Thursday, September 03, 2015

Aylan Kurdi

I lay by my sleeping son and stare. 

It sounds a bit stalkerish, and perhaps it is. I look at him and then back at this screen, hoping for words that make sense, hoping his peacefulness can heal my soul.

Before nap time I looked at the news. Perhaps it was a mistake, but I don't think so. Ignorance isn't really bliss, it's an excuse. Yet another story of desperate migrants from Syria dying when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Only this time a photo stopped my breath. 

A three-year-old boy, Aylan Kurdi, lying on his stomach on the shore, water lapping up at his face.

He's dressed in clothes not much different from what my three-year-old son wore today. Was he also wearing a red shirt because it's what his favorite stuffed buddy, Winnie-the-Pooh, wears? Did his dad also pick out the blue shorts since they look good with the shirt? Did he also recently get those shoes as hand-me-downs from a family friend? 

I want to shout. 

I want to close my eyes and hope it was a bad dream.

I listen as my son breathes in and out. I want to squeeze him, but I let him sleep. When he awakes he'll probably want to splash in a little swimming pool. For him, water is safe and fun. 

Reading another story I learn the boy's older brother and mother also drowned, but his father survived. I look around. 

I can't imagine living in a land so dangerous that the wild sea is safer. I can't imagine hopping in an unstable boat with my son and hoping we make it across the sea. Yet many people are faced with that reality. They seek the small chance they can provide a better life for their kids. 

Meanwhile, people who think they should be president of the United States are running around complaining about "anchor babies." Those candidates call themselves "pro-life," but they clearly just mean they are "anti-abortion." Someone who is pro-life doesn't demean precious children with such hateful rhetoric. These candidates gush about God, but it seems like just a political tactic.

Those same candidates want to build a wall to keep people out, many of whom are children traveling alone as they flee violence. Maybe we should even two walls, a candidate suggested - one on the northern border in addition to a southern one. Maybe even a moat. Maybe even alligators, or hippos, or whatever it takes to keep those people out. Could we build a new Mediterranean Sea on the border to keep them out?

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban argued migrants must be kept out because they are mostly Muslim, and therefore threaten to destroy "Europe's own Christian values." He's partially right. This is a test of Europe's Christianity ... and they are currently failing. As are we in the United States. 

Walling off the country to protect its "Christian" identity and heritage is actually unchristian. To look away as small kids drown is what will destroy a nation's "Christian identity and heritage. This is not some hypothetical political debate. We are talking about real people with real dreams, real hopes, real families. People like Aylan Kurdi.

Friday, August 28, 2015

August Ministry Leadership Sale

Smyth & Helwys is running a special deal this month on five ministry leadership books. The total price of the books normally rings up to $79, but you can pick them up now for just $25. The set includes four great books ... and my first one (but it's pretty good, too, if you ask me).

The five books in the package are: To Be a Good and Faithful Servant: The Life & Work of a Minister by Cecil Sherman, Transformational Leadership: Leading with Integrity by Charles B. Bugg, The Leadership Labyrinth: Negotiating the Paradoxes of Ministry by Judson Edwards, For God's Sake, Shut Up: Lessons for Christian on How to Speak Effectively and When to Remain Silent by Brian Kaylor, and Crisis Ministry: A Handbook by Daniel B. Bagby.

Buying the set makes the books just $5 each, which is a great deal. Or, if you don't think mine is worth it, you're still getting a great deal by sending just $6.25 each on the other four. I, of course, think the wisdom in my book makes it worth $25 all by itself!

My first book received a nice shout-out recently on an episode of the Faithelement podcast. During a discussion of James 1, author and pastor Bert Montgomery referenced some of the arguments, adding that the book has "a great title" and "I love the title."

So check out the August leadership special. But hurry because it's almost time to flip the page on your calendar! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Review of Sacramental Politics

Leah Sophia, an artist who runs Suntreeriver Design, recently reviewed my latest book, Sacramental Politics: Religious Rhetoric as Political Action. Here are a few highlights from her review:
Interesting, uneven, and thought-provoking—also essential, if you dare!

Such an important book! Everyone in the USA and elsewhere who sometimes attends church and/or calls themselves Christian could benefit from reading and considering Sacramental Politics.

... My favorite chapter and probably the best-written and most clearly expressed is chapter 5, "Religious Worship as Political Space."

... If any congregations, pastors, judicatories or even lone solitary individuals would dare, they need to read and consider this book! Because Sacramental Politics focuses almost exclusively on the USA, they'll discover God never has been a Democrat of any era or any variety, a Republican from any place or space, a Libertarian, a Communist or a member of the Green party, or even a declared Independent. But you know, God still is passionately political!
I appreciate the review and hope others will check out the book as well.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rainbow Nation

The latest issue of Churchnet's digital magazine focuses on the recent Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa. Churchnet is a member body of the Baptist World Alliance and was represented at the Congress.

The magazine includes a column I wrote on the Congress and lots of photos I took there. My column, Rainbow Nation, reflects on the Congress, communion, and a couple of concepts popularized by South African hero Desmond Tutu. Check out the whole issue, which you can read online, download as a PDF, or print off to read.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Latest Guatemala Training Conference Successful

Each January and July, Churchnet leads a training conference in Guatemala as part of a nearly decade-long partnership with Guatemalan Baptists. I traveled there in January and led three sessions on communication, preaching, and social media. Last month, Churchnet Missional Collaboration Team Leader Gary Snowden (also associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit) and Board Member Noah Angel (pastor of Familia Cristiana Internacional in Jefferson City) led the conference.

For Churchnet's page in Word&Way (a Baptist magazine in the Midwest), I wrote an article, Latest Guatemala Training Conference Successful, on the July conference. The piece includes comments from Snowden (seen above during a session in January), Angel, and Otto Echeverria (seen below during a session in January). Echeverria is president of the Convención de Iglesias Bautista de Guatemala (Convention of Baptist Churches in Guatemala).

Learn more about Churchnet's Guatemala partnership in a recent issue of Churchnet's digital magazine. I hope the partnership will continue reap great blessings for Baptists in the U.S. and Guatemala.