Archives For Leadership

Entitled ‘Gideon: God is my Lord’ [i] and preached in Berlin on February 26, 1933 ‘Bonhoeffer gave his first sermon’ since Hitler had been enshrined as chancellor 27 days prior.

Bonhoeffer’s decision to preach from the Old Testament was deliberate. In my opinion, he couldn’t have picked a more controversial figure, at the time, to make a political point.

Nazism, much the same as Communism, is an industry built on victimhood. These systems need a perpetual sense of victimization and sympathy in order to maintain membership and political momentum.

Bonhoeffer understood this. He chose Gideon in a deliberate attempt to preach against the imagery used in Nazi propaganda. In a way Bonhoeffer was reaching for Martin Luther’s epic treatise ‘Bondage of the Will’, to challenge Nazism’s ‘Triumph of the Will.’[ii]

For example: Larry Rasmussen suggests Bonhoeffer contrasted a ‘young [powerless] man chosen by God to save Israel from their enemies and turn them away from the worship of false gods’ with ‘Siegfried, the unconquered Germanic hero figure (of the Nibelung saga), idealised by the Nazis.’ [iii]

Expanding on this Isabel Best writes that Bonhoeffer sets out to ‘describe God’s power in contrast to human might, and finally from Martin Luther’s ‘A Might Fortress,’ to assure his hearers that even now the power, and the victory, are God’s alone.’[iv]

Gideon’s message is God’s grace to the Israelites and through the witness of Gideon this message is also about God’s graciousness towards humanity.

Bonheoffer expresses this clearly:

‘Gideon, we recognise your voice only too well; you sound just the same today as you did then…
Who would be willing to say that he or she has never heard this call and has never answered, as Gideon did: Lord, with what I am supposed to do such great things?
But Gideon is silenced; today as just in those days, he’s told to shut up. You’re asking, “With what?” Haven’t you realised what it means that this is God calling to you? Isn’t the call of God enough for you; if you listen properly, doesn’t it drown out all your “with what” questions?
“I will be with you” – that means you are not asked to do this with any other help. It is I who have called you; I will be with you; I shall be doing it too. Do you hear that, Gideon of yesterday and today?
God has called you, and that is enough. Do you hear that, individual doubting Christian, asking and doubting Christian? God has plans for you, and that does mean you.
Be ready to see to it. Never forget, even when your own powerlessness is grinding you down to the ground, that God has phenomenal, immeasurable, great plans for you. I will be with you.’ [v]

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is someone I’d heard of, yet never read with any serious interest until I started college. Since then I have made inroads into understanding his life, theology and influences.

Most Christians who’ve heard of Bonhoeffer might only know him as a an obscure martyr; others will be able to match the name in more detail with the context and images of an era when Europe was consumed by an industrial military complex, imposing new cultural laws, issuing forth blitzkrieg, euthanasia, and mass murder; inciting euphoria through the progeny of Darwinian Socialism, the false doctrines of Nazi dogma.

The latter was swarming the globe, enraging some, and finding recruits in others. All through the promise of a new dawn for humanity – one embossed in the appearance of allegiance with Christianity, when instead it was firmly based on the survival of the fittest, racial supremacy, socialism, scientism, and pagan religion.

Faced with the uncertainty of the times, Bonhoeffer reaches for a tangible example from the Biblical text.

Some of us may find the times confusing. Some are frustrated, and feel powerless in the face of new industries built up around victimhood. Those of us in this category, who have a decent amount of knowledge of history, also lament at how those new victimhood industries are fast reflecting the old.

The truth is that we are witnessing a new wave of organized chaos that has to some degree breached walls where restraint has remained the stalwart of freedom. We are dragged into a fight for freedom and the Western world. A battle that must now be fought, but one we didn’t desire, nor ask for.

In the midst of this, Bonhoeffer and Gideon’s story speaks, reminding us to carry this burden without compromise, to maintain Christ-like integrity in the heat of battle, with the knowledge that though the enemy calls our faith weakness, God calls it strength. He still reigns, and we must trust that He, in His mercy will provide the means to address the challenges of today, and the challenges of tomorrow.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” – (Philippians 4:6, ESV)


References:

[i] Best, I. (Ed.) 2012 The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonheoffer Fortress Press, p.67

[ii] Veith, G. E. 2010. The Spirituality of the Cross, Concordia Publishing House

[iii] Rasmussen, L in The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonheoffer, Isabel Best, (Ed.) 2012  Fortress Press, p.67

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid, pp.67-74 & Stroud, D.G. (Ed.) Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich  Wm.B Eerdmans Press, pp.51-61

An updated version of Gideon Speaks & Sounds Just The Same Today As He Did Then  from September 24, 2014.

First published on Caldron Pool, 5th November, 2019.

Photo by Pavel Nekoranec on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019.

Peter Tabichi, a 36 year old Franciscan Monk from Kenya, has just won the Global Teaching prize, funded by the Dubai-based Varkey Foundation. This year the award was hosted by Hugh Jackman, and carries with it a $1 million prize for excellence in teaching.

Tabichi was selected from ‘over 10,000 applicants from around 179 countries’ and was one of ten finalists, which included U.K. teacher, Andrew Moffat, famous for gaining the ire of parents in Birmingham, for teaching LGBT ideology to kids, in a primary school with a large Muslim demographic.

Largely focusing on the fact that Tabichi “gives away 80 percent of his monthly income to the poor”; like most media outlets, SBS in Australia, stopped short of giving any direct mention of his Christian faith, or giving any credit to Christianity.

Maybe SBS thought, why state the obvious? This would be a legitimate excuse, had they shown a pattern of consistency with their headlines and reporting in the past.

Why single out SBS? It’s not a good look for a broadcaster whose charter claims to be the epitome of anti-racism, anti-phobias, intolerance and inclusion.

Google, “SBS Christian wins”. Then compare that with a search of, “SBS LGBT Wins”, or “SBS Muslim Wins”, and a pattern emerges.

For example (et.al):

Muslim Wins Veil Case, 22nd Aug, 2013

Muslim Woman Wins Handshake Discrimination Case, 16th Aug, 2018

Australian Muslim Challenging Mainstream Narrative, 7th Feb 2019

SBS is congratulated for not misidentifying those who self-identify as LGBT or Muslim, but their concern appears to end, when it comes to Christians, the Church or Christian theology making achievements beyond that break the negative stereotypes.

In an age where not using the correct 62+ gender specific pronoun, can land someone in prison, or see someone arrested, it’s not unfair to suggest that SBS (and others) need to do some soul searching.

If misgendering or misidentifying someone is a modern sin, why avoid a direct reference to someone being a Christian?

There aren’t too many answers to choose from:

Either, a) SBS doesn’t want to upset their viewer base, which would suggest that there’s a ton of bigotry against Christians among SBS’s viewer base; b) SBS is betraying its own anti-Christian prejudice through discriminating against Christians. c) SBS doesn’t care.

On balance, there are a few milder exceptions to the rule, The Guardian, noted that Peter was from the Franciscan Religious Order, but The Guardian avoided any direct reference to his Christian faith. In addition, The ABC didn’t do much better.

Had Peter been of the approved variety and/or minority, there’s no doubt that his Christian faith would have been mentioned, if not highlighted.

Still, given the work Peter is doing, and the difficult context he’s doing that work in, he deserves every pat on the back he gets.

According to the Varky Foundation, Peter ‘teaches Science at Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, situated in a remote, semi-arid part of Kenya’s Rift Valley; and takes joy in seeing his learners grow in knowledge, skills and confidence.’

The same page also noted that his

‘Students come from a host of diverse cultures and religions learn in poorly equipped classrooms. 95% of pupils hail from poor families, almost a third are orphans or have only one parent, and many go without food at home. Drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, dropping out early from school, young marriages and suicide are common. Turning lives around in a school with only one computer, poor internet, and a student-teacher ratio of 58:1, is no easy task, not least when to reach the school, students must walk 7km along roads that become impassable in the rainy season.’

In January, Peter posted a short bio to his Facebook wall:

“I was raised up in a remote village, in a family of teachers. I lost my mother at the age of 11. We were brought up by our dad, who would look after everything, including preparing meals, educating us and most importantly instilling moral and Christian values in us. This tough experience taught me how to tackle various challenges of life. Growing up I saw first-hand the dedication that teachers bring to the community, and I have come to view the teacher’s role as enlightening others on how to tackle the challenges of life. I wanted to give teaching the honour it deserves. I joined the religious life because I wanted to be able to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to helping others. Your prayers and support have made everything possible. United, we can make this world a better place to live in. Thanks be to God and be blessed!”

Peter’s Christ-like example teaches us.

According to The ABC, ‘Peter plans to use the prize money to improve the school and feed the poor.’

Teachers Magazine also quoted Peter as saying,

“I’m immensely proud of my students. We lack facilities that many schools take for granted. As a teacher, I just want to have a positive impact, not only on my country but the whole of Africa. To be a great teacher, you have to be creative and use technology – you really have to promote those modern ways of teaching. You have to do more and talk less.”

Perhaps we would all benefit from Peter’s example, by acknowledging the source and motivation for it, instead of actively trying to suppress it.


References (not otherwise linked):

[i] Teachers Magazine also refused to mention Tabichi’s Christian faith.

Global Teacher Prize, Peter Tabichi

The Guardian, Teacher targeted over LGBT work shortlisted for $1m global award Sourced 25th March 2019

The Guardian, Kenyan science teacher Peter Tabichi wins $1m global award Sourced, 25th March 2019

Magdalene Wanja, Daily Nation (Kenya), 31st Dec. 2018 Award winning teacher raising hopes for poor students, sourced 25th March 2019

On Prayer

September 21, 2017 — 1 Comment

 

 

Christian. Ignite Hope.

Christian. Write.

Christian. Shine.

Christian. Unchain.

Christian. Gather.

Christian. Sever.

Christian. Bind.

Christian. Empower.

Christian. Sacrifice.

Christian. Love.

Christian. Say ”No”

Christian. Say “Yes”

Christian. Breathe.

Christian. Live.

Christian. Comment.

Christian. Eat.

Christian. Be Content.

Christian. Exercise.

Christian. Rest.

Christian. Obey.

Christian. Grow.

Christian. Go.

Christian. Listen.

Christian. Question.

Christian. Discern.

Christian. Fight.

Christian. Serve.

Christian. Repent.

Christian. Pray.

Christian. Learn.

Christian. Translate.

Christian. Interpret.

Christian. Apply.

Christian. See.

Christian. Encourage.

Christian. Challenge.

Christian. Walk.

Christian. Follow.

Christian. Seek.

Christi n . Be found.

Christian. Bless.

Christian. Hear.

Christian. Heal.

Christian. Forgive.

Christ     . Victorious.

….

 ‘The focal point of the Church’s action is the decisive activity of prayer…Because prayer is the decisive activity, prayer must take precedence…, and in no circumstances must it be suspended.’[1]

….

Christian.

Don’t forget.


References:

[1] Barth,K. 1938 Freedom Under the Word, C.D 1.2 Hendrickson Publishers 2010 p.695

{inspired by St.Patrick’s Breastplate}

With the start of the new school year we’ve been engineering the tone of homeschool for the rest of the year. So, my focus has been elsewhere. Which means, as far as blog content goes, posts are short and sweet.

Recently, I came across Franklin Roosevelt’s address to the nation on D-Day. One of THE defining military campaigns of the Second World War. (link to full text)

D-Day did more than symbolise a united stand against totalitarianism, it was a just act against blatant evil.

Hence the value of this document: it is both a humble prayer and political speech. Speculation is a cardinal sin for theologians, (or so I was taught), therefore I find myself holding back (with some difficulty) from thinking about how things would have gone if this act of contrition by the then American President had not happened. Looking at the paradigm of today’s political world, it is hard to imagine a prayer like this being deemed permissible.

For this reason: here is one the most powerful leaders in the free world submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There is no sentimentalism in it that I can see.This is not cultural Christianity parading the veneer of vaguely remembered Sunday School lessons in order to appeal to popular applause.

Underpinning this prayer is the understanding that the human judgement which rightly involved taking action against Nazi aggression and ideology, is itself under divine judgement.

Excluding the word ‘crusade’, Roosevelt is inadvertently preempting the same considerations made by American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, in 1945:

‘Out of the humility of prayer grows the charity for comrade and foe. The recognition that we all stand under a more ultimate bar of judgement mitigates the fury of our self-righteousness and partly dissolves the wickedness of our dishonest pretensions…
We will therefore not be swollen by pride because others think well of us. We will remember that they do not know the secret of our hearts. Neither will we take their disapproval too seriously. The sense of a more ultimate judgement arms us with the courage to defy the false judgements of the community’ [i]

Both are impressive. Each make a unique contribution to how Jesus Christ, just judgement, Christian love and responsibility are valuable to an evangelical ethic that supports life and reaches out in truth. With the understanding that sometimes “no” is given in order to say “yes”; an ethical framework that every responsible parent knows well and practices daily.

Official & original:

With music and a video montage:

Repost: Originally posted 5th Feb, 2015


Updated 24th May 2017:
.
I’m seeing quite a bit of condemnation being thrown about regarding people offering their prayers for those lost and caught up in the tragedy in Manchester.

I’m in agreement with putting an end to sentimentalism and empty gestures like lightshows and hashtags. Prayer, however, shouldn’t be linked in with this.

There’s nothing wrong with prayer. At the end of the day, it all depends on who they’re directed towards and the motivation behind it. True prayer is preparation for action, not a substitute for it. Prayer is an act of true freedom.

When genuine, it rallies people in shared solidarity against arrogance, towards humility. It is a revolt against complacency, appeasement, disorder and gestures filled only with empty sentiment.

Underpinning F.D.R’s D-Day prayer is the understanding that the human judgement which rightly involved taking action against Nazi aggression and ideology, is itself under divine judgement.

Ditch the sentimentalism and empty gestures, such as hashtags and lightshows. Don’t ditch prayer. For, ‘out of the humility of prayer..we will not be swollen by pride’ [ii] in right response to aggression.

‘Even the ”devils believe and tremble,” and I really believe they are more afraid of the Americans’ prayers than of their swords’
(Abigail Adams, 1775, Letters #55)

References:

[i] Niebuhr, R. 1945 Discerning The Signs of The Times, Niebuhr Press Kindle. Ed.

[ii] ibid, 1945

Image: Mine. I cropped it using the first and last page of the transcript in order to draw attention to it.

learning-in-progressAs the year draws to a close, I find myself thinking about the past twelve months of blogging. I’m fortunate to have had many new interactions with some great thinkers, and some edge dwelling doers, in the active academic field of theology and ministry.

This year, however, I’ve also met with a different, darker side of that field.

I’ve studied theology and have a double degree to show for it. I’ve Read the books. Ticked all the boxes, met the requirements; even made some lecturers smile. Yet, the more I read and learn; the more I seek to participate in the world of academia, the more I see that I don’t fit easily into some of its neatly stacked bubbles.

For starters, my current occupation involves me being a homeschool teacher to my five kids. I don’t say all the “right things” or do what others do to get noticed. I don’t pad agreement on top of agreement. I haven’t written a book yet, and I don’t write blog posts that give an overly appreciative applause to something I’ve read or someone I know.

I write to benefit the reader; share a discovery and hope to learn something in the process. I don’t write for the approval of any who might read my post. I don’t write for others to see how brilliant my academic ability is, and as a result offer me a position on their team. Neither do I seek to invite insult, just to paint myself as a victim.

My focus is on how the theology I read and study, critiques what we are being sold in by society through the media, Hollywood, the Universities and in politics.

I’m interested in working out how that theology translates into ministry; how the Gospel of Jesus Christ speaks to the world today in its obsession with escalating the hostility between Left and Right.

How that theology brings a critique against the conclusions of academics who, all too often, appear ready to shoot down conservatives, or those on the right with tired rhetoric, slogans and labels.

For sure, some of that criticism in the past has been justified, but when does that criticism, itself become a whip or chain used to oppress new victims?

For instance, I’ve come to learn that any post that seeks to draw theologians like Barth or Bonhoeffer ‘’outside of the box’’ won’t be met with encouragement, let alone a smile. I don’t read the works of Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer through the agreed upon traditional political filters; speak about them through a modern liberal theological lens.

For that I’ve been drawn into some heavy discussions with overly picky critics. I’ve even had someone go out of their way to politely warn me that if I want to move forward in my academic studies, I shouldn’t upset those in power on the Left, by rocking their boat [i].

But I’m not the kind of person who goes around stroking egos, my own or those of the people around me. I aim to proclaim the truth and do that in a loving way. Will it be a flawed communication sometimes? Yes. Do I do my best to take into consideration the blind sides and their inevitable limitations? Absolutely. With every fiber of my ability to do so.

The more I venture into this post-grad world, the more I see; the more I begin to understand that if you’re not politically aligned with what is considered to be the collectives authorised narrative, you’re more likely to just end up speaking to yourself.

The warning signs are clear, if you’re not ‘’on board enough,’’ you won’t succeed beyond what you may have already accomplished. For some, it doesn’t matter how well you write, draw, paint, sing, create or communicate. If you say something different that opposes the consensus of those in box, you’re viewed as a threat to the thrones of those in power within the box.

Even though I’ve worked hard all my life, am a certified four year college graduate; parchment-on-the-wall qualified theologian. The past twelve months have shown me that in the field of theology, I’m an insider forced to live on the outside.

And that’s okay. Here I stand. Introspectively speaking, I’m freed from having to perform to the same oppressive modern liberal tune I suspect many others feel they have to dance to.

I have questions about the appearances, sums and conclusions, so widely assumed watertight, honest and reliable. I’m not looking to rise to the top of the echo chamber. Not looking to outdo, or compete for a position in it. I’m seeking to make an honest contribution. Share what I’ve found and work on refining that as God’s Grace allows.

The past twelve months have opened my eyes to the fact that if I’m relegated to the sidelines because of this, than perhaps the problem has less to do with me, and more to do with those who pushing me, and others like me, there.


Notes:

[i] Yes this did happen. No I’m not prepared to reveal who.

DB 1Seventy-two years on, Bonhoeffer’s words speak with a sharp relevance:

I hear men in angry mood. Innumerable voices in wild confusion, a dumb choir assaults the ear of God.
“Hunted by men and maligned, defenceless and guilty to their mind, by intolerable burdens abused, yet we declare them the accused.
We accuse those who drove us to the evil deed, who allowed us to share their guilty seed, who made us witnesses of the just abused, only to despise those they had used.
Our eyes must see violence, entangling us in their guilty offence; then as they silence our voice, like dumb dogs we have no choice.
We learned to call lies just, uniting ourselves with the unjust. When violence was done to the weak, our cold eyes did not speak.
And what in sorrow our hearts had broken, remained hidden and unspoken. We quenched our burning ire and stamped out the inner fire.
Sacred bonds by which we once were bound are now torn and fallen to the ground, friendship and truth betrayed, tears and remorse in ridicule displayed.
We sons from upright men descended, who once rights and truth defended, have now become despisers of God and man, amidst the mocking laughter of hell’s plan
(From Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ‘Nächtliche Stimmen; Voices In The Night)

Bonhoeffer’s poem is a lament. It’s complex and partly sporadic, even though it holds to a basic theme and structure.

Edwin Robertson suggests that Dietrich, who was in prison at the time, was anxious. He had found out that the ‘Valkyrie Plot’ {20th July, 1944} had failed. Consequently he was concerned that the contents of the poem might ‘end up in the wrong hands,’[i] endangering his friends and family.

What is clear from Bonhoeffer’s words in ‘Nächtliche Stimmen’ is that he lamented the conforming silence of the German majority and lamented the necessity of his role in the July plot. There is also a sense of anger at being forced into violence because of an unrelenting assault from those who insist on being violent.

Being an early and loud opponent of mass hysteria, Nazism and a leader of dissent in the Church over the Aryan clause in particular, he was more than aware that the window of opportunity for Christians and Non-Christians to act without force had long since passed.The question that sits over this is, how did we as a people let it get so bad?

Apart from there being very strong political parallels that describe how conservatives are pushed into a corner, where no matter what their response it, it’s tainted by the violence and abuse that cornered them.

There are lessons here for the 21st Century Christian community. For instance: authentic Christian activism ought to be able to neutralise the necessity for extreme action. We can approach the world with a ‘readiness for responsibility’ in spite of its sometimes hostile, virulent and internal opposition.

We see examples of this ‘readiness for responsibility’ in the ‘Acts’ of the Apostles where Peter met with the Roman Centurion, Cornelius (10:1-33), and when Paul spoke to the intellectual elite in the Areopagus Council[ii] (17:22-34).

Learning from the mistakes of the past, being able to employ a ‘readiness for responsibility’[iii], as Bonhoeffer terms it, is about participants being encouraged to avoid rage-based responses. Helping our Christian communities aim for balance without detrimental compromises, empowering others to better discern and persuasively respond when attacks are maliciously calculated in order to elicit a negative reaction.

The Christian response needs to include a deliberate challenge to the over-the-top reactionary position.

It seeks to prevent any damage to the ability of Christians entering into a missional relationship with a hurting and bruised world. Anything short of this restricts healthy dialogue, unnecessarily turning opponents into enemies. Ultimately only succeeding to feed the “mocking laughter of hell’s plan”.

Here also rests the significance of Phillip Yancey’s chilling caveat, when he, citing Friedrich Nietzsche,

‘Will grace, ”the last best word”, the only unsullied theological word remaining in our language, go the way of so many others? In the political arena, has it come to mean its opposite? In another context, Nietzsche gave this warning, which applies to modern Christians: “Be careful, lest in fighting the dragon you become the dragon.” (1997:292) [iv]

 


References:

[i] Robertson, E. 1999 Prison Poems Zondervan Grand Rapids p.66

[ii] ‘The Areopagus included only those of highest status in this university community’,Keener, C. S, 1993. The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. (Ac 17:33–34).

[iii] Bonhoeffer, D. 1944 On the Baptism of D.R. Bethge, in Letters and Poems from Prison, Kindle Ed.

[iv] Yancey, P. 1997 ‘What’s so amazing about Grace?‘ Zondervan