The Ancient Monster Cycle in Crimea / Ukraine

“But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ”

These words have rung in my ears throughout this week as I continue to teach through Mark this season at Harvest. At first blush, I always presumed this to be the correct answer, but upon further study I understand; right answer, wrong Christ.

At the same time I’ve been watching the unrest develop in Ukraine / Crimea. Watching Putin wait for the close of Sochi only to unabashedly jump into the Crimean peninsula. No shame. Just had to get the Olympics out of the way. Now on to the everyday work of occupying neighboring nations. It’s audacious, and it’s immoral.

Didn’t the protesters see this coming???

Hasn’t it happened numerous times in the past already? (Stalin)

I am no proponent for the perpetuation of the status quo, but to set about to change something requires some foresight; did they not see this coming? Did they really expect to set up their own government? Did they not see Putin coming?

What would have been the lesser of two evils; settling for a corrupt status quo under a monster, or fomenting revolution only to pave the way for a greater monster?

It strikes me as naive.

The same way as the above statement by Peter in Mark 8:29 strikes me as unknowing, not understanding what’s really at stake, what’s on the table, what the issues are, what the risks are.

Maybe he wouldn’t have signed up, if he knew what that term “Christ” meant.

Because this Christ would not perpetuate the “monster cycle” of Caesars replacing conquerors replacing kings; Rome replacing Greece replacing Babylon; Iron replacing bronze replacing gold.

Homey don’t play that.

Jesus will not be that Christ.

This is the Christ He will be:

8:34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” 9 And Jesus was saying to them, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

It is so alt; so not-of-this-world, so un-Machiavellian, so right.

I close with the words of the “Eleventh Step Prayer” which embodies this ethos of Christ and not of the Monster:

Lord, grant that I may seek rather to understand,

than to be understood; to comfort than to be comforted

to love, than to be loved.

For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.

It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.

It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

One Denomination’s Journey Towards Racial Revolution

birmRev01

I’ve been privileged to serve on the Evangelical Covenant Church‘s “Ethnic Commission” along with the author of the above book, Ed Gilbreath. Allow me just to say in passing, I was drawn to this man’s quiet, thoughtful, intellectual demeanor and presence. One night talking over brews was not enough. But the company was good.

The connection between the ECC and the above book: moving beyond mere sympathizing to actively addressing systemic prejudice in our structures of power within society.

I penned within the margins of my copy: “So we can’t just be idealists; influence must exert itself in the structures of power we find ourselves in” and this, after just reading that what MLK did in Birmingham was much more than protest, it was to strategically cripple an entire city’s economy through combination of boycott, protest, and bad press.

Effective.

It is after all, “creative protest” that raises attention and brings about change.

Change.

Now that’s a word for us in the church. I grew up in a church where “change” = “time” and many criticized King for being impatient with it; pre-empting “time” with actions they perceived to be imprudent and hasty. But he was decisive when need came to it, and it landed him in a Birmingham jail, where he penned his opus addressing the church(es). Indeed; how many idealists and their ideals have been shot down on the steps of a church just because it wasn’t the right time for change?

Change; I’ve been witnessing an entire denomination try to embrace it; to dismiss the dismissal of “time” as a panacea to all problems, that the solution to our problems were concerted, unfaltering, solid steps taken today, bearing fruit tomorrow. That’s what we were discussing at the Ethnic Commission – those concerted steps. Unfaltering. Everyone was listening. Actions are being taken. I hope.

I have seen various ecclesial societies / orgs that have entirely succumbed to the ideal of time as solution to all problems. There is no repudiation of structures of power and influence; just hopes that one day things will get better.

I have seen in my own contexts, as a Korean-American, the tenacity of this ideal of “time” as solution to all problems. One day, in twenty years, this church will be yours. That will be the answer to all the ethnic / generational tensions. Sure.

Time.

Vs. Change.

I hope I can soon move towards the latter.

#GODonFILM: HARRY POTTER / DH2 is unmistakably religious, spiritual, and dare I even say “Christian”

This Sunday we’ll be covering the last movie of our GODonFILM series – and boy what a way to go out. Harry Potter: The Deathly Hallows 2 is a deeply satisfying conclusion to the decade-long affair, and it consummated a lot of the mystery and the waitings of the series. I, for one, walked out deeply impressed by the undeniable religious parallels in the conclusion, whether intentional or not. And truth be told, I saw it coming. That’s why I planned on preaching a sermon on this movie months back.

Now I am expecting some flak. Certain Christian communities have vehemently opposed the movie for promoting witchcraft in children; I’m not so convinced. While I agree it has taken a darker twist of late, I still find that this series speaks powerfully about good and evil, childhood and innocence, tremendous yet unbridled potential, and the portent (or tremendous hope) of this thing called destiny. These are religiously-infused ideas. Below are those who are of the same opine as me… and of course, read at your caution, for there are spoilers ahead…

*****************************************************

Is Harry Potter the Son of God?

When asked if she is a Christian, Rowling answers:

“Yes, I am, which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I’ve been asked if I believe in God, I’ve said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what’s coming in the books.”

Perhaps what she won’t tell is her denomination, but as it is known that she is a member of the Church of Scotland congregation… that information hardly seems illuminating to the Potter story. What else might she be refusing to divulge? When a person states that they are a Christian, they may mean one of several things – “I believe in God,” “I’m not an atheist or Jewish or Muslim or Hindu,” “I go to church sometimes,” “I go to church every week,” or “I believe that Jesus Christ was the incarnate God who died to redeem the world of their sins, and I have a personal relationship with him as my Lord and Savior.”

Do any of these statements have the potential to reveal the ultimate plot of the series? One of them must, as Rowling has said it is so. The only one of the above statements that approaches that potential is the last, which I will henceforth refer to as “Christ follower.” If Rowling is a Christ follower, what might that mean for Harry Potter? I believe that it means Harry is the Christ – of the wizarding world, that is – of J.K. Rowling’s created universe.

Can this be? Can a writer so censured by elements of the religious right, the writer of a book that portrays “good” witches and wizards; the writer of scenes so horrific as the senseless murder of a young boy; a villain who drinks unicorn blood and uses the bones of his father – whom he murdered – and the blood of his enemy to regain a physical body; a writer who uses symbolism from the tarot; a writer blamed for encouraging interest in witchcraft among teens; can this writer be a Christ follower, and actually be writing about Christ? I say yes.

*****************************************************

Harry Potter is a ‘Christ-like’ figure

(Theologian Stephen) Holmes said: “What happens gives the strong impression that Harry dies, discovers an afterlife in a place called King’s Cross, a striking reference from a Christian perspective, and comes back to life. The effect of his death has been to render impotent the power of evil. That is a Christian narrative which is almost impossible not to recognize.

*****************************************************
So would you agree?
Does this movie undeniably contain religious / Christian themes?
Did it speak to you?
And what about?