Monday, January 21, 2008

Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968)

by Eric Walters

I chose this video montage of King because of what he preached about the judgment of God, the justice of God, and the hope of a nation.
America needs more prophetic voices.
Enough said.

"Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity."
--Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Obama Responds to the Farrakhan Issue: It Was Only a Matter of Time

by Eric Walters

A while ago I blogged about Senator Obama's membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC) in Chicago, and his relationship with its Pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Trumpet Magazine, a publication of TUCC, recently honored Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam as one who "truly epitomizes greatness". This evoked the criticism of some groups who claim that Farrakhan has been the source of "anti-Semitic" remarks. These groups also called upon Obama to respond to the "Farrakhan issue" (read a related Washington Post article here), given his relationship with TUCC and Wright. The following article is from Religion Today/Crosswalk:

Obama Criticizes His Church's Honoring of 'Anti-Semitic' Farrakhan
Monisha Bansal
Staff Writer

( - Jewish groups welcomed presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) statement condemning Rev. Louis Farrakhan - a move that he made in response to news that his spiritual adviser honored the Nation of Islam leader, despite "anti-Semitic" comments he made.

Barack Obama is a member of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, whose minister - and Obama's spiritual adviser - is the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Last year Wright, along with the church's magazine, Trumpet, honored Farrakhan as a man who "truly epitomized greatness" at their awards ceremony.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a group that works to end anti-Semitism, "Farrakhan has repeatedly made hateful statements targeting Jews, whites and homosexuals. Farrakhan's bigoted and anti-Semitic rhetoric has included statements calling whites 'blue eyed devils' and Jews 'bloodsuckers' that controlled the slave trade, the government, the media and various Black individuals and organizations."

"I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan," Obama said in a statement. "I assume that Trumpet magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree."

Obama has not said whether he will continue his affiliation with Wright. His campaign did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment for this article.

"This is of great concern in large part because he's not only a member of this church but maintains a close relationship to his minister," Herb London, president of the conservative Hudson Institute, told Cybercast News Service. "Since the minister has praised and even honored Farrakhan through the church, it raises questions about his affiliations as well as his true sentiments."

Ken Bandler, a spokesman for the American Jewish Committee, told Cybercast News Service that Obama's statement was "sufficient."

"We welcome Barack Obama's condemnation of the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Minister Louis Farrakhan, and his making clear that he did not agree with his church's decision to honor Farrakhan with the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award," added Abraham Foxman, ADL national director.

"Issues of racism and anti-Semitism must be beyond the bounds of politics," he said. "When someone close to a political figure shows sympathy and support for an individual who makes his name espousing bigotry, that political figure needs to distance himself from that decision.

"Senator Obama has done just that," Foxman said.


Stay tuned: it's likely that this is only the beginning of a number of inquiries about Senator Obama's relationship with TUCC and its affiliated activites. I'm sure it will get quite interesting in the near future.

Eric Walters is Co-Founder of TheoSyst Group.

Friday, January 18, 2008

WWJD--What Would Job Do? (In a Modern Era of Prosperity Preaching)

by Eric Walters

Most of us are generally familiar with the biblical story of Job. After being declared “upright” by God, he nevertheless was subjected to enormous suffering and devastation. His children killed, his fortune lost, his health failing, and his hope challenged.

The friends of Job—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, try to understand and interpret the cause of his suffering. Believing that Job’s suffering is linked directly to some hidden sin, Eliphaz challenged Job to find out what sin had caused all of the trouble—because the prevailing wisdom was that righteous people do not suffer; Bildad reinforced the claim of Eliphaz and argued that Job should repent. Adding insult to injury, Zophar concurred and reasoned that Job should correct his impure thinking about God and justice. All of his friends (or the antagonists of Job) believed that his suffering was a consequence of his sin. They offered long diatribes and prescriptions to alleviate his suffering, and they sounded logical and true. But despite this, Job’s wife recommended that he just cut to the chase: curse God and die so that his suffering would end.

If Job were a modern Christian looking for answers to his predicament, I suspect that his modern day counselors—the Eliphazes, Bildads, and Zophars--would most likely be found on the NY Times Bestseller list, at Christian bookstores, on the Internet, and on cable networks. Who might play the role of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and what would be their prescription for relieving the suffering?

For starters, Joel Osteen would tell him to think about getting Your Best Life Now, and by doing this he would be on his way to Becom[ing] a Better You ; Creflow Dollar would preach that the secret is to Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life [to] Unlock [his] Full Potential for Success and Achievement (Taffi would echo and add that Job invest in Your Spiritual Makeover). Joyce Meyer would be there to tell Job that his predicament is overcome on the Battlefield of the Mind, and victory will give him Conflict Free Living. And of course, there are multiple interlopers and opportunists who would kindly encourage Job to commit just 40 days to discover a Purpose Driven Life, and a myriad of other "essential resources" for his spiritual growth.

On a serious note, all of these counselors and “friends”—both ancient and modern--, tend to opt for the easy equation that links the circumstances of our life to what we think and do. Unfortunately, it’s a subtle reinforcement of an old problem that originates in the Garden: that man can interpret and determine his destiny. And in a modern consumer-driven culture, the quest for the Christian panacea has become a lucrative business opportunity whose payoff is much better than real estate!

To be sure, the success-oriented intentions of contemporary Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar “ministries” adopt biblical principles, but the irony is that their message has only elements of truth. Indeed, how and what we think can significantly affect our lives. But sounding biblical is not always synonymous with biblical soundness, and the propensity of the Christian success gurus to decontextualize entire passages of scripture to support their unbalanced agenda is shameful. It is an egregious abuse of preacher’s license and the trust of the people: although their teaching embraces tidbits of truth, the overall message is not truthful.

It is here where promulgating half-truths becomes more destructive than outright lies. More than ever, we must be careful that the virtues of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, patience and other fruits of a mature Christian experience are not conveniently sacrificed at the altar of personal success and happiness. Unfortunately, when this happens, our understanding and worship of God is distorted, authentic ministry vocation becomes confused, and our relationships with others are trivialized and jeopardized. (I keep searching for that scripture passage in the Gospels where Jesus declares to his disciples, “Hey boys! Aren’t we having our best life now?”)

But there is always hope. Another one of Job’s friends, Elihu, appeared later in the story (chapter 32). After all the counselors (antagonists) had offered their shallow diatribes, Elihu reminded Job that the breadth of God’s work throughout eternity is not easily understood by the simplicity of man’s thinking. Psalm 73 describes how Asaph too, found meaning in his suffering after he entered the temple, where he received counsel from God. Job and Asaph grew in character and wisdom because of suffering that was God-ordained. They realized that God cannot be reduced to obey our guttural temptations and desires for security and creature comforts. Both came to accept that the faithful endure trials and sufferings that defy easy explanation and simple calculation.

A final note for all who may have forgotten, and will be tempted to forget: the balance and totality of our life rests in the counsel, will, and hands of God—not in our own minds.

Now that’s blessed assurance of the highest order.

Eric Walters is Co-Founder of TheoSyst Group.