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Responding in Christ to Islamist Violence Against Christians and Other Minorities in the Middle East

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Introductory Note


For the past decade, mainline Protestant churches have largely failed to speak up on behalf of Christians (and other minorities) in the Middle East. Below is the text of a model resolution that members of these churches can rework and submit to the national assemblies of their churches. This text, attempts to address the issue of Triumphalist Islam in an irenic, authoritative and comprehensive manner. It follows the model of resolutions used by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ. 

Please feel free to distribute this text as you see fit.


Theological Rationale


“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
– 1 Corinthians, 12: 26-27

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-control.”
– 2 Timothy 1:7

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.” –  1 John 4:15

Christ summons us to partake of His life, His suffering, His death and resurrection. As part of this summons, Christ calls us to stand in solidarity with our fellow Christians during their times of trial. He calls for us pray for and end to the oppression they endure and to actively struggle against it.

Wherever and whenever anyone suffers for the same of Christ, we are called to witness to both the injustice they endure and to the steadfastness they exhibit: the injustice suffered by Christians thwarts the will of God; Christian steadfastness in the face of this injustice brings glory to God. 

Christ also calls us to proclaim liberty to the captives, whether their captivity is the result of physical or spiritual oppression. (Luke 4:18) He also calls us to proclaim justice to the nations (Matthew 12:15).

 

Background: The Roots and History of anti-Christian Violence in Muslim-Majority Environments


The Body of Christ is under attack in Muslim-majority countries throughout the world, particularly in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Christians are being killed, imprisoned, held for ransom, forcibly converted and sold into slavery as part of an ongoing campaign of oppression and ethnic cleansing that began in the early part of the last decade. Christians are not the only targets of this campaign. Other religious minorities such as the Yazidis in Iraq and adherents of the Bahai faith in Iran are also subject to atrocities. Muslims are also the victims of oppression perpetrated by their fellow Muslims.

The overriding impulse behind these acts of aggression is an ideology of Muslim supremacy that holds that Islamic doctrine and jurisprudence should rule every aspect of life in Muslim-majority countries. This ideology causes the life of non-Muslims to be devalued and sets the stage for violence against religious and ethnic minorities (and dissident Muslims) in Muslim-majority countries.

Violence perpetrated against non-Muslims, and the ideas used to justify it, are not new phenomenon, but date back to Islam’s founding. The mistreatment of non-Muslims in Muslim-majority environments and the oppression of apostates has been an persistent aspect of the Muslim faith since its founding in Seventh Century A.D.

The Curse of Dhimmitude


Under Shariah, or Islamic law, which was codified in the years after Muhammad’s death, Christians and Jews were accorded a second class status which in the modern era has been described as dhimmitude. Dhimmitude is derived from the word “dhimmi” which is itself derived from the Arabic word “dhimma” which describes a pact that was thrust upon Christians and Jews who wished to maintain their faith practices when the countries they lived in came under Muslim rule.

As part of this dhimma pact, non-Muslims agreed to pay a special tax for the privilege of practicing their faith in a Muslim jurisdiction. Oftentimes, this tax was collected in a ceremony that included a ritualistic blow to the head or the neck to remind dhimmis that they were paying for the privilege of keeping their head on their shoulders. The goal was to humiliate non-Muslims into submission.

Other rules associated with dhimmitude varied from one location to another but they included a prohibition of building homes or houses of worship higher than that of their Muslim neighbors.

Dhimmis were also prohibited from riding horses, and were deprived of the right to defend themselves against Muslims when physically attacked. Public displays of religious symbols (such as the ringing of church bells or singing of hymns) was prohibited. In some instances, Jews and Christians were required to wear a colored patch indicating their religious identity.

Dhimmi testimony was not accepted in Muslim courts, rendering them vulnerable to mistreatment and oppression. Criticizing Islam or agitating for one’s liberty and equality was out of the question. The first line of enforcement for these rules was the leaders of the dhimmi communities themselves. Jewish and Christian leaders were obligated to make sure that the people in their communities did not get out of line and obeyed these rules.

The ultimate goal of these rules was to demean and humiliate non-Muslims and to encourage them to convert to Islam. These rules also had the tendency of making non-Muslims low cost, no-cost targets of violence and oppression.

If a dhimmi or dhimmi community agitated for its rights or appealed to help from outsiders, they abrogated the right to claim protection from the authorities under the dhimma pact, and as a result, rendered themselves legitimate targets of jihad. This happened a number of times under the Ottoman Empire.

For example, when the Ottoman Empire abolished dhimma laws in 1860, Muslims in Damascus murdered 5,000 Christians because they were no longer behaving in a submissive manner toward the Muslim neighbors. Men were killed and women and children were raped and abducted; some escaped these fates by converting to Islam.

Similar massacres took place in what is now known as modern-day Turkey in the 1870s, 1890s when thousands of Armenian, Greeks, and Assyrian Christians were murdered in response to European interventions on behalf of the rights of Christians in the Ottoman Empire.

The Armenian Genocide, which resulted in the death of 1.5 million Armenians (and thousands of Greeks and Assyrians) between 1915 and 1922, was, in part, a response to the efforts of Armenians to achieve freedom and equality in a Muslim-majority environment.

The spiritual and emotional damage suffered by dhimmi populations is immense, long lasting, and intergenerational. Rev. Dr. Mark Durie, author of Liberty to the Captives: Freedom from Islam and Dhimmitude through the Cross (Deror Books, 2013) reports that living under the conditions of dhimmitude causes people to suffer from “spiritual oppression” and an attitude “fear and psychological servitude to Islam” that is passed from one generation to the next. He writes “people whose ancestors were subjected to the dhimma can suffer the spiritual bondage of their forebears ‘to the third and fourth generation’ (Exodus 20:5, 34:7).”

Living as a dhimmi has political consequences as well. In the latter half of the 20th Century, Christian populations in the Middle East protected themselves by supporting brutal dictators who would protect them from the violence and hostility directed at them by their Muslim neighbors in exchange for support. Oftentimes Christians would serve as spokespeople and advocates for regimes to the West.

This strategy was particularly evident in Iraq, where Christians supported the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein and in Syria, where Christians supported the Assad regime, which brutally repressed the Sunni majority in that country. Egypt’s Coptic minority was also a bulwark of support for the Mubarak regime in Egypt, because it kept radical Sunnis, known as Salafists, out of power.

This was not a strategy available to all religious minorities. Adherents of the Bahai faith for example, are brutally repressed in Iran with no chance of obtaining help from the theocratic government in Iran. Christians are brutally mistreated in Iran as well, especially those who seek to convert their countrymen to the Christian faith.

It must be remembered that Christians in the Middle East are being oppressed in their homelands. Their existence pre-dates the arrival of Islam by centuries. They are not interlopers.

It should also be noted that Muslims are also victims of oppression in Muslim-majority countries. Where Sunnis are the majority, they oppress Shiites and vice versa. Ahmadiyya Muslims, who are regarded as heretics and apostates, are oppressed in Pakistan.

Shariah, or Islamic law establishes a system of structural violence that renders non-Muslims, dissident Muslims and women, legitimate targets of oppression.

In an effort to prevent discussion of the impact of dhimmitude and Shariah as a human rights issue Islamic organizations and leaders have worked to silence criticism of Islam through a variety of means. In particular, they asked the United Nations to promote blasphemy laws and statues that prohibit the defamation of religion. Such laws are already in force in Muslim-majority countries, making it dangerous to discuss issues of human rights under Islam.


Recent History


Anti-Christian violence in Muslim-majority countries faded from the world’s consciousness in the decades after the Armenian Genocide.
Things began to change with the 2003 removal of Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq when Christians in that country found themselves without a protector and subject to terrible acts of violence. Churches have been bombed, clergy kidnapped and murdered, and lay Christians have been regularly killed. Christians used to number approximately 1.5 million in Iraq. Credible estimates indicate there are less than 300,000 Christians in the country today.

Christians in Syria found themselves vulnerable to similar acts of violence as president Bashar al-Assad lost control of large sections of the country as a result of a civil war that began in 2011 and rages to this day.

Coptic Christians were also subjected to terrible attacks beginning toward the end of Hosni Mubarak’s tenure as president of Egypt, which came to an end in 2011. Fortunately, the situation for Christians in Egypt has improved substantially under the leadership of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi who has taken a tough line with the Muslim Brotherhood, which was removed from power in 2013, but the hostility and violence directed at Copts in their homeland remains a problem.

The recent kidnappings of hundreds of young women in Nigeria by the Islamist organization Boko Haram and multiple massacres of Coptic Christians by ISIS in Libya demonstrates that radical Islam threatens Christians in North Africa. Violent attacks against Christians in Pakistan indicate that it is a problem in Asia as well.

Something must be said and something must be done about this rising tide of Islamist violence.

Signs of Hope


We must acknowledge unequivocally that not every Muslim adheres to the notion of supremacy over non-Muslims; to fail to do so would be false witness. There are some resources within Islamic tradition that can be used to justify a more tolerant and peaceful attitude toward non-Muslims. For example, there is a passage in the Koran that states “there is no compulsion in religion.” Unfortunately, many Muslim scholars assert that this passage and others like it, which came early in Mohammad’s career, were superseded, or abrogated by a number of other passages (which came later in Mohammad’s life) that call for the violent oppression of non-Muslims and the execution of people who would leave the faith.

Nevertheless, some Muslim intellectuals appeal to these earlier passages to convince their co-religionists to refrain from acts of violence against their non-Muslim neighbors, but they are not in the majority. This is a consequence of a decision made by Muslim scholars to close the “door of interpretation” or (bab al-itjihad) in the 11th Century. Writing in 111 Questions on Islam, Samir Khali Samir, S.J. reports that as a result that once this door was closed, it was “no longer possible to interpret the text.” He continues, “Hence today, even the mere attempt to understand its meaning in a certain context is regarded as a desire to challenge it. And it is a true tragedy for the Islamic world…”

Moreover, Samir writes that in modern times, “efforts have been made” to interpret the Koran in context, but that they have “almost always [been] in vain.” He continues: “The weight of the tradition and, above all, the fear of questioning the acquired security of the text have created a taboo: The Qur’an cannot be interpreted, nor can it be critically rethought.”

Still, there are signs of hope.

Recently, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi spoke to scholars at Cairo’s Al Azhar University, the most important center of learning for Sunni Muslims in the world. He told the scholars “We must revolutionize our religion” adding that by embracing the ideas it does, “the Islamic nation is being torn apart, destroyed, and is heading to perdition. We ourselves are bringing it to perdition.” That Sisi made such a speech at Al Azhar, which has traditionally been a source of Islamic supremacism is remarkable. It remains to be seen if scholars at the school will take up Sisi’s challenge.

One group of Muslims in the United States, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), has worked to promote discussion of the topics delineated above. In a recently published statement, AIFD has condemned the push to create “Islamic” states where non-Muslims are oppressed. The organization has also called on Muslims to “promote reforms where necessary, including an honest and critical reinterpretation of scripture and shariah law used by Islamists to justify violence and oppression.”

The AIFD also declares “Neither jihadism nor Islamism permit the equality of all humans irrespective of their race or religion and should therefore be rejected.”

Hopefully, Muslims in the Middle East will start to address these issues, sparking the “revolution” within Islam that Egyptian President Sisi was calling for when he spoke to scholars at Al Azhar in Cairo.

We must remember that Islam does not have a monopoly on religious violence. Christians have struggled with their faith’s historical hostility toward the Jewish people, which has had catastrophic consequences. They have also confronted the role their faith played in the destruction and oppression of indigenous peoples throughout the world.

The fact that we as Christians are not without sin does not preclude us from lifting up our voices about the mistreatment of our fellow Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Muslim-majority countries throughout the world.

To remain silent at a time such as this would only add to our sin.

We must pray, we must discern, we must act.

Resolution: A Call to Prayer, Discernment, and Action


WHEREAS violence against Christians and other religious minorities in Muslim-majority environments is threatening the destruction of people groups in the Middle East; and

WHEREAS massacres, kidnappings and the enslavement of Christians and Yazidis in Syria and Iraq has reached epidemic proportions; and

WHEREAS violence against Copts in Egypt remains a threat and the murder of Copts in Libya has become an undeniable outrage; and

WHEREAS this violence is not a new phenomenon, but has its roots in Islamic doctrine, jurisprudence and tradition dating back centuries; and

WHEREAS Shariah law as it is applied in Muslim countries throughout the world represents an undeniable manifestation of structural violence and a defamation of the name of God; and

WHEREAS dhimmitude renders non-Muslims low cost, no cost targets of violence; and

WHEREAS some Muslim leaders have attempted to place discussion of these problems beyond the pale of acceptable discourse by promoting the passage of laws that prohibit “blasphemy” and the “defmation of religion;” and

WHEREAS a growing number of Muslim leaders and intellectuals are struggling to re-open the “door of interpretation;”

WE WITNESS AND LAMENT the ongoing destruction of Christian communities in the Middle East, the region of our faith’s birth, and the oppression of our Brothers and Sisters in North Africa and Asia; and

WE PROCLAIM that as Christians we are called to pray on behalf of those who are dying for the name of Christ and that we are called to speak up for the principles of religious freedom; and

WE RESPOND to this call by condemning violence against people of all faiths throughout the world and by standing in solidarity with the victims of Islamist violence wherever it takes place; and

WE PRAY for the violence against Christians and other religious minorities to end; and

WE PRAY that God manifest His presence the decisions of political leaders of all faiths and countries as they confront the rising tide of Islamist violence throughout the world; and

WE PRAY that world leaders of all faiths and ideologies be given the wisdom, the strength and confidence to stem the violence through the application of justice, mercy, and restraint; and

WE PLEDGE to educate ourselves, our congregations, our neighbors, and our community leaders about Shariah law, its impact on Muslims, non-Muslims and women and to discern and counteract the impact of dhimmitude on our fellow Christians; and

WE PRAY that Muslim leaders acknowledge the rights of their followers to convert to other faiths and work to encourage their followers to acknowledge the dignity of women, for they too are created in the image of God; and

WE PLEDGE to work for the safety of religious targeted communities throughout the world; and

WE PROCLAIM Christ’s liberty to the captives of religious violence and oppression, whether they be its victims or perpetrators. We are glad to see principled Muslims confront Islam’s legacy of hostility and violence against non-believers. We pray that their numbers may grow and that their efforts become more effective; and

WE ACKNOWLEDGE violence and sin perpetrated by Christians throughout history; and

WE PLEDGE to not let our guilt over these events to be used to silence us over the mistreatment of our co-religionists and other victims of religious violence in Muslim-majority countries; and

WE PRAY that God will embolden the faith of our fellow believers, soften the hearts of their tormentors and enliven the intellects and consciences of those who have been bystanders to this violence for far too long. 
posted by Dexter Van Zile, Wednesday, March 02, 2016 | link | 1 comments |

What You Will (and Won't) See on Global Ministries Website.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What you will see.

What you won't.
posted by Dexter Van Zile, Wednesday, December 14, 2011 | link | 1 comments |

Global Ministries Publicizes Anti-Zionist "Bethlehem Call"

Hello.

This is Dexter Van Zile.

I left the United Church of Christ a few years ago.

And this blog has been silent for quite a while.

Nevertheless, I am going to impose on James Hutchins' kindness and hospitality and use UCCtruths to draw peoples' attention to the Global Ministries website.

As most followers of this website know, the Global Ministries of the UCC and the Disciples of Christ has been a persistent source of anti-Israel messaging over the years. This volume of anti-Israel messaging has declined substantially in the past few years, particularly since the 2007 General Synod which stated that the 2005 General Synod failed to take into account all of the aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict in passing the resolutions it did.

The anti-Israel messaging hasn't disappeared altogether, however. For example, Global Ministries publicized "The Kairos Document" issued by Palestinian Christians a few years back.

More recently, Global Ministries has publicized a document titled "The Bethlehem Call." This document, created by the same folks who wrote "The Kairos Document," is a pretty ugly text.

One notable passage states: "The deligitimization and criminalization of the Israeli government and its local and international support base is gaining unstoppable momentum."

Here, the document affirms the delegitimization and crimininalization of the Israeli government itself.

Have you seen any documents on the Global Ministries website affirming the delegitimization and criminalization of other governments in the Middle East?

I don't think so.

There are other passages in The Bethlehem Call that are of interest. For example, the document describes The Amman Call issued by the World Council of Churches in 2007 as ending "60 years without a unified Christian voice speaking against the Israeli occupation of Palestine."

Do the math (2007-60=1947) and you'll see that what the authors of The Bethlehem Call have done is to declare all of Israel occupied territory. They are not talking merely about the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but the entire state of Israel.

Exactly why is Global Ministries publicizing a document such as this?


posted by Dexter Van Zile, Wednesday, December 14, 2011 | link | 0 comments |

Ex-UCC President & GM Thomas Leaving Wife for Another Woman

Sunday, August 22, 2010

This is sad...

It is now public knowledge that Rev. John H. Thomas, recently retired President and General Minister of the UCC (1999-2009), is seeking a divorce from his wife and is presently in an adulterous relationship with another woman, someone with whom he worked at the denominational headquarters in Cleveland.

In a carefully worded UCC press release, the Collegium of Officers--who oversee the national ministry--announced Thomas' admission and urged support for the process that handles matters affecting the larger church. While the statement described in detail how Thomas' case might be reviewed, it did not say that an evaluation was pending. There was no mention how the revelation has affected Thomas' status at Chicago Theological Seminary, where Thomas serves as Senior Adviser to the President and Visiting Professor in Church Ministries.

The press release is intriguing for what it says and does not say. It does not explain the process that brought this information to light. It does not pass any moral judgment on Thomas. Even more, it does not express any emotion of grief or disappointment over Thomas' action. The only religious speak is the mention of "prayerful support for all parties involved."

What the press release does say, in its opening paragraph, is that Thomas is, "now in a committed relationship with a woman with whom he worked while he was general minister and president." Why is the word "committed" used to describe Thomas' relationship with this other woman? Don't worry, this is not some brief (and socially unjust), sleazy fling. It's a committed and deeply entrenched adulterous relationship!

Adding to the moral confusion is a curious phrase from the Collegium's statement. While claiming, "it is not appropriate to discuss details of this matter publicly," they disclose that when they talked to Thomas and his in-office lover, "Both parties have informed the Collegium that the relationship is entirely consensual." Why is this said? Are we to believe that even though Thomas held the foremost position in the entire organization, there's no abuse of power because it was consensual?

The release does not say how this affair started. Maybe it began when the two still worked in the office, or, after one or both left. The circumstances matter, especially if Thomas' lover has a change of heart and decides to sue. Either way, boundary lines were crossed. Two consenting adults doesn't make this right. A marriage covenant was broken and quite possibly, so too were personnel policies. What does the Collegium know about this situation? If they do not protect the employees of its denominational headquarters from sexual advances and/or harassment, they fail the organization and contribute to its dysfunction.

As is often the case, the only UCC folks offering moral clarity is the Biblical Witness Fellowship. In its statement, they declare that Thomas' action, "deepens the crisis of integrity in the UCC with consequences well beyond the tragic dissolution of his own family...The whole church is deeply hurt when our leaders fail to keep their vows and engage in this form of duplicity. It compromises the witness of all of us in the body of Christ."

In a 2010 address at Chicago Theological Seminary, Rev. Thomas declared that, "Distracted ministry occurs when we quit paying attention to what truly matters." Sadly, this truth is illustrated by Thomas' own sordid personal life. Rev. Thomas, if you are reading this, you need to repent. End this illicit relationship and return to the wife of your youth. Don't let this become part of your legacy. Turn to our gracious and merciful Lord for forgiveness and restoration.

The question of Thomas' fitness for ministry is now the responsibility of the Church and Ministry Committee, of the Western Reserve Association, a smaller and more local setting of the larger Ohio Conference.

Let's hope this committee has the courage to confront Rev. Thomas and hold him accountable.
posted by Living the Biblios, Sunday, August 22, 2010 | link | 5 comments |

Center Congregational on the Brink

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Center Congregational Church's fight against the UCC's Southeast Conference to retain its autonomy and property is reaching a critical point. In order for the church to prevail, your help is needed.

According to Center's pastor, Rev. J.R. McAliley III, Center has a $17,000 legal bill, but only $9,000 left in assets. This is after the church spent over $40,000 in legal fees preparing for its upcoming court hearing. "We knew this would be a costly process and it has been," said McAliley. "We truly believe our cause is just and that our case is sound, but we cannot proceed without the financial resources to maintain our legal effort. We need your assistance."

With Center drained of its resources, the Southeast Conference is in position to outlast and outspend its way to victory. But as the UCC is so fond of saying, God's justice belongs to the cause of the weak. Center Church, located in Atlanta, sits on land donated in trust by the Cox family. The trust stimulates that as long as the church remains congregational, the land and the building belong to the church. When the UCC came into existence in 1955, Center chose to remain independent. In 1994, the church joined the UCC, but disassociated in 2005, and in 2006 joined the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC). McAliley believes this lawsuit is not so much a UCC style King Ahab effort to steal away land (1 Kings 21), but an effort to seize legal control over the right to congregationalism:

The legal impact of our case – defining “the Congregational Denomination” – is one with implications for every Church and Organization historically associated with the Congregational Way. Center’s little ¼ acre of land in Buckhead, an upscale section of Atlanta, Ga, even at the current speculative market value of about $500,000.00 is not the goal of the UCC/SECUCC. Legal “ownership” of the designation as the true legal successor to “the Congregational Denomination” is and the implications will spread like a tsunami.

In order for Center to win this battle, your donations are needed and can be sent here:

Center Congregational Church
1055 Moores Mill Road NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30327-1627
posted by Living the Biblios, Wednesday, August 26, 2009 | link | 1 comments |

WSJ: The Bully Pulpit

Friday, May 22, 2009

Wake up slumbering UCC Truths!

We interrupt this Rip Van Winkle sleep to thank the Wall Street Journal for shedding light on the UCC's Southeast Conference effort to steal away the assets of the small Center Congregational Church in Atlanta.

The article, "The Bully Pulpit," written by Jim Auchmutey, appears on the Journal's website and print edition.

So why is the Southeast Conference so interested in this little church? It all boils down to this--pure greed.

Center's property--located in prime Atlanta real e$tate--is held in trust, and technically not by the church itself. That crack in the door is the opening by which the thief is trying to enter.

According to the winter, 2009 edition of Networker, published by the Evangelical Association, the Southeast Conference claims that they are the only true successors of the Congregational denomination, while Center rightly replies the Congregational tradition includes not only the UCC, but also the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC), the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC), and the Evangelical Association of Reformed and Congregational Christian Churches (EARCCC).

If Center Church was dissolving, the Southeast Conference might have a legitimate case. Instead, this little congregation voted to leave the UCC in 2006. Even though 36 in attendance is considered a good Sunday, the church is still very much alive. Bottom line, they disaffiliated and are entitled to keep their assets, as the UCC Constitution explictly states.

Oh, one more thing. Center and its pastor, Rev. J.R. McAlilley, oppose a conviction held in highest esteem in UCC culture--same-sex marriage. While the Conference Minister, The Rev. Timothy Downs, says that Center could have remained and dissented because the UCC welcomes a diversity of opinion, in practice, UCC churches that oppose same-sex marriage rarely (if ever) have platforms in conference life to express that dissent.

May Goliath fall down again.
posted by Living the Biblios, Friday, May 22, 2009 | link | 5 comments |

Not a goodbye...

Monday, December 22, 2008

You've probably noticed that I have not posted in awhile and friendly emails asking what is going on have mostly gone unanswered. The quick answer is that I'm taking a step back from the site for awhile. For some time I've been juggling multiple priorities between my family, my full time work and assisting with a couple of start-ups. Working with this site was never a focal point in my life, it filled in gaps of time and gave me a platform to express my opinion while giving others the opportunity to express their opinions. While many people are going through some difficult times in this economy, I'm fortunate and blessed that work is going well. The downside is that it has become more difficult to create time for my biggest priority - my family. As a consequence, I've forced myself to set priorities and, at least for now, UCCtruths didn't make the cut.

My choice was to either hand off the site to someone else, close it down or put it on ice. After considerable thought and after discussion with others involved in the site, I decided that "hiatus" was the right term. The message board will stay open and I will be assigning more moderators so that others can keep up on the threads while keeping them civil.

My intent is to come back when things settle down but I fully recognize there is a potential that I will not be back. In which case, I'd like to wrap with potentially one last commentary on the United Church of Christ.

Embracing dissent and difference of opinion is an important part any dynamic group whether it's our government, our work, our religion or an online group of malcontents. As cliche as it sounds, Working through the tension of division always makes the group stronger.

The United Church of Christ leadership would be wise to embrace those with which they disagree with the most... and not just those they deem "loving critics". To this day, I don't know if UCCtruths was considered a "loving critic"... and I don't really care - the idea that the one being criticized can determine which criticism is valid seems a little too convenient and a little too self serving.

Our faith heritage is full of dissent and I'm glad I was able to add my voice to the chorus. In over 5 years, this web site has generated millions of views. The message board contains tens of thousands of messages by over 500 users and was recently recognized as one of the top 2% in Yahoo Groups. My purpose for the site was never to change the UCC but to find an audience of UCC members that would use this site as just one of many sources of information about the denomination. We found an audience looking to embrace dissent even if they did not always agree with it.

Dissent doesn't always mean you are right. I'm particularly thankful for those who tolerated my rants even when I was wrong. The web is an imperfect medium of listening, learning and responding... and not always in that order.

Like I mentioned earlier in this post, it's my intent to come back to this at some point in the future but there are no guarentees. If nothing else, I'll be popping up on the message board periodically to spout off. Till then...
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, December 22, 2008 | link | 8 comments |

Wright Blasts the Media

Saturday, November 15, 2008

by Pastor Ted Weis, Congregational Church, Little River, KS

Rev. Jeremiah Wright-- former pastor of President elect Barack Obama-- is speaking out against the media's treatment of him during the campaign season.

During a Q & A session after an address in Connecticut, Wright declared:
"The world doesn't know about my 41 years of ministry, or my writing of books, because it was all taken down to a 10-second sound bite that the media chose to show about a sermon that was delivered seven years ago," Wright said. "The media didn't care about the whole sermon and what it was about. They just used those 10 seconds and used it as a weapon of mass destruction against [Obama's] campaign."
It's true. The world doesn't know Wright's years of ministry and doesn't know his books. Nor does it need to. The world knows plenty enough to judge Wright. It knows that after the greatest atrocity on American soil in modern times, Wright's pastoral word post 9-11 was America be damned because it deserves to be damned.

Lest anyone forget, Wright's past wasn't completely ignored. Back in March, ABC News reviewed dozens of Rev. Wright's sermons, and in their words, "found repeated denunciations of the U.S. based on what he described as his reading of the Gospels and the treatment of black Americans."

You don't need to look further into Wright's past to see that he views this country as systemically racist and incapable of reform. Just consider this recent remark:
"If you take a Tiger Woods, a Michael Jordan or a Barack Obama, their success should not lull us into thinking society has changed."
Translation: the accolades about Obama's "historic" victory are severely overblown.

A few days later, speaking before an audience at Northwestern University, Wright again lamented his treatment:
In the question-and-answer session, Wright accused the media of "public harassment." "My family's getting lynched in the process," Wright said. "Never in the history of this country has there been a demonization of a person like I've been demonized."
Family getting lynched? Who in the media has targeted his family? The only thing close was the New York Post's report of a likely affair by Wright. And demonized by like no other person in the history of the United States? Can you say, "slight exaggeration"? Certainly, Wright's circus performance at the National Press Club had nothing to do it.

Listening to Wright's address at Northwestern was another well-known Obama associate, former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, who summarized the result of the media's treatment this way:
"Both Rev. Wright and I were brought up as cartoon characters in this campaign because of disinformation and dishonest news," Ayers said. "I did not suffer as much as he did, but we both got out of it with a certain amount of dignity."
Yep. Forever elevated in our minds is the ego and radical left-wing politics of this complicated man of faith, Rev. Wright.
posted by Living the Biblios, Saturday, November 15, 2008 | link | 8 comments |

United Church of Christ: Obama come back

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The United Church of Christ's has sent an appeal to President-elect Barack Obama to attend a UCC church in the Washington D.C. area once his family moves to the White House. The public invitation from UCC President John Thomas was part of a post-election letter to President-elect Obama. In light of the problems Obama faced with Trinity United Church of Christ, picking a church may not be as easy as it sounds. From The Hill:
There’s also the potential for Obama, sitting in the pews, to be linked with remarks made at the pulpit. Religion already created problems for Obama during the campaign, first with false rumors that he was secretly Muslim and then with the incendiary remarks made by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, prompting the Obamas to leave Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ in May.

But the sudden departure from the Chicago church didn’t stop the national church from inviting the Obamas to try a new location.

“[The letter] invited him to consider finding a spiritual home for him and his family at one of the UCC churches in the Washington area,” said Sandy Sorenson, the UCC’s associate for communications and media advocacy in Washington.

“So the invitation has been extended, and I think some of the local churches themselves have extended an invitation. But I have not heard anything yet about where he’s thinking about attending.”
In my less-than-humble opinion, the public invitation to Barack Obama is yet another publicity stunt for our denomination that is plainly begging to be relevant. A private invitation would have gone much further in demonstrating a respect for discretion that should be afforded to any public figure and their family looking for a house of worship. And whether intentional or not, the public invitation creates an awkward test for Obama: If he selects a UCC church, it provides validation for the denomination and if he does not, it is a snub... which is an incredibly unfair position to force on someone.

posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | link | 2 comments |

Hope and Faith

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

It would be a gross distortion to say that Barack Obama's historic election is simply a partisan affair. Far from it, this election is probably the single most significant historical event in our lifetime. While today will forever be remebered because we have elected the first black president of the United States, it is a far greater event which we may not fully appreciate in our lifetime. In no small measure, Obama's improbable election is symbolic of the ideals on which this nation was founded.

Being in the United Church of Christ, we have a unique view of this election. Once "one of our own," Obama pragmatically decided to leave his church (and ultimately our denomination) before his campaign could be undermined by his minister and the media. In our celebration of Obama's victory, we must also acknowledge ~and learn from~ the loss of one of our most significant members. Most of us will never have to face the scrutiny of a national election, but many of us struggle to maintain our own identity with the United Church of Christ when our leaders marginalize our own members and those of other faiths.
The hope that fueled the enthusiasm of Obama's campaign is not all that different from the hope that we should identify in our faith and in our denomination. Although our country is mired in global and financial turmoil, we have turned a significant corner. As a denomination, we too must find a way to turn that corner.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, November 05, 2008 | link | 1 comments |