When is it appropriate to appropriate? Why appropriation can be good. (Part 2)

“Not all appropriation is bad” may seem like an odd statement since in Part 1 of this topic I talked about all the reasons why appropriation is bad. In this part I intend to talk about one aspect of human culture that needs to be appropriated and if it isn’t appropriated then problems happen. I am talking of course about the good news of Jesus Christ.

Get this. The gospel is supposed to be appropriated. No one culture can claim ownership over it. No one group can say that they are the final authority on how the gospel should be understood and applied — such decisions need to happen in dialogue with everyone else. This is something very hard to do, granted, but also something that should be done. We know this because Jesus’ final command to his disciples — often called the Great Commission — is to spread this good news around the world.

Andrew Walls spent his life developing a framework of Transmission and Appropriation when it comes to the good news of Jesus Christ. What’s significant about Walls approach is that he sees not only the transmission side of things but also delves into the appropriation side as well. Appropriate is as intentional as transmission — eventually whatever is being transmitted is to subsequently be appropriated by the recipient. 

Walls talks about two types of recipients of the good news: Proselytes and converts. Proselytes adopt some one else’s encounter with God as their own while Converts adapt their own culture to reflect a new encounter with God. It may seem as if this is a two-stage process starting from proselyte and moving towards conversion but that is an over simplification of how things work. In fact in every culture we see examples of both co-existing. For example the practice of baptism, while debated as to its mode, is a nearly universally accepted practice among Christians, in spite of the fact that it originated in the Jewish religion.

The fact that the gospel is to be transmitted also implies that it will also be appropriated. Thus, Appropriation and Transmission must occur together. What’s also interesting is that ultimately the process also happens in reverse to create a richer transmission culture: The appropriator becomes the transmitter and the transmitter becomes the appropriator — or at least it should 🙂 Cultural hybridity is not a bad thing. In reality there are very few cultures that exist that have no interaction with other cultures. 

We have seen the dangers of what Bakhtin calls monologues — where only one person is allowed to speak. The results are staggering. 

Church participation in Cultural Genocide. I have already written a lot about this topic particularly as it relates to the Canadian Indian Residential Schools System but suffice it to say the church’s failure to listen to the voices of the Other in their missions efforts has been nearly universal. The “Other” is “someone or something who is perceived, either consciously or not, as alien or different.” In this example, while missionaries may recruit some of those they are on mission to into their own ranks, their otherness is often maintained as seen by the second example.

Marginalisation of Other clergy. My great-great-great-great grandfather, Rev. James N. Settee, was the second person of First Nations ancestry to be ordained as a priest in the Church Missionary Society (Anglican Church of Canada). He devoted his entire life to spreading the gospel among first nations peoples in Manitoba and Saskatchewan but was also forced to spend much of his time combatting the inconsistencies and discriminations that he himself experienced on a daily basis to the point that it hindered his ability to do actual ministry. What’s interesting is that he clearly appropriated the gospel into his life’s work but found baggage that needed to be peeled away in order for it to work in his context. 

Other examples. This can also been seen in the many Church splits and schisms that have marked church history as people took stands on where they thought the gospel should end — I suspect all done without acknowledging different contexts.

Rather than monologue, dialogues need to take place and it’s only through the use of dialogue that the appropriation of the good news of Jesus Christ can take place. We talked about Enriquez’ approach to what he calls indigenization from within, which is in effect a system of appropriation governed by insiders rather than outsiders and perhaps this is the best way for appropriation to take place — under the control of the Other!

Salin a Tagalog root word that means “translate” and also “pour” and talks about the process involved in making something one’s own in a different language or culture. Just as liquid is decanted from a pitcher into a glass, and thereby made useful, so also concepts can be decanted from one culture to another and more more understandable. But translation is more than simply making something more understandable — translation means that ownership is taken of the new word or phrase and making it one’s own. So how does someone make something one’s own? Here are a couple of examples from the Philippine context.

Sometimes this combination is more complex than merely combining indigenous and exogenous theories. Regardless of theoretical origins, other factors come into play that exert influence on human decisions, including sociopolitical purposes, religious institutional ends, and religious practitioners’ ends. The various actors, whether those in authority or those under oppression, are each able to exert their own will and influence outcomes. Wendt and Guazon each talk about the interaction of these three factors in the Philippines. Both describe situations where the original intent of the transmitters was re-purposed by the appropriators according to their own needs.

Wendt (1998) talks about fiesta, looking at both historical origins as a means of Spanish control that eventually was co-opted by Filipinos and reformulated into a real part of Filipino identity. Wendt says, “The functions originally intended to implement colonial rule, cultivate specific attitudes and stabilize the colonial system were counteracted to the same degree by the Filipinos’ incorporating the fiesta into their own ways of life and social structures.”

Guazon’s Crisis in the Formation of provisional members of a religious congregation in the Philippines is a study of the interactions between “formandi” and “formators” in the CICM, which is “Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae, the institute’s Latin name. CICM is a Roman Catholic male religious missionary institute of Belgian origin.” The formandi are acolytes desiring admission to the order and the formators are those charged with overseeing the initiation process. One would assume that the process is quite straight forward since the acolytes are the ones seeking admission and will presumably submit. This is not the case, however, with tension occurring on multiple levels. In the end, Guazon concludes that the formandi … are “active participants” in the process and appropriate the requirements of their new social system “according to their own cultural matrix.”

Feedback is always welcome.

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When is it appropriate to appropriate? Why appropriation is bad. (Part 1)

Cultural Appropriation has made the news again. Nuseir Yassin runs the popular video log Nas Daily. He recently made the news (herehere, and here) when he offered a tattoo course by Whang-Od on his Nas Academy. Whang-Od is a traditional tattoo artist from the Philippine province of Kalinga who was honoured by the Philippine government with the Dangal na Haraya in 2018. The controversy started when Whang-Od’s grandniece called the course a scam. It turns out that Nuseir didn’t follow the proper procedures in making the deal with Whang-Od. According to Dr. Nestor Castro, 

“Whang-od is not just an individual artist but she is also a member of the Butbut Tribe of Kalinga. Her skill on the art of traditional tattooing is derived from the indigenous knowledge of generations of Kalinga ancestors. Thus, this indigenous knowledge is collectively owned (although it may be individually practiced) by the Butbut. Thus, the consent of the members of the Butbut is necessary if this knowledge is to be shared to outsiders. Getting the permission of one individual is not enough.” [Click here to read the entire post].

Apart from this, the agreement also doesn’t conform to Philippine laws on the rights of indigenous peoples. In the end, Cultural appropriation of this type is inappropriate because it is the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society. The issue is culture or people’s right to be the gatekeepers of their own cultural wealth, whether that means protecting that wealth from other’s exploitations, or benefitting themselves as the owners of that cultural wealth.

Virgilio G. Enriquez, whose Pagbabangong-Dangal: Indigenous Psychology and Cultural Empowerment is from the Philippine context, presents six phases of cultural domination to which “indigenous psychology and culture have been subjected” throughout the world. Included in the stages are:

1. Denial and Withdrawal, where the “colonizers outrightly reject the very existence of what they perceive as an inferior culture.” This inferiority includes language, sport, food, law, and religion. “As the dominant culture denies the existence and worth of the indigenous culture, it also attempts to replace it with its own.”

2. Desecration and Destruction, where the “oppressive culture attempts to destroy whatever vestiges are left” of the indigenous culture. “Clearly, as the dominant culture atemts to destroy element s of the supposedly inferior culture, it tries to institutionalize and strengthen its own.”

3. Denigration and Marginalization, where the indigenous is labeled, giving the impression that it is inferior or damaged. This includes terms like Juan Tamad, quack doctor, ningas kugon, Filipino time, and talangka mentality as well as inaccurate portrayals of Filipinos in artwork depicting historical events, each of which is a negative stereotype of what it means to be Filipino.

4. Redefinition and Token Utilization, where the indigenous is “redefined and recast into the colonial mold.” Thus all indigenous meaning attached to the element is lost and it is not only completely redefined in a new context but also claimed by that new context as one of its own. Enriquez uses the Manila Galleon as an example. Here we have Filipino ingenuity in shipbuilding being redefined and claimed by the Spanish as one of their own. Enriquez also includes a discussion of what appears to be the token usage of “indigenous psychological texts” by Western-trained practitioners. It seems that they are being used not because of their value as psychological tools but because they merely make the client more at ease in an unfamiliar setting. 

5. Transformation and Mainstreaming, appears to be similar to Stage 4 only intensified. Here Enriquez focuses on the word hiyang, that at one time was considered nonsensical but is now seen as highlighting “personal differences” in therapeutic settings. Enriquez applies this to what happens in the doctor’s office, the kinds of food we eat, and folk-understandings of colors, shapes, textures, and sounds. “Once the prejudgment that the indigenous concept is merely superstitious or even useless has been proven wrong, the concept is reluctantly used but redefined according to the colonial mindset.”

6. Commercialization and Commodification, is where the real legitimacy of the indigenous is recognized by the colonizer. This can lead to one of two options, according to Enriquez. The first is “transforming and mainstreaming,” where “complete recognition and respect” is given by the colonizer to the indigenous and the two are mutually beneficial. The second option is where the indigenous culture’s knowledge and heritage are “exploited and commercialized.” Enriquez says that option #1 is rarely taken. He goes on to discuss the exploitation of indigenous genetics, both plant and human.

Enriquez proposes a counter-framework he calls “Decolonization, Counterdomination, and Empowerment” in order to guide in the recovery of what has been lost through colonialism. His model involves blending “both the modern and traditional cultural systems.” Key to his approach is what he calls indigenization from within, a traditional values-based approach that sees the indigenous as the main actor rather than the outsider. This internal orientation is essential to beginning decolonization because it puts the indigenous firmly in the driver’s seat. Enriquez identifies four aspects to indigenization from within, namely the “identification of key concepts from the indigenous culture,” the “semantic and lexical elaboration of these concepts,” the systematization and articulation of a theoretical framework, and applying and using this framework in the field. This process combines ideas and practices that are not only appropriate for the culture but also valid scientifically. So while one may conduct an interview in order to gather data, one is also free to conduct that interview in a culturally appropriate and relevant way.

Thus, by most accounts, appropriation is something that is bad but can be remedied. In our next post we will talk about a situation where appropriation is not only good, but is also the right thing to do.

Feedback is always welcome.

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3 Types of Evil: Part 2

Part 1 of this post proved very popular on Facebook. If you haven’t read it yet, head on over to get caught up. Lots of good questions and discussion. In light of that I thought it might be a good idea to flesh out some of the ideas in that post and try to answer any questions that arose.

What should be obvious from part 1 is that evil is a complex subject. For sake of clarity I am using evil as a catch all for everything bad that is in the world. I base this on the statement God repeatedly makes in Genesis after creating stuff: “Everything is very good.” For me that means that if something is bad then it isn’t a part of the original creation. Jumping off on this, I think that our theologising is misguided when we start from the concept of original sin since Adam and Eve were created with original righteousness. So my conceptualisation of evil includes death, sin, suffering, sickness, injustice, rebellion, and self-righteousness/self-trust and anything that causes these things. 

I actually expected most of the comments to be about structural evil since that is a huge topic in the church today. However, as it turned out, most comments related to personal evil and natural evil. 

Any discussion of evil has to start with Genesis 3 where we see the story of Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden of Eden. It’s interesting to look at the three types of sin that are talked about in this passage.

Personal Evil. We begin with the curses that are placed upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent for their personal sins. It is important to point out however, that even though Adam, Eve, and the serpent sinned personally, the bible treats their personal sin differently that our personal sin because their personal sins had an effect on everyone else.

As Saul Samante asks, “Is it safe to conjecture that these three evils are not really separate entities but deeply connected with each other? Let me put it this way: Personal evil (Adamic sin), gave rise to cosmic and systemic evils. Prior to the fall, everything was perfect and harmonious. After the fall, cosmic harmony disintegrated and human structures or systems became oppressive.”

Romans says that death entered through Adam’s sin. This is significant for the rest of our conversation because a large part of our understanding of natural evil is connected to death. We will expand on this below.

Structural Evil. We also see Adam’s sin as it affects his family namely Eve and their unborn children. So here we see that Adam’s personal sin has an effect upon the structures of the day, in this case family but of course eventually expand on to become greater structures in society. As Mike Swalm points out,

“Your examples of systemic evil, for instance, could they stem from some of the systemic curse language (your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you/enmity between woman and serpent etc)?”

Mike is on the right track. The language used in these two phrases is significant in that we see linguistic parallels between this passage and the account of Cain’s sin a few chapters later. Take a look:

In Genesis 3:16 God says to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

In Genesis 4:6, God says to Cain, “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

These simple words set the stage for the battle of the sexes. They set up a struggle of evil desires that each party will have as a result of sin. The woman will desire to control her husband in the same way that Cain’s sin desired to rule over him. On the other hand, the husband response is to rule over his wife.

Of course God had already told us what the relationships should be: a “helper who is right for him,”taken not from his head nor from his feet but from his side. It is a statement of equality, of companionship, of working together, of partnership.

Natural Evil. We also see in the in the curse on Adam that his curse will impact the ground or the environment around him and this is a curse as it exists upon the natural world. Whereas prior to this the ground would give up its riches willingly to him, after the sin he would have to work for these riches with the sweat of his brow and his work would be less than productive. 

Lex Ely Aspiras asks, “In natural evil, what makes natural phenomena evil? It is easy to understand that when people suffer because of typhoon Ondoy, this indeed is evil. Somewhere in the world, a storm is raging without affecting any human being, is this also evil? An earth-size storm is raging in Jupiter for centuries, is that evil? Sunspots adversely affect life on earth, are sunspots evil? Beyond earth’s atmosphere up to the edge of the observable universe, everything appears anathema to life as we know it, is this “everything” evil?”

We saw above that Romans says that death entered through Adam’s sin. This is significant because a large part of our understanding of natural evil is connected to death. It seems that prior to Adam’s sin, there was no death. That means that because death is a direct result of sin that things that cause death are also a part of the evil that pervaded the universe after Adam. Following this along further, events that seem normal in today’s world — typhoons, earthquakes, floods, pandemics — may have existed in the past but they certainly didn’t cause death.

One question we need to ask is, “What is the cause of these weather patterns?” Certainly they are natural but are there also other causes for them? The Bible pretty explicitly says that some weather patterns such as storms, pandemics, and famines can be caused by sin. I have written about that here

There is actually some evidence that weather patterns prior to the flood were different that the weather patterns we have now. Genesis 2:5-6 says there wasn’t any rain but that a mist or underground water watered the earth. This seems to imply that the rains that came before the flood were something unique and unknown during those days. All that to say that storms may not have existed prior to Adam’s sin.

Where do the Spiritual Powers fit into all of this? Another aspect of evil emerged from the online discussion, particularly by Rei Lemuel Crizaldo and Rene del Barrio. “What about,” some asked, “The evil associated with spiritual powers?” We do see within the story the reality of spiritual powers because the serpent, who we later discover is the Satan, is in fact a spiritual power. Because of the curse we see that his power is limited through this encounter because he can no longer walk upright but must crawl on the ground dragging his belly. The question remains as to where these spiritual powers fit into today’s world.

Ultimately the question associated with this is, “Is Satan responsible for causing some of the evil in the world, too?” Many stories of people’s encounters with spiritual evil exist. I have heard stories of people being freed from spiritual oppressions that have caused mental illness and even death. The Bible also has countless examples of Jesus freeing people from unclean spirits. It cannot be denied that spiritual powers exist and are active in the world.

One thing the Bible does say about spiritual powers, however, is that their power is limited. Statements like “Don’t give the devil any opportunity to work,” “Resist the devil and he will run away from you,” and “Put on all the armor that God supplies” mean that it is within human power to not be overcome by Satan. 

Jesus, in the direct context of a discussion of whose power he is using — Satan’s or God’s — says that he needs to “tie up the strong man.” The strong man in this case is the devil.

The Book of Revelation speaks of the end of all kinds of evil, including the end of rebellious spiritual powers — Satan ends up cast into the bottomless pit and the lake of fire. Evil is eventually eliminated from creation and we get a glimpse of what life will be like without any evil.

So it seems that if we give permission or opportunity for these powers to exert themselves then they will. And it appears that if we do not give permission or opportunity then these powers cannot act.

So what then of Job? While it is true that God and Satan do have a conversation or two about Job it’s also important to note that it is in fact God who brings up the subject, not Satan. God clearly lays out the rules of engagement for how Satan is to tempt Job and in the end it is God who is glorified, and Job who is vindicated. Satan is by no means the hero of the story. Also note that Job’s trials were implemented through structural evil (bandits & enemies attack on his flocks), natural evil (a windstorm destroys his kids’ house, fire falls from heaven and consumes his flocks, and boils cover his body), and personal evil (Job prayed for them that God would forgive any sins his kids may have committed). So the tripartite theology of evil is even seen here.

Feedback is always welcome.

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Magpakalalake tayo! Let’s be men! Understanding how the power of manliness comes through joining God on his mission.

Let’s be men!

Today there are lots of phrases designed to help men be men, ranging from the rather tame, “Man up!” to the more crass “Grow a pair!” In the Philippines we say, “Magpakalalake ka!

Did you know that this term is used in the Bible? Try and guess where. You may be surprised. It isn’t used as a command for Jesus’ followers to emulate. It’s not used to stir God’s people to serve Him in a more faithful way. In fact it is used by a group of people who are so inspired that they defeat God’s people and capture their most important religious artifact. 

The story is told in 1 Samuel 4. The scene opens on a battle between Israel and the Philistines where Israel ends up losing. As a way to ensure that they win the next battle, they quickly run home to get the Ark of the Covenant. When the Ark arrives the men of Israel “shouted so loudly that the earth rang with echoes.” This causes the Philistines to be afraid and they say,

“A god has come into ⌞their⌟ camp.” They also said, “Oh no! Nothing like this has ever happened before. We’re in trouble now! Who can save us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every kind of plague in the desert. Be strong, Philistines, and act like men, or else you will serve the Hebrews as they served you. Act like men and fight.”

What was the result? “The Philistines fought and defeated Israel!” I don’t know about you but this is very surprising to me. This story seems to be saying that if men are men that they can do the following:

  • They can defeat ancient Israel, God’s chosen people. 
  • They can chase everyone back to their own home. 
  • They can kill 30,000 enemy soldiers.
  • They can kill the priests that God has annointed and cause the death of their father, the nation’s leader.
  • They can capture the Ark of the Covenant and take it home as the spoils of war. 
  • They can keep themselves from being slaves of their enemy.
  • They can defeat the God of Israel!

This raises a lot of questions, doesn’t it? One of the key aspects to interpreting the Bible is “if you have a question, keep on reading.” If we keep on reading we will find out more.

When we keep on reading, we find out that the battle was in fact a part of God’s judgement against the evil things that Israel had done over the years. Perhaps the best sum up that we have of how Israel was acting during that time is in Judges that reads, “In those days Israel didn’t have a king. Everyone did whatever he considered right” (God’s Word). Even their priests are described in 1 Samuel 2:12 as “good for nothing,” which is pretty bad, they are also said to have “no faith in the Lord.” God saw what they were doing and pledged to fix things. He gave a sign to Eli, the High Priest, that this would all happen. “What is going to happen to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you: Both of them will die on the same day” (1 Samuel 2:34; see also 1 Samuel 3:13).

In 1 Samuel 5 we read that the Philistines placed the Ark in their own god, Dagon’s temple. This resulted in Dagon’s humiliation. In addition to that “The Lord dealt harshly with the people of Ashdod. He destroyed them by striking the people in the vicinity of Ashdod with tumors.” In an effort to appease the LORD, the people shuffled the Ark around from city to city. Finally they had enough and sent the Ark back to Israel. 1 Samuel 6 tells the story of the Ark’s return to Israel. So in the end, manning up didn’t really work out all that great for them.

There are other accounts in the Bible of how when people banded together, they were able to do the impossible. Genesis talks about the tower that people started building in what was to become Babylon (a name that eventually stands for humans grouping together against God). God, when he saw that they were going to be very successful, ensured that they wouldn’t be able to finish it. He said, “Now nothing they plan to do will be too difficult for them.” He confused their communication systems because he knew that his plans for them were much greater than their own. It wasn’t until Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit removed the language barriers, that God’s purposes are fully revealed. Rather than building a tower to reach the heavens (ie. their own kingdom), God wanted them to build his kingdom, which in the end is a much better kingdom. We know this because Babylon eventually stands for humans grouping together against God and we see it’s animal-like nature every day. I have written about that here and here.

So what does trusting God as men look like?

The enmity between Israel and Philistia continued for generations. One of the most famous encounters we know as the story of David and Goliath, where Israel emerges as the victor. What is interesting about the story of David and Goliath is that Goliath is the epitome of the man’s man — big, strong, famous, and arrogant. David, on the other hand, is just a kid. Even King Saul says, “.”

Paul’s claims to fame that reads almost like a manly bucket list of fame and adventure in 2 Corinthians 11:21-28:

  • Hebrew? Check.
  • Israelite? Check.
  • Abraham’s descendant? Check.
  • Christ’s servant? Check.
  • Worked hard. Check.
  • Been in prison because of Jesus? Check.
  • Been beaten? Check.
  • Faced death? Check. 
  • Beaten with 39 lashes. Check x 5.
  • Beaten with clubs. Check x 3.
  • Almost stoned to death. Check.
  • Shipwrecked. Check x 3.
  • Drifted on the sea for a night and a day. Check.
  • Faced dangers from raging rivers, from robbers, from my own people, and from other people. Check.
  • Faced dangers in the city, in the open country, on the sea, and from believers who turned out to be false friends. Check.
  • Gone without sleep, been hungry and thirsty. Check.
  • Gone without proper clothes during cold weather. Check.
  • Daily pressure of my anxiety about all the churches. Check.

What’s interesting is that Paul doesn’t give us this list to show us that he grew a pair or manned up. Rather he says something rather odd and seemingly unmanly. He says “If I must brag, I will brag about the things that show how weak I am.” Paul then goes on in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 to say, “Satan’s messenger, torments me to keep me from being conceited. I begged the Lord three times to take it away from me. But he told me: ‘My kindness  is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.’ So I will brag even more about my weaknesses in order that Christ’s power will live in me. Therefore, I accept weakness, mistreatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties suffered for Christ. It’s clear that when I’m weak, I’m strong.”

Paul’s appeal for healing and Jesus answer can help us find answers on how best to be men. Jesus’ “No!” may seem unfair at first until we look closer. We need to remember how Jesus expresses his own masculinity. First of all, Paul’s appeal for healing and Jesus answer can help us find answers on how best to be men. Jesus’ “No!” may seem unfair at first until we look closer. We need to remember how Jesus expresses his own masculinity.

First of all, Jesus himself was a man who gained victory through his weakness. His cry of anguish in the garden of “take this cup ⌞of suffering⌟ away from me” is also answered by his “However, your will must be done, not mine.” He knew that he could achieve victory for himself in his own power but that the victory God wanted through him was achievable only through God’s power because it was so much bigger than just for him.

Secondly, Jesus’ answer to Paul is that he will provide the strength for Paul’s struggle, because Jesus’ dream for Paul is far bigger than Paul can accomplish.

So what should we do instead? It’s clear that the call to “be a man” is powerful enough to cause us to do impossible things. We can defeat the enemy. We can build a tower that reaches to the heavens. It’s also clear that the impossible things we can accomplish are not necessarily good in the end nor are they necessarily what God wants us to accomplish. To truly be men we need to join God on his mission and await his power so that we can help him accomplish it!

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do!

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Is it possible that my understanding of the Bible is wrong and if so how am I supposed to find out?

“When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came to these people. This was the same thing that happened to us in the beginning. I remembered that the Lord had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit.’ When they believed, God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. So who was I to interfere with God?” When the others heard this, they had no further objections. They praised God by saying, “Then God has also led people who are not Jewish to turn to him so that they can change the way they think and act and have eternal life.”‭‭ Acts‬ ‭11:15-18‬ ‭GW‬‬

In Acts 1011 some incredibly significant changes happen in the early church. Here we read that the good news of Jesus Christ is expanded to include proselytes to Judaism and non-Jewish peoples. 

In Acts 11 some people complain about Peter’s encounter with Cornelius saying, “You went to visit men who were uncircumcised, and you even ate with them.” Peter then goes into a lengthy explanation of what had happened,  repeating every detail of the events of Acts 10. He says, “When I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came to these people. This was the same thing that happened to us in the beginning. I remembered that the Lord had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit.’ When they believed, God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. So who was I to interfere with God?”

Once the complainers heard this “they had no further objections. They praised God by saying, ‘Then God has also led people who are not Jewish to turn to him so that they can change the way they think and act and have eternal life.'” 

The argument seems to be based on shared experiences. Jesus promised that they would be baptised with the Holy Spirit and so if anyone else shares in that baptism then that is a good thing. 

It got me thinking about issues that we face today. Issues where we know that we are right, not simply because of our opinions but because the Bible tells us that we are right. Is it like that for us today, too? Is this a model of how to make determinations in these issues? Are there things we are absolutely convinced about that the HS may have a different opinion on? How would the HS make that known to us?

In Acts 10-11 we see two ways that these kinds of changes happen: 

1. Sometimes God intervenes directly and tells people where they need to change. God directly tells both Cornelius and Peter that change is coming.

2. Sometimes people act on their own and God blesses their actions. One could argue that the people from Cyrene who first shared the good news with the Greeks of Antioch were simply following Peter’s example. But we also read that there was another discussion held in Jerusalem about the issue that resulted in the statement of Acts 15 regarding how non-Jewish followers of Christ needed to act. 

Andrew Walls, in The Gospel as the Prisoner and Liberator of Culture, says of theology, “It is therefore important, when thinking of African theology, to remember that it will act on an African agenda. It is useless for us to determine what we think an African theology ought to be doing: it will concern itself with questions that worry Africans, and will leave blandly alone all sorts of questions which we think absolutely vital. We all do the same. How many Christians belonging to churches which accept the Chalcedonian Definition of the Faith could explain with any conviction to an intelligent non-Christian why it is important not to be a Nestorian or a Monophysite? Yet once men not only excommunicated each other, they shed their own and others’ blood to get the right answer on that question. The things which we think are vital points of principle will seem as far away and negligible to African theologians as those theological prize fights among the Egyptian monks now seem to us. Conversely the things that concern African theologians may seem to us at best peripheral.”

What Walls is saying is that theology is developed around questions that are important for people in societies and because there are a variety of societies in the world, sometimes the issues in one society are unintelligible to the people of another society. 

For example, clearly the NT people saw no problem with the prominent role that women played in the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ. From the women who supported Jesus and the 12 financially, to the women who first announced the resurrection, to Saphira who, with her husband Ananias, taught Apollos the ways of the gospel, to Junias who was numbered among the apostles, there were many women who were involved in ministry at the highest levels! If this is indeed the case, why do many have such big issues with it today? 

Justice is also a key biblical issue. When Ezekiel says, ”Put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan about all the disgusting things that are being done in the city” (9:4) he is telling us that it’s a sign of connection to God to complain about injustice. If justice is so important to God, why is social criticism that is a part of movements such as Critical Race Theory, Black Lives Matter, and #metoo often rejected by the church?

When writing this post I had a lot of issues in my mind that I think others get wrong. But the real question I need to ask myself is where am I getting it wrong? Where do I need to hear the voice of God and change my deeply held convictions and move into conformity with his will? 

Feedback is always welcome. 

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash. 

ECQ na naman! “Kailan ba Panginoon?” o “Nasaan ka ba, Panginoon?”

English

ECQ[1] na naman! Dahil kay Delta Variant ng COVID-19 itinaas muli ang ECQ sa QC. Ito ay para sa ating kaligtasan. Pero, nakakalungkot diba? Akala natin na ok na tayo dahil higit pa sa isang taong nag social distancing, naghugas kamay, nag suot ng facemask at shield, nag stay-at-home pa. At lahat tayo ay ready magpabakuna pag oras natin. Pero mukhang wala sa atin kamay ang solution sa problema nito.

Sa mga ganitong panahon, naalala natin ang sinabi ng Panginoon sa mga Israelita noong Jeremias 29:11, “Alam ko kung paano ko tutparin ang mga plano ko para sa kabutihan n’yo at hindi sa kasmaan n’yo, at plano para bigyan kayo ng pag-asa na magkaroon kayo ng mabuting kinabukasan.” Napatanong tayo kapag naalala natin ito ng “Kailan ba Panginoon?” o “Nasaan ka ba, Panginoon?”

Kinakailangan natin balikan ang konteksto nitong verse sa Biblia upang sagutin ang tanong natin. 
Sa panahon kasi ni Jeremias, hindi maganda ang kalagayan ng bansang Israel dahil sa kanilang mga kasalanan. Ang biling ng Panginoon kay Jeremias ay maipahayag sa mga taong bayan kung ano ang plano ng Panginoon sa kanila. Sabi kasi ng Panginoon na dadahihin sila sa Babylonia bilang parusa ng kanilang mga kasalanan. 70 na taon ang panahon ng kanilang pagkabihag na binigay ng Panginoon sa pamamagitan ni Jeremias. Pero ayaw maniwala ng mga taong bayan at ng mga ibang mga false prophets kaya sabi nila na hindi sila tatagal sa Babylonia. Mga dalawang linggo lamang ang panahon ng pagkabihag doon. 

Kahit pinaparusahan sila ng Panginoon, ok sa Kanya na mawawala sila sa Lupang Pangako for 70 years dahil kapag nasa Babylonia nasa kalooban pa rin sila ng Panginoon. Kahit tayo ay nasa ECQ or anumang antas ng restrictions, nasa kalooban pa rin tayo ng Panginoon!

Unang una, sasabihin ko sa inyo na kahit naniniwala ako na ang COVID-19 ay isang masamang bagay, hindi ako naniniwala na ang COVID-19 ay isang parusa ng Panginoon. Pero naniniwala ako na hindi normal ang pagkakasakit. Noong nilikha ng Panginoon ang sanlibutan hindi pa kasama doon ang sakit (Genesis 1:31). Ang sakit ay dahil sa kasalanan ng mga tao. Kaya may mga sakit ang mundo natin ngayon pero may darating din na panahon kung kailan mawala ang mga sakit sa mundo (Pahayag 21:4). 

Meron tayong pwedeng matutunan mula sa sinasabi ni Jeremias patungki sa mga bagay na hindi normal. 

Medyo kakaiba ang sinabi ng Panginoon sa mga Israelita. Imbis na maghintay lamang ang kanilang pagbalik, dapat makikisalamuha sila sa bago nilang lugar. Magiging bahagi dapat sila ng Babylonia — “Magtayo kayo ng mga bahay at doon kayo tumira. Magtanim kayo at kumain ng inyong ani. Magasawa kayo at nang nagkaanak kayo.”

Hindi tumitigil ang buhay kapag hindi normal ang ating kalagayan. Hindi pwedeng magsabi ng “pag maayos na ang buhay ko tsaka ako ako kikilos.” Sabi sa atin ng Panginoon, “Kumilos na kayo kahit hindi pa ayos ang kalagayan mo.” 

At hindi lang yun. Dapat din “Tumulong kayo para sa kabutihan at kaunlaran ng lungsod sa pinagdalhan sa inyo.” Ano ba’ng ibig sabihin?

  • Maging masunurin tayo sa mga batas patungkol sa pandemya kasi “para sa kabutihan at kaunlaran ng lungsod.” 
  • Mag hugas ang ating mga kamay, mag-social distancing tayo, mag suot tayo ng facemask at face shield, manatili tayo sa bahay kapag kinakailangan, at mag work from home tayo kung pwede. 
  • Magpa lista tayo sa pagpapapbakuna at pag dating ng panahon magpabakuna tayo. 
  • Ipananalangin natin ang mga taong namamahala sa COVID-19 response ng bansa. 
  • Tulungan natin ang mga taong nahirapan dahil sa pandemya. 

Pagkatapos ng sinabi nito, sinabi ng Panginoon, “Alam ko kung paano ko tutuparin ang mga plano ko para sa kabutihan n’yo at hindi kasamaan nyo.” Ibig sabihin, depende din sa atin pagsunod ang pagtupad ng mga plano ng Diyos. 

Meron kasing tao na binabaha ang bahay. Kaya umakyat sa bubongan nya at nagdasal, “Panginoon iligtas mo ako sa baha.” 

Meron dumaan na rescue mula sa baranggay. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

Meron dumaan na taong naka-banca. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

May dumaan na helicopter nang lumalapit sa kanya. “Sakay na po kayo para maligtas kayo!” 

“Ok lang ako. Ililigtas kasi ako ng Panginoon” ang kanyang tugon. 

Sa wakas nalunod sya sa baha at nag-puntang langit. Pagdating nya doon, nag-tanong sya sa Panginoon. “Lord, bakit hindi mo sinagot ang aking hilining sa iyo? Bakit hindi mo ako niligtas sa baha?”

“Ano ba?” sabi ng Panginoon. “Nagpadala ako ng rescue, ng banca, at ng helicopter pero ayaw mong sumakay!”

Minsan kasi naghahanap tayo ng milagro pero ang tugon ng Panginoon ay ang mga normal na bagay. 

Paano ka bang sinasagot ng Panginoon ngayon panahon ng ECQ muli? 

Palaging malugod na tinatanggap ang puna.

Ginagawa ng mga kaibigan ang pag-share. 

Larawan ni Erik Mclean sa Unsplash. 
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[1] Sa mga hindi nakakaalam, ang ECQ ay Enhanced Community Quarantine. ang ECQ ay ang pinaka-mataas na antas ng anti-COVID-19 measures na pwedeng ilagay ng Philippine Government. 

It’s ECQ again! “When, Lord?” or “Where are you, Lord?”

It’s ECQ [1] again! Due to Delta Variant of COVID-19 the ECQ was raised again in Quezon City. Even though it’s for our safetly, it’s sad isn’t it? We thought we were ok because for more than one year we have social distanced, washed our hands, worn a facemask and faceshield, and stayed-at-home. And we are all ready to get vaccinated when it’s our time. But it seems like things are out of our control. 

At times like this, we remember what the Lord said to the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know how to carry out my plans for your good and not for your evil, and plan to give you of hope for a better future” (God’s Word). This makes us ask the question, “When, Lord?” or “Where are you, Lord?”

We need to go back to the context of this biblical verse to answer our question. In Jeremiah’s day, the nation of Israel was in a bad state because of their sins. The Lord’s command to Jeremiah was to reveal to the people what the Lord had planned for them. The Lord said that they would be taken to Babylon as punishment for their sins. The period of their captivity given by the Lord through Jeremiah was 70 years. But the people and the other false prophets did not want to believe so they said that they would not stay in Babylonia. They said the captivity there would only be about two weeks.

Even if the Lord was punishing them, it is ok with Him that they will be gone from the Promised Land for 70 years because when they are in Babylonia they are still in the will of the Lord. Even if we are on ECQ or any level of restrictions, we are still in the will of the Lord!

First of all, I will tell you that even though I believe that COVID-19 is a bad thing, I do not believe that COVID-19 is a punishment of the Lord. But I do believe the illness is not normal. When the Lord created the world, disease was not included (Genesis 1:31). Sickness is due to sin. So while there are diseases in our world today there will also come a time when the diseases of the world will disappear (Revelation 21:4).

We can learn something from what Jeremiah says about things that are not normal.

The Lord said something different to the Israelites. Instead of just waiting for their return, they should socialize in their new place. They were to be part of Babylon: “Build houses and live in them. Plant and eat your crops. Get married and have children.”

Life does not stop when our condition is not normal. It is not possible to say “when my life is in order I will act.” The Lord tells us, “Act now, even when things aren’t perfect.”

And that’s not all. You must also “Contribute for the good and prosperity of the city to which you are brought.” What does that mean?

  • Let us be obedient to the laws regarding pandemics because “for the good and development of the city.”
  • Wash our hands, wear a facemask and face shield, stay home when necessary, and work from home if possible.
  • Let’s make a list of vaccinations and when the time comes we will be vaccinated.
  • Pray for those in charge of the pandemic restrictions, that God may continue give them wisdom. 
  • Find ways to help those who are in need because of the pandemic. 

After saying all of this, the Lord then says, “I know how to carry out my plans for your good and not your evil.” That is, the fulfillment of God’s plans also depends on our obedience.
There was a man whose house was flooding. So he climbed on his roof and prayed, “Lord save me from the flood.”

Soon after that a rescue vehicle came from the local government unit. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

Someone passed by in a small boat. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

A helicopter passed by as it approached him. “Get in and be saved!”

“I’m fine. The Lord will save me” was his response.

He finally drowned in the flood and went to heaven. When he got there, he asked the Lord.

“Lord, why didn’t you answer my request to you? Why didn’t you save me from the flood?”

“What?” saith the Lord. “I sent a rescue vehicle, a small boat, and a helicopter but you want to get in any of them!”

Sometimes we want a miracle but the Lord’s response is something more normal.

How is the Lord answering you now during this ECQ repeat?

Feedback is always welcome.

Friends do the sharing.

Photo by Erik Mclean at Unsplash.
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[1] For those who don’t know, ECQ is Enhanced Community Quarantine. ECQ is the highest level of anti-COVID-19 measures that the Philippine Government can put in place.

Thoughts on drought in a very dry year. Is this drought a call for justice?

Saskatchewan is in the middle of a drought. A drought in its simplest form is when there isn’t enough rain to make the crops grow. The lack of snow and rain over the past year, coupled with record-high temperatures, have succeeded in drying out the soil to the point where crops are not growing. It isn’t the first drought to hit Saskatchewan and probably won’t be the last. Some say that drought is a direct result of climate change, which some say is caused by human activity.

The plight of the Saskatchewan farmer has more meaning for me this year since my wife and I have been spending a lot of time on the farm. It makes me want to find ways to help.

The Bible says that drought can at times be a sign of God’s judgment against structural evil. It got me thinking. Is it possible that the current drought is connected with recent revelations about Canada’s founding principles? For those unaware, headlines in Canada have been dominated by stories of the Indian Residential School System, an official policy by the Government of Canada and church groups to “remove the Indian” from First Nations children — basically the government of Canada had a policy of cultural genocide against First Nations peoples in an effort to both make them better citizens and to convert them to Christianity. North American society has also been rocked over the past several years with calls for justice for the systemic mistreatment of women, for systemic racism, for legacies of slavery, and for other historical injustices. I have written about some of these things here, here, and here.

At this point I need to offer some clarification lest I be misunderstood: As I have written elsewhere, structural and natural evils are different from personal evil. Structural evil is a system or pattern of beliefs or activities in an organization or culture that hinders or opposes the advance of God’s kingdom in this world. Natural evil includes things like famine, drought, disease, wild animals, floods, storms, and disease. So any judgment on structural or natural evil is not on individual farmers for their sins but on society as a whole for its sins.

But even though the reasons may be systemic, the impact is indeed personal. There are mental stresses associated with farming and drought. Farmers are extremely resilient. I recall a conversation I had with someone in the Ag industry in Saskatchewan a few years ago. He said he respects how farmers are able to do everything that they can to grow good crops but the fact remains that a major part of farming is out of their control — namely the weather — and that they continue to do it year in and year out regardless of how the previous year went.

In times like this, Christians like to quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 which reads, “However, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray, search for me, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear ⌞their prayer⌟ from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their country” (God’s Word).

Of course Canada has never claimed to be Christian nation so I am genuinely not sure how this verse can be applied today, but the Bible gives many examples of God’s interest in the nations including both blessings and curses.

The very first mention of natural evil in the Bible is in the context of farming. Adam was told by God in Genesis 3:17-19:

”The ground is cursed because of you. Through hard work you will eat ⌞food that comes⌟ from it every day of your life. The ground will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat wild plants. By the sweat of your brow, you will produce food to eat until you return to the ground, because you were taken from it. You are dust, and you will return to dust” (God’s Word).

So it’s not completely crazy to assume that the land responds to structural sin, meaning that even if the 2 Chronicles 7:14 quote isn’t entirely apropos for today’s world, it might be apropos for drought situations since the immediate context of the verse is drought brought upon by society’s sins.

In any case, what would “humble themselves and seek my face” mean in light of the new call for social justice?

One aspect would have to include repentance. Repentance is hard to do because it involves not only humility but admitting that we are wrong. I don’t know about you but I don’t like doing that. So just at that level repentance is problematic. How much more public repentance?

Another aspect would have to be renovation. Repentance also includes making sure the future is better. It means changing the way I think and act. It means rectifying the past — rectification means rebuilding or renovating those past actions that I want to repent from. Renovation is hard because it starts with tearing things down. Some use the word “deconstruction” for this — a rather complex term that we don’t have time to go into today. I will say this, though. While deconstruction may include the use of a sledgehammer, it also has a level of control. It’s not mere demolition but needs to have some order to it, it needs to be systematic, and it needs to be useful.

The Bible does speak of a generational aspect to sin, which connects us to the sins of the past even if we weren’t present during those times. The lives we live today may have been directly impacted by decisions made by our progenitors and that means that we may still benefit from their sins.

Reconciliation also has to be a part of it. To be reconciled is to have a restored relationship. It is what happens when people humble themselves, repent, and renovate.

So then, how can we help farmers? We need to make some decisions. What does our nation need to repent from? What do we need to tear down? What do we need to renovate? How can I participate in building a new nation?

Maybe we can start here:

  • Revisit “truth.” Is what I think to be true actually the Truth?
  • Repent & Ask Forgiveness.
  • Practice Reconciliation.

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Maud Correa on Unsplash.