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Monthly Archives: September 2009

These questions are directed primarily @ those folks who would self-identify as Christians. However, anyone from any faith background (or lack thereof) is welcome to add their thoughts.

St. Augustin in, “On Faith and the Creed,” addresses how new believers ought to be taught the faith. Faith, although personal, is also corporate and traditional in the sense that it is something that is handed down and taught/demonstrated. At any rate, Augustin addresses what he considers “matters of necessary belief,” (Chapter 1 of A Treatise on Faith and the Creed).

I’m currently taking a course @ seminary called ‘Teaching the Faith’ and in our tutorial today this talk of “necessary belief” came up.

My question to you is, what are the “core” or “fundamental” beliefs that you would deem “necessary belief”? Why do you consider these things fundamental? In addition, what are these beliefs “necessary” for? For salvation? For true belief?

Peace.

I’m angry.

Some of you know that for the past two-years I’ve been visiting France for one month at a time to visit with Roma and refugee communities. This August we headed up to Calais in the north of France to visit ‘the jungle’. Calais is a port city with direct connections to the UK and for this reason many refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, and Eritrea have been gathering there in hopes that they can reach the UK.

In August, my 15 year old friend Abdullah, led me and some others across a six lane highway and into the jungle where he lived. We walked amongst the men there and talked with many of them. These are young men in a desperate situation. They have left their homes in order that they may survive. One of my friends, Farheid, had his entire family killed by the Taliban. He survived but lost his right arm to a Taliban explosive. He is 17. We met another young boy, only 10, who had left his family in Afghanistan with the hope of finding a better life, one where he may live past the age of twenty. Some of the young men we met, if they were to return home, would face persecution and even death because of their sexual orientation.

Now, here we have the French government taking what is not theirs to take. The livelihood of another. You can’t simply kick 1500 young men and boys out of camps where they have been living for the past 7 years. Where the hell will they go? Who will help them? Also, it’s not just that the police evict them, but those bastards also confiscate their personal belongings. Even going so far as to take from them their identification cards and birth certificates. “Apply for refugee status,” says the EU. How the fuck can they accomplish this after you’ve robbed them of the identification?

God, be with these young men and women who have no home. They are aliens in a land where they are explicitly being told they are not welcome. Shame on you EU. Shame on you. You cannot ignore the strangers in your land. You cannot deny them of their basic human rights. You cannot rob them of their identity. This is a terrible situation that is being handled even worse. If it were not for the fact that God IS ON THE SIDE OF THE OPPRESSED, then these young people would have no hope.

For more on this developing story, tune into the BBC.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8268028.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8260075.stm

This photo shows some of the refugees in Calais gathered in a parking lot outside of the jungle where they receive food from a Catholic organization.

jungle 3

Two Eritrean refugees living in an abandoned home in Calais.

jungle 2

Walking through the jungle. The shack to the right is home to five guys.

jungle1

David Bazan has come out with a new album and I think it’s really great. The following lyrics are from one of my favourite Bazan tracks (old lyrics set with new music).

‘When We Fell.’

with the threat of hell hanging over my head like a halo
i was made to believe in a couple of beautiful truths
that eventually had the effect of completely unraveling
the powerful curse put on me by you
when you set the table
and when you chose the scale
did you write a riddle
that you knew they would fail
did you make them tremble
so they would tell the tale
did you push us when when we fell
if my mother cries when i tell her what i have discovered
then i hope she remembers she taught me to follow my heart
and if you bully her like you’ve done me with fear of damnation
then i hope she can see you for what you are
what am i afraid of
whom did i betray
in what medieval kingdom does justice work this way
if you knew what would happen and made us just the same
then you , my lord, can take the blame

The following is said to be a rabbinic story and I found it in a book:

“Before setting out to create the world, the Almighty took a moment to look into the future of creation. God saw beauty, truth, goodness, and the joy of creatures, but the All-Knowing One also saw a never-ending stream of human misdeeds, small, large, and horrendous, a trail of sighs, tears, and blood. “If I give sinners their due,” thought the Just One, “I’ll have to destroy the world that I am about to create. Should I create just to destroy?” And so God decided to forgive the world in advance so that the world could be brought into being.”

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as siler or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake,” (1 Peter 1:20).

Jesus was destined to die. Before the foundations of the world were laid he was the spotless lamb who would take our place. Before the foundations were laid, before mankind was made, before sin and death entered God’s good creation, God had decided to redeem. The One true God is a redeeming God. As Miroslav Volf puts it, “Creation owes its very existence to God’s forgiveness,” (Free of Charge, 136).

Just a little something to think about today.

Grace and peace.

Churches aren’t always safe places. By that, I mean that people aren’t always given the space to be who they are. I knew of a man once that was living with a woman he wasn’t married to. The pastor at his church excommunicated him and kicked him out of the congregation because he said he didn’t want to move out. Whether or not it’s spoken, there’s often the expectation that people will shape up and change if they plan on ‘staying’. This of course isn’t entirely fair because it assumes that people are able to change themselves as opposed to leaving room for the Holy Spirit to change and transform peoples lives (which isn’t always nice and neat).

I’ve never been the kind of person to just accept what I was told. My parents can probably attest to this. When I was younger people used to tell me I should be a lawyer because I liked to ask lots of questions and argue. My point is that I’m naturally a fairly skeptical person, not because I distrust God or anything like that, but because humans have done such a good job messing shit up. So when I was about 19 I was sitting in a ‘Christian Education’ class for adults (Sunday school for big people) and the ‘teacher’ was up at the front going on and on about how God created the world in 7 *literal* 24 hour days. Which ok, I would have been fine if she wanted to believe that but then she proceeded to tell the entire class of about 120 adults that if they questioned this in any way, then the entire bible was open to questioning. If you doubted that the world was created in 7 days then you would be unable to defend any other part of the bible when those mean athiests came attacking (unless of course you’re one of those *idiots* that believe, along with the rest of historical Christianity that the Creation story in Genesis is poetic as opposed to scientific)! So naturally, I raised my hand and asked why this was so. Why is it, that if I reject that God created in 7 days that I necessarily open the rest of the Good Book to attack? Now you’re probably thinking that’s no big deal. Asking those sorts of questions, especially in a church, would be safe. However, at the end of class I was asked (read: told!), very kindly of course, not to come back. Damn!

After graduating from Tyndale in May 2006 I took a position youth pastoring in the GTA and began in September 2006. Things weren’t going so well at the church at the time, because as usually is the case, a handful of people were causing a big row. Anyways, I was there through a big transition period and multiple times I wanted to quit and do something else, but I felt as if God didn’t want me to do that just yet. Christina and I really loved the youth and the congregation and felt like we should stay even though things were difficult. This past March I was fired. Fired from pastoring? I must have committed some sexual sin or done something terrible right? Is asking questions a terrible thing? I was fired because I was asking questions about my faith. You know, I was actually thinking about things instead of just accepting all the shit that came my way (because believe me, denominations aren’t flawless). I would wrestle with these sorts of things openly on my blog. Things like eternal suffering and damnation, ways we measure success and the Christian subculture that we’ve formed. Apparently these were the wrong questions. The church I was at wasn’t a safe place to ask these sorts of questions. The congregation was great but the way things were set up on a leadership/organizational level were poisonous. If being a good youth pastor means that you have (or pretend to have) everything all figured out so you can motivate teenagers to love God then I’m a terrible youth pastor because I wouldn’t even like trying to pretend to have it all figured out. The Church *needs* to be a community where it’s OK for people to wrestle with things. The Church *needs* to be a community where it’s OK for people *not* to have it all figured out because if the Church ceases to be these things then it just turns into an exclusive club where people sit around and stroke each others egos.

Anyways, the point of this note isn’t for me to rant about how shitty the church can be, rather, it’s to talk about God’s provision through unpleasant circumstances. I was fired back in March and Christina was just working relief at an organization in Newmarket. I decided to apply to go back to school and was accepted. We then talked about moving to Toronto to be closer to school (and for the change of scenery) and so we were looking without much success at apartments around town. Through that we ended up scoring a *sweet* place @ Yonge/Charles just about a 7 minute walk to school and right in the middle of downtown. About three weeks ago Christina was offered a new job that pays better than another job she had wanted and is closer to home (Yonge/Finch as opposed to Newmarket)! Also, I’ve been looking for a part time job for the fall and seem to have found one although I’ll write more about that later as it’s unofficial at the moment. Also, we’ve found a new faith community to call home here in the city which, refreshingly, is a safe place to ask all sorts of questions!

It’s funny how one moment you can be in a place where you feel uncomfortable and then the next moment that’s all crashing down and at the end of the day you end up somewhere that’s a better fit. The only way I can really describe how I feel is how a good friend of mine put it to me about his experiences: “I just feel like for the longest time I’ve been wearing shoes that are too tight and finally I’ve been able to take them off.”

Grace and peace,

JT.