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Category: In the News



I’m embarrassed about a lot of the things I did in high school. And no, I’m not talking about the time I convinced my 4-year-old brother to climb into the clothes dryer. Or the time I turned on said clothes dryer. Or the hundreds of times I repeated the story – of how I’d convinced him, of my mother’s screams, of the thrill – over the following year.

In public.

With volume.

Granted, that incident – and quite a few like it – is one that probably should cause shame. But even now, as I’m typing, I’m also smiling. At the memory. Of how stupid I was. And I’m thinking about who hasn’t already heard that story because I’d kind of like to tell it again.

That’s part of the problem. People hear stories of the things I did –

an under-the-radar, pay-day loan service I ran during the lunch hour;
a series of letters to the Oregonian, urging editors to fire a certain columnist I didn’t like;
a faked disorder in which I semi-secretly and pseudo-obsessively consumed paper products for attention (for two years)

– and conclude that there couldn’t possibly be more.

But there is. Few people know, for instance, that I once took part in a public protest.

I was on the news.

I was standing on a street in Portland.

I was holding a sign: Abortion Kills Children.

My friends at church (assuming they read my blog) are probably starting to wonder where I’m headed with this. My other friends are probably wondering how they didn’t know I was THAT kind of Christian. Some of you just want me to get on with it already.

So there I was. At my first public protest. And I was being POLITICAL. I was making a STATEMENT. I was standing up for the TRUTH. And something funny happened.

This car came around the corner. It was moving slow. A woman leaned out the window, and as the car passed, she looked at me and asked, “Why don’t you just keep your penis in your pants?”

For some reason, I thought that maybe my fly was down. I put down the sign and checked. Nope. All good. When I looked up, the car was gone. And it dawned on me why she didn’t stick around for my reply. It was already on my sign.

I hadn’t taken any communications theory at that point. And I wasn’t skilled in cultural exchange analysis. But I knew that sign had a message. And as messages tend to be, it was aimed at someone.

Abortion Kills Children.

Sometimes my brain doesn’t work as fast as I’d like, but I realized, looking up, reading the sign, standing on that street in Portland on a Sunday afternoon, that my sign was aimed at women. What women were most likely to physically feel the sign’s message? Women who’d had an abortion. Women stuck between one bad choice and another. Women who were doing the best they knew how in a world that didn’t love them. And certainly didn’t understand.

I was holding up a sign that was intended to shame people.

Poor people.

Powerless people.

The abused.

The assaulted.

The already-ashamed.

For more than half my life now, I haven’t really thought about that time in Portland. Didn’t want to. Didn’t need to. Even now, writing about the incident, I feel a mixture of shame (I was once one of THEM) and relief (but I’ve CHANGED). The shame is real. But the relief is not. Because I’m still one of THEM. And even though I don’t take part in that kind of protest, I also fail to protest the protest (if you know what I mean). This little blog post is my relatively weak attempt to change that. By telling the moral that I learned that day:

There is no such thing as an issue. There are only people. Jesus loved people. Even people who could have killed their brothers by sticking them in clothes dryers.

I want to love people, too.

There is no such thing as an issue. There are only people. Jesus loved people.

The Other


A friend — during a recent visit to South Africa — had a discussion about Apartheid with a man born in 1977. This man had lived in both the old and new South Africa and had reason — my friend believed — to have a unique insight from the inside. But this man was puzzled by her interest. He admitted that he hadn’t really noticed Apartheid until it was officially repealed. Life had seemed normal to him. The separation and subjugation of indigenous peoples had been completely invisible.

I wonder how much of our own treatment (and mistreatment) of others is similarly invisible. I wonder how our progressive but infrequent stands “for the other and marginalized” look to those who are genuinely “other and marginalized.” And I wonder if it’s possible for those of us on the inside to work for change.

he hadn’t really noticed

Parable at a Bridge


Idaho’s 486-foot-high Perrine Bridge is one of the world’s most-frequented sites for parachutists who jump from fixed objects. But when Tamara Judkins and her daughter, Rebekah, drove through on a summer day in 2008, they noticed that the man “sobbing and leaning over the railing” didn’t have a parachute.

Judkins recounted to the Times News of Twin Falls how she circled back, parked, and told her daughter to call for help. Then Judkins did something that none of the 20 or so bystanders had thought to do: “I took off towards him, wrapped my arms around him and held onto him.”

Judkins later said that as she tried to talk the man into coming into town with her for a cup of coffee, the gathering crowd just watched, “many of them snapping photos.”

Eventually, Twin Falls County sheriff’s deputies were able to grab the man, whose name was not released, and pull him back over the railing.

For weeks after I read of the incident, there was one detail that I couldn’t get out of my mind — those people in the crowd, watching and snapping photos.

It reminds me of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Plenty of passers-by saw the man at the side of the road, obviously suffering from his injuries, naked and close to death. But most of them were too busy to stop.

In this newspaper account — a parable for our age — the issue isn’t one of busy-ness. No, we are a society of gawkers, eavesdroppers and peeping Toms; and we have plenty of time. The problem is that suffering — a potential suicide, a televised hanging, tortured prisoners half a world away — too easily excites prurience instead of sympathy . . . leaving me to question my character (and my motives):

Am I more likely to sacrifice for a neighbor in need?

Or take pictures?

Am I more likely to sacrifice for a neighbor in need? Or take pictures?



We live in a culture of violence, a place where it is “known” that the best answer — the pragmatic answer — to evil acts is stronger acts that punish or even kill.

I call myself a pacifist — a peacemaker — and as a Quaker, I’m not alone. The denomination has a long history of peacemaking. But if we are to make a difference, to actively bring peace to the world, we must teach our neighbors that life at its fullest is heavy with vital contrasts:

Unfulfilled waiting teaches patience. Through suffering, we learn to experience joy. Deep love — the kind that changes the world by giving life to another — comes best from a heart that’s been broken.

Through suffering, we learn to experience joy.

Just War

In the last three days, three different students have approached me with questions about the war in Iraq.

If the war was meant as a swift response to our own loss in 9/11, then why did we attack a country with no known ties to Al-Qaeda? If the war was meant to safeguard the U.S. from future attacks, then why did we invade a country that had no means with which to carry out such attacks (weapons of mass destruction)? If Pat Tillman was a hero, then how do we explain our government’s cover-up of the fact that he was killed by his own trainees (not insurgents)?

I’ve avoided answering questions like these that focus on this specific conflict. The real issue isn’t whether this war is just (or unjust). Instead, Christians must consider whether any war can be justified.

Jesus introduced a new ethic in Matthew 5, when he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

For almost 300 years, Christians were so united in their acceptance of Christ’s message that they refused to fight for their country, in rebellion against it, or in their own self-defense. Constantine’s acceptance of Christianity in A.D. 312 changed all that as the Roman ruler made the cross of Christ the banner for Rome’s military conquests.
Before A.D. 173, there was no such thing as a Christian soldier. By A.D. 417, the Roman army only accepted Christians (Christian Attitudes Toward War, 1960).

This acceptance of the “just war” led to the Archbishop of Pisa writing of the crusades that Christians triumphantly proclaimed Christ while riding “in the blood of the Saracens up to the knees of the horses.” Apparently, Muslim infidels and Christian soldiers alike failed to appreciate the irony.

Jesus taught that we should turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, do good to those who hate us, pray for those who mistreat us, love those who have given us reason to hate them. He taught that even hateful anger is evil.

Here are some quotations from early Christian leaders, who believed Jesus knew what he was talking about:

Tertullian (150-225): “Christ in disarming Peter ungirt every soldier . . . . Shall the son of peace, for whom it is unlawful to go to war, be engaged in battle?”

Justin Martyr (c. 165): “We who were filled with war and mutual slaughter and every wickedness have each of us in all the world changed our weapons of war – swords into plows and spears into agricultural instruments. We who formerly murdered one another now not only do not make war upon our enemies but gladly die confessing Christ.”

Clement (c. 200): “If you enroll as one of God’s people, heaven is your country and God your lawgiver. What then are his laws? ‘Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. To him that strikes thee on the one cheek turn also the other.'”

Maximilianus (c. 295): “I cannot serve as a soldier. I cannot do evil. I am a Christian.”

Lactantius (c. 304): “It can never be lawful for a righteous man to go to war.”

The real issue isn’t whether this war is just (or unjust). Instead, Christians must consider whether any war can be justified.

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