Sunday, April 28, 2019

for all of us who are "the worst of sinners"

Paul considered himself "the worst of sinners" (I Tim 1:15-16), but there are many other impressive sinners among the Bible's "heroes".
Sexual immorality or marital struggles? Remember what God did with Tamar/Judah, Rahab, David, Solomon, and Samson. Remember what all Jesus said in John 5 and John 8.
A gravida who had a fetus killed? Remember what God did with Moses, David, and Saul.
Someone who stood by and let profound evil occur? Remember Adam in the Garden.
Punchline: Don't make excuses about your sins, but leave them behind. There's no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. So choose love, grace, forgiveness, and redemption over guilt, evasion, and despair-- and become increasingly comfortable in the goodness of God's Kingdom.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Rony Brauman on the idea of "just war" (and the rare occasions for it in practice)

An excerpt from an interview in Harpers between Regis Meyran and Rony Brauman:

brauman: By “just wars” we mean wars ostensibly motivated primarily by humanitarian concerns, that is, the protection of civilian populations: saving a population from a famine in Somalia, an impending massacre in Kosovo, or oppression in Afghanistan. I draw a distinction between these and other wars or military operations fought in the name of security, such as the war in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2002 or in Iraq since 2013. 
meyran: Why is the idea of “just war,” in itself, a problem?
brauman: Because, while claiming to protect populations, the United Nations is rehabilitating war—when in fact it was created to prevent it. And in granting itself the right to declare war and to call it “just,” the UN is acting as both referee and player, and legalizing the conflation of judges and parties to a conflict.
I reject the very notion of just war as a contradiction in terms; war is a lie, war is hell—it can never be just. But unless I wanted to take a radical pacifist position—which I respect but do not share—I feel it necessary to understand the exceptions, that is, the situations in which war might be justified, and on what terms.
meyran: A just war is based, legally, on the “responsibility to protect”; can you explain what that phrase means?
brauman: Basically, the legitimacy of the use of force rests on the seriousness of the threat, on its being used only as a last resort, and on the proportionality of the response. There one would find, together with “reasonable chance of success,” the classic criteria for just war that have been around since Thomas Aquinas...As the political theorist Michael Walzer reminds us, “The object in war is a better state of peace”...
In a public debate on the right to intervene, political scientist Pierre Hassner cited two contradictory ideas from the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz: On one hand, no sensible person would start a war without a clear idea of what they hope to accomplish with the war and how they want to conduct it. On the other hand, because of friction, the fog of war, and changing means leading to changing objectives, no war ends as originally planned. These two ideas, synthesized by Hassner, sum up the inherent practical contradiction whenever one goes to war, whether humanitarian or not...a war’s “reasonable chances of success” are impossible to assess when the stated aims are vague and general—like democracy, women’s liberation, general well-being, and so forth...

Notre Dame

The Notre Dame fire yesterday was/is depressing: the sheer destruction; the demise of the transcendent; the degradation of beauty.
The responses have been noteworthy: from generous private offers to fund the rebuilding to supreme angst in a thoroughly-post-Christian country (which indicates the prevalence of a French Civil Religion with some of the trappings of Christianity).
Praying today for France and for spiritual repentance, renewal, and revival (even if temporary, as with 9/11).

Bellah on ACR and "American Shinto"

I've been fascinated with the idea of "American Civil Religion" (ACR) for some time-- clearly the dominant religion in America in the 1950s and perhaps still (at least a big player today).
For those interested, I'd certainly recommend Will Herberg's Protestant, Catholic Jew. But for something shorter and also contemporary, Robert Bellah's essay from 1967 is good stuff. (If you want something more recent, here's a link to my Touchstone article.)
Here, Bellah is helpful in connecting ACR to his times, Rousseau's ideas, the Founding Fathers, and the Civil War. (I got to the article for its interesting reference to "American Shinto", cited in another piece I had read.)
Most interesting to me: connecting it back to the Founding Fathers and the idea that "Christians" (however that's defined) have generally not seen ACR as any threat or significant compromise, implying understanding/acceptance or ignorance of its tenets and implications.
At the end, it's interesting to see him humbly try to assess/predict what he sees as a third period of crisis/definition for ACR. He sees the UN as a possibility, but thinks it's low probability. Then, he settles on the extension of the ACR to the world. I think he gets quite close here-- particularly in its manifestations as a strong penchant for (and desire to export) democracy and a move toward neo-liberalism.