Political scientists and historians are increasingly expressing profound concerns about the future of democracy in the West. I have been asking, as an amateur historian of America, “How and why do democracies die?”
The study of democratic backsliding, though around for a long time, is becoming more urgent as we watch events unfold so rapidly it creates deep concern in many of us. In the mid-2000s, the global spread of democracy, after 200 years of expansion, clearly began to stall. Perhaps it was the Iraq War and the events in the Middle East but however we understand what happened since 9/11 populist movements in the West began to arise and grow in number. This new form of Western populism, joined with a growing passion for nationalism and a seriously distorted form of exceptionalism, are now impacting America on a daily basis. This feels a lot like something we’ve seen before, in other places, but I do not think mosts of us are paying attention.
This new expression of Western populism bears more than a passing resemblance to Latin American populist waves that turned authoritarian very quickly. (Perhaps this
Late late night I read the first news reports of our president’s authorization of the launch of fifty missiles on Syrian air bases. (He warned the Russians in advance so their soldiers would leave, wanting to avoid a direct conflict with Russia.) It appears this morning that we hit military targets and human casualties will be small, perhaps even none. The reason for this attack was the outrage felt by our nation, and our president, upon seeing the helpless children who had died at the hands of President Assad through the use of chemical weapons. (Of course, Assad is denying he was behind this and blames the rebellion for the use of such weapons.)
I am deeply troubled by these events. Let me explain why.
Is this strike a one-time military action? If not, what is our strategy going forward? If there is “no red line” that Assad can cross to lead us into a “hot war” with him (which Mr. Trump promised for months he would not do) then why did these photos of dead children prompt this response and why now? Is there a policy for
I recently did a conference call with a number of Christian leaders across America. If you’d like to listen to the recording this is the Soundcloud file.
There are very few historical personalities with the magnetism of the famous Augustinian monk Martin Luther. Make no mistake, Luther has been praised and vilified. For some he bears specific blame for dividing the church. For others he remains a hero because he recovered the gospel and opposed massive church abuses. Love him or hate him, Martin Luther gets a response.
2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Some Protestants are aglow with celebration, while others would rather not talk about it. Catholics are more interested than ever, even open to new dialogue about some of Luther’s burning concerns. Pope Francis himself marked the anniversary October 31, 2016, with a historic trip to Lund, Sweden. He met with leaders from the Lutheran World Federation to celebrate a document titled: “From Conflict to Communion.” The document does not pretend to solve all the disagreements between Lutherans and Catholics. It does something more important by seeking forgiveness for our multiplied divisions. The pope and the Lutheran leaders look for greater celebration of our differing gifts while
Our American commitment to perpetual war now seems fairly self-evident. We have been engaged in some kind of military conflict, almost without significant pause, since the end of the Vietnam War. Our current military action in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the wider Middle East) is nearing fifteen years and there is virtually no reason to see a real (final) end in sight with the election of an aggressive military advocate now in the White House. The president is surrounded by generals who believe in the goals and commitments of our present time in military history and thought the strategic use of force might change I am not convinced it will bed for the better. Let me explain.
Warmongers and militarists talk about bombing North Korea, or at least increasing our presence on their border, if necessary. They also talk about intervening in the Syrian civil war. We continually talk about “defeating ISIS” by “bombing the hell out of them” through using the full power of our vast military power to destroy them, a prospect that has
Several years ago a special ABC Channel 7 Chicago program was done on my life and mission. It appears on our resource page inside the ACT3 site but I share it here for those who are new to this ministry and have not yet seen it. This is 28-minutes long.
Last Tuesday evening, January 24, I preached a sermon on reconciliation (1 Corinthians 5:14-20) at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity service at Emory University in Atlanta. I shared this program with leaders from across much of the Christian tradition. The event was inspiring and deeply Christ centered. The Archdiocese of Atlanta made a video about the evening which you can see here in less than three minutes.
On Saturday, May 20, I will be back in Atlanta to lead a “Unity Factor Conversation” for the city. Information will be available soon. Registration is free and a meal is provided. Mark the date now and if you live in the area plan to join us for interaction and worship around our shared desire to be an answer to our Lord’s prayer in John 17:21-24. God is doing good things for unity in Atlanta. Pray for the city, pray for me and pray for ACT3 and our work there. If you wish to follow ACT3 sign up for our ACT3 Weekly.
One of the most persistent problems I face, as both a Christian thinker and leader, is to confuse my plans with God’s plans. I seek God, I pray, and I read widely and study a great deal. I often see a clear way forward, at least sometimes. I sometimes feel quite sure I know what God wants. But my plans are not God’s plans. I have learned this again and again over nearly seven decades of life. But I still fall into the trap even as I watch others do the same in large numbers.
The hope of humanity is Jesus Christ. This hope is clearly being challenged today. It is challenged by politicians. It is challenged by social engineers. It is challenged by entrepreneurs. And it is challenged by ministers as well. Dr. Ralphael Gamaliel Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta since 2005, rightly says, “It takes a tough mind and a tender heart to hold on to hope.” It sure does.
I have found holding on to hope very difficult over the last twelve months. I personally came through a quintuple heart
The Gospel text for Sunday, January 1, 2017, was Matthew 2:13-23. It is a text I have rarely, if ever, heard preached. I have never personally preached from it in forty-five years.
Our congregation is faced with a unique trial and a season of life I hope you never go through as a Christian. On Christmas Eve our beloved pastor, Rev. Greg Moser, passed into the presence of Jesus his Lord at fifty-two years of age. We were stunned. It felt as if the joy of the season was sucked out of us. We were confused and reeling. What do we do now? Where do we turn with all our questions, fears, and doubts?
I have been asked to preach and lead the eucharistic celebration at Lutheran Church of the Master until we call an interim pastor, hopefully by February. During this time I will follow the liturgy and lectionary faithfully and seek to give pastoral wisdom and comfort to us as a people walking through deep grief.
So what to do with a text like Matthew 2:13-23? You can hear my attempt, feeble as it was, to respond