Posts Tagged ‘Terrorism’


Friday, July 15th, 2016

Our prayers go out to those families suffering following the Bastille Day attack in Nice France.

Overwhelming heartache yet again.

Evil does exist.  There is a darkness in the world.  There are dark places of our nature that strive towards cruelty.

And there is the opposite as well.  There is love and compassion.  There is a light in the world.  There are the better angels of our nature that strive towards kindness.  It is the message Christ lived.

Days like today are for simple messages….

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a great battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle ins between wolves inside us all.  One is evil – it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, violence and lies.

The other is good – it is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

The grandson thought about it for a minute then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

To be there differently

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Much of Christianity, in ways hard to grasp, asks us to allow in the suffering of others. To permit their suffering access into the tidy arrangements of our lives and in so doing allowing us “to be there differently.”

The recent bombing in Lahore bring that great unsettling truth to mind. A suicide bomber attacking a family carnival. Over 70 killed, Over 200 injured. Such events should matter.

The attack itself is hard to imagine.  Hard to imagine someone so tragically warped by a misguided view of God they would purposefully kill innocent families in the name of faith. Hard to imagine the shattering loss those families must feel.  Hard to imagine those traumatized children who experienced that bombing and survived.  What cracked imprint will that event leave in shaping their future lives?

So what can we do?  Maybe for now, we can simply let that suffering into our hearts.  Allow it purchase.  Not to immobilize us with fear or worry. But to humbly say yes to God – a brokenhearted God –  in new ways.  Ways born of suffering.

“To say yes … is not withdrawal from the struggles of the world.  But it is to be there differently.” (Walter Breuggemann)




The Aftermath of the Bombings in Beruit and Paris Last Week

Monday, November 16th, 2015

We worked hard to capture some sort of message, for Sunday, moving forward after the bombings in Beirut and Paris last week.  As a pastor … challenging to offer words given the deep strains of grief and fear so many of us share after events like these.

The final point, one worthy of consideration … we must embrace a theology of vulnerability and see humanity.

That sounds odd but I think that is Christ’s message in times of such fear.  Our vulnerability in some miraculous way pulls us down into a shared humanity. I think of how easy it was to share stories with strangers on 9/11, how easy to hug friends after Newtown.  The list goes on.  And with each … our vulnerabiliy opens up to our humanity.  The two intertwine.  A miracle.

The opposites works as well.  As we faultingly strive to create lives that are invulnerable, totally secure, impervious to change and challenge, we pull ourselves further from our own humanity and from the humanity we share with others. Such is one of the inborn fault lines within religious fundamentalism/ extremism.  Fundamentalism thrives in certainty, inflexibility, and a supposed invulnerability to question or challenge that makes it all the more dangerous because with those go humanity.

Fear at some point becomes a choice.  And so does love.  So does compassion. Even when our hearts are broken.



When Faith Becomes A Weapon: Terrorism in Paris

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

Faith and religion, at there best, represent incredible forces towards healing, mercy, kindness … the better angels of our nature.  And at times faith and religion represent the exact opposite as they did in Paris yesterday with the killing of 12 individuals who worked for the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, a killing carried out by Islamic terrorists.

Religiously fueled terrorism of this sort is especially depraved.  It grows out of a mindset anchored in a view of God as wrathful, angry, vindictive … clothing God then in our depravities.  The frightening nature of these attacks however may stem mostly from the fact that they can be perpetrated guilt free.  A crazy, transparently false line of reasoning may go, “If God calls for, sanctions and blesses such an attack, who am I to feel guilty carrying it out?”

What then is the answer?  What do we do when faith becomes a weapon?

For some, this attack yet again reinforces the dangers of religion as a whole, a thought which gives rise to much of the militant atheism in Western culture.  And that is understandable in a sense if all one knows of religion are these attacks.

Important to note however that some of the worse of modern day demagogues clearly rejected religion.  Hitler, Stalin and Mao …. all saw religion as weak.   All worked to eliminate it from their nations.  Each killed millions. Hitler repeatedly noted that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on science, which in the long run could not “co-exist with religion.”  While he did reference Christianity, no doubt playing to political concerns, it is hard to imagine he held any sincere Christian beliefs given his virulent anti-semitism.

So what then is the answer?

To do what Christians are called to do.

To stand for peace.  To “bind the wounds” of the broken.   And importantly, to pray.  And that prayer is for the healing of those hurt. For the grieving families of those who have lost loved ones.  For the trauma of a nation.  And that prayer is even for the terrorists themselves, as hard and as misaligned as that may appear.

Three prayers in Christianity – The Lord’s Prayer/ The Our Father – the Oneness prayer in John – and Christ’s Prayer of Forgiveness of the Cross.  All call on us to pray for healing.

  • “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
  • “… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.”
  • “Father forgive them for know not what they do.”

That does not erase the need for accountability.  These attacks must be confronted and denounced, facing the darkness in the human heart, wherever it may reside.

And the spirit of that confrontation must return us yet again to the better angels of our nature.



Prayers for Pakistan

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

We awoke this morning to devastating news of Taliban militants attacking school children at the Army Public School and Degree College in the violence-plagued city of Peshawar.  Casualty figures this morning are around 125 dead, mostly children age 12-16.

These events are beyond enraging.  Beyond comprehending.  And they are the world in which we live.  A world at times incredibly blessed and at times  breathtakenly broken as we witness senseless acts of horrific violence inflicted on the defenseless.

So we pray. And we cry.  And maybe something in us stirs to do.

This story is not outside the Christmas narrative.  2,000 years ago, feeling threatened by the birth of the new king in the form of infant Jesus, King Herod, to eliminate potential threats to his despotic reign, ordered the slaughter of  Jewish infants under his jurisdiction.  Titled “The Slaughter of Innocents” it is a little known tragedy tucked away in the Christmas story.  And God’s heart broke as well, “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.”

Events like the the unfolding tragedy in Pakistan are one of the painful reminders that the work we do, the world we advocate for, is not a small thing or a little thing or a conveniently happy little church thing.  It is no less than revolutionary in a still and quiet and non-violent way.  Joined by countless millions from many denominations.  An authentic alternative.  Beginning in our own broken hearts and reaching out into a broken world.

So we pray for Pakistan and we pray for the world.

Sydney, Souderton, and Damaging the Sky

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Such sad news today.  A terrorist attack claims 3 lives in Australia.  A still unresolved killing spree in Montgomery Country claims 5 lives.

So little to write that in any way changes the devastating impact of violence on our culture, an impact rippling out far beyond numbers.   In a recent interview, a Yemeni peace activist spoke of the impact of drone strikes on their culture.  His words chilling … drone strikes “damage our relationship with the sky.” Violence does much the same.  Damages relationship.  One to another.  Culture to culture. Damaging our relationship with the Sky.

The temptation – either a massive over-reaction to quell all threats or a shy desire to run away, someplace different, somewhere different. The call though – to stand with the victims. To mourn.  To speak of the better angels of our nature.   To live, somehow, differently.

Peace – never or as noteworthy as violence.  And peace is our soul, our heart, our hoped for destiny.


Thoughts On Boston

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

We join together in the deep sadness that events like Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon bring to mind. Events like that of April 15th are not anomalies, though we wish it so. From a suicide bombing in Mogadishu last week to the continued echoes of violent death in Iraq and Afghanistan, these events stain the human experience, reminding us again and again of the caustic power of darkness.

40 years ago, in 1963, the nation was rocked by another bombing, this one at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama. 4 beautiful young girls died. Darkness had its day.

I was struck recently reading an interview with a survivor of that bombing. A young girl then, a friend of the four, she by mere happenstance was not with her friends the moment the explosion tore through the room. Years later, rummaging through the nicknacks of a now decades long worth of living, she same across the church flier for the sermon that was to have been preached the day of the bombing.

The topic of the service … forgiveness. The scripture for the service … Christ’s words from the Cross …. “Father forgive them for don’t know what they are doing.”

That is the love, the incredibly difficult love we are to bring to these shattered moments. One can see that very love in action from the outpouring of support in Boston. Stories of people opening their homes to now stranded runners. Courage of first responders running towards the carnage. Runners running directly from the race to donate blood. The helpers. As Fred Rogers shared, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” And we do.

And that love is both what gives us hope in these moments as well as a call for what we are to become. It is not a simple call but a jarring one because it calls us so clearly out of our settled selves. It is why churches exist. Our job … to join in the suffering and to continue to seek a new world.

“Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.” Rev. Martin Luther King delivering the eulogy for three of the girls killed at the 15th Street Baptist Church.

The Attack on Malala Yousafzai

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Many of us are aware of the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani teenager who spoke out for the educational rights of girls in her country.  Shot in the head by Taliban terrorists, she is currently undergoing treatment in Europe.


Reading her story leaves one with a great sense of awe at her courage. This morning, I re-read the words from New Testament letter of James that seem to so neatly capture her life.  It is the God-given command to “humbly accept the word planted in you that can save you.”  (James 1:21)  This is someone who came into her voice – the word planted in her – at a very young age. Unfortunately that voice ran counter to other voices – voices of misogyny, fundamentalism, and cruelty.  Such is our life when we are stirred by God in such a way that we become “dangerous.” As one author noted, “After any “raising up” of our True Selves, we will no longer fit into many groups, even much of religious society, which is often obsessed with and yet indulgent of the False Self, because that is all it knows.”

And that is why we need to continually press the forces of darkness that would strangle that very word/ Word.  We can do that in big ways and small.  A simple story of the way forward …. A few nights ago my wife and I were at a local church taking a course on money management. I introduced myself to the pastor after the program, asking him if he ever rented his building. He said he felt strongly that the building was God’s, not his, so of course they were open to others using the facility. That is not the reaction many places of worship have – including many that I grew up in and have been part of.  In that small comment by the Pastor, – a reaching on his part – speaks to a bigger, more loving picture beyond the tribalism that often passes for “faith” today, a tribalism, in its extreme, that nearly killed Malala Yousafzai.


“Faith does not effect salvation unless love is present.”

Arcana Coelestia 369 Emanuel Swedenborg