Justifiable theft?

I read this article a couple days ago after seeing it posted on the Drudge Report.

I’ll start off by saying that not too long ago, had I read this article, I would have been incensed. But when I read this article, my first reaction was “hmmm”.

Hmm because I obviously don’t blindly accept those in Pastoral positions giving the all clear for people to steal, but as I continued on reading the article, I understood exactly what he was talking about.

There is blatant theft going on at the government/financial level in the United States, as well as in other nations all over the world. This theft that was secretly enriching those powerful elite, who then SHOULD have gone bankrupt because of their poor decisions and the poor decisions of government, but didn’t, because the government decided that they would continue down the path of rewarding incompetence and destroying those who have little to no power outside of their “vote” once every couple of years.

But even without these things occurring, I believe that the Pastor is on to something.

Serious poverty leads to serious moral failures. Things that you wouldn’t otherwise participate in become your only options, some of those with consequences that lead to more poverty, more desperation, and death. Prostitution, selling drugs, joining gangs, etc are often times not what people WANT to do, but what they feel like they must do. Shoplifting is one of those things, but lets be honest, that is the least destructive to a human being. And being guided not to do so without abandon, but to take only what you need to survive and only in a situation where you have needs that you cannot meet otherwise, and to do so not from a small company that can barely survive but from a large corporate company who budgets theft, and writes off the losses on their taxes, it seems that the least immoral (and most just resolution of unjust situations) is clear.

So I agree with the Pastor. If you are unable to meet basic needs due to circumstances beyond your control, disciplined theft from large corporate stores of just what you need and nothing more, seems to me to be the right decision.


Untitled Song

This is not finished, but I got inspired at work the other day, and jotted this down

Paint in broad brush strokes

Right across the face of folks

Who look a little different than I do.

Black or white or gay or straight

Or poor or rich, whatever they

Fit neatly in the box that I’ve created

But life is not just right or wrong

Or yes or no but maybe.

So maybe I’ve had it all wrong

All along

The murderer, the common thief

They look a whole lot more like me

Than I ever realized

When I look with different eyes

Paint in broad brush strokes

Right across the face of folks

Cause facing all my prejudice is hard

Its easier to judge and pass

Them by with my self righteousness

Dripping from my lips; there’s something wrong with this


I know what I believe, yet I so often don’t act on it.

Last night, some friends came by. Folks that took care of our animals while we were gone.

Our friends are poor. Poorer than you’d like to think working people can be in the United States of America. They can barely afford 350 a month rent for a place with no heat (we gave them space heaters) and no protection from the elements. They live in an upstairs apartment that does have a door that locks, on their porch. It’s a covered porch, but its screened in. The doorway into their home has no door, so when its hot, its hot. When its cold, its cold. My friend Jim (not his real name) puts up plastic during the winter to try and keep the cold out.

A couple of months ago, there was a double homicide in the apartments below them. They awoke to gunfire from directly below them, and jumped in the tub cause as Jim likes to say, “bullets don’t got eyes.”

Jim paints houses, and mows lawns, and does pretty much any kind of work you could ask him to do. He’s nearly 50… has 5 kids, some grandkids, but he doesn’t see them as often as he’d like. They don’t come around as often as they used to. I’m not sure why, but I imagine I know.

Jim and Penelope have a hard life. But they are generally happy. We let them stay at our place while we were out of town for Thanksgiving. Well. Let isn’t really the right word. We asked them to take care of the animals while we were gone, and Penelope invited herself to stay at our place. Not very courteous, and kinda annoying. But that’s how she can be sometimes.

And we got back. The animals were well fed, and apparently had a fun time over the weekend. But dishes were left unrinsed, caked with crystallized sugar in some cases. I had a bottle of vodka and a bottle of gin that I bought to make drinks. They were emptied. The refrigerator had nasty handprints all over it, as did the microwave. We had a pound of sugar, that was used in 4 days. We had to throw out a bunch of food, because it was opened and not sealed (cheeses don’t do well in open air).

And I was mad. And Carrie was mad. We kinda still are mad I guess. None of this was done maliciously. I know that for sure. Its either ignorance, or a lack of respect. I’m a lazy son of a gun, so I know all about not putting stuff away or cleaning things properly. But I would never ever leave someone’s house the way mine was left.

But I can’t help feeling as though I shouldn’t be angry about this. One thing I’ve learned from living in our neighborhood is that the social norms that I learned growing up in middle to upper middle class white suburbia aren’t the social norms for the majority of the people in this country. So I don’t think anger is the right thing to feel. Maybe I should still talk to them about it, but at the same time, I don’t know if I’ll come off as condescending… Mr. Hoity Toity white guy telling folks how to keep stuff clean.

I’d appreciate any advice.

What I Believe (inspired by otter creek church’s vespers)

Some mornings (and late nights, and dinner times, and during my favorite part of my favorite television show) I wonder why the hell Carrie and I live where we do. Home for us isn’t what it was growing up. Home is where you went when your world didn’t make sense, where you could close the door and shut out the world, the problems, the sadness, the worry. Home was where you went to get a big hug from mom, or sit in dad’s lap watching tv after dinner, or where you could retire to your room to talk on the phone with friends. Home was safe. Home was secure.

Some mornings (et al) I wish we didn’t live where we live, or believe what we believe. Sometimes, even when I’m acting like I believe it, I’m not quite sure that I do. But then again, what does belief mean besides orienting your life around what you understand to be true. Maybe I’m still to caught up in the idea that belief is just mental assent to certain principles… and that one can be unwavering in their belief (most likely because my beliefs didn’t used to affect how I lived my life).

Some mornings, I wonder if I’m crazy. I know for a fact that if the 25 year old Justin ran into the 18 year old Justin, the elder would be outright rejected by the younger for being insane. “Non violent resistance, huh? The world just doesn’t work like that”. Or “Of course you have to support ‘our’ armies, what are you some sort of anti American liberal” or even “You wanna live there and NOT own a gun? What happens if someone breaks in and kills you and rapes your wife?”. And the 25 year old could answer those questions, but they are never going to satisfy the 18 year old. Cause sometimes those answers still don’t satisfy me now, absent any theoreticals.

“For the Cross of Christ is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God”

Paul penned those words some 1900+ years ago. I think I get it now. If you get serious about following Jesus, not only will the world think you are crazy, but even you yourself might. Its not logical to lay down your life. Its not logical to give not just from your plenty but from your poverty. Its not logical to practice hospitality to those you don’t even know, must less have a reason to trust. Its not logical to move to the inner city, to break bread with felons and give rides to known prostitutes (the police will follow you, trust me on that one).

All this to say, my life is completely nuts. Sometimes I wonder what we’re doing, whether I really believe what I think I believe. I tend to go with yes, but only because Carrie and I have done some things that I just don’t think would have been possible without the Spirit guiding us. But that doesn’t mean that we’re 100% crazy for Jesus all the time. I used to think it was supposed to be that way, but now I’m finding that faith isn’t being juiced up on a spiritual sugar high. Faith is living out your calling even when you’re tired, weary, when things don’t make sense, and when you can’t stop thinking about how comfortable living in a false security was.

God bless spirit infused faith.

Its Time For Jubilee

As I’ve spent numerous hours of my time watching cnbc and reading about the economic collapse that is occurring around the world, I’ve also thought about what my faith has to say about all of this.

And it turns out, it has a lot to say.

I’ve been wondering if there’s a bigger reason, maybe a Spirit led one, for the rise of the post liberal, new monastic, radical christians that seem to be popping up all over the place… your Shane Claibornes, Jesus Manifesto, and others (plenty of stuff online about these groups). I think that its time for us to stand up and and speak truth to power… to proclaim that its far past time to practice Jubilee. Whether the governments would ever do it, I don’t know. But there are plenty of people out there trying to figure out ways to fix the economy, and when we look at God’s economics, we realize that our system based on debt, is not quite the most just systems in the world. Sure we have the “freedom” to buy what we want, and work where we want, but the machine at the center of our economy, the government, promotes debt debt and more debt. Maybe its time for us to end this cycle. Maybe its time for debt forgiveness. All debt.

I don’t think its ever been clearer that the empires of this world exist for one thing: power. They don’t exist to protect us, they don’t exist to help us, they exist because people want to have power over others, and they will sacrifice any one of us to keep that power going. That is not the way of God. It is the way of evil.

So maybe we should stand up and let the leaders of the world, business and government alike, that its time to end the system of oppression, of debt slavery, of ENDLESS consumption. Let’s reset the clock.
What do you think?

Don’t Vote

If you’ve seen the video at college humor featuring all sorts of celebrities sarcastically saying “don’t vote”, and you think that’s where I’m going with this, you would be mistaken.

I’m actually telling you not to vote today.

If you are a Christian, the best option is not McCain, and its not Obama. The best option is to choose to live the life that you think people should live in the world.

God never desired human government’s for his people. One must only read through the Old Testament to see that. The Israelites begged and begged for a King, but God warned them that they did not want that. Yet the temptation to be like the rest of the world consumed them, and God granted their request. Let’s go to the text in 1 Samuel 8

1 When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. 3 But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. 5 They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead [a] us, such as all the other nations have.”

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle [b] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20 Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

21 When Samuel heard all that the people said, he repeated it before the LORD. 22 The LORD answered, “Listen to them and give them a king.”
Then Samuel said to the men of Israel, “Everyone go back to his town.”

This a a turning point in the story of Israel. God had set things up for their benefit… but they didn’t trust God. They saw their counter culture as backwards, they gave lip service to trusting God, but thought, “maybe we should have a little backup in case God doesn’t protect us.” They rejected their true, holy, and just King for a corruptible, power hungry self centered human one.

If we remember, the Kings of Israel brought just those bad things that God warned. Wars, high taxes, poverty for some and vast wealth for others. Slavery. And Israel, a nation that God intended to be a City on a Hill, placed in the middle of the known world at that time, became just like other nations. And eventually, their great Kingdom was overthrown by powers greater than their own.

Thus begins the exile.

Through years and years different groups invaded and conquered, or displaced the people of God. When Jesus came on the scene, the Roman’s brutal occupation of Israel was fresh on the minds of those who claimed faith in Jehovah. They knew that this was exile, and they hoped for the day when a Messiah would arise, lead them to victory against the Romans, and bring back the right status to the people of God.

But, that’ wasn’t exactly God’s plan.

Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the law, to institute the new jubilee, to set the oppressed free, to preach good news to the poor… just like the prophets foretold. But, the prophets also wrote of this day when “swords would be beaten into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks” when the shalom of God would come in full. And Jesus fulfilled that.

Rather than doing things the way we wish them to be, by leading an army to defeat the evil Roman empire, and bring about the reign of God (as he was tempted by Satan in the desert) the logic of God’s revolution, while brilliant, seemed foolish to many. Jesus preached and taught truth, lived a blameless life, and then the rulers killed him.

To his followers, it seemed all had been lost. Messiah’s don’t die. Messiah’s lead their nation to victory. Jesus wasn’t the messiah. He was just like all the other failed revolutionaries, eventually killed by the Romans.

But. God. Wasn’t. Done. Yet.

On the third day, Jesus was raised, in the flesh, but a new kind of flesh and his resurrection marks the beginning of a new age, the center of history, where God begins to renew the creation. And those of us that profess faith in Jesus have a mission. And empty tomb means a lot of things. An empty tomb, most notably, means that the principalities and powers who claim to rule us, and who use death as their greatest tool to command obedience, these powers are shown to be what they have been all along. Powerless. God’s reign is a righteous one, that does not need to operate by the ways of the world to create lasting, loving, change. It brings salvation from the oppressors in that it frees us to be God’s people, no longer fearing death, and no longer needing to use violence to save ourselves from death. Death, the main result of the fall that led to the spiral of pain and hurt in the world, has been conquered. And in that, we are given a political manifesto. But its not the same as the one the world lives by.

Its one of non violence. We have no need to use evil to try to accomplish some good. Evil always results in more evil. We are charged to live better than the world. To be perfect, as our heavenly father is perfect. That means propping up the old system, supporting it, believing that it will in any way change things or make people’s life better is futile. Our job is not to work through the methods of a fallen world, but to operate in the ways of the TRUE Kingdom. The Kingdom that lays down one’s life rather than kills for it. The Kingdom that serves and loves those that the world rejects. The Kingdom that holds nothing as their own, but freely shares to those in need. The Kingdom that stands up to the injustices perpetuated by the rulers of this world who do not share our ethic of existance. The Kingdom that acts as a prophetic witness to the world… knowing that we don’t change things by having the right plan, but things will change one day by living out what we believe to be coming.

This is why, I ask you Christians: don’t vote. Don’t put your trust in horses and chariots, in people who desire power, in people willing to use violence to acheive their goals. In people who don’t respect the least of these in our society, no matter how much money they are willing to steal from others and give away to stay in power. Trust in the Lord our God, who IS our King. Who reigns forever. And who is working to make all things new.

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth, as it is in heave.


Christus Victor and Penal Substitutionary Atonement

I just read this article from Greg Boyd about atonement theories. Most of you that have been around for a while probably know that I have a broader understanding of atonement than many, and I definitely have some problems with traditional PSA, namely, the idea that God was wrathful and punished Jesus for our sins. That doesn’t sit well with me, as it doesn’t make much sense that a God of love, a God of mercy would need to punish before he forgives. I tend to hold to the Christus Victor model which, to put it in a nutshell, says that Jesus’s death on the Cross defeated evil and freed us from oppression. It seems natural to me that Jesus death wasn’t needed in the sense that God needed to punish someone or something for forgiveness of sins. He has the power to do it if he wants (how many people were told by Jesus that their sins were forgiven before he died and rose?) but the sacrifice of blood was needed for US to understand what was going on. This is the point of sacrifices all through the old testament. God didn’t need a goat or a lamb to be slaughtered… WE needed that for us to truely understand what was going on.

Anyway, check out Greg’s post… and if you haven’t read any of his books or articles, I highly recommend them!