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April 28, 2009

Why Islamic leaders don’t apologize for Armenian genocide

A Washington Times article, written by Julia Duin, excellently explains the problem of Islam as an actor in international politics. With countries such as Iran playing an important role in the relations between world leaders, it is important to understand why Muslims, of any sort, have never apologized for the Armenian genocide. Even in his recent trip to Turkey, President Obama never referred to the acts against the Christian Armenians as "genocide." Any clarity and understanding we can glean from this tragedy will assist us in identifying future consequences of Western/Islamic relations.

The Turks of the Committee of Union and Progress, or the “Young Turks” as they were known in the West, decided that the best way to save the Muslim Turkish nation was to reduce the Christian population, which happened to be mostly Armenians. Subsequently, all Christian Armenians were driven out of the Ottoman capital at the end of swords and bayonets. The cause of death for most Armenians was murder, starvation, and exhaustion in concentration camps. 

So, I ask the question: Why have Muslims, especially those that make up the 99.8% of the Turkish population, never apologized for a genocide against Christian Armenians?

As Duin points out, Muslims have no concept of national repentance. Georgetown professor John Voll explains that Muslims don't believe in original sin, because God didn't curse Adam and Eve; rather he just expelled them from the garden of Eden. 

Additionally, Muslims do not believe in apologizing for things that happened in the past. Even if Muslims did have this sentiment, the current Kamalist Turkey is a separate political entity from the Ottoman Empire which perpetrated the genocide--though I doubt the descendants of a nation murdered by extremist Muslims feel better about this trivial legal distinction.

Friday, April 24, was Armenia's Genocide Remembrance Day. Let us join them in prayer for the lives lost and the families left behind in the name of Islamic political power.

Smiling at Evil

Obama Chavez We've all been treated recently to photos of our president smiling broadly and making cooing noises toward dictators like Hugo Chavez.  Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an Obama supporter, is disturbed by this seeming show of affection for modern-day Hitlers, if for no other reason than that it is "disheartening" for those living under tyranny to see the leader of the free world cozying up to despots and terrorists.  Read his article here and tell us what you think. 

(Image © AP)

April 27, 2009

Daily roundup

North Korea Freedom Week

RTEmagicC_China_NKentrytoembassy North Korea Freedom Week began yesterday. If you're in the Washington, D.C., area, there are many activities -- prayer vigils, rallies, film screenings, information sessions, and more -- in which you can participate. If not, you can still help spread the word about human rights violations in North Korea, and pray for the oppressed. You can also read this op-ed about why President Obama should make human rights issues a priority when dealing with the North Korean government.

Later this week I'll review the Korean film The Crossing, described by the Wall Street Journal as "a 'Schindler's List' for North Korea." Special thanks to Dr. Katy Oh Hassig for the information about North Korea Freedom Week and also for lending me her copy of the film.

(Image © North Korea Freedom Coalition)

April 22, 2009

Bound to Happen: Christians Penalized in Workplace


Frankly, I'm surprised we don't hear more about Christians having their jobs threatened for not going along and getting along with every facet of political correctness. This story from Britain tells the tale.

It goes without saying that we live in a highly pluralistic age and that we must be civil and possessed of a Christ-like demeanor towards all those at work. But what hypocrisy abounds when everyone is taught to honor one group's beliefs while Christian perspectives are viewed with grave suspicion. 

The writer here puts the old saying well: "And yes, it’s quite possible to condemn someone’s actions and behaviors, but love the individual as you love yourself."

The truth is that sincere Christians oftentimes care more than the average person for gay people, whom we know to be made in God's image, even if they, like we, engage in behaviors that do not glorify their Creator. There is no hierarchy of sins in Christianity. Only sin. And while many gay people may honestly not know how it is that they arrived at their orientation, Christianity simply and consistently asserts that it is not something God intended for them.

Sincere Christians should not be homophobic, nor should they feel the need to sacrifice their understanding of God and human sexuality just to fit in. Rather, they should try, when possible, to show any gay co-worker that they see in them a fellow human being and rejoice in all the true gifts God has given them. A person is far more than his or her sexual orientation, important though it is, and on that basis there is much common ground to be found.

If only our workplaces would allow such candid, healing conversations to take place. But instead, we all tiptoe around one another, solving little.

(Image courtesy of LaVrai.com)

April 21, 2009

What Social Conditions Promote Reconciliation?

As We Forgive 2 Jordan Ballor over at Acton's Power Blog turns his attention to As We Forgive in week two of my fourteen-week blog tour. (Aren't familiar with a blog tour? It's the poor man's--er woman's book tour.) I'm hoping to use these 100 days to raise awareness and support for reconciliation in Rwanda. As the week unfolds, look for a review of the book on Acton's site, some personal reflections, and some Acton Institute folks weighing in on a recent trip to Rwanda.

Ballor introduces the Power Blog's question of the week: What social conditions promote reconciliation? I'd be interested in hearing our Point readers weigh in on that one as well.

By the way, I just heard that As We Forgive has already gone into its second printing!

April 17, 2009

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April 16, 2009

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April 15, 2009

Daily roundup

How else am I going to live?

Art.marlee.matlin.cnn Actress Marlee Matlin appeared on Larry King Live Monday night and talked with Joy Behar (who was sitting in for King) about her new book and a long-ago abusive relationship with actor William Hurt, her co-star in Children of a Lesser God.

Behar: You're very nice to him in the book. You have an acknowledgment in the book for William Hurt.

Matlin: Look, he is a very good actor. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the work we had together. I was a fan of his before I met him.

Behar: But if he hasn't apologized and you still feel that he was very wrong in the way he behaved, why do you acknowledge ... ?

Matlin: If he apologized, I would forgive him, but I won't forget.

Behar: You won't forget, no. But you've forgiven him in this book, it seems to me.

Matlin: How else am I going to live? How else am I going to live? You have to try to find the heart to forgive.

That last line by Matlin reminded me of Catherine's book As We Forgive. Many of the survivors of Rwanda's genocide discovered that same truth. Catherine began writing her book on Rwanda as I was finishing up my book on children of divorce. That theme of forgiveness ran through both our manuscripts, and we had several discussions about why we forgive and how we forgive and what God requires and doesn't require of us in this whole process. There were no easy answers. 

One thing stands out to me. Whether it's an actress forgiving an abusive boyfriend, a genocide survivor forgiving the man who killed her family, or a young adult forgiving a parent for abandoning the family, seen from the outside forgiveness is one of those things that does not make sense, especially when the perpetrator has not asked forgiveness. And yet, for the person living with the deadness that accompanies pain, forgiving is often the only way back to real life.

(Image © CNN)

April 14, 2009

Survivor’s guilt

25korea.1_600x379 As we approach North Korea Freedom Week, the Washington Post offers a moving portrait of the struggles of those who escape the oppressive regime.

At the Hangyoreh school, none of the defectors arrives with a clear idea of what career to pursue, according to Gwak [Jong-moon], the principal.

He said they come to school, instead, with fears that often overwhelm their ability to concentrate: They are afraid that someone will harm them, that someone will punish their family in North Korea, that they will fail in South Korea.

"These things really weigh them down," Gwak said. "When they start to make progress, they feel guilty. One hundred percent of the time, when you throw a birthday party for these young people, they cry for the family they left behind."

Their long-term ambitions, he said, are easy to explain: "They want to eat warm rice with their families again."

Image © Seokyong Lee for the New York Times

’As We Forgive’: Glimpsing the face of Jesus

Speaking of As We Forgive, Mary DeMuth has the sixth and last part of her interview with Catherine up at the My Family Secrets blog.

Resurrection Hope in the Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel Speaks to the Dry Bone

The hand of the Lord was upon me and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley, it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

I said, "O, Sovereign Lord, you alone know." (Ezekiel 37:1-3)

I had an email yesterday morning from one of the Rwandans I interviewed in my book, As We Forgive. As you may or may not know, this is an especially hard time in Rwanda, as this April marks the 15th anniversary of the genocide. My friend was particularly asking for prayer amidst this season of remembrance, and shared with me that they've just unearthed some more bones and will be able to finally bury his fiancée's father.

In Rwanda, so many bodies were dumped into mass graves. When I read a passage like Ezekiel 37, I can't help but think of these piles of bones bleached by the African sun in open graves. Here's the thing that gets me: The hope of the resurrection amidst a picture like this. 

Continue reading "Resurrection Hope in the Valley of Dry Bones" »

April 13, 2009

Daily roundup

April 09, 2009

Daily roundup

Posting will be light tomorrow because of Good Friday. Have a blessed Easter weekend!

April 08, 2009

The Economics of Reconciliation

Rsz_coffeeshop__017 The other night I had the privilege to speak on a panel at the Center for American Progress. The event, titled "15 Years Later: The State of Rwandan Reconciliation," was sponsored by Indego Africa and the Rwanda International Network Association, a group of Rwandans living in the United States. Its intent was to mark the 15th anniversary of the genocide and to present an in-depth look at the state of political and ethnic reconciliation in Rwanda. 

Jackson Mvunganyi, co-host of Up Front on Voice of America radio moderated the panel, which aside from me included:

  • Matthew Mitro, Founder and CEO of Indego Africa
  • Karol Boudreaux, Professor of Law at George Mason University; Lead Researcher at Enterprise Africa! a project of the Mercatus Center
  • Augustin Mutemberize, International Trade Specialist, Africa Trade Office; formerly of the Rwandan Ministry of Finance
  • Andrew Jones, Director of Policy Analysis, CARE USA; former Program Director, CARE Rwanda.

When I wasn't speaking, I was listening intently! There's a lot of fascinating research happening today in the intersection of social entrepreneurship, economics and reconciliation.

Continue reading "The Economics of Reconciliation" »

April 07, 2009

They’re only words

Obama in Turkey That must have been what President Obama thought when he decided to renege on yet another campaign promise. Ironically, his campaign promise would have addressed just that line of thinking.  

In January, when he was still just a candidate for the presidency, Obama declared, "America deserves a leader who speaks truthfully about the Armenian Genocide." Fine sounding words. Trouble is, once he set foot in Turkey, the land where this genocide occurred nearly a century ago, Mr. Obama seemed to forget all about the atrocities that once stained the streets and countryside of that nation. 

Lest you think the label we use for an event that took place almost 100 years ago is trivial, modern-day Turkey is still waging this war of words. Journalists and novelists, among others, have been tried, imprisoned and even murdered for calling the systematic annihilation of Armenians a genocide. You can read more about the genocide and some of those who have been persecuted for using this term in an article I wrote for BreakPoint WorldView a few years ago.

It's too bad the man who represents the land of the free and the home of the brave couldn't find the words to denounce tyranny and cowardice. That's a campaign promise that deserved to be kept.

(Image © UPI/Pete Souza/White House)

April 06, 2009

Daily roundup

Hope amidst the Bones

Rwanda_slah This week's Newsweek features the Chairman of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, Bishop John Rucyahana, who returned to his Rwandan homeland after the genocide to help rebuild the broken nation. Ellis Cose documents some of his experiences in this week's piece:

When Rucyahana got back to Uganda in mid-July, he rented a minibus, hired a driver and took to the road with 10 other pastors. They crossed into Rwanda and made their way to Nyamata, near Kigali, the capital. The violence had died down but death was everywhere: "We saw mass graves; we saw dead bodies. In one home, we found 27 dead bodies. . . ."

Rucyahana had to act. Initially, he ran seminars, urging people to repent and rebuild. But that wasn't enough. So in 1996, he packed up his family and returned to the land of his birth to preach hope standing on "a pile of bones," as he puts it. One of his first tasks was to build a boarding school for orphans: "Having lost a million people, lots of babies were left behind." The school in Musanze, near the Volcanoes National Park, opened in 2001. It is now one of the best schools in the country. It is called Sonrise, which, Rucyahana explains, "means the Son of God rises into the misery, into our darkness."

I share part of Bishop John's story, and one of the stories of a student at the Sonrise School/Orphanage, in As We Forgive. To read his full memoir, take a look at his own The Bishop of Rwanda. I'm so glad that the wider world is being introduced to Bishop John, the recipient of BreakPoint's 2009 Wilberforce Award, and to the amazing things God has been doing in the aftermath of this tragedy.

By the way, on this day, 15 years ago, Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane plummeted from the sky after being hit by a missile. It became the albatross around the neck of the Tutsi people when Hutu claimed that the RPF shot it down. The sudden streak of a missile and the fiery light of a falling plane were a diabolical kind of fireworks that night--evil's unseemly opening ceremonies to a hundred days of slaughter that would consume the country.

(Image © Newsweek)

April 01, 2009

Daily roundup

March 31, 2009

Daily roundup

March 30, 2009

Immunized against Idiocy

Check out this delightful refutation from the Clapham Institute of a new, and ridiculous, claim being made in a recent IBM ad -- that "math is the only language all human beings share."

Last Aboke Girl Returns Home

Mbelz23 The last of the 30 Aboke girls abducted by Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony's thugs 13 years ago, stepped into freedom last month. World's Mindy Belz connects Catherine Ajok's new found liberation to Easter:

Where is this victory o'er the grave when 13-year-old girls are defiled in the death camps of the world today? Let us skip to the happy ending, the winner's circle, the finished work, the empty tomb. There we are tempted to forget the chaos, injustice, abuse, sorrow, and stench of death weighing on the women headed to Christ's grave, weighing on us still. Like the Aboke girls' our hope is that Christ was born, walked our world, died as a sacrifice, and is alive. To practice that hope we make common cause less with the world's winners and more with its losers, practicing what aid pioneer and physician Paul Farmer calls "the long defeat."

(Image © Ronald Odongo for World)

March 27, 2009

Corroborating ’The Truth about Forgiveness’

Bernard Williams Since Sunday, folks have been telling me about the Washington Post Magazine's piece "The Truth About Forgiveness." I finally had the chance to read it today and was blown away. The story follows Bernard Williams and the murder of his son, nicknamed "Beethoven," by a neighbor, William Norman. 

The writer, Karen Houppart, does a fantastic job recreating not only the crime, but the subsequent meeting in prison between this bereaved father and the neighbor who killed his son. I won't give away the ending but there is definite movement toward forgiveness and reconciliation in this piece.

It struck me while I was reading it that this is the same story I've told in As We Forgive, only in a different context. The chronology is even the same. This murder happened in Baltimore in 1994. The murders I write about happened in Rwanda in 1994. And so the length of time that has gone by for the bereaved is also the same. The methods used to bring healing are very much the same: restorative encounters between offender and victim, marked by remorse and repentance on behalf of the guilty and risk and radical grace on behalf of the offended. The truths that get them there transcend context.

The writer mentions a movement in our society toward embracing forgiveness, not just for those from a religious background, but by scientific research also. Here's a snippet:

While spiritual leaders have long asked folks to accept the benefits of forgiveness on faith, the secular world has lately jumped on the bandwagon -- and proffered scientific evidence to support this view.

Continue reading "Corroborating ’The Truth about Forgiveness’" »

March 26, 2009

Daily roundup

March 23, 2009

’As We Forgive’ Q&A, parts 3 and 4

Mary DeMuth has two new installments of the interview with Catherine on her blog, here and here.

March 20, 2009

A threat to Christian books in prison

Prison chapel libraries may soon become sparser if the Bureau of Prisons gets its way. In its zeal to prevent inmates from becoming violent religious radicals, the BOP has proposed a policy that would snatch from inmates' reach any materials that “could” incite, promote, or suggest violence. Religious liberty groups, such as the Alliance Defense Fund, are up in arms. Rightly so.

The Bureau of Prisons’ proposed language casts such a wide net that many Christian books and even the Bible itself could wind up on the banned list if someone can conjure up their possible link to violent behavior. The BOP tried something like this a couple of years ago by setting up the Standardized Chapel Library Project, which created a black list of religious texts to be removed from prison chapels. The list was so extensive that it threatened prisoners’ right to practice religion. Thankfully, the Second Chance Act discontinued the Project. The Second Chance Act also tried to prevent any future BOP schemes by allowing the Bureau to only remove materials that “seek” to incite violence. Apparently, the BOP has little intention of remaining within the bounds of the law.

Keeping inmates from becoming religious radicals is necessary for public safety. But the BOP’s broad, hazy language poses a grave threat to peaceful religious expression. If the BOP is truly interested in protecting us from violence, it will encourage inmates to read books that lead to their moral transformation. 

March 13, 2009

The Terri Schiavo Story

Terri Has anyone heard any buzz yet about this documentary from Joni and Friends?

(Image © Joni and Friends)

’Slumdog’ Defies Oscar Norms

Slumdog-millionaire6 How did Jamal Malik, a slumdog from Mumbai, win 20 million rupees on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

A. He cheated
B. He’s lucky
C. He’s a genius
D. It is destiny

In a swirling explosion of triumphant hope and relentless love against the darkness of poverty, exploitation and violence…that question is answered.

(Spoilers after the jump)

Continue reading "’Slumdog’ Defies Oscar Norms" »

Documentary by a Former Jihadist

Tawfik_hamid1 Rick Santorum alerts readers to a new documentary by a former jihadist, Tawfick Hamid, about why Muslims should reject violent teachings. 

In the Wall Street Journal, Hamid also speaks out against the recent actions of the British government to ban Geert Wilders from their country because of his truth-filled moive, in a quest to appease Islamic forces. Hamid warns us that they made egregious errors against free speech in trying to "kill the messenger."  

(Image courtesy of Intelligence Speakers Bureau)

March 12, 2009

A new ball game

Connecticut's grab for power over the state's Catholic churches (referenced here) has been shot down after outraged protests by Catholic voters. But it's worth reading up on the issue to understand just what was involved in this attempt, in case something similar happens again. A good place to start is Kathryn Lopez's interview with Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage. Here's a sample:

LOPEZ: Critics point out that it is allegedly being pushed by same-sex-marriage opponents. Is this really about the gay-marriage debate?

BROWN: It certainly doesn’t pass the smell test. Gay-marriage activists have been very open about going after the LDS church because Mormons donated money and time to Prop 8. This certainly appears to be part of that same strategy, although Michael Lawlor, for one, has been pretty openly contemptuous of the Catholic church for some time — something insiders at Hartford know, but his East Haven constituents may not.

LOPEZ: It’s hard not to flash back to the Proposition 8 debate in California — which is really still going on, isn’t it? There seems to be less debate and more retribution on this issue.

BROWN: I do think we need to be realistic: Unless we find a way to organize lay Catholics and join with other people of faith to protect our liberties, we are going to be a huge target in blue states with a newly resurgent Democrat party — one of whose key base groups, gay-marriage activists, believe they are the civil-rights battle of the century and that opposition to their views is henceforth as illegitimate as racism.

These are not your mama’s liberals. It’s a new ball game.

But I also believe this as passionately: Every crisis is also an opportunity. Appalled as I am, I’m also looking forward to playing some brand new ball.

March 10, 2009

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March 05, 2009

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Like Father, Like Son

Franklin_Graham An opinion column in the New York Times by Samaritan's Purse president Franklin Graham has surprised many human rights and religious liberty advocates in the United States and around the world.  Responding to a then-pending arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (the warrant has since been issued), Graham intimates that for the sake of peace in the short-term, he would prefer to have Bashir remain in power in the war-ravished African nation.

"I want to see justice served, but my desire for peace in Sudan is stronger," says Graham.  "Mr. Bashir, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, is hardly an ideal peacemaker. But given all the warring factions in Sudan, there is no guarantee that his replacement would be better."

Graham goes on to say that despite his faults, Bashir has displayed a willingness to cooperate--even allowing for Samaritan's Purse to broadcast Christian television programming for Christmas and Easter. He suggests the United Nations Security Council postpone any proceedings for a year, thus allowing the peace process to be completed.

Graham's approach to the issue, while no doubt sincere, strikes me as both short-sighted and naïve. Bashir's continuing leadership will only serve to embolden Janjaweed militias intent on genocide. And the president's accommodation of Graham regarding holiday broadcasting does not discount the fact that Bashir has proven himself untrustworthy throughout the conflicts in South Sudan and Darfur.

Continue reading "Like Father, Like Son" »

March 04, 2009

Daily roundup

A Desilu Production

Jindal Over at the Daily Beast, Keshni Kashyap assures us that the generally negative reaction to governor Jindal's reply to the president's address to Congress doesn't mean that "we’re a nation of racists." (Good to know.) No, if we felt uneasy with the Louisiana governor it's because we were "observing a man who seems to be uneasy with his own race."

What? I think I liked it better when it was our fault. Actually, after reading Kashnap's "reasoning" I know I liked it better.

Her proof of Jindal's "unease?"

He changed his Indian name during childhood and, against his father’s wishes, he converted from Hinduism to Christianity. When the Times-Picayune tried to go to India to cover his Punjabi roots, his family did not cooperate.

Add this to the fact that the Jindals do not maintain many "Indian traditions" in their home, and no wonder that "Bobby Jindal creates confusion in the minds of Americans who watch him: they sense self-deception."

A condensed version of Keshni Kashyap: a South Asian who converts to Christianity is a self-loathing Desi. She quotes Varun Soni of the University of Southern California: "By changing his name from Piyush to Bobby and by converting from Hinduism to Christianity, Jindal has repeatedly distanced himself from his Indian ethnicity and his family's Hindu faith . . ."

Continue reading "A Desilu Production" »

Six-Part Q&A with Mary DeMuth on ’As We Forgive’

Each Monday for the next five Mondays, author Mary DeMuth will be interviewing me at her newest blog, My Family SecretsThis six-part series will particularly focus on what the stories of reconciliation from Rwanda can mean for those struggling here with difficult things in their past.

I just finished Mary's newest book, Daisy Chain--another example of why DeMuth is gaining such a following for her work. I'll have more to say on that later, but for now here's an excerpt from what's up this week on Mary's blog (I've added the speaker tags):

DeMuth: Earlier, I reviewed the phenomenal book As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson. You can read my review here.

I contacted Catherine directly and asked if she'd be willing to answer some questions regarding forgiveness and reconciliation. She kindly agreed. Stay tuned for the next five Mondays where Catherine shares from her heart.

What compelled you to write this book?

Larson: I strongly felt this was a story that needed to be told. When I heard about murderers and survivors living in relative peace in the same community just fifteen years after one of the worst atrocities of the past century, I wanted to understand better what was going on in the community that was enabling this to happen. Working with Prison Fellowship which is active in Rwanda, I’d heard stories about prisoners repenting and sincerely seeking to show their remorse and victims who were coming to grasp onto forgiveness. I wanted to find out more for myself. When my friend, Laura Waters Hinson, went to film her documentary of the same name in 2006, I heard again first-hand of these miraculous stories unfolding. Inspired by her film, and the work of Prison Fellowship Rwanda, I traveled in 2007 to follow up with the people interviewed in her documentary along with several others.

DeMuth: Some readers and all posters at My Family Secrets wrestle with pain from the past and struggle to be set free. How has writing As We Forgive helped you on your own forgiveness and freedom journey?

Larson: You know, wherever evil has occurred there is a shattering of peace—or shalom. I think writing this book showed me that even though you can come to the place of being able to extend the gift of forgiveness, sometimes there’s still a lot of brokenness that needs healing. In my life, before I’d gone to Rwanda, I had been able to forgive one of the deepest wounds against me, but it didn’t mean that there wasn’t still a lot of brokenness inside of me. Writing this book, taught me something about the place for lament when peace has been shattered, about the righteous anger we feel when something beautiful is lost, and about the One who not only carried our sins, but also every one of our sorrows to the cross (Isaiah 53:4). Being able to let him carry the weight of not just my sin, but my sorrow was a pivotal point in my healing process.

Read more here.

February 27, 2009

Daily roundup

Of chimps and men

Chimp Even though a certain segment of the population happily spent eight years comparing President Bush to a chimp, making such human/monkey comparisons suddenly has become a very naughty thing to do. As you may have heard, the New York Post recently published a cartoon that drew parallels between the economic stimulus plan and the chimp who went on a rampage and mauled a woman. Although the cartoon chimp showed no signs of being a direct representation of President Obama, this cartoon was taken by many as a racial insult. (There's an interesting conversation about this going on at Ed Gilbreath's Reconciliation Blog.) The scandal prompted a breathtaking display of obtuseness on the part of cartoonist Ted Rall -- who blogs at the Smirking Chimp blog (named "in dishonor of [Bush]") and who perpetrated this little gem of racism -- who declared himself a moral authority in these matters.

Of course the comparing of racial minorities to animals has a long and shameful history. (Thanks, Mr. Darwin!) That's why many made the leap that they made in viewing the cartoon, even though I sincerely doubt that any such meaning was intended.

But I think this controversy should get us thinking in broader terms about the way we talk about our fellow human beings, black or white. And along those lines, here’s a question to ponder: In recent years, as we're often reminded, we’ve found out that we and chimps have 99 percent of our DNA "identical in regions that we both share," as Regis wrote. So why are we still propagating negative stereotypes about our simian cousins? (The Washington Post has now apologized for running a chimp cartoon that had no racial implications at all!) Why aren’t we embracing them instead? Are we going to get all high and mighty over 1 measly percent?

Or is it possible that it really does make a difference after all?

Just what we need

Freeman1 Remember the old McCain campaign slogan about Obama? (Not ready to lead.) The appointment of Charles Freeman to the NIC has observers on both the right and the left realizing that maybe it wasn't just a slogan....

(Image courtesy of Fox News)

February 26, 2009

White knot blacklist?

Add this to what Chuck was saying the other day about harassment via Google Maps, and it begins to look like we may be heading that way.

February 25, 2009

Daily roundup

Lenten Reflections: Repentance, Confession, and Forgiveness, Day One

Rouault Before I left for Rwanda to write As We Forgive, I was reading a book called The Keys to My Neighbor’s House, by journalist Elizabeth Neuffer, who covered the atrocities of both Bosnia and Rwanda. She writes about returning to interview perpetrators. When I read this I couldn’t get it out of my mind: “What’s most chilling when you meet a murderer is that you meet yourself."

That’s not a popular thought, but it is a sobering one. And it’s a perfect place to begin my Lenten reflections.  

There’s this stubborn thing that honest people know. I don’t mean honest in the sense of never telling a lie. I mean the people who are willing to not gloss over their own flaws. I mean the people who are willing to judge themselves not by the measuring rod of others, not even by the measuring rod of the face they present the world, but by the measuring rod of what’s in the heart.

The prophet Jeremiah put his finger on it: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus picked up the theme. He said:

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

If I tell myself that I never could have done what the killers in Rwanda did, that I never could have done this or that, I kid myself. Apart from God’s grace, the murderer I’m interviewing could be me. I don’t want to look into the murderer’s mirror, but I need to. But for God, his eyes are my eyes. And even more chilling, on the days when I think angry thoughts about others, Jesus says that murderer’s heart is my heart.

Sackcloth and ashes: these need to be mine.

February 24, 2009

Daily roundup

February 23, 2009

Novelist Calls ’As We Forgive’ Life-changing

Novelist Mary DeMuth just posted a fantastic review of As We Forgive: Stories of Reconciliation from Rwanda over at RelevantBlog. Check it out:

As We Forgive by Catherine Claire Larson is one of those life-changing books that will linger with you the rest of your life. It’s not for the fainthearted. It’s not for the hard-hearted or those bent toward stubborn unforgiveness. It’s primarily a story of hope.

During 100 days of 1994, 800,000 people were brutally murdered in Rwanda—a genocide swifter in execution than Nazi gas chambers. Imagine Denver and Colorado Springs—every man, woman and child—suddenly gone from our population and you’ll appreciate the scope of the horror. (And go look on a map of Africa. Trace your finger due South of Uganda, due West of the Congo and you’ll appreciate how little this country is.)

As We Forgive shares the stories of genocide survivors, recounting the unspeakable. But it does not stop there. Larson pulls back the curtain of the most ostentatious acts of forgiveness I’ve witnessed, where genocide survivors choose to forgive those who perpetrated such violence.

Together, through reconciliation practices and restorative justice, they are rebuilding their country from the ruins of hatred—all on the back of the One who still bears the scars for our sins today.

I came away from this book changed, deeply moved, and inspired. Having seen the power of God to help people forgive the seeming unforgiveable, it gave me hope that my own wrestling with forgiveness would end in hope. I also appreciated that none of the forgiveness modeled was simple or easy or quickly won, nor does the book purport that reconciliation is merely forgiveness while forgetting. For true restoration to occur, the person perpetrating the atrocity must first fully own his/her own sin and grieve it as such. And for the person who was sinned against to heal, he/she must revisit the place of grief in order to heal.

All this dovetails beautifully into the message God’s been birthing in me—to help people who suffer silently to tell the truth about their pasts, to choose the difficult path of forgiveness, in order to heal.

If God can reach into a genocide victim’s heart and offer peace; if He can transform a murderer into a productive member of a reconciled society; then surely He can transform your pain today. That’s the patent hope this book gives. It’s a gift to all of us. And I pray it’s a gift all open.

DeMuth's latest novel, Daisy Chain, hits stores in March. In it she explores the suffocating power of family secrets in a novel that some are comparing to To Kill a Mockingbird and Peace Like a River. DeMuth's Family Secrets blog is seeking to help others who have struggled with a secret that has a death grip on their lives. Obviously there's a clear connection to the secrets which plague us and a need to forgive ourselves, others, or confess the guilt we carry.

(Originally posted at www.asweforgivebook.com)

February 20, 2009

BreakPoint Worldview Magazine: Against the Flow

Ocean_river Growing up near the ocean, I learned early on about currents, the kind that can pull a child under and leave her choking on a mouthful of salt water. A childhood friend of mine misunderstood her parents once when they warned her about the undertow. She heard “under toad.” And the explanation of something which can pull you under and drag you off course fit her mental picture of a large underwater toad grabbing at her ankles. It frightened her from enjoying the ocean for years to come. Later on, when she realized her mistake, we used to laugh about the evil “under toad.” And though her mental picture changed, she never underestimated its strength.

When I got to college, one of my mentors used to often talk about Christian discipleship in terms of currents in a river. He would say that you learn quickly that staying still is actually moving backward. The only way to move against the flow is to paddle hard.

This month’s issue of BreakPoint Worldview Magazine reminds me just how much we need to paddle hard to live in alignment with God’s ways. Thankfully, we don’t paddle in our own strength. The Holy Spirit empowers us in this difficult counter-cultural journey. But paddle we must.

Continue reading "BreakPoint Worldview Magazine: Against the Flow" »

February 19, 2009

Attack in Beirut

Journalist and author Christopher Hitchens was attacked by members of the Syrian Nazi party while on a trip to Beirut. Blogger "Ace" from Ace of Spades HQ, who was on the trip with Hitchens, has details. The story contains frequent profanity -- including what Hitchens wrote on one of the party's posters that sparked the attack.

February 18, 2009

Daily roundup

February 17, 2009

A Predator Plays with Its Prey

Hugo-Chavez This animal's fangs are about two inches long, it communicates by howling, growling, and whining, and it hunts in packs. Can you name it?

Okay, okay, I can't call Venezuela's president (for life?), Hugo Chavez, and his minions wolves, but they are acting like predators in a pen of helpless sheep. Chavez and co. have been hard at work inciting violence against Venezuelan citizens of Jewish descent. 

Regarding the latest attack against the Jews, Chavez pitifully laments, "Why do they have to blame me for everything?"

We blame you, Mr. Dictator, because through your minions you have started systematically stirring the anti-Semitic pot. You’ve ensured violence against your own citizens because you love it. You’ve aided and abetted violence against your own citizens by printing vile anti-Semitic tracts, by giving rousing violence-filled speeches, and by hiring thugs who will promote violence throughout your land.  Furthermore, you’ve promised to use violent uprisings to get control of Latin America, and you’ve promised to infiltrate and commit violence against United States of America. The fact is, Mr. Dictator, you have a nasty and violent mind. 

We must face the truth of the matter, or we'll soon have another Hitler on our hands--and millions of people just might be murdered.   

To use Dietrich Bonhoeffer's words, Christians are called, "not just to bind up the victims beneath the wheel, but to halt the wheel itself." (Elizabeth Raum, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Called by God)

(© Jorge Silva for Reuters)

’As We Forgive’ on the Road

Catherine Andy Emmanuel Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making, interviewed Emmanuel Katongole, the co-director of Duke’s Center for Reconciliation, and me at last week’s National Pastors Convention in San Diego. Later that day, after a screening of the documentary film As We Forgive, director Laura Waters Hinson and World Relief President Don Golden joined Crouch, Katongole and me for another panel discussion.

I really appreciated the deep questions Emmanuel Katongole raised during both interviews. He is a deep thinker and it is evident that raising the tough questions is part of his forte.

I read Katongole’s deeply engaging Mirror to the Church on the plane ride home. I highly recommend it. In it, he pushes the reader to face facts squarely and to realize that the reason that many Christians in Rwanda failed to protect their fellow man in the 1994 genocide was that the stories of their culture had a deeper grip on them the reality of their faith. Katongole raises this reality up like a mirror to the West. He asks us to consider what stories in the West have a deeper grip on us? Where in our experience, he asks, does the blood of tribalism run deeper than the waters of baptism? If you think of tribalism not in its common association, but in almost a metaphorical sense, you begin to see how profound his question is.

It was also a great pleasure to meet Andy Crouch. His encouragement concerning my book meant so much to me. He shared in front of the convention crowd that the book brought him to tears as he read it in Starbucks. And he shared with me privately how much he appreciated the artistry of the book. That was rich encouragement to someone who has labored long and hard in the crafting of this book. If you haven’t read Andy’s Culture Making, it is an absolute must-read. It recently won top honors in Christianity Today’s 2009 book awards, along with another book by Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice called Reconciling All Things.

Speaking of encouragement, my interview the week before last with New Testament professor Reggie Kidd over at Common Grounds Online certainly buoyed my spirits. Here’s just a snippet from that interview. Reggie Kidd writes, “When I pick up an ‘issues’ book, I don’t have high literary expectations for it. Because I know you and your love for words I wasn’t terribly surprised, but I was nonetheless delighted, at the lyrical hand you brought to this work. Page after page of my copy is marked with phrases I simply wanted to hold onto ...” You can read the rest of the interview here.

Earlier that week Tim McConnell also reviewed As We Forgive. He writes: “What struck me in reading was the fundamental truth that forgiveness is unnatural; forgiveness cannot naturally follow what these victims endured. It is not natural for a girl who has been mauled, raped, and left for dead to grow to offer forgiveness to her terrorizers. It is not natural for a boy who watched his father and family killed by neighbors he knew to turn to them with grace and favor. Forgiveness is an intervention. It is some sort of divine intervention that must enter from another plane of existence.” You can read the rest of this review here.

(Originally posted on www.asweforgivebook.com)