I’ve Never Believed In American Exceptionalism But Now I Believe in Norway Exceptionalism

norway

I’ve been learning a lot about Norway the last few days.  My wife and I are fortunate to be hosting four people from Norway until next Thursday.  I’m now a believer in Norway exceptionalism.  Norwegians and Norway are very impressive.

Although I’ve heard all my life that the United States is the greatest country on earth and the greatest nation in the history of the world I’ve never believed it, except as a child during those years when you are spoon-fed patriotism and your country’s myths.  Is it me, or do you too get tired of politicians, particularly U.S. presidents, telling us how great we are every chance they get?  Don’t get me wrong, there much to admire about the United States, but there’s also much to critique.  And guess what, there may be other countries way ahead of us, countries like Norway.

What’s so great about Norway? Well, their taxes are very high and everything is very expensive.  Norwegians are willing to pay a high price so that everyone is taken care of, so everyone gets the essentials of life.  Norwegians are not selfish like Americans.  They care.

It’s embarrassing how many people have complained about healthcare reform as if their healthcare is all that matters.  Other nations have proven there is another way to do healthcare.  Other nations have demonstrated there is another way to do life.  Other nations have set the high standard of community and caring for all. Wake up America!

Pray This Prayer With Me: Save Us From Christians

prayer2338

God,

The volcano erupted and death was in its path.

Life changed, in a horrific, unbelievable instant.

Futures incinerated.

Save us from silver lining Christians.

Save us from Christians with answers to questions that have no answers.

Save us from Christians focusing on salvation when the volcano erupts and nothing, especially Christian doctrine, can soothe or heal shattered lives.

In the valley of the shadow of death

lead us to Christians who do not speak but are simply present or do the things we can’t do due to tragedy induced paralysis.

Amen.

The Bible Does Not Say Anything

Non-talking Bible

Non-talking Bible

One, Christians do not agree on what books should be in the Bible.

Two, we have a manuscript tradition.  We have to choose what manuscripts to use and they are not identical.

Three, translation is more difficult than your high school and college language courses have led you to believe.

Four, there are diverse theologies and accounts in the Bible.

Five, the Bible does not say anything.  It has to be interpreted.

[Youtube video link - Case study of non-talking Bible - Click The Bible Does Not Say Anything Video]

Six, the Bible and its characters are historically and culturally conditioned, including the various portraits of Jesus presented in the canonical gospels and the non-canonical gospels.

We must learn to live with faith. Certainty is not an option.

Sermon: How Many People Died On 9 11?

How many people died on 9 – 11?

Gordon M. Aamoth, Jr.

Edelmiro Abad

Maria Rose Abad

Andrew Anthony Abate

Vincent Abate

Laurence Christopher Abel

William F. Abrahamson

Richard Anthony Acet0

Jesus Acevedo Rescand

Heinrich Bernhard Ackermann

Paul Acquaviva

Donald LaRoy Adams

Patrick Adams

Shannon Lewis Adams

Stephen George Adams

It’s a long list which will be read at the 9/11 Memorial plaza.

I’m not going to read the entire list. Liberal Christians can have limited attention spans and great aversions to worship that goes more than an hour. I’m not going to read the entire list, but I am going to insist that we know the number of people who died on 9 11. So let’s see who can provide the correct number?

[Wait for guesses.]

Ok, I’ve asked you a trick question. I asked how many people died on 9 11 trying to get you to assume I was referring to 9 11 2001, referencing the attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. But the question only mentioned a month and a day of month because I want to tell you that on September 11, 1973 a U.S. orchestrated coup in Chile overthrew Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president, and replaced him with a brutal military dictatorship headed by General Augusto Pinochet. In the aftermath of the coup, the U.S.-backed dictatorship killed or disappeared thousands of Chilean workers, students, and progressive religious people. It also, with U.S. assistance, set up an international death squad linking secret police forces throughout Latin America. Operating under the code name Operation Condor, it assassinated, abducted, intimated, and tortured numerous dissidents.

So I’ll be less tricky with my question this time, How many people were killed on 9 11 2001 in the Al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. in the United States? Approximately 3,000 but the number goes up if you include the names of the highjackers. Their names will not be read at the 9/11 Memorial plaza.

Khalid Al-Midhar

Majed Moqed

Nawaq Alhamzi

Salem Alhamzi

Hani Hanjour

Satam Al Suqami

Waleed M. Alshehri

Wail Alshehri

Mohamed Atta

Abdulaziz Alomari

Marwan Al-Shehhi

Fayez Ahmed

Ahmed Alghamdi

Hamza Alghamdi

Mohald Alshehri

Saeed Alghamdi

Ahmed Alhaznawi

Ahmed Alnami

Ziad Jarrahi

A Christian church seeking to follow the one who while hanging on a cross said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” – shouldn’t a Christian church read the names of the highjackers too?

How many people died on 9 11 2001? According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations 35,615 children died of hunger on September 11, 2001. I bet nobody knows all those names.

The history we like to broadcast is a limited history, a self-serving, nation-serving history.

Nobody is saying we shouldn’t remember the horror of the 9 11 2001 attack on the United States. I’m just saying, as Jesus said, don’t forget about the log in our own eye.

While you are praying for the families and survivors of the 3,000 who died related to the Al Qaeda attack on the U.S. you might also want to remember what happened on December 7, 1975? It is a day of infamy and genocide for the people of East Timor. On this day more than 200,000 people, about one third of the island’s population, were massacred by Indonesian troops using U.S. weapons and with explicit approval from President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. It was the worst slaughter relative to population since the Holocaust.

Look at the log in your own eye, the Jesus who knows us, said. And I think that means, at a minimum, confessing our own sins but also learning why our enemies hate us.

It’s been 13 years since Al Qaeda destroyed the World Trade Centers and bombed the Pentagon. Have we learned anything about those who hate us or have we settled for calling our enemies “terrorists” without giving them the time of day? To learn from an enemy is not to approve of your enemies actions. We, at our own detriment, act as if learning from our enemies is the same thing as excusing their actions.

The nonviolent Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, when asked what he would say to Osama bin Laden after September 11, said he would listen for a very long time in order to better understand the hate behind the actions. (p. 117)

A few years after the World Trade Centers plummeted and our sense of national security plummeted I read a speech by Osama ben Laden. Here’s an excerpt.

Praise be to Allah who created the creation for his worship and commanded them to be just and permitted the wronged one to retaliate against the oppressor in kind. To proceed:

Peace be upon he who follows the guidance: People of America this talk of mine is for you and concerns the ideal way to prevent another Manhattan, and deals with the war and its causes and results.

Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom.

If so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike for example - Sweden?

No, we fight because we are free men who don’t sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our nation, just as you lay waste to our nation. So shall we lay waste to yours.

I say to you, Allah knows that it had never occurred to us to strike the towers. But after it became unbearable and we witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the American/Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it came to my mind.

The events that affected my soul in a direct way started in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them in that. This bombardment began and many were killed and injured and others were terrorised and displaced.

I couldn’t forget those moving scenes, blood and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high rises demolished over their residents, rockets raining down on our home without mercy.

The situation was like a crocodile meeting a helpless child, powerless except for his screams. Does the crocodile understand a conversation that doesn’t include a weapon? And the whole world saw and heard but it didn’t respond.

In those difficult moments many hard-to-describe ideas bubbled in my soul, but in the end they produced an intense feeling of rejection of tyranny, and gave birth to a strong resolve to punish the oppressors.

And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.

Jesus said, Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?

Let us keep in our prayers those who lost loved ones on 9 11. A death of a loved one is something you don’t get over. Amen!

Let us remember in prayer our enemies.

And let us be aware of the log in our own eye and in the eye of our nation.

*The core of this sermon comes from Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Is Religion Killing Us: Violence in the Bible and the Quran, pp. 111-117.