Week 25: Jesus, Violence, and Power

In this week’s installment of We Make the Road With Kids: The first thing you need to know about Moses and Elijah is that they’re awesome. The second thing you need to know is that, like most heroes, they are violent. And when Peter suggests that Jesus should be that kind of hero too, Jesus reacts…um…strongly…

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Superheroes questioning violence?

If you want to know what someone believes, look at their superheroes.  Think of an old-timey superhero — Popeye, for instance.  He is evidence of our long-held belief that the solution to our problems is punching (especially punches powered by leafy greens). The superhero idea since then has evolved along basically the same lines, minus the emphasis on vegetables.  We believe in bad guys who are the source of our problems, and we believe in good guys who (if they have big fists and/or big guns) are the solution to the problem. Something interesting is happening, though.  Over the past …

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What Han Solo taught me about biblical genocide

Let’s admit it: Han shot first. Han Solo is a cold-blooded murdering thug, not to mention a slimy double-crossing no-good swindler. At the same time, Han Solo is awesome. He is one of us. I have a similar problem with my Judeo-Christian heritage. My spiritual forebears were spittle-emitting genocidal religious fanatics. I am one them; they are my people. But what I discover in the Bible is a God who is subverting our violent mythologies from within, taking us all somewhere we have never been before…

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Evolution: Couldn’t God have done better?

The Canaanite genocide just became less of a problem for me. The conquest stories of the book of Joshua (in the Bible) have troubled me for a long time. But it’s recently occurred to me that the problem really lies somewhere else — much deeper in the fabric of nature. If we take evolution seriously (and I do), we have to acknowledge the troubling fact that Death is the engine that runs Life. It has been like this for 3 billion years. I have no intention of going back to being a creationist who believes that death resulted from “the Fall.” That idea is behind me. I trust the data, and the data says that the God I believe in has created a world of Life fueled by Death, and I’m really not sure how to deal with that. That’s where my thinking process now has to start.

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In defense of Bible stories

I have spent a long time hating Bible story books. They tell a little story in isolation from the rest of the Bible’s narrative, and then they draw out some facile and vacuous moral, like: “Go be like Samson,” which happens to be awful advice. If my kids turn out like Samson, I may have to start taking drugs. But little tellings of little stories is how humans make culture. Am I short-circuiting the process by trying to dissolve the Samson story into the Jesus story? Is it perhaps not my job to hand my kids a finished pile of knowledge, but instead to induct them into a process that’s been going on a long time and is not yet finished — the process of getting to know an undomesticated God who refuses to fit into a single story?

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Jesus’ TED Talk #2 (Matthew 10)

Today I wrote a guest post at Patheos –a really hospitable space for all kinds of religious and non-religious conversation.  It’s one of a series of posts where I re-imagine Jesus’ five big sermons as TED Talks, in which he Educates people in God’s new Design for a world that runs on the Technology called love. This one leans heavily on Mimetic Theory — an anthropological description of the mechanics of human violence, human sacrifice in particular. >>Read the post at Patheos.com

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Cain and Abel: 10,000 B.C.

It’s 10,000 B.C.  You live in a tribe of nomadic hunter-gatherers who have recently added goat-herding to your food production repertoire.  But one of your neighboring tribes has started farming—planting and harvesting crops from their single permanent settlement.  Their slash-and-burn technique gave them a couple good harvests until it depleted the soil and stopped producing. They sacrifice a portion of their crop to El (just like you do with your goats), but El is no longer rewarding them with good harvests.  They work their butts off from sunrise to sunset every day (in contrast to your 14-hour work week), but …

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