Month: October 2013

Mark Driscoll, Let’s Talk!

Pastor_Mark_DriscollI try not to react to everything I read on the internet, but sometimes something so egregious comes along that I have to respond. Recently Mark Driscoll, megachurch pastor, posted on his blog an article titled, Is God a Pacifist?

Driscoll is preaching through the 10 Commandments, and he has arrived at “Thou shall not kill.” I’m okay with his saying that this passage addresses murder–intentional and malicious killing. I’m okay with Driscoll pointing out various Old Testament texts that prescribe the death penalty for certain offenses within Old Testament Israel. And, I’m even okay with whatever his apocalyptic theology is, even though I don’t think the Book of Revelation is to be read literally. That, after all, is the nature of apocalyptic literature, but respected scholars and pastors hold different interpretions of Revelation.

None of that bothers me. He’s entitled to his opinion. However, Driscoll isn’t content with his interpretation of these passages. He has to go one step too far. He states that among the enemies Christ will destroy are those who believe that Jesus was a pacifist. Here’s the end of his article:

“Today is a season of patience as Jesus Christ waits for people to come to repentance. Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist; he’s patient. He has a long wick, but the anger of his wrath is burning.

Once the wick is burned up, he is saddling up on a white horse and coming to slaughter his enemies and usher in his kingdom. Blood will flow.

Then there will be peace forever as the Prince of Peace takes his rightful throne. Some of those whose blood will flow as high as the bit in a horse’s mouth for 184 miles will be those who did not repent of their sin but did wrongly teach that Jesus was a pacifist.

Jesus is no one to mess with.”


So, the early Church Fathers, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, the Quakers, the Mennonites, the Church of the Brethren, Leo Tolstoy, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (oh yes, and forget the Hitler thing), Thomas Merton, and so on, are all enemies of Christ who will be slaughtered on the day of judgment? Just because they believed and lived a life of Christian pacifism?

Boggles the mind. Mark, come on, let’s talk.

Bonhoeffer the Assassin? Probably Not

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 10.42.34 PMIn their newly-released book, Bonhoeffer The Assassin? Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking, the authors Mark Thiessen Nation, Anthony G. Siegrist, and Daniel P. Umbel provide compelling evidence that Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not participate in a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

I had anticipated this book’s publication since reading an article in which one of the author’s, Mark Thiessen Nation, revealed the thesis of their research. Excited as I was by that article, this book is even more exciting as a new look at an old myth.

As to their thesis that Bonhoeffer maintained his pacifist stance in both word and deed, the authors assert confidently, “If by ‘activities’ we mean actions that contributed directly to attempts to kill Hitler, there is no evidence of any such actions on Bonhoeffer’s part.” (p. 87). By reviewing writings about Bonhoeffer, the writings and sermons of Bonhoeffer, and the testimonies of those who knew Bonhoeffer, Nation, Siegrist, and Umbel not only dispel the myth of Bonhoeffer’s alleged participation in an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, they blow it up altogether.

Interestingly, Mark Thiessen nation offers his own understanding for decades of fascination with the story of the young pacifist theologian who turned to violence in the hot-light of Nazi atrocities. Nation writes, “Repeatedly I see writings about Bonhoeffer that imply that what truly sets him apart is that he was a theologian–a former pacifist and trainer of pastors–who then became involved in plots to kill Hitler.”(p. 229). This story fits our national psyche, our need to affirm that no one, not even a Dietrich Bonhoeffer, can adhere to the ideals of the Sermon on the Mount in the real world in which we live. However, to believe this unchallenged theory, Nation argues, seriously distorts the legacy of Bonhoeffer.

This is an important book, a book that rewrites the story of Bonhoeffer — a book which asserts that the real transition Bonhoeffer made was not from naive idealist to mature realist, but from rationalizing nationalist to completely committed disciple of Jesus Christ. No biographer of Bonhoeffer’s will again be able to get away with the unfounded assumption of Bonhoeffer’s turn toward violence. Even critics of the authors’ conclusions and convictions will be unable to accept without question the heretofore unquestioned wisdom about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Read other books on Bonhoeffer, including his own work, but read this one as a credible corrective to a myth that was all too easy to believe.

Disclaimer: I purchased my own copy of the book from Amazon and did not receive any inducement for this review.  -cw

Six Reasons Why I Don’t Have a Bucket List

bucket-list-for-couplesA Facebook friend of mine recently commented on a trip she took. “It was on our bucket list, so we decided to do it” she wrote enthusiastically. I don’t have a bucket list. Here’s why:

1. The whole thing smacks of the Addams Family.

You remember The Addams Family, don’t you?. First they were a cartoon series in The New Yorker, then a hit TV sitcom in the 1960s. The Addams Family, not to be confused with the Munsters of the same era, made the macabre look normal. Speaking of the macabre, a “bucket list” is a compendium of things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.” Hence the name “bucket list.” Death and fun just don’t seem to belong together. Too creepy for me.

2. I worry about what happens when I complete my bucket list.

When you finish your bucket list, do you just kick the bucket? Or do you add more items to your bucket list to hold the Grim Reaper at bay? I figure I’ve got a good 30 or so years left and I’m not about to jeopardize that by running out of things on my bucket list.

3. Once you put something on your bucket list, can you take it off?

Suppose I decide I’m getting a little too old to climb Mt. Everest? Can I take it off my bucket list? And if so, do I have to put something equally exotic back on my bucket list? And what happens if you take lots of stuff off your bucket list, and then you finish it? Which brings us back to item #2 above. See, there’s no end to the anxiety involved in making and maintaining a bucket list.

4. I would be guilty of bucket list envy.

Suppose I’m at a party and we’re talking about bucket lists. I say a trip to Disney World is on my bucket list. The guy next to me says, “I plan to wrestle alligators in the Amazon.” Which may be the last thing on his bucket list, but still it trumps my Disney World and ups the stakes. What if your bucket list is better than mine? Can I copy off someone else’s bucket list?

5. I find the whole idea of planning my life around a series of things to do before I die rather disconcerting.

I know this sounds a lot like #1, but there is a nuanced difference. Creepy is one thing, but to have my whole life oriented around the phrase “before I die” — a.k.a., “kick the bucket” — seems to me to be weird, not to mention morbid (back to #1, again).

6. Finally, I don’t have a bucket list because I believe in cliches.

Cliches are cliches for a reason. Well-worn observations like “things change,” “you’ll get over it,” and “don’t count your chickens before they hatch” all seem to weigh against having a bucket list. Honestly, things do change.  I did get over wanting to do some of the things I thought I would like to do — like own a PT Cruiser.  And sometimes things don’t work out like you thought they would. The best laid bucket lists of mice and men, etc, etc…

Frankly, I had rather go right on living my rather simple life of pastoring a small church, reading good books, only going places I can drive to, and seeing my grandchildren often but not too much. Not much of a bucket list, but then it’s not creepy and it’s worked for me so far. Gomez Addams, take note!