaws, has to offer: a vital connection to our past. I think there is something significant, maybe even a bit mystical, in the idea of apostolic succession — in the fact that the bishop who presided over my confirmation is part of an unbroken chain going all the way back to the very first apostles.

Jesus gave those first apostles the authority to “bind and loose” — that is, to permit and forbid on behalf of the church — and I believe that authority is passed down through the church’s apostles, bishops, or leaders today.

Yet a deep connection to the past can either give you the courage to move forward, or it can hold you back. Which is why today, I have no energy to defend the institutional church. Not when my own mother church* tells half the human race, in effect, Your services aren’t required. The Church of England’s vote against women bishops was more than another nail in the coffin of its own irrelevance. It was a slap in the face to women who are tired of fighting for a seat at the table.

It was, I believe, a rejection of the very apostolic authority the institutional church depends on for legitimacy. How can you stand on the shoulders of the apostles when you implicitly reject one of their number? After all, Junia was a woman and an apostle (Romans 16:7). By rejecting women bishops, you are rejecting Junia, a vital part of our apostolic foundation.

This is about more than cultural relevance. It’s about more than making women feel welcome in the church (though that in itself is a worthy enough endeavor). By denying women their rightful place at the table — a place they had in the very beginning — we the institutional church are cutting our legs out from under us. We’re not just hurting women. We’re hurting all of us.

Apparently, God thought women were worth including among the apostles. Today, a minority in the Church of England seems to think otherwise. Sadly, that was enough to carry the day.


*I’m grateful to be able to say that my own Anglican tribe, the Episcopal Church, welcomes women to serve at every level, even as presiding bishop.

Turning the other cheek (when it counts)

Being the recovering political junkie (and nerd) that I am, I started watching presidential debates when I was a kid. I’ve witnessed the cheap shots (Michael Dukakis being asked to imagine his wife’s brutal murder), the zingers (“you’re no Jack Kennedy”), and the downright bizarre (Al Gore’s lockbox, anyone?). But I’ve never seen a debate as tense, as openly hostile, as the one between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney last night.

It left me (and probably a lot of other people) cold.
There are some debates where you can almost imagine the two candidates grabbing a beer together afterward. This was not one of them. It was more like a bar fight — Obama and Romney circling each other like a couple of high school jocks with something to prove, not even trying to conceal their dislike for each other.

Maybe it’s just as well politicians have stopped pretending to like one another. Maybe they’ve realized there’s little point acting all chummy when you’re face-to-face, all the while spending billions to shred your opponent on the airwaves.

But for those of us who are Christians, perhaps the real question is this: since when did Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek” come with a list of exceptions?

Both President Obama and Governor Romney claim to be men of faith who revere the teachings of Jesus, as do millions of Christians who’ve staked out a position in this election, whether on the left or the right.

So why do we act as if these teachings no longer apply the minute we enter the political arena? What makes us think we can temporarily set aside these commands about loving your enemy and not repaying insults?
I don’t just mean the candidates themselves. I mean all of us who were calling for blood during last night’s debate. I mean all of us who’ve staked our hopes on the outcome of this election and were quietly (or not so quietly) urging our candidate to strike a fatal blow, to be merciless and unrelenting on the other guy.

Our complicity in the polarization of our society betrays our lack of faith. It shows just how little we believe in the teachings of Jesus.

“Turn the other cheek” is all well and good for Sunday School, but it doesn’t really work in the real world — on the campaign trail, in the boardroom, or on the battlefield.

But Jesus offers no comfort to those who would compartmentalize his teachings. In fact, the original context of “turn the other cheek” was nothing if not political. It was meant precisely for the campaign trail and the battlefield. Jesus was telling his Jewish compatriots how to respond to the everyday injustice of Roman occupation. If his words don’t apply in the political arena, then they don’t apply anywhere.

Maybe it’s because we’ve got so much hope — too much, perhaps — riding on the outcome of this election that it’s just too difficult for us to turn the other cheek, to love those on the other side of the debate. But isn’t true commitment measured by doing what’s asked of us precisely when it’s most difficult to do?

After all, “love your enemies” is not something we can do on the inside only. It has to be demonstrated by our words and actions toward the other person. Otherwise it isn’t real.

We cannot be salt and light if we continue to compartmentalize the teachings of Jesus. Because Jesus didn’t compartmentalize. He called on his followers to embody a new, all-encompassing reality — social, political, AND spiritual — right here and now. To do so, we have to stop clinging to the values and tactics of the old system.

If we really want to change the world, we must learn to turn the other cheek. Even on the campaign trail.


Rejecting political idolatry (article in Faith & Leadership)

Here’s an article I wrote about Election Day Communion for Duke University’s online magazine Faith and Leadership…

Every election year, we’re reminded that political idolatry — the temptation to put our hope in a particular party, platform or candidate — is all too alive and well.

First-century followers of Christ encountered political idolatry in their day — namely, the assertion “Caesar is Lord.” It was an assertion that Christians rejected wholeheartedly. Salvation was found not in Caesar but in Christ. Jesus, not the emperor, was the true Son of God, the light of the world.

Given Rome’s imperial dogma, you can imagine how subversive (and dangerous) it was to say, “Jesus is Lord.”

read more

On the vanity of partisan politics

Today a friend shared this video on Facebook, in which a reporter from ReasonTV, a libertarian video channel, interviews delegates at the Democratic National Convention to find out just how pro-choice they really are.

For many, the video highlights a glaring inconsistency in the Democratic platform. Apparently, “it’s my body, my choice” applies when you’re terminating a pregnancy, but not when it comes to drinking excessive quantities of soda.

My guess is the libertarian producers of this video were more concerned with the regulation of sugary drinks and light bulbs than abortion. Though in fairness, many libertarians are pro-life, because in their view, one individual’s liberty ends where someone else’s personhood begins. Either way, the inconsistency highlighted by this video is real. And troubling.

But imagine if someone had turned the cameras on the other party during their convention and asked, “Just how pro-life are Republicans?” On the one hand, the Republican platform calls for a constitutional amendment to protect unborn children.

But how pro-life is it to oppose the EPA’s efforts to limit mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants — a rule designed to protect children born and unborn from the well-documented health effects of such pollutants?

How pro-life is it to lead the country into not one but two wars of questionable necessity (assuming you believe there’s ever such a thing as “justifiable necessity” when it comes to war)?

How pro-life is it to play politics with climate change when the risks of inaction far outweigh the risks of overreaction in the unlikely event the scientists are wrong? Many experts in the humanitarian sector (in which I used to work) will tell you that climate change is the single greatest threat to all the progress that’s been made combating poverty, hunger, and disease over the last few decades.

Now it’s not as if one party is more virtuous than the other. The truth is, hypocrisy runs deep on both sides of the political divide. Those of us who are Christians would do well to remember this as we engage in (or disengage from) the political process this year.
Politics is not just the art of governing; it’s also the pursuit of power. And in our increasingly polarized society, it seems to be more about the latter than the former. Hence our never-ending election cycle.

That’s why Christians should be wary of getting too cozy with either party. Because we are called to serve, not to become someone else’s pawn in their accumulation of power. We are called to speak truth to power but never to seek it for ourselves. Ever notice how the Old Testament prophets routinely confronted the kings of Israel without seeking their favor or patronage?

It’s not that there’s no place for Christian political engagement. I believe there is. But I also believe our role is to be a prophetic voice, and you can’t do that when you’re a mouthpiece for one party or the other.

So when Democrats talk about protecting the vulnerable in our midst, we can applaud while also pointing out the blind spot in their thinking when it comes to abortion. And when Republicans talk about the sanctity of life, we can say amen while also reminding them that life is just as sacred outside the womb as in it.

This may not be a strategy for electoral success, but as Christians, aren’t we called to believe in something bigger?

Slaying the political idol

So last week I wrote about this thing called Election Day Communion, the brainchild of two Mennonite pastors — one in Indiana, the other in Virginia. Next thing I know, I’m helping out in my spare time.

Two Mennonites and an Episcopalian. We should start a moving company.

It’s too soon to tell whether this will end up being just a handful of churches or something bigger. There are hopeful signs, though, like this post from Kurt Willems. And this shout-out from Greg Boyd:

There are rumors of at least one denomination coming on board.

But the lure of partisan politics is strong. It will not be tamed easily. Idols don’t go down without a fight, especially in an election year.

The truth is, too many of us have been swept away by the 24-hour news cycle, the relentless pursuit of power, the increasing polarization of our society.

These are not just the sins of the Religious Right. They’re the sins of all of us who’ve ever put our faith in a political messiah to bring about the kind of kingdom we think our country needs.

Remember when “hope” was more than a political slogan?

It’s not that our world doesn’t desperately need hope. It’s that hope never comes in the form of a ballot, a Super PAC, or a gun. It doesn’t come when we amass enough votes to impose our will on those living on the other side of the “us” vs. “them” divide.

It comes when we start doing what Jesus told us to do. When we take up a cross. Serve. Love. Sacrifice. Turn the other cheek instead of fighting back.

It comes when we subvert injustice and proclaim freedom to the broken and the beaten down.

It comes when we refuse to play by the world’s rules anymore, when we opt out of the world’s zero-sum power game. It comes when we stop trying to build an empire for ourselves.

So what if, when Barack Obama offers us “change we can believe in,” we remember the real source of lasting change? Body and blood, bread and wine. The gifts of God for the people of God.

What if, when Mitt Romney tells us to “believe in America,” we remember that we are called to believe in something bigger?

What if we start living like the resurrection really does change everything?


Election Day Communion

One more reason to love the Anabaptist tradition (and there are many): a group of Mennonite pastors are organizing a campaign for Christians from all political and denominational backgrounds to come together on Election Day, November 6, to celebrate communion.

The aim is to remind ourselves “that real power in this world — the power to save, to transform, to change – ultimately rests not in political parties or presidents or protests but in the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.”

It’s a reminder that there is only one “Christian nation,” that it’s the church, and that it demolishes all the old ethnic, national, and political boundaries that divide us from one another.

It’s a reminder that freedom isn’t something any government or political ideology can secure for us, that true freedom “comes with a cost and it looks like a cross.”

So a little over two months from now, whether you vote for Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, an alternative candidate, or no one at all, consider taking up this invitation to communion.