Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The roots of racism

The latest paper in the Presbyterian Mission Agency's Theological Conversations is by Professor Hak Joon Lee of Fuller Theological Seminary titled Redeeming Covenant: A Critical Reflection on Puritan Covenant Theology, Democracy and Racism in the United States. This is brilliant theological essay which clearly and precisely helped me understand the theological foundations of "America's original sin": racism. And these foundations are firmly rooted in the Reformed Tradition's commitment to covenant theology. How do we understand the continuing power and attraction of racist and white nationalist ideology within a nation that has such a robust Christian history? Professor Lee's thesis is that we must understand the roots of racism within our Christian history itself, and specifically within the themes of covenant theology which have been influential in our Reformed Tradition all the way back to the Puritans of New England. 

I am copying here from the concluding section of this important essay:

"Covenant theology has played a morally ambiguous and contradictory role in American political, religious and social history. In a certain sense, the idea of covenant symbolizes the best and the worst aspects of the United States. Perhaps, the gap between the universal inclusiveness of the covenant of Christ and the Puritans' practice of racism discloses the fractures within the soul of America." 

The web address to the essay is here:

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Prayer for Peace

A Prayer for Peace

The PC(USA) has a new mission co-working serving in Israel/ Palestine. It is important that our church has a presence and witness in the midst of this volatile region, advocating for Christians and the Church. Douglas Dicks offers this prayer for peace. See his webpage at the Presbyterian World Mission site: www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/missionconnections/doug-dicks/.

Pray not for Arab or Jew,
For Palestinian or Israeli,
But pray rather for ourselves,
That we might not divide them in our prayers
But keep them both together
In our hearts.
When races fight,
Peace be amongst us.
When neighbors argue,
Peace be amongst us.
When nations disagree,
Peace be among us.
Where people struggle for justice,
Let justice prevail.
Where Christ’s disciples follow, let peace be our way.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Bible as a tool of resistance.

The Rev. Mitri Raheb taught (and published on their website) a Bible study for the recent meeting of the General Council of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. (Google search on "World Communion of Reformed Churches" and search under the tab "General Council for this Bible study and others.)

Copied here is a portion of Rev. Raheb's Bible study on the Pentecost story in Acts 2. He connects the multiplicity of languages on the day of Pentecost with the translation of the Bible into the vernacular languages of the people, which was a central thrust of the Protestant Reformation:

Based on this Lukan vision, the role of the native language became key to Christian mission. While in traditional Judaism the Bible was to be read in Hebrew, and in Islam the Quran can be recited only in Arabic and no translation is allowed, in Christianity each people have “to hear the gospel in their own native language.” God wants to speak to us in the languages in which we dream. This understanding of Acts 2 became key to Protestant theology— Protestant theologians from Wycliffe in England to Lefevre in France to Luther in Germany. In a context where Latin was the language of the ruling and oppressing empire (described often as Babylon) the Bible translation became a tool of resistance and liberation. 

While celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we do not do the Reformation justice if we understood what happened in Wittenberg, Geneva, Zurich, Edinburgh or northern Italy as a mere religious revival. This was a resistance movement to empire, and the translation of the Bible was one tool of resistance. God had to speak the language of the people and not the language of empire. This is why the Bible was translated so far into more than 2500 different languages. 

In fact without Bible translation some languages would not exist in written form. This is not only true for tribal languages only but for most languages as well. The translation of the Bible and the development of written languages went hand in hand, not only in Coptic and Armenian as indicated before, but in most European languages as well. There is an interrelation between the King James Bible translation and the development of the standard English language, between Luther translation of the Bible into German and the development of the modern German language, etc.