Winter Issue 2
by Seth Hart
a misled uneducated mass (at their best) or right wing extremists (at their worst).
I could share countless stories, but one, in particular, sticks out. One of my good friends is a very intelligent Latina woman currently finishing her pre-med degree at the local state university. Being heavily involved in politics, she personally concluded that Trump was the better of the two candidates. However, she quickly discovered that this decision came at a cost. Her largely white-skinned college classmates took to verbal persecution of the girl who dared to “betray” her own race. She related to me that for months she lived in anxiety and fear any time questions were asked of her regarding the upcoming election for fear of further persecution.
But, interestingly, she was not alone. Exit polls revealed that every racial minority group in America supported Trump in a greater measure than they did the Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. This includes Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians. The one group that gave Trump less support? White voters. If you cannot understand this, neither could I . . . until I realized that I had been living in an echo chamber and was unable to hear anything but my own opinion.
Lest you think I’m a less-than-covert Trump supporter, I can assure you I am not. I did not support him in the election. I did not vote for him, and if I had to vote again, my vote would not change. There obviously is much to dislike about him. I share your fears and concerns. Most of my political discussions in the States were attempts to dissuade his most ardent supporters and warn of the very concerns I share with most of my fellow Regent friends.
My argument is not to support him. My argument is to understand him and the 63 million people who were willing to risk being ostracized by the rest of the nation and world in their support of him. If Regent truly is about cultural integration, how can we fail to understand and take seriously the concerns and felt wounds of the people who have lost all faith in their political system? My argument is to get past the stereotypes, the fear, and the implicit hate for the man who will be the de facto leader of the free world and to be willing to hear the other side without the immediate dismissal that has characterized virtually every discussion I’ve heard at Regent.
You don’t have to support him (I surely don’t). You don’t have to like him. But you do have to love him.
It’s our call in this world and one I hope we take seriously in our unusual world.
"So what are your thoughts on this whole Trump phenomenon?” Without a doubt, this is the one question I, and many American Regent students, dread the most. This past winter term, it inevitably followed any introduction of myself as an American. I would gladly have taken any of those passive-aggressively worded questions that always appear on our CTC finals than this question, because then at least I would have something intelligent to say. I honestly had no clue why anyone, let alone nearly half of America, could vote for a man who was like an older washed-up Tony Stark. . . if Tony Stark decided he wanted to be a racist bigot while sporting hair that looks like something off the endangered species list.
Luckily, I presumed, it wouldn’t last. Donald Trump would never seriously make it to the presidency of the United States. He was a joke and even he seemed to know that. His constituents were only supporting him to make a point, right? There’s no possible way he could make it even to the first primary. And then he did. His lead was intact and, oddly, growing. The joke was suddenly getting less funny. But this couldn’t go on forever. No one took him seriously. I mean, c’mon, it’s Donald Trump! This is the stuff of Simpson parodies (which, interestingly, it was in 2000). He couldn’t win the Republican primaries.
And then he did. And on and on this went until, in just four days from my writing this, he will be sworn in as my Commander-in-Chief. All of the sudden, it’s no longer a joke.
But something interesting happened to me in the midst of this; I moved to the heart of Trump nation. In late June of last year, just days before the Republican Convention made Trump the official nominee of the Grand Ol’ Party, I left the rainy confines of Vancouver to spend six months back in my home state of Missouri, a state that went overwhelmingly Trump (my county alone was nearly 80% pro-Trump). And that, my fellow Regent friends, is when I came to the horrifying conclusion that I had been living in an echo chamber.
What I saw was not the ragtag group of uneducated hillbillies and xenophobic old white men. Many of the most intelligent and moral individuals I knew not only tolerated Trump but were, far be it, planning to vote for him. It’s easy to caricature Trump supporters when they were far off. It was a lot harder when you had to face them every day. When you actually have to hear their concerns and their struggles, you get a different take on who exactly constitutes Trump Nation. All of the sudden, you can’t simply dismiss them as
LUTHER: THE FATHER OF THE REFORMATION
(or, Your Other Racist Dad)
by Ross Tuttle
ghettoizing, and the dehumanizing of the Jewish people. Imagine Billy Graham, but a Billy Graham who rewrote how Christianity was practiced, whose reformation sparked excommunications and wars across Europe, whose prolific commentaries and sermons forged an identity for a new Protestant people. Now take that Billy Graham and watch him publish some work which could be mistaken as passages from Mein Kampf! Luther’s apologists might call these lunatic ravings from a sick, old man, which may be true in part. But I think it a disservice to quickly dismiss and to not honestly investigate the terrible and bloody history of the Christian treatment of the Jews and the Protestant perpetrations hitherto. “Know Christian”, wrote Luther, “that next to the devil thou hast no enemy more cruel, more venomous and violent than a true Jew.” It is this sort of vitriol and confused hate that finds its fruit in the thought and policy of not only Nazi Germany but many other purportedly “Christian” institutions which use Luther’s and other “Christian” anti-Semitic writings to advance racist ideologies even in our day.
It is not my intention to completely vilify our often constipated forbearer or to completely ignore his efforts to reform the Church. As you’ll likely hear throughout the year, Luther was a deep thinker, a profound commentator, a decent theologian, he even wrote a good hymn. He was an important and immovable figure in both Christian and European History. But what are we supposed to do with that...other stuff? Isn’t it kind of a buzzkill to trot out our anti-semitic skeletons from the closet on a 500th anniversary party? Well yeah, but we have to. We must examine our blemished history and thoughtfully engage and confront dangerous ideologies even and especially when they come from men and women often lauded for their piety and theological insight. And let me tell you why. We can’t afford to forget the past. We can’t afford to forget the crimes Christians have committed and encouraged. We can’t afford to omit the foolish, the embarrassing, and the horrifying realities from our history. We must acknowledge and learn from our past lest we fall victim to the sins of our fathers. We must do so certainly in this year of 2017 when not only are we called to examine our Christian heritage in all its muck and sometimes beauty, but also challenged to confront our societies which across the Western world are now experiencing the resurgences of white nationalism and other racist ideologies. So here’s to 2017 and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Here’s to not whitewashing our past. Here’s to killing our darlings. Here’s to the Résistance.
As you might have heard, this year of our Lord, 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. And if I know Regent College it will be nearly impossible to miss the rousing calls to remember our “Reformation Roots”! But before we re-enact any theological vandalism on the doors of our local Catholic churches, or get tattoos of our favorite jowly German over our hearts, let’s take some time to remember all of our “roots” — especially the dirty ones.
Most Christians don’t read much of Luther. He’s one of those theologians of incredible influence whose own writings have come out of vogue, while his name is often invoked to bolster the proud tenets of the Reformation. We might on occasion hear his quotes on the beauties of Scripture or the sanctity of work for the ordinary man. But for a theologian so honorifically placed as a Father of the Reformation, many Christians today are unfamiliar with an important and unsettling fixture in Luther’s thought. This was not the case in Germany under the Third Reich whose pastors and propagandists often reminded their flocks of Luther’s thoughts concerning the Jewish people. Luther’s later works such as On the Jews and Their Lies experienced a revival as the Nazi state, with little effort, used and exploited Luther’s legacy as Father of the Reformation and the German Language to further Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’ ideologically and theologically. An excerpt from that very text demonstrates Luther’s horrifying advice to his fellow Christians:
1. to burn down Jewish synagogues and schools and warn people against them;
2. to refuse to let Jews own houses among Christians;
3. for Jewish religious writings to be taken away;
4. for rabbis to be forbidden to preach;
5. to offer no protection to Jews on highways;
6. for usury to be prohibited and for all silver and gold to be removed, put aside for safekeeping and given back to Jews who truly convert; and
7. to give young, strong Jews flail, axe, spade, spindle, and let them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow.
Let’s pause here. This is the most influential, deft, and “biblically” grounded preacher and theologian of Protestantism advising actions which find their mirror image in the atrocities seen across Europe in the pogroming, the
A LAMENT FOR THE
DECLINING LOCAL CHURCH
by Alex Strohschein
in cities that had no existing church). New church plants draw an enthusiastic launch team who are eager to help support the new church and reach out intentionally to the community in which it is situated, whereas it might be that the local neighbourhood church has become evangelistically staid.
I am certainly not against church planting, but I do see a tendency to prioritize establishing new churches without any thought given to how existing churches can be rejuvenated. Church renewal isn’t simply about planting a new church, but about tending to an established church that needs to be revitalized. I wonder what it would look like for would-be church planters to instead become church revitalizers? With civic governments being reluctant to dedicate area to worship spaces and demand for more housing high, I am concerned that once local older congregations pass away, these churches may be torn down and converted into businesses or residences. There are certain benefits for churches to rent space from a theatre, but there are, of course, also benefits to having a building, such as opportunities for larger-scale outreach events.
I admit, it may be challenging for two leaders, the local church pastor of an aging congregation and the church planter, to come together for a common vision. One may emphasize tending to the internal health of the congregation while the other might prioritize evangelism. But perhaps this can also lead to a beautiful complementarity of callings. I would hope shared fellowship in Christ and a mission to proclaim the Gospel would be sufficient binding for an effective and worthy partnership. Younger church leaders possess the vision, innovation, and understanding of what is attractive to members of their own generation (more tech-fluent, a higher concern for aesthetics, social justice dedication) while an older generation can provide tried-and-trusted wisdom that they have accumulated, a visible demonstration of stability and perhaps some correctives to youthful idealism. Evangelicals recognize the importance of having mentors and just such a relationship could be formed between the current pastor (who has lived in the neighbourhood and has the benefit of lived, “experiential exegesis”) and the church planter. As well, while it is understandable why we want to worship and be with those who are similar to us, we also recognize the true value in diversity, whether that is denominational, multicultural or, in this case, generational.
My old childhood church, located on the edge of Vancouver, was the first Christian community that instructed (in all the faith’s flannel-graph glory!), formed, and discipled me (also important: it’s where I first watched The Empire Strikes Back). I went to Sunday school, VBS, and Anvil Island because of my old church. One of the elders, my old Sunday school teacher, and the ladies’ morning Bible study continue to pray for me and the other young people who were raised in the church.
But the church I grew up attending is now old and small. Most of the congregation is 60+. I fear it is dying. Much is made about the Protestant Mainline’s aging membership and threatened extinction, but some neighbourhood evangelical churches, like my old church, are lamentably beset with this same problem despite their commitment to biblical orthodoxy. Contemporary socioeconomic dynamics are largely to blame. Many of the young people, including myself, have left – some have moved away to more affordable neighbourhoods, some have been attracted by flashier church services, some leave because they want to dwell in a spiritual community that is more similar to them in life course position (and/or “gotta find a spouse!”), some have actively sought out membership in a different denomination, some have left Christianity altogether.
I see two dynamics competing against renewing local, existing congregations. One is the megachurch, with its attractive trappings, its abundance of programs, well-poised and charismatic pastors, staff that do everything, and slick, full-ensemble worship band. Many believers who grow up in smaller churches are wooed into megachurches.
The other dynamic is the drive to plant new churches. I understand the reasons for church planting and I appreciate organizations like C2C Network that support and train church planters across different denominations. Although most evangelicals practice a “mere Christianity” (partly because a lot of people today, rightly or wrongly, can’t tell what distinguishes a Baptist from a Nazarene from a Methodist), sometimes it is necessary to plant a church for denominational presence (I am grateful to see many new church plants by ANiC). Sometimes there is no regional evangelical church (such is the case in Rossland, B.C., which only has a Roman Catholic and a United Church) and so one may be required. There is the biblical imperative to plant churches and St. Paul himself planted churches in the cities he visited (but he was planting new churches
HOT BLOOD ON SNOW
by Carson Leith
crisp winter air.
The daughter came in and traded off every so often, but then they handed me a knife. Before I could comprehend anything, I was taking part in the process. I was butchering something, and I had no idea what I thought about it. I didn’t feel myself. At that moment, I forgot everything that I was involved in during my previous life. The only thing that existed was this knife, this cow, this family, this snow.
“Whatever you do, don’t puncture the skin,” they said. “You’ll be wishing you didn’t know what the inside of a cow smells like.” Although I didn’t puncture the skin, or the stomach, which apparently gave off the most pungent smell, I smelled the inside of a hide from a cow that was walking around just moments ago. It was enough to cut cautiously. I had trouble grabbing the hide because you had to grab the inside as well, which was a slippery pink layer of, as I reminded myself, a real cow. They taught me to make slits in the hide so that I could grab it and pull it more easily. And when my bloody hands started to freeze up, I was told to place them on the warm insides of the body, or to get them near the hot blood trickling out. I was miserably cold, so I obeyed.
After that day, I knew my life had changed, but I couldn’t quite explain it to others. I could barely handle one cow being killed, and I failed to comprehend it or grasp the weight of it.
Then I thought of the steaming blood poured out on the purest snow.
Then, another picture: a first-century Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, raised up not by chain links on a tractor, but nails on a cross. He’s hanging there, and there I am, too, looking at him, not unlike how I looked at the cow: riveted, perturbed, about to throw up, but pulled close. And now I find myself tentatively placing my hands in his hot blood to keep from freezing.
I wasn’t dressed as well as I could have been for the twenty-below-zero weather. My nose was stiff on the outside, runny on the inside, and my gloves were hardening up. I wish I had worn another pair of long johns and another couple of base layers. But I had thought I could handle it.
I was staying with a farm family in the northern part of British Columbia, Canada. It was mid-winter and everything was covered with snow. It was butchering day, which to them was a normal occurrence, but to me, was something I had never experienced, and probably will never experience again. The father and son were ready to shoot the old lame cow, and they called us to see if we wanted to come watch and help out with the butchering. I, of course, couldn’t resist. I was silent on the drive over, but the kids were yapping in the backseat. Some of them wanted to take part in it; others couldn’t bear to watch. These kids had been around it all their lives, and even then, it didn’t become an easy task to get through.
I couldn’t even handle the cold, let alone the prospect of the shooting. The father and son got out of the tractor and retrieved a pail of grain, setting it on the ground so that the cow would come over and eat. She hesitated a little, and then started walking over. She reached her head down toward the bucket—
The cow immediately fell to the ground. The sound reverberated everywhere. I kept saying out loud, “No, no, no,” but I couldn’t look away.
The father jumped over the fence and slit the cow’s throat. Hot blood came steaming out onto the pure white snow, the dark red puddle expanding slowly. Before I knew it, the cow’s legs were tied up in chains and it was raised up by a tractor. The father and son grabbed knives and started skinning the cow. The heat from its internal body rose into the
POEM OF THE WEEK:
by Andrew Wilson
so he turned to serve those beasts unclean
and for their meal he could only dream
when pigs had food and warmth and sty
the son could only lament: ‘i’ll die!’
when he had thought his sonship spent
and longing for a servant’s tent
to his father he went and received a kiss
and found that his presence had been missed
and when no one gave him anything
his father was waiting with robe and ring
be not troubled when you wander
even though your mind may ponder
this is the sight that will endure
of a father who is eternally sure
that his love will seek you out
even when your heart’s in drought
this is the image of our King
of whom angels forever sing.
And before the bed was cold,
he tossed the beauty that could unfold
off he went to taste and see
life’s pleasurable majesty
to him a wandering heart would say
‘how wonderful it is not to stay!’
he ventured far on but a whim
and by his father’s coin brought him
into desires so sensuous, so sweet
that he could not see his swift defeat.
it was wealth that kept his head held high
when food was gone, he could but cry
could last coins be called a friend
when wealth had reached its untimely end?
what he needed could not be sold
in markets new and taverns old
where could he turn that had no cost
since his father’s savings he had lost