Speaking into truth & reconciliation, how would you apply Jesus’ words, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off”??

Last week I posted some thoughts on truth and reconciliation on Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. My thoughts centered around Mark‬ ‭9:42-50‬ ‭GW‬‬, and how these verses about protecting children’s faith is in the context of the verses that talk about dealing with sin our lives. If your hand cause you to sin cut it off. If your foot causes you to sin cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin pluck it out. I realize that the sins of the hand, the foot, and the eye are central to the legacy of the abuse suffered through Indian Residential Schools.

Krystal Wawrzyniak, one of my colleagues at BGC Canada and currently seconded to Indian Life Ministries, asked, “I’m curious about your thoughts surrounding the application of ‘if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off,’ or the foot or eye. Speaking into truth and reconciliation, how would you apply this??” I did respond to Krystal on Facebook but thought it might be a good idea to flesh out some of my ideas in another blog post.

First off I need to say that the best approach is to listen because it’s only through listening to Others’ stories that we can both understand them and see the things that need to be changed in ourselves.

It’s also important to examine ourselves to see if we can find areas that need change. This happens through reflection and through listening. I think that because few of us were directly involved in the Indian Residential School system (the last school closed in 1996) we can’t simply call for repentance on a personal level. The areas where change needs to happen (ie. the parts that need to get cut off) are the systems and structures that still exist in our society — including our churches and theology — that are a part of the framework that led to Indian Residential Schools. These need to be excised from our identity as both Christians and Canadians.

On the national level this might include how the doctrine of discovery and the Treaty of Tordesillas — which blended religious and commercial interests — continues to impact Canadian institutions such as the Indian act, unclean water on First Nations, and unequal access to health care. Other issues include how the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Overrepresentation of Indigenous People in the Canadian Criminal Justice System reveal problems with the justice system.

On the theological level we need to revisit our understanding of God’s prevenient grace, get rid of our theological superiority that prioritises theologies from the Global North over and above those of the Global South, and read the Bible through the eyes of the Other. Jose de Mesa’s hermeneutics of appreciation is a good starting point for this and will teach us how to listen.

Ka Jose de Mesa (1946-2021) was a Filipino lay theologian who worked for many years on issues surrounding contextualisation and theology. In his Mga aral sa daan: Dulog at paraang kultural sa Kristolohiya he develops a hermeneutics of appreciation as a way to correct errors he saw in how the church crossed cultures.

The “Hermeneutics of appreciation” is presented as a series of attitudes that serve as guides for those engaging in cross-cultural interactions. How can we apply them to the Indian Residential School issue?

Attitude #1: Presume the cultural element or aspect under consideration to be positive (at least in intent) until proven otherwise. Indian Residential Schools were designed to do the exact opposite of this — to remove all traces of “Indian” from the children who were forced to attend. There is certainly nothing positive about this. A better approach would be to recognise that the Kingdom of God consists of people from “every nation, tribe, people, and language” and that includes First Nations and Metis peoples.

Attitude #2: Be aware of your own cultural presuppositions and adopt the insider’s point of view. When we look back at some of the statements made by the proponents of the Indian Residential School system we can’t help but wonder what they were thinking? To people living and thriving in the postmodern world of 2021’s Canada, the ideas of our forefathers are more than odd — they are offensive. But did they know that? Did they realise the meaning of statements like “Kill the Indian, save the man” and that ideas of assimilation were actually cultural genocide? It’s hard to believe that they didn’t realise these things. Knowledge of de Mesa’s Attitude #2 would have gone a long ways towards developing a true understanding between the various cultures.

Attitude #3: Go beyond the cultural stereotypes. It is obvious that the use of terms such as “Indian problem” and “dirty Indian” that stereotypes were the only standard of practice in these schools. As Duncan Campbell Scott said when developing his policies, “I want to get rid of the Indian problem. I do not think as a matter of fact, that the country ought to continuously protect a class of people who are able to stand alone. . . . Our objective is to continue until there is not a single Indian in Canada that has not been absorbed into the body politic and there is no Indian question, and no Indian Department, that is the whole object of this Bill.”

Attitude #4: Use the vernacular as a key to understanding the culture in its own terms. Indian Residential Schools made a concerted effort to eliminate the various languages of the First Nations. A deeper understanding of language always leads to a deeper understanding of culture.

Unfortunately, nothing about the experience that First Nations and Metis peoples have had with either the government or the church in Canada seems to reflect these attitudes. Let’s hope that we can work towards changing some of these attitudes as we work towards truth, healing, and reconciliation.

Help is available. Call the 24-hour national Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419. 

Feedback is always welcome. 

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Liviu Florescu on Unsplash.

Scripture is taken from GOD’S WORD®.
© 1995, 2003, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020 by God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society. 
Used by permission.

Ang bakuna at ang Tatak ng Halimaw: Bakit ang pagtuon sa iba pang tatak ng Bibliya ay mas kapaki-pakinabang sa ating buhay Kristiyano.

Read this post in English

Kamakailan lamang ang ilang mga Kristiyano ay nag-aalala tungkol sa pagkuha ng isang bakuna sa COVID-19 sapagkat naniniwala silang ito ang “Tatak ng Mabangis na Hayop” (AKA ang Tatak ng Halimaw). Hindi ako magpo-post ng mga link sa mga taong ito dahil hindi ko nais na palawakin ang kanilang platform ngunit ang ganitong uri ng pag-iisip ay hindi bago. Naalala ko ang pakikipag-usap ko sa isang kaibigan mahigit 30 taon na ang nakakalipas na nag-angkin na ang tatak ng halimaw ay ang mga code ng UPC na matatagpuan sa halos lahat ng mga produktong mabibili mo sa tindahan. Ang iba ay inaangkin na ang RFID chips ang tatak. Kapag napagtanto namin na si Juan ay nagsusulat ng isang liham sa mga taong buhay noong ika-1 siglo, at samakatuwid ay kailangang maunawaan at nauugnay sa kanila, nakikita natin na wala sa mga interpretasyong ito ang totoo sapagkat ginawa ang mga ito gamit ang teknolohiya na hindi pa natuklasan noong ika-1 siglo (ang parehong mga barcode at RFID chips ay binuo noong 1973). Maaaring sabihin ang pareho para sa mga bakuna, na hindi natuklasan ni Edward Jenner hanggang mga 1798.

Maraming isinulat ng mga iskolar na nagpapakita na ang pagbibigay kahulugan sa mga bakuna sa COVID-19 bilang tatak ng halimaw ay mali (narito, dito, at dito halimbawa). Nais kong lapitan ang isyu mula sa ibang pananaw, at iyon ay sa katunayan mayroong dalawang biblikal na halimbawa ng mga tatak na mailalagay sa kanang kamay at / o sa noo. Ang unang tatak ay isang magandang tatak.

Ang Exodo 13:9, na pinag-uusapan ang pag-alala sa araw na umalis ang Israel sa Ehipto, ay nagsabing, “Ang pistang itoʼy katulad ng isang tatak sa inyong mga kamay o sa inyong mga noo na magpapaalaala sa inyo na dapat ninyong sabihin sa iba ang mga utos ng Panginoon, dahil inilabas niya kayo sa Egipto sa pamamagitan ng kanyang kapangyarihan.”

Sinasabi ng Ezekiel 9:4, “at sinabi sa kanya, ‘Libutin mo ang buong lungsod ng Jerusalem at tatakan mo ang noo ng mga taong nagdadalamhati dahil sa mga kasuklam-suklam na mga ginagawa roon.’”

Marahil ang pinaka-makabuluhang ibang talata ay matatagpuan sa Pahayag 14:1 kung saan mababasa natin, “Pagkatapos, nakita ko ang Tupa na nakatayo sa bundok ng Zion. Kasama niya ang 144,000 tao. Nakasulat sa noo nila ang pangalan ng Tupa at ng kanyang Ama.” Ang talatang ito ay kaagad na sumusunod sa talata na nagsasalita tungkol sa tatak ng halimaw.

Makikita natin na ang unang marka ay ibinibigay sa mga nakikibahagi sa mabuting gawain ng Panginoon. Naaalala nila ang Kanyang mga gawa sa pagliligtas, nalulungkot sila sa mga bagay na nagdadalamhati sa Kanya, at nakikilala sila kasama ng Kordero at Kanyang Ama.

Pagkatapos ay ihinahambing ito sa isang markang nakalagay sa noo ng mga nanunumpa ng katapatan sa ibang direksyon – sa “halimaw.” Nakita natin ito sa Pahayag 14:9-12 kung saan magkakasabay ang pagkakaroon ng marka at pagsamba sa hayop.

Tulad ng isinulat ko ilang buwan na ang nakakalipas, “Napaisip ako tungkol sa tatak ng mabangis na hayop at nagtaka ako kung ang pagkakaroon ng tatak sa iyong noo at kanang kamay ay sa esensya ng pagkakaroon ng pananampalataya sa pamahalaan bilang magandang balita kaysa kay Hesus bilang magandang balita? Ang genre ng ebanghelyo sa Bibliya, pagkatapos ng lahat, isang pampulitika na binuo ng Roman Emperor upang ipakita kung gaano sila kahusay.”

Kaya ngayon na natukoy natin ang dalawang tatak na ito kailangan nating tanungin ang ating sarili kung ano ang hitsura ng mga markang ito?

Mayroong maraming mga listahan ng iba’t ibang mga tatak ng Espiritu, ang pinakatanyag – tinawag na prutas – sa Galacia 5:22-23 – “Ngunit ang likas na espiritwal ay nagbubunga ng pag-ibig, kagalakan, kapayapaan, pasensya, kabaitan, kabutihan, katapatan, kahinahunan, at sarili -kontrol. Walang mga batas laban sa mga bagay na tulad nito.” Ang ugnayan sa pagitan ng bunga ng Espiritu at ng tatak ay nagmula sa ideya ng pagbubuklod ng Banal na Espiritu, kung saan ang Banal na Espiritu sa pamamagitan ng Kanyang personal na presensya ay permanenteng kinikilala at sinisiguro ang bawat naniniwala sa katawan ni Cristo. Tinalakay ito sa Efeso 1:13. Ang mismong tatak na binanggit sa itaas ay sa katunayan ang pagkakaroon ng Banal na Espiritu sa buhay ng mga tao. Sa gayon ang kanilang mga aksyon – kanilang prutas – nagsisilbing ebidensya ng tatak.

Ang Galacia 5 ay talagang mayroong dalawang listahan. Ang isa (vv 19-21) ay isang listahan nga mga “sa ninanasa ng laman” at isinama ang “sekswal na imoralidad, kalaswaan, kahalayan, pagsamba sa mga dios-diosan, pangkukulam, pagkapoot, pag-aaway-away, pagkasakim, pagkagalit, pagkakawatak-watak, pagkakahati-hati, pagkainggit, paglalasing, pagkahilig sa kalayawan, at iba pang kasamaan. Binabalaan ko kayo tulad ng ginawa ko na noon: Ang mga namumuhay nang ganito ay hindi mapapabilang sa kaharian ng Dios.” Dalawang bagay na dapat tandaan. Ang mga ito ay “makilala” at ang mga gumagawa ng mga halatang bagay na ito “ay hindi mapapabilang sa kaharian ng Dios.” Mukhang kumonekta ito nang malapit sa katangian ng isang tatak (makilala) at mga resulta nito (hindi mapapabilang sa kaharian ng Dios).

Sa madaling sabi, sa halip na ang bakuna (o anupaman) na tatak ng halimaw, ito ay talagang mga bunga ng ating buhay na naghahayag kung saan nakasalalay ang ating katapatan. Ang mga tatak ay tagapagpahiwatig ng katapatan at pagkakakilanlan. Ang bunga ng espiritu ay nagpapatunay na tinatakan tayo ng Espiritu ngunit ang mga epekto ng masamang kalikasan ay nagpapakita na tayo ay minarkahan ng tatak ng hayop. Sa gayon, kung nakilala natin ang ating sarili kay Cristo at mananatiling tapat sa kanya kung gayon wala tayong tatak ng halimaw kundi ang Kanyang tatak.

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Ginagawa ng mga kaibigan ang pag-share. 

Larawan ni sebastiaan stam sa Unsplash.

Ang mga sipi ng Banal na Kasulatan ay kinuha mula sa Ang Salita Ng Dios Biblia. Karapatang magpalathala © 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015 ng Biblica, Inc.® Ginamit nang may pahintulot.

The Vaccine and the Mark of the Wild Animal: Why focussing on the Bible’s other mark is more useful to our Christian lives.

Basahin sa Tagalog

Recently some Christians have been worried about getting a COVID-19 vaccine because they believe it is “the mark of the animal” (AKA the mark of the beast). I won’t post links to these people because I don’t want to further their platform but this kind of thinking is not new. I remember talking with a friend over 30 years ago who claimed that the mark of the beast was the UPC codes found on almost all products you can buy in the store. Others have claimed that RFID chips are the mark. When we realise that John was writing a letter to people alive in the 1st century, and therefore needed to be understood and relevant to them, we see that none of these interpretations are true because they are made using technology that hadn’t yet been discovered in the 1st century (both barcodes and RFID chips were developed in 1973). The same can be said for vaccines, which weren’t discovered by Edward Jenner until about 1798.

Lots has been written by scholars that show that interpreting the COVID-19 vaccines as the mark of the beast is wrong (here, here, & here for example). I would like to approach the issue from a different perspective, and that is that there are in fact two biblical examples of marks that are to be placed on the right hand and/or the forehead. The first mark is a good mark.

Exodus‬ ‭13:9, talking about remembering the day Israel left Egypt,‬ says, “This ⌊festival⌋ will be ⌊like⌋ a mark on your hand or a reminder on your forehead that the teachings of the LORD are ⌊always⌋ to be a part of your conversation. Because the LORD used his mighty hand to bring you out of Egypt,” ‭‭

Ezekiel‬ ‭9:4‬ ‭says, “The LORD said to that person, ‘Go throughout the city of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of those who sigh and groan about all the disgusting things that are being done in the city.’”‭‭

Perhaps the most significant other verse is found in Revelation 14:1 where we read, “Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” This verse is immediately following the verse talking about the mark of the Beast.

We can see that the first mark is given to those who share in the Lord’s good work. They remember His saving works, they grieve over the things that grieve Him, and they are identified with the Lamb and His Father.

This is then contrasted with a mark placed on the foreheads of those who swear allegiance in the other direction — to the “beast.” This we see in Revelation 14:9-12 where having the mark and worshipping the beast go hand in hand.

As I wrote a few months ago, “It got me thinking about the “mark of the animal” and I wondered if having the mark on your forehead and right hand is in essence having faith in government as gospel rather than Jesus as gospel? The gospel genre in the Bible is, after all, a political genre developed by the Roman Emperors to show how great they were.”

So now that we have identified these two marks we need to ask ourselves what do these marks look like?

There are several lists of various marks of the spirit, the most famous — called fruit — in Galatians 5:22-23 — “But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There are no laws against things like that.” The connection between the fruit of the Spirit and the mark comes from the idea of the sealing of the Holy Spirit, where the Holy Spirit by His personal presence permanently identifies & secures every believer in the body of Christ. This is discussed in Ephesians 1:13. The very mark spoken of above is in fact the presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people. Thus their actions — their fruit — serve as evidence of the mark.

Galatians 5 actually has two lists. The other (vv 19-21) is a list of the “effects of the corrupt nature” and includes “… illicit sex, perversion, promiscuity, idolatry, drug use, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, angry outbursts, selfish ambition, conflict, factions, envy, drunkenness, wild partying, and similar things. I’ve told you in the past and I’m telling you again that people who do these kinds of things will not inherit God’s kingdom.” Two things to note. These are “obvious” and those who do these obvious things “will not inherit God’s kingdom. This seems to connect pretty closely to the charateristics of a mark (obvious) and its results (not a part of God’s kingdom).

In a nutshell, rather than the vaccine (or anything else) being the mark of the beast, it is actually the fruits of our lives that reveal where our allegiance lies. The marks are indicators of loyalty and identity. The fruit of the spirit confirm that we have been sealed by the Spirit but the effects of the corrupt nature reveal that we have been marked with the Beast’s number. Thus, if we have identified ourselves with Christ and remain loyal to him then we don’t have the mark of the animal but His mark.

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by sebastiaan stam on Unsplash.

Scripture is taken from GOD’S WORD®.
© 1995, 2003, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020 by God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society. 
Used by permission.

Alam mo na ba na meron sa Bibliya ang Pagpapagaling sa Pamamagitan ng Gamot?: Si Satanas, si Jesus, ang Templo, at ang COVID-19 (Part 2)

Nalungkot ako noong nakarinig ako ng balita na meron mga pastor sa Pilipinas na nagtuturo sa mga simbahan nila na huwag magpabakuna. Ang ibang sinasabi ay medyo kakaiba, tulad ng ang bakuna ay mark of the beast o 666, demonic, o pagiging Zombie. Meron ding sinasabi na may kinalaman sa teolohiya, tulad ng “mas makapangyarihan ang Diyos kaysa sa bakuna,” at pinoprotektahan ng mga Kristianyo ng “dugo ni kristo.” Meron din akong nakarinig ng ganito mula sa mga pastor sa Canada. 
Hindi ko alam kung anu-ano ang mga dahilan nito pero mukhang kinakailangang magbuo ng teolohiya ng pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot.

May sinulat na akong Part 1 noong nakaraan na linggo. Part 2 naman ito. 

“Pagkatapos, dinala siya ng diyablo sa Jerusalem, sa pinakamataas na bahagi ng templo, at sinabi sa kanya, “Kung ikaw nga ang Anak ng Dios, magpatihulog ka. Sapagkat sinasabi sa Kasulatan, ‘Uutusan ng Dios ang kanyang mga anghel na ingatan ka. Aalalayan ka nila upang hindi tumama ang mga paa mo sa bato.’ ” Pero sumagot si Jesus, “Sinasabi sa Kasulatan, ‘Huwag mong subukin ang Panginoon mong Dios.’ ”” ‭‭Lucas‬ ‭4:9-12‬ ‭ASND‬‬

May application ba kaya ang Lucas‬ ‭4:9-12 sa panahon ng COVID-19? 

Kung hindi mo alam ng kuwento, dinala ni Satanas si Jesus sa pinaka tuktok ng Templo sa Jerusalem bilang bahagi ng kanyang pagtukso sa Kanya. Pagdating nila sa itaas, sinabi ni Satanas ng ganito: “Kung ikaw nga ang Anak ng Dios, magpatihulog ka.” May gamit pa siyang talata mula sa Bibliya: “Uutusan ng Dios ang kanyang mga anghel na ingatan ka. Aalalayan ka nila upang hindi tumama ang mga paa mo sa bato.”

Tama ba si Satanas? Meron ba’ng ganyang sinabi ang Kasulatan? Meron sinasabi ng ganyan sa Salmo 91:11-12. Tama ba ang sinabi ng talata na iingatan si Jesus ng mga anghel? Tama din dahil yun ang Kanyang pangako. 

May dalawang paraan na pwedeng gamitin ni Jesus para bumaba mula sa tuktok ng Templo: Pwede syang tumalon (dahil sasaluin sya ng mga anghel) o pwede syang bumaba gamit ang hagdanan. Ano kaya ang pinili ni Jesus? Hagdanan. Bakit? Kasi “Sinasabi sa Kasulatan, ‘Huwag mong subukin ang Panginoon mong Dios.’ ”

Ano ba’ng ugnayan ito sa COVID-19? Balikan natin yun mga nagsasabi na hindi kailangang magpabakuna o susunod sa mga batas laban sa pandemya dahil ililigtas naman tayo ni Lord.

May dalawa din tayong option pagdating sa COVID-19. Pwede naman tayo suwayin ang mga batas laban sa pandemya (dahil sasaluin tayo ng mga anghel). Pwede din tayo maging masunurin sa mga batas laban sa pandemya: Social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, stay at home, at magpabakuna. Alin kaya ang gusto ni Jesus na piliin natin? Siyempre, “Sinasabi sa Kasulatan, ‘Huwag mong subukin ang Panginoon mong Dios.’ ”

Palaging malugod na tinatanggap ang feedback.

Pagbabahagi ang ginagawa ng mga kaibigan.

Akin ang larawan. 

Ang mga sipi ng Banal na Kasulatan ay kinuha mula sa Ang Salita Ng Dios Biblia. Karapatang magpalathala © 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015 ng Biblica, Inc.® Ginamit nang may pahintulot.

Learning Jesus’ thoughts about Little children on Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

This is my second post on connected to the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation this week. You can read the first one here. It comes from my reflections on Mark 9 where Jesus is talking about the importance of children in his Kingdom. He says,

“These little ones believe in me. It would be best for the person who causes one of them to lose faith to be thrown into the sea with a large stone hung around his neck. So if your hand causes you to lose your faith, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life disabled than to have two hands and go to hell, to the fire that cannot be put out. If your foot causes you to lose your faith, cut it off! It is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. If your eye causes you to lose your faith, tear it out! It is better for you to enter God’s kingdom with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell. In hell worms that eat the body never die, and the fire is never put out. Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good. But if salt loses its taste, how will you restore its flavor? Have salt within you, and live in peace with one another.” ‭‭Mark‬ ‭9:42-50‬ ‭GW‬‬

This verse has a new significance seeing as I’m reading it on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, formerly known as Orange Shirt Day. Orange Shirt Day was designed as a memorial for children with the slogan “Every Child Matters” and it relates to the terrible conditions of the Canadian Indian Residential School System that affected 150,000 First Nations and Metis people across the country up until as recently as 1996. Of course, even though the last residential school closed in 1996, the legacy of these residential schools lives on today.

I didn’t notice, until I read it this morning, the context of this verse and how this verse about protecting children’s faith is in the context of the verses that talk about dealing with sin our lives. If your hand cause you to sin cut it off. If your foot causes you to sin cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin pluck it out. I realize that the sins of the hand, the foot, and the eye are central to the legacy of the abuse suffered through Indian Residential Schools.

Could we interpret it this way? If our hand causes us to sin by removing children forcibly from their families for the purpose of eradicating their culture then we need to cut that hand off. If our foot causes us to sin by standing on the necks of God’s children then we need to cut that foot off. If our eye causes us to sin because we are looking at children with the sinful desires, then we need to pluck that eye out!

The same can be said for our society, whether that is culture, theology, doctrine, ideology or practice. If our systems seek the eradication of Others’ cultures, if they cause us to oppress the helpless, if they cause us to lust after them, then we need to cut off and pluck out those parts of our society, whether that is culture, theology, doctrine, ideology or practice.

What is the stated destination for people who act in this way? Quite simply it is hell. Hell isn’t something we talk about a lot but I would suspect that there’re very few people who wouldn’t see hell as a suitable destination for people involved in the abuse and mistreatment of children.

The passage also provides a way forward — to be salt. Saltiness is a positive biblical trait. Salt provides flavour. Salt acts as a preservative. Salt creates buoyancy in water. And salt brings peace to the world. But it seems as if our salt has lost its flavour. What will we do to restore that saltiness?

Today on the national day for truth and reconciliation remember that every child matters.

Help is available. Call the 24-hour national Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Neeta Lind on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Thoughts on Truth and Reconciliation for Orange Shirt Day

Eva and I spent a couple of hours on Saturday looking for Orange t-shirts. We went to several stores in the area but were surprised that there weren’t any for sale. Eventually we ended up at the Wanuskewin Gift Shop on Broadway in Saskatoon where we found a few shirts in 3X and 4X sizes! We were extremely pleased that we found something even if they are far too large.

“What’s the big deal about orange t-shirts?,” you may ask. Phyllis Webstad tells the story of the orange shirt that inspired Orange Shirt day. As she says,

“I went to the Mission for one school year in 1973/1974. I had just turned 6 years old. I lived with my grandmother on the Dog Creek reserve. We never had very much money, but somehow my granny managed to buy me a new outfit to go to the Mission school. I remember going to Robinson’s store and picking out a shiny orange shirt. It had string laced up in front, and was so bright and exciting – just like I felt to be going to school! 

When I got to the Mission, they stripped me, and took away my clothes, including the orange shirt! I never wore it again. I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t give it back to me, it was mine! The color orange has always reminded me of that and how my feelings didn’t matter, how no one cared and how I felt like I was worth nothing. All of us little children were crying and no one cared.”

Today Orange Shirt Day has become the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. I have already written on truth and reconciliation here, here, and here. Eva and I wanted to participate this year but I had a couple of questions, the most prominent of which is a logistical one: How can I be involved in Orange Shirt Day without also profiting from it? I would hate to be a participant in some kind of cultural appropriation and it would be an even greater shame for the oppressors to further profit from the day. For example, the Hudson’s Bay Company recently came under fire for selling Orange Shirts. This is especially poignant given the company’s history in Canada. Fortunately, the Company had followed the proper procedures, as outlined in the Orange Shirt Society’s guidelines. But that isn’t the case for every company doing this.

The next question I had was how do I go about the process of reconciliation particularly in a culturally appropriate way. I am working on a post about conflict resolutions in the Bible. Most Christians assume that Matthew 18 is the only way to do things. I happen to disagree with this but let’s agree with this for argument’s sake. What would that entail when it comes to truth and reconciliation in Canada? Since Mt 18 is all about bringing the offending sibling back into fellowship we need to recognise that that is us!

Us. I will say that my family history is full of discrimination and persecution. My father’s side has roots in the Mennonites who moved around the world trying to find places where their pacifism would be acceptable. They moved from the Netherlands to Prussia to the Ukraine and eventually ended up in Canada. My mother’s family has roots in the First Nations particularly in how the fur traders interacted with First Nations women that lead to a group of people known as country born. But in spite of this history of discrimination and persecution, I have grown up completely separated from those identities and live a life of privilege. So when I say that we are the offending sibling I am including myself in that. This is especially true for those involved in churches when talking about residential schools.

What can we do to foster truth and reconciliation? I can think of a couple of options that will lead toward reconciliation.

In reconciliation, the offenders don’t set the agenda. Rather, as the offending party we must place ourselves in a position of powerlessness. It’s not enough to apologise. Often when giving an apology I find myself frustrated that the offended party wants to talk more about how offensive I have been. All this shows is that I am not truly apologetic and I don’t want reconciliation. This is particularly hard when it comes to corporate evil. The Canada we know has been built in part on a flawed foundation that is in need of renovation. What does that renovation look like? Ask someone who is affected by the flaws to find out.

In reconciliation the offenders need to listen. We need to be humble and submissive and to listen to the stories of those we have offended because that is the only way for us to experience their pain. Let’s start this process by listening and watching as Phyllis Webstand tells us her story.

But as Phyllis says, her story is not unique. Another part of the reconciliation process is to find someone in our own community who we can share stories with. Only by sharing stories can we find truth and reconciliation!

Help is available. Call the 24-hour national Indian Residential School Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Rod Long on Unsplash. Video by orangeshirtday.org.

Alam mo na ba na meron sa Bibliya ang Pagpapagaling sa Pamamagitan ng Gamot? (Part 1)

Nalungkot ako noong nakarinig ako ng balita na meron mga pastor sa Pilipinas na nagtuturo sa mga simbahan nila na huwag magpabakuna. Ang ibang sinasabi ay medyo kakaiba, tulad ng ang bakuna ay mark of the beast o 666, demonic, o pagiging Zombie. Meron ding sinasabi na may kinalaman sa teolohiya, tulad ng “mas makapangyarihan ang Diyos kaysa sa bakuna,” at pinoprotektahan ng mga Kristianyo ng “dugo ni kristo.” Meron din akong nakarinig ng ganito mula sa mga pastor sa Canada. Hindi ko alam kung anu-ano ang mga dahilan nito pero mukhang kinakailangang magbuo ng teolohiya ng pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot. Buti na lang na naunahan ako ng isang FB friend ko si Matt Stone. Pwede mong basahin ang kanyang blog post sa wikang Inglis dito. Karamihan sa mga sumusunod na puntos ay nagmula sa gawain ni Matt.

Siyempre, maraming halimbawa sa Bibliya ng pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng mga himala. Isa ito sa mga malaking gawain ni Jesus at ang kanyang mga alagad sa Bagong Tipan.

So paano ba ang theology of medical healing o teolohiya ng pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot? Tama ba na hindi natin kailangang magpagamot dahil mas malakas ang ating Diyos o ang dugo ni Kristo? Siyempre maraming sinasabi ang Biblia patungkol sa supernatural healing pero meron ba’ng sinasabi ang Bibliya patungkol sa pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot?

Meron. 

Unang-una kailangan tingnan ang Santiago 5:14 “Mayroon bang may sakit sa inyo? Dapat niyang ipatawag ang mga namumuno sa iglesya para ipanalangin siya at pahiran ng langis sa pangalan ng Panginoon.” Nakikita natin sa mga talata nito na meron dalawang dapat gawin kapag may sakit tayo. Una, “ipatawag ang mga namumuno sa iglesya para ipanalangin siya” at ikalawa, magpagamot. Kasi ang ibig sabihin ng “pahiran ng langis” sa konteksto ng Bibliya ay magpagamot. Tingnan natin ang kuwento patungkol sa good Samaritan. Ano ba’ng ginawa nya sa taong binugbog ng mga magnanakaw? Naglagay sya ng langis sa kanyang mga sugat. Ibig sabihin, ok din magpagamot.

Pero hindi lang yun ang patungkol sa pagpapagaling sa pamamagitan ng gamot sa Bibliya. Maraming ibang mga talata at kuwento patungkol dito. Unang-una, lahat ng nilikha ng Diyos ay mabuti, kaya sa Bibliya may mga iba’t ibang halimbawa ng gamot, may mga doktor, at may mga sumpa kaugnay sa walang gamot.

Lahat ng nilikha ng Diyos ay mabuti. Alam naman natin ito dahil sa sinabi niya mismo sa Genesis 1:31. Kasama doon ang lahat ng mga potensyal na mga hinaharap na mga paggamit. Nilikha ng Diyos mula sa wala pero lahat ng likha natin ay mula sa mabuting nilikha ng Diyos. Ibig sabihin, kahit anong pinagmulan ng ating gamot — hayop, dahon, prutas, o bato — lahat ito ay mabuti. Ang tawag dito ay Doktrina ng Pangangalaga ng Diyos. Nakikita din natin ito sa 1 Timothy 4:4, “Lahat ng nilikha ng Dios ay mabuti, at dapat walang ituring na masama kung tinatanggap nang may pasasalamat.”

Mga sari-saring gamot sa Bibliya. May mga iba’t ibang uri ng gamot sa Bibliya, kasama ang alak, ang pulot-pukyutan, laway, at dinurog na igos.

Alak bilang gamot sa 1 Timoteo 5:23 kung saan sinabi ni Pablo kay Timoteo na “Dahil sa madalas na pananakit ng sikmura mo, uminom ka ng kaunting alak.”

Pulot-pukyutan bilang gamot sa Kawikaan 16:24 “Ang matatamis na salita ay parang pulot-pukyutan, nakakapagpasaya at nakakapagpasigla ng katawan.”

Laway ni Jesus bulang gamot sa Markos 8:22-26 kung saan “dinuraan [ni Jesus] ang mga mata ng bulag.”

Dinurog na igos bilang gamot sa 2 Hari 20:7 “Sinabi ni Isaias sa mga utusan ni Haring Hezekia na tapalan nila ang namamagang bukol nito ng dinurog na igos. Ginawa nga nila ito at gumaling siya.”

Nabanggit din sa Bibliya ang maraming mga halamang gamot. Kasama dito ang Igos (Ficus carica), Nardo (Nardostachys jatamansi), Isopo (Origanum syriacum), Gamot sa Gilead (Commiphora gileadensis) and Mandragora (Mandragora officinarum).

Mga Manggagamot sa Bibliya. May mga doctor din ang binanggit sa Bibliya. Unang-una si Lukas, ang may-akda ng Lukas at Gawa, ay pinaliwanag ni San Pablo bilang “Lucas, ang minamahal nating doktor” sa Col 4:14. Sinabi din mismo ni Jesus sa Markos 2:17 “Ang mga taong walang sakit ay hindi nangangailangan ng doktor, kundi ang mga may sakit.”

Mga sumpa kaugnay sa walang gamot. Moreover, there are many bible passages where lack of access to effective medicine is spoken of as a curse. Nakikita natin ito sa dalawang talata nito:

Jeremias 8:22 “Wala na bang gamot sa Gilead? Wala na bang manggagamot doon? Bakit hindi gumagaling ang sugat ng mga kababayan ko?”

Jeremias 46:11 “O mga taga-Egipto, kahit na pumunta pa kayo sa Gilead para maghanap ng panlunas na gamot, ang lahat ng gamot ay wala nang bisa at hindi na makapagpapagaling sa inyo.”

Ayon kay Stone, may dalawang maari paraan na ginagamit ang Diyos para sa ating kalusugan. Paminsan-minsan, nagpapagaling ng Panginoon ang mga tao sa pamamagitan ng gamot. Paminsan-minsan hindi siya gumamamit ng namamagitan — diretso galing sa kanya ang pagpapagaling (tingnan ang larawan sa ibaba). Dapat nating tanggapin ang tulong sa anumang paraan na pinili ng Diyos.

Ang isang magandang halimbawa dito ay ang kuwento ng pagpapagaling ni Naaman sa 2 Kings 5:1-14. Kung naalala nyo, si Naaman ay Heneral ng mga Kalaban ng Israel noong panahon ni Elisha. May malubhang sakit sa balat si Naaman. Meron siyang aliping dalaga mula sa Israel na nag payo sa kanyang amo na meron propeta sa Israel (si Elisha nga) na pwedeng magpagaling sa kanya. Para gawing maiksa ang kuwento, pumunta si Naaman kay Elisha at ang utos ni Elisha ay kinakailangan maligo si Naaman sa Ilog Jordan ng pitong beses para gumaling. Nakita natin na kahit may propeta ang Panginoon sa Israel, ginamit nya ang paligo sa ilog bilang proceso ng pagpapagaling sa sakit.


MGA IDINAGDAG 10 SET 2021:

Baka meron nagbabasa nito na nagsasabi ng ganito, “Dahil lahat ng gamot na binaggit sa Bibliya ay galing sa kalikasan, natural medicines lang ang dapat natin gamitin bilang Kristiyano. Iwasan natin ang pwedeng bilhin sa botika.” Alalahanin natin na ang mga gamot na nakalista sa itaas ay ang mga gamot na meron sila noong panahon nila. Hindi naman nila pinili na puro natural cures lamang — sa totoo lang wala naman silang mga pinagpilian. Ginamit nila kung anong meron sila. Wala naman sila botika noong panahon nila kaya wala silang option na gamitin yun.


Palaging malugod na tinatanggap ang feedback.

Pagbabahagi ang ginagawa ng mga kaibigan.

Akin ang mga larawan.

Pwedeng basahin din ang Part 2.

Ang mga sipi ng Banal na Kasulatan ay kinuha mula sa Ang Salita Ng Dios Biblia. Karapatang magpalathala © 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015 ng Biblica, Inc.® Ginamit nang may pahintulot.

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.

How can the church partner with the world while maintaining its identity? By imitating Jesus’ Changing Water into Wine. Lessons from Thomas Aquinas.

“All truth is God’s truth.”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard this while I was in seminary. And that was a good thing because I needed to hear it. I had spent the years leading up to seminary developing my understanding of truth that was pretty much limited to what the Bible (or at least my interpretation of the Bible) had to say. Any claims to truth outside of the Bible were suspect for me.

I even remember a time in a class I took at USask on Religious Perspectives on Death and Dying when I had to comment (in a test) on the validity of the fictional Death of Ivan Illich to my understanding of death and dying. My reply was that since it was fiction it wasn’t true! Wise Professor Robert Kennedy pointed out that truth can be found in a variety of areas of life including fictional accounts.

And it appears this debate isn’t all that new. The other day I took a look at Mitchell Atencio’s interview Why Nathan Cartagena Teaches Critical Race Theory to Evangelicals with Nathan Cartagena on Sojourners and saw a great idea from Thomas Aquinas.

In 1261, a few years before I went to seminary, Thomas Aquinas wrote a commentary on Boethius’ On The Trinity. Apparently some agreed with my early ideas — that blending God’s Truth with rational truths somehow muddies the mixture. Article 3 of Super Boethium De Trinitate by Thomas Aquinas answers this question in a very interesting way:

“5. It may be said: No conclusive argument can be drawn from figurative speech, as the Master (Peter Lombard) says. Dionysius also says in his letter to Titus that symbolic theology has no weight of proof, especially when such interprets no authority. Nevertheless it can be said that When one of two things passes into the nature of another, the product is not considered a mixture except when the nature of both is altered. Wherefore those who use philosophical doctrines in sacred Scripture in such a way as to subject them to the service of faith, do not mix water with wine, but change water into wine.”

Part of the problem that I faced in the early years of my theological formation was that I somehow believed that the world was divided into two parts: Sacred and Secular. As as young Christian I was warned about the dangers of the world — the danger that I would become worldly. This came out in many areas, including concepts like Christian music, Christian schools and colleges, and Christian bookstores. There was also the idea that people needed to leave the world and join the church. Interestingly there was never an idea that through my influence the world would become holy.

How can we apply Aquinas’ concepts of changing water to wine to the whole sacred-secular debate? The sacred-secular debate keeps the two worlds apart because of fear of contamination — but a contamination that always goes from good to bad. Aquinas says that in order for two ideas to mix that they both need to change. When it comes to God’s truth however, the end result is not a mixture of good and bad but a transformation of the bad into good, much in the same way that Jesus changed water into wine.

So, that brings us to current issues where this can be applied. I can think of three examples. When I was younger the bad guy was psychotherapy. Psychotherapy was bad for reasons that I can’t remember. Fortunately today I have personally benefitted from people who have been successful in blending the truths of God that can be found in psychotherapy with the truths of God found in scripture and have applied those truths into my life.

Christians have also had a love-hate relationship with science throughout the years. Some have suggested that vaccine hesitancy among some Christians is a direct result of the religion-science debate. The argument seems to go along the lines of, “Science promotes evolution that directly goes against the creation accounts of the Bible. If then scientists tell us that vaccines are ok that must mean that they aren’t ok.” What we as Christians often forget, though, is that the early scientists were in fact men and women of faith who desired to know more about God’s creation and started an in-depth study of it.

There has been a lot of talk of late in the church about Critical Race Theory. And that is in fact with the Nathan Cartagena interview is about. The main objection appears to be something like, “CRT is bad because it is Marxism.” Once again the fear of the world influencing the church rather than the church influencing the world rears its ugly head. What we often forget is that justice is one of the key aspects of the Kingdom of God but since it has been neglected so much by the church we need the expertise of those who have thought about justice issues in depth.

Of course I am not advocating an uncritical approach to these issues. As Aquinas himself tells us to “subject [rational philosophies] to the service of faith.” But what I am advocating is that Christians tap every resource available as we seek to turn the water of the world into the wine of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, establishing the values of the kingdom of God, serving God and neighbour, and testifying to God’s truth.

After all, Jesus promises that “the gates of hell will not prevail” against the church. Why should we act as if it already has?

Feedback is always welcome.

Sharing is what friends do.

Image by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash.

Of Governments and Hope: Where should I look for hope?

The Bible doesn’t really have all that great a view of governments. Certainly we are to obey governments but that’s not what i mean. The bible’s best option for human governance is always presented as being God.

We see this throughout the story of Israel in the Old Testament. Israel is freed from Egypt because Egypt’s government had enslaved them. God then led them through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

We see this in the story of Israel’s first king — Saul — a move that God saw as being a rejection of his rule, and even the most cursory of reads of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles shows us the failure of this system.

We also see this in the choice of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to use the term “gospel” when identifying their story type; gospel or good news being the term Roman Emperors used to describe their own ascension to the throne. The four are in essence saying, “Jesus is a better emperor than Rome’s!”

That’s why government in the Bible is often referred to as an animal (most translations maintain the archaic expression “beast,” but as I’ve said here and here that that leads to strange interpretations). What this means is that we shouldn’t be surprised when the government tears us to pieces. The example in Canada at the moment is the whole Indian Residential School system (which I have written about here, here, and here) but I am sure we can come up with countless other ways governments around the world mess things up. Some organisations —such as Transparency International, Amnesty International, and Wikileaks — exist merely to evaluate the level of mess that governments make. Of course in the Biblical examples we also see some animals that have fatal wounds but don’t die, perhaps indicating domesticated governments who aren’t as powerfully bestial.

This is of course the danger of identifying any human political theory or system with God’s way. One recent Facebook conversation I had highlighted this. My friend pointed out the abuses that more leftist firms of government were guilty of, including the top echelons becoming rich while the rest remained poor. Of course the same could be said for rightist governments and their billionaires. Apart from this there are the similarities between parties on a vast range of issues — their differences are often highlighted but their end policies often end up being the same.

Regardless of the level of wildness in government, it is clear that something else is needed. So what’s the solution? I see at least two:

Lamb of God. The Bible describes Jesus as being more like a lamb than an animal. Certainly He is also the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, but in the context of the animal or beast language used in some parts of the Bible, Jesus as lamb is contrasted. No one in the created world — animals included — is found worthy to get God’s plan rolling: “” Eventually it is the lamb who was slain who is able to open the seals.

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will rule as king forever and ever.” It’s the phrase “has become” that I would like to focus on. How does this process happen? There are some that view eschatology as something God does at the end of time. Our only tole as humans is to be the cause of the end because of our unbridled wickedness.

But I wonder if that is indeed the way things are meant to happen? If our wickedness brings about the end, is it possible for us to work together with God in the transformation of the kingdom?

Certainly God has included humans in his plans. Jesus did after all commission his human disciples (including us) to make disciples of all nations. Whose disciples are these to be? Jesus’ disciples of course. What will these disciples do?

Disciples are filled with the spirit, whether that means being empowered to do the work of God, to a way to cope with the troubles of the world without using addictions.

Disciples reconcile people to God and to each other. Paul talks about the ministry of reconciliation that we have on earth. This reconcilition imitates what God through Jesus began. He then says that “has given us this ministry of restoring relationships” as well.

Disciples bear fruit. We often interpret this to mean make disciples but fruit in the Bible more often than not refers to a personal transformation. This is best exemplified in lists of comparisons, most famously enumerated in Galatians 5, but also found elsewhere.

Disciples continue Jesus’ Isaiah 61/Luke 4 tasks of proclaiming Good News, forgiving others, giving sight to the blind, and freeing the captives.

Unfortunately the church hasn’t always been successful at fulfilling these tasks. What’s also unfortunate is that I have not always been successful at fulfilling these tasks. We have a lot to work on, both corporately and as individuals, in the process of working together with God for the transformation of our societies.

I wonder what we should work on first?

Feedback is always appreciated.

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Image by Bill Fairs on Unsplash.