rights and responsibilities

Three recent events, a complaint about a sermon, a movie about Margaret Thatcher and a FB conversation about gun laws, have me reflecting on the tendencies of ‘left-wingers’ and ‘right-wingers’.  Both left and right folk will express concern for both ‘rights’ and ‘responsibilities’, but at different times.

On the topic of social welfare:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of the poor/unemployed
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of the poor/unemployed

On the topic of gun laws:
the right emphasise the ‘rights’ of gun owners
the left emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of gun ownership/use

On the topic of war:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of all humans to have peace
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of defending peace

On the topic of abortion:
the left emphasise the ‘rights’ of the woman
the right emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of the man and woman

On the topic of ‘the environment’:
the right emphasise the ‘rights’ of individuals and businesses
the left emphasise the ‘responsibilities’ of individuals and businesses

In all of these scenarios, I am interested in embracing the tension between BOTH rights AND responsibilities.  I’m interested in BOTH short-term practicalities, AND long-term wisdom.

I’m interested in social policy that is both generous and sustainable – that avoids the extremes of too much or too little assistance, which (ironically) both end up cementing the poor in their poverty.

I’m interested in gun laws that are both practical and wise – that avoid the foolish extremes of taking guns away or assuming that no regulation is needed at all – both of which will end up causing harm.

I’m interested in a military policy that is both prepared to use force, and seeks to be accountable to human rights – avoiding the extremes of an idealistic and passive pacifism on one hand, and a short-sighted/arrogant agression on the other.

I’m interested in an abortion policy that is committed to the quality and quantity of life for both the pre-born human and the mother (and father, family…) – avoiding the extremes of an idealistic, legislate-heaven-to-earth, fantasy on one hand, and a careless, inhumane, abortion-as-contraception nightmare on the other.

I’m interested in environmental policy that uses both legislation and education to motivate people and businesses to care for creation – avoiding the extremes of avoidance and assumptions that all is OK on one hand, and aggressive, undemocratic pushing through of eco-laws on the other.

peace on earth

Watched Joyeux Noël again with my wife – a truly great film, based on true events of one of the WWI Christmas Truces.

Apparently, the Germans first decorated their trenches with Christmas trees, and belting out Christmas carols – the first/main one is thought to have been ‘Stille Nacht’ (Silent Night).  This prompted some (English) carol singing from the British side.  This led to more singing, coming out of their trenches and meeting and conversing with one another, exchanging of gifts (whiskey, cigars, chocolate, etc.), sharing a Communion Service together (!), helping one another bury their dead, football (‘soccer’) games, and various other acts of kindness.

It’s a tremendous story, and it’s worth your time reading some of the letters from the troops describing the events.

May peace rule our hearts!

sophie scholl

Diane and I enjoyed (again) ‘Sophie Scholl: The Final Days’ the other night.

She was a courageous woman.  Very inspiring.

I also particularly appreciated her prayers.  I don’t know as of yet if they are hers exactly or reconstructions of the writers, but here they are as in the film: Continue reading “sophie scholl”

wanted: damon to play bonhoeffer

Will somebody please make a modern, well-produced movie about Dietrich Bonhoeffer!???

(existing works here, here and here…)

I think Matt Damon should play the part…  :)

ethical violence?

A question raised by Damian (‘Would you kill if God told you to?’) under a post at Frank’s blog recently led to various comments about God, killing and ethics.

The issue is massive, and I won’t try to summarise it here, but I wanted to share an interesting historical character that I think is fully relevant to the topic. Continue reading “ethical violence?”

fighting over the god of abraham?

U2 rocked Mt. Albert Stadium this past Friday.In addition to providing exhilarating entertainment and much more, Bono – to the surprise of none – beat his drum of anti-poverty and world peace. Noble indeed. At one point, Bono donned a white bandana with the word ‘Coexist’ in black letters. The Crescent moon of Islam, the Jewish Star of David, and the Christian Cross in place of the ‘C’, ‘X’ and ‘T’.The idea is obvious and wonderful: These three world religions ought to be able to exist together without murdering each other. From the horrific Crusades involving all three, to the Nazi extermination of Jews (and others) in the name of Christ, to the more recent acts of terrorism by Muslim fundamentalists, the world has seen more than enough violence in the name of religion. To advocate peace is undeniably a good and desperately needed cause.

During this part of the concert, Bono pointed out that Jews, Christians and Muslims all claim Abraham as a father-figure and are happy to call themselves ‘Sons of Abraham’. One phrase he used to drive this home was “Jesus. Jew. Mohammed. It’s true.”

The reaction from some of the Christian community has been quite interesting. Some see Bono as equating the three faiths, and others defend him as merely trying to advocate peace and using their common ground with Abraham to do so. At any rate, the following question has resurfaced in many conversations: Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

I’d like to answer the question with another: Do Christians, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses worship the same Jesus? Whether we like it or not, the answer to these questions is both Yes and No.

On one hand, we can point to the basic, general things the faiths have in common. Jews, Christians and Muslims all share the same principles of monotheism (all 3 believe in One God), election (all 3 believe that God chooses a people to be His own) and eschatology (all 3 believe in a future hope of eternal life with God).

On the other hand, we can point to the many more ways in which they are different. The number of different beliefs is too many to list here, so I’ll just focus on the one that is not only the biggest, but the most important – Jesus.

Jews believe Jesus was a good prophet and teacher, but far from Messiah, and anything but Lord of the Universe. Muslims believe that Jesus was ‘a messiah’ that will return to earth again, but don’t see him as ‘the Messiah’ and certainly not as God incarnate.

The Christian faith centers on Jesus. He is the One Lord; of the One people of God; who have the One glorious hope of resurrection.

One of the great things about serving Jesus is that he doesn’t ever ask us to kill in the name of religion. Though there are differences between Judaism, Islam and Christianity which will always separate us spiritually, we should have no problem coexisting with them physically.

I’ll close by quoting the end of a discussion Jesus had with the Pharisees of his time.

“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” – John 8:56-58