As I’ve written about before, living with an openness to new ideas is a bit unsettling. Especially for someone who preaches, writes, and produces content for a living. It means that sometimes I have to challenge things I’ve taught before but now see differently than I did at one time. While this process can be very uncomfortable, it is the only way to grow and is far too rare in Christian culture today. In order to lead by example, here’s an insight into an area of my own theology that I’m challenging and working through right now.
As a conservative kid from Arizona, I grew up around a gun culture (after all Tombstone is an afternoon drive away). While I certainly have never encouraged violence toward a person for any type of selfish gain, I hadn’t given a second thought to whether I’d use violence to protect others. This conversation usually starts with someone imagining how they’d respond to a home intruder set to harm one’s family, but it cannot rest there. Eventually you have to consider how we should respond when people anywhere want to harm other people, and then you get into issues such as a just war.
Here’s my problem. The more I dwell on the radical, history altering, expectation shattering image of Jesus on the cross, the more difficult it is for me to support violence in any of it’s different manifestations. I can feel your eyes rolling even as I write that. Wait, is Jeremy becoming a tree-hugging pacifist? Calm down, I’ve never hugged a tree before. But I have no idea where I’ll ultimately land on all of this. At this point, I’m committed to challenging my presuppositions, reading lots of arguments, discussing this in depth, and praying for God to lead me to a deeper truth, no matter how unsettling it makes me feel.
I recently finished a thought-provoking book called The Naked Anabaptist by Stuart Murray. I loved the depth of history and unique perspective the book provides. Some of the layout of the chapters seemed odd to me (like the history of the movement in the second to last chapter and the last chapter focused on issues with Anabaptism). It is easy to get confused with this topic. One immediately jumps to ideas of Amish or Mennonites or other unique experiences. Instead of thinking of Anabaptism as a denomination in and of itself, think of it as a tradition of Christianity. In that light there are some intriguing notes to study. Murray explains it this way:
In many nations, then, not only in Britain and Ireland, there are growing numbers of neo-Anabaptists and hyphenated Anabaptists. Neo-Anabaptists identify with the Anabaptist tradition and are happy to be known as Anabaptists, but have no historic or cultural links with any Anabaptist-related denomination. Hyphenated Anabaptists find inspiration and resources in the Anabaptist tradition, but do not identify themselves as Anabaptists. They might be Baptist-Anabaptists, Methodist-Anabaptists, Anglican-Anabaptists, Pentecostal-Anabaptists, or various other combinations.
I think the biggest surprise of the book to me was how much I already agreed with without realizing it. It seemed that much of it focused, both historically and currently, on nonviolence, believer’s baptism, and community.
So instead of loving what you think is peace, love others and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmakers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed—but hate these things in yourself, not in another.
(H/T Experimental Theology)
I don’t normally put the author’s name in the subject line of a post about a book, but since this book shares its title with a certain recent Rihanna album (with very colorful artwork), I thought it best to be clear.
This post is about an interesting read from an Englishman named Francis Spufford. The book is called Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense. While much of his language proved difficult to navigate at times, I enjoyed his perspective. As he explains the uniqueness of Christianity in England, it almost feels as if he’s writing to us from the future. We can only speculate about what parallels we’ll see in the American version of Christianity with what has happened in places around Europe.
Spufford’s writing leads to some tough sections to get through stylistically, but I loved his transparency and vulnerability in the way he talked about faith. This means that there is a surprising amount of profanity in a Christian book about God, much like Michael Gungor’s book The Crowd, the Critic, and the Muse. While this will cause issues for some readers, it also allows for a depth of honesty that is refreshing. Spufford explains it this way: