Aslan and the Renewal of the World

One of the many things I love about the Chronicles of Narnia is that every time I read through the series, I come away with something new – often, something new from each book. Now reading through Prince Caspian with my daughter, I was struck by the scene in which Lucy meets Aslan for the first time since she and her siblings were pulled back into Narnia.

If you don’t know the story, what is wrong with you? Just kidding. But not really. The Pevensie siblings are pulled magically into Narnia, but despite being gone just one earth year, a millennium has passed in Narnia, and the land is ruled by a race of humans called Telmarines, who have subjugated and done their best to exterminate any remnants of Old Narnia – the talking beasts, satyrs, dryads, fauns, centaurs, dwarves and the like. The true heir to the throne, Caspian, has fled for his life because his Uncle Miraz usurped the throne from Caspian’s father and killed all of his allies. Now Caspian and the Old Narnians have turned to fight Miraz and the Telmarines, and the Pevensies might be able to help, but they have to get to the camp first. Aslan has been absent from this story for hundreds of years, his existence is doubted by many, and only the youngest Pevensie, Lucy, seems to be able to see him. After everyone else falls asleep, Lucy is awakened by a voice calling her name. At long last, she meets Aslan again:

“Will the others see you too?” asked Lucy.

“Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.”

“But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.

“Oh dear, oh dear,” said Lucy. “And I was so pleased at finding you again. And I thought you’d let me stay. And I thought you’d come roaring in and frighten all the enemies away – like last time. And now everything is going to be horrid.”

“It is hard for you, little one,” said Aslan. “But things never happen the same way twice. It has been hard for us all in Narnia before now.”

Continue reading Aslan and the Renewal of the World

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Was Mary Really a Virgin? Part 14

We’ve gone quickly through a number of books to explore our question about the virgin birth. Today, I’ll briefly explore a chapter of one more – The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions – a debate between liberal theologian Marcus Borg and, in this context, the conservative N.T. Wright (although describing Wright, who rejects the historicity of the first 11 chapters of Genesis and supports gender equality in the church, as a conservative I’m certain makes the fundamentalists among us retch).

Each of the scholars takes a chapter to discuss his take on a specific issue related to Jesus – birth, death, resurrection, mission, miracles, the whole business. Chapters 11 and 12 are devoted to the virgin birth, and since we’ve dedicated quite a bit of time to liberal deconstructions of the traditional beliefs, as well more fundamentalist defenses of them, I think it’s only fair to let a heavy hitter like Wright close out the part of this series that defends the doctrine.

Continue reading Was Mary Really a Virgin? Part 14

Finding an America Worth Celebrating

My relationship with the Fourth of July has become a little strained lately.

Some of that is the growing discomfort I have with the way patriotism and certain American values tend to be equated with Christianity by many people of faith – as if Jesus roamed the hills of first-century Palestine extolling the virtues of free-market capitalism and individual liberty.

Some of it is the knowledge that for many, if not most, people, American independence was a theory, not a reality. It’s difficult to unreservedly wave the red, white and blue when those colors were used to enslave, subjugate and slaughter.

And some of it is my own faith journey. Why do we pledge allegiance to a flag when that flag is used in ways that are most certainly antithetical to the kingdom to which we owe our true loyalty? Would I really fight and kill for a cause with which I did not agree? Why do we sing a National Anthem that celebrates American warfare and violence above all other qualities? Does not our true king abhor violence?

Yet America has done incredible things to relieve people’s suffering, and despite the nation’s ongoing difficulties with race and xenophobia, she is far less bloodthirsty and far more tolerant than even 50 years ago.

And this is the thing worth celebrating about the American republic. Continue reading Finding an America Worth Celebrating

Christians Have Power. How Will We Use It?

“The experience of an American Christian is the experience of power.”

So begins the paper I wrote for Amos and Ethics, the Maymester course I took this summer that continues to shape how I look at the ways faith and politics intersect. I’ve posted that paper in the Smartypants section of the blog, and I encourage you to read it, not because it’s so brilliant but because it begins that process of working through exactly what we as Christians should do with our political power.

Because here’s the deal: Nonengagement is not an option.

By virtue of the democratic republic in which we live, all voting-eligible citizens hold political power, and willingly giving that power up – by not voting, for example, or refusing to stay informed – is itself a political act with practical ramifications. Sorry, folks.

So we adult citizens of the United States of America have political power. But we Christians living in the United States have not only political power but the power of majority. As I cite in the paper, nearly 80 percent of Americans self-identify as Christian. For all the talk about post-Christian societies and all the fear mongering about impending secularization and persecution, the reality remains: If you are Christian in America, you are most likely comfortable, accepted – and extremely powerful.

The question, then, is what do we do with this power?

If we are following Jesus, then the cliché answer is we give that power up. That’s what he did, after all. But that doesn’t really help us. I didn’t ask to be born in the United States, and I am glad to be a Christian, but I cannot give up my right to vote nor can I ask to become a member of the minority. Doing the former would itself be an exercise of power and the latter is simply impossible – I’m a straight white male Christian American, and none of those things is about to change.

This is where Amos comes in so handy.

Continue reading Christians Have Power. How Will We Use It?