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By Anna

Bankok's super highway

Bankok's super highway

Though bragging about spirituality is something only found in Christian communities in America, it has become the stuff of heroes in Thailand. The Por Tek Tung Foundation in Bangkok provides emergency medical services for free in a city where there is more need for medical attention than there are rescuers.

According to Sept/Oct issue of the Utne Reader hundreds of volunteer emergency rescue workers scour the cities of China on the weekends to save the injured in order to gain spiritual merit as Buddhists. None of the volunteers are professionally trained, but do have 110 hours of first aid training. In Bangkok a motorist is killed every 36 minutes, hence the need for trained volunteers who can reach the accident before an ambulance.

Some speculative comments have arisen as to whether these volunteers are putting themselves in danger by rescue racing to see who can reach the scene first. I mostly wonder what could happen in America if people believed in spiritual merit making. The United States doesn’t have near the problem of preventable motor deaths as Asia, but our good-will actions need resuscitating nonetheless.

Has Christianity’s emphasis on Ephesians’ “not by works, but by the free gift of God” made America sterile to the wounded and inconsiderate of any religion where works are necessary?

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By Anna

Ludwig_Bemelmans_-_Madeline_In_Bed_os_14x18The population of the earth is 6.8 billion, half are urbanites and more than one sixth are illiterate. The belief in the supernatural and unknown world dominates the majority of the 6.8 billion of us, and we can’t figure it out, as evidenced by the 11,500 organized religions in the world as well as the 40,000 differing denominations within Christianity alone.

We fight to the death about something we can’t prove, and refuse to address what we do know exists: poverty, displacement, natural disasters, and homelessness. Where I am in relation to the supernatural differs from each other human being, and when governments can’t agree on how to deal with their issues of self-inflicted oppression on their own citizens, individuals could make something happen.

For example, anywhere from 16 to 100 million children across seven continents go to sleep each night and wake up each morning with no parents. Though they cannot all be adopted because of government regulations, processes and prices of each orphan’s head, if every 20th family in the United States adopted one child, the word orphan would become something of the past. But we don’t even know how many orphans exist in the world because famililessness isn’t a priority and probably never will be. The very fact that we have orphanages to keep all these children is discouraging. So many children are without homes and without people who want to give homes that we had to build houses to keep them.

Global change for the homeless and oppressed is unlikely, but individual agency to do what is right with or without an urgency of religion or supernatural belief is possible. That is why I write this column each week and why I seek out truth through what I believe: in the inherent goodness that does exist in at least some small part in each of us.

Facts according to the Global Christian Forum, 2008.

By Anna

We all know those people who we hope to God never travel because they make us look bad. For me, it’s my fellow classmates and Christians who assume anywhere outside of the United States is a dangerous world (which explains why 91 percent of mission funding in the church goes toward reaching other Christian denominations with the “right” denomination. But that’s a story for another time).

fake macIn 2005, 61.8 million Americans traveled abroad taking ignorance with them. Though these problems of Americans abroad irritate the educated and culturally interested, they will most likely never change, even with the familiarity of McDonald’s going with them.

A few weeks ago in my Wednesday night class, a sophomore girl to my right was telling me about her upcoming trip to Cambodia to fulfill her study abroad credits. She told me how nervous she was and how she knew it was a dangerous place where no one spoke English. Though I’m becoming less and less friendly with these uneducated democratic citizens who have access to the Internet and therefore the world, I took on a patient demeanor and told her about my time in Cambodia two years ago: About the happiness and excitement of the people and about the safety of the city and the continual affect of the Pol Pot Regime from the 1970s.

She tried to hide her shock, but also felt reassured that it was a safe place to visit. I wanted to tell her not to go before she knew more about the country and people. To educate herself and try to learn the language in order to better commit herself to the culture she would be immersed in for a month, but I didn’t. I only reassured her, allowing the plushness that is the pillow of the United States to remain, even if I didn’t reaffirm her ignorant ideas of Cambodia. Though I didn’t have the heart to tell her there aren’t any McDonald’s in Cambodia.

By Anna

Last week I ended the discussion on a question: And what is it about humanity that requires us to be saved, but only through death?2HP 7

Theologians, Biblical Scholars and Mythologists have asked this question for years. Alex left a comment last weekposing the idea that Christian scholars believe death is the ultimate victory over evil. Evil does after all take death as its ultimate win, but literature, poetry, mythology and film suggest that sacrificing oneself for another through death defeats evil. A very simple example is Harry Potter. His mother died in order that he might live and this sacrifice is the needed difference between Harry and Voldemort, which allows Harry to defeat his nemesis.

Alex posed this primary solution with a resolution of inadequacy. He left the following example as a better, more intellectual understanding of sacrificial death:

According to the laws in the Old Testament, a man who is indebted to another is essentially a slave if he cannot pay the debt but he can be redeemed from his debt if a relative can pay it for him. Now since we are all indebted to God because of our imperfections (it is impossible for us to be acceptable to him and we essentially deserve to die) we need a redeemer to pay our debts. Christ owed nothing because he was perfect, but he paid for our debts, therefore redeeming all of us. This is why we can only be saved through death.

Though we may better understand sacrificial death through this explication, it is still beyond our understanding as to why God required his son to die and why anyone should die without the full knowledge of how/where life is after death. As a pacifist sacrificial death seems best if death is suited to us all.

By Anna

There is argued to be two to four types of pacifists in this world:

  1. Universal Pacifist who prohibits all killing
  2. Universal Pacifist who prohibits all violence
  3. Private Pacifist who prohibits personal violence and killing
  4. Anti-War Pacifist who allows self-defense, but against all types of war

To put anyone within the confines of a definition is difficult, but in order to develop a case for Christian pacifists (yes there are Christians not in support of military action!) here are some thoughts on what these four types of Pacifists might say from a Christian perspective:

Type I:  The Bible teaches a strong guidance for the sanctity of all life (Genesis 1:27). What many non-Christians or not-yet-Christians argue against is the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) stories and commands from God for the Israelites to destroy entire groups of people. The Old Testament is an important part of all Christian studies because God’s covenant is formed with Abraham in Genesis and expanded on as a New Testament Covenant from Jesus.

Type 2: The Sermon on the Mount as well as Jesus’ entire lifestyle is anti-violence.

Type 3: Augustine attempted to reconcile the ideas of the Sermon on the Mount with military force as an option. An acceptance throughout the Bible that communal defense is valued, but private violence/defense is wrong.

Type 4:  The most commonly used example for Anti-war Pacifists is WWII. These types would most likely agree that going into Germany was the best course of action, not only for the United States, but for the Jews. The problem Anti-war Pacifists face is if we do fight a defense war, what do we do with all the casualties and death of civilians?

I’m writing about pacifism today because of my continual confliction between “supporting the troops” and disagreeing with any involvement in military activity. How do we claim a belief in an all-loving God, yet kill? Whether it is the death of an innocent life or a military life, how can violence be an acceptable response to violence?

In spite of my research and projection of pacifism onto you, I can’t really say which type I am. I could never say that I would never inflict a violent act upon someone, though I hope I never do, but I am also very anti-war, though as soon as I say that I think about the violence and pure hatred of Hitler Germany in the 1930s and 40s. How can we reconcile our non-violence with violence? And what is it about humanity that requires us to be saved, but only through death?