Israeli Killing in Gaza: God’s Commandment

Most news commentators are very careful NOT to condemn the Israeli Army killings in Gaza. Too much pressure from the American Israeli Lobby. And so we watch the ritual slaughter of the Palestinian men, women and children boxed in like cattle awaiting slaughter.

Today I heard one news outlet decry the 17 Israeli soldiers killed over the weekend. At the same time a single family of twenty-three Gazans was extinguished by a ‘precision’ strike by an Israeli missile.

The Bible, however, encourages such action. Smite thine enemy. Smite! Terrible word, but “God” commanded it. Must be good. Must be right. The Bible tells me so.

Here is what God commands about cities that refuse to submit to the Israelites: “Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you” (Deut. 20:17).

You and I know what “good” means. If you were a king or general and you ordered the genocide of those tribes—over ten million people, according to the Bible*—would you be considered good?
But you might say that this was wartime, and the rules were different. Yes it was wartime, but the Israelites were the invaders, displacing Canaanites from land they had occupied for centuries. God tells the Israelites to destroy the Amalekites: “Attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants” (1 Sam. 15:3).

What could the infants have possibly done to deserve death?

Moses tells the Israelites that they must kill all of the Midianites, with one exception: “Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” (Num. 31:17–18).

For the Bible says…


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On Hearing a Dove on a Summer’s Day

The other day I heard the coo of a dove nesting somewhere in a tree. The sound brought me back instantly to my childhood as I recall hearing that sound often during warm afternoons in the 1940′s. In fact I remember that sound as I was forced to take naps in my early years.

There is comfort in that gentle sound. Perhaps of less complex times, fewer responsibilities. Times of long hours of daylight and carefree nothingness.

A few days ago my youngest grandson was visiting and he too heard the cooing dove. “I like the sound of that bird, Grandpa.” “It’s a dove,” I said. “I know, it’s my favorite bird sound,” he stated. “Mine too.”

Amazing synchronicity.

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We’re Number 104!

Check out the two factoid photos and rank the USA in recycling and prison population. Number 1 my ass!




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Joe the Plumber, God, and Guns

Adam Ericksen

Samuel Wurzelbacher, also known as Joe the Plumber, re-emerged in the news last week. He made headlines in the wake of the shooting tragedy in Isla Vista, California. Joe wrote an “Open-Letter” to the families of the victims. One section of the letter has been highlighted more than any other:

I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one think I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But: As harsh as this sounds—your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.

Those two sentences are reflective of the convoluted mixture of Joe’s attempt at empathy and admitted harshness that runs throughout his letter. I’ll resist the temptation to judge his sincerity. Much more important to the work at Raven is the clear expression of rivalry, freedom, and theology behind Joe’s open letter.

A Pattern of Rivalry

Joe’s letter is fueled by a clear pattern of rivalry with anyone wanting to make stricter gun laws, but specifically with Richard Martinez. Joe quotes Martinez, whose son was murdered in the tragedy, as saying, “They talk about gun rights. What about my son’s right to live?” Well, Joe can play the “rights card” as well as anyone else.

As a father, husband, and a man, it is my responsibility to protect my family. I will stand up for that right vehemently. Please believe me, as a father I share your grief and I will pray for you and your family, as I do whenever I hear about senseless tragedies like this.

The pattern of rivalry is predictable. In this case, the more Martinez advocates for gun legislation, the more Joe will vehemently stand up for the right to carry a gun. Any infringement on that right will appear as a threat to Joe’s very identity as a father, husband, and man. And the more Joe vehemently defends his right to bear arms, the more Richard and his sympathizers will vehemently oppose Joe’s position. At this point, both sides become stuck in a pattern of rivalry where political winners and losers are trapped in a cycle of demonizing one another.

God’s Transformation of the Pattern of Rivalry

Joe claimed that he would pray for Richard and his family. I have no reason to doubt that he is praying for them, but by offering up prayer, Joe brings God into the story. I did some research and discovered that Joe is a Christian.

I won’t judge Joe’s sincerity, but I will judge his theology because it’s the same theology that runs through much of American culture, especially the NRA. It’s a theology that says God has given us the freedom, and the responsibility, to defend ourselves. It says that the only way to respond to “bad” violence is with good and divinely sanctioned violence. The more guns the better our ability to defend ourselves. That theology, it must be stated, has nothing to do with freedom. Rather, it has everything to do with enslavement to fear. Joe and the NRA are enslaved not only to rivalry, but also to fear of their fellow human beings. It’s a fear that believes someone is out to get them and they must defend their God given right to violently protect themselves.

From a Christian point of view, there is a huge problem with that theology, namely, Jesus. For Christians to have guns and to promote access to guns in the name of Jesus is to use God’s name in vain. It is the height of idolatry.
Jesus never once defended himself with violence. Never. In fact, Jesus never defended his nation, his friends, or his family with violence. To say that being a father, a husband, even something as generic as being a “man” is to protect ourselves with violence is to accuse Jesus of being less than a man.

The True Freedom of Nonviolent Love

Yet Christian tradition claims that Jesus was the fully human one. In fact, the only one who has ever lived a fully human life. I want to speak specifically to men at the point: Jesus was literally the Man because he resisted the temptation to use violence. If, at any point, you use violence to protect yourself or your family, you cannot do it in the name of Jesus or the God of Jesus. Jesus wasn’t run by rivalry or fear. He didn’t attempt to protect himself through violence. He never used God as a means to justify divinely sanctioned violence. Rather, Jesus took the world’s violence upon himself and used God’s name to offer something radically different than violence: Forgiveness and peace to his murderers. That’s how Jesus atoned for the sins of the world.

But I can hear someone quoting Jesus from Luke 22:36, “…the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.” People often use this quote to argue that Jesus told his followers to carry swords in order to defend themselves and so we should now use guns to defend ourselves. Whatever that passage means, it cannot be interpreted literally. The glaring problem with a literal interpretation of that passage is the fact that Jesus never used a sword to defend himself, and his disciples never used swords to defend themselves in the face of Roman persecution. So, in order to understand that passage literally to justify violence in the name of God, even in self-defense, a Christian has to believe that either Jesus got it wrong or his disciples misunderstood Jesus and they should have defended themselves with violence.

Yet, even the book of Revelation, which is consumed with violent imagery, clearly calls Christians to a life of nonviolence. “Let anyone who has an ear listen: If you are to be taken captive, into captivity you go; If you kill with the sword, with the sword you must be killed. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.”

The “endurance and faith of the saints” is an endurance and faith that patterns our desire away from violence towards nonviolent love. In other words, the God of Jesus is re-patterning our desire, re-patterning our sense of “manhood,” “womanhood,” and “childhood” away from a pattern of violent rivalry and into a pattern of nonviolent love and forgiveness.

Joe and the NRA can defend their rights to own a gun, but if they call themselves Christians, they must leave God out of it. The “freedom” and “right” to own a gun has nothing to do with Christian faith, but everything to do with fear and rivalry, the very things Jesus came to set us free from. True freedom is the freedom to love as Jesus first loved us, with nonviolence, forgiveness, and service. Nobody has said it better than the apostle Paul. No matter which side of the gun debate you are on, if you find yourself in rivalry with another, these words will likely convict you:

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out, or you will be destroyed by one another.

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30 Million Words

A child from a low-income family hears an average of eight million fewer words per year than a child from a wealthier family. That’s more than 30 million fewer words by the time the child turns four.

This phenomenon is known as the 30 million word gap, and research suggests it is one of the key factors in the achievement gap between high- and low-income students.

And here’s the kicker: By the time a child enters kindergarten, this language gap may be irreversible.

New research shows that children from low-income backgrounds might not even have the same strategies for learning new words as their high-income peers.

Therefore, early intervention programs need to focus not only on teaching children new words, but also on teaching them how to learn new words.

Fortunately, there is a program that addresses this problem, albeit not well known. The Thirty Million Words Project has been working to close the gap.

Take a watermelon for example. In a low income family may talk about it being good, sweet and juicy whereas a higher income family might talk about how and where it grows, it’s shape, texture, the seeds, different types and even composting the rind.

A child of one family may ask, “How do they grow seedless melons if there aren’t any seeds to plant?” A different child may ask, ” Do we get more?”

Additionally, there is a book written by Dr. Todd Risley titled, “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.” The book speaks of the disparity between income groups. For example, his research found that by by age 3, the spoken vocabularies of the children from the professional families were significantly larger than those of the parents in the welfare families. Between professional and welfare parents, there was a difference of almost 300 words spoken per hour. Extrapolating this verbal interaction to a year, a child in a professional family would hear 11 million words while a child in a welfare family would hear just 3 million.

Further, welfare children hear mostly directional language (bring me that, wash your face) and along with that, much of this talk is negative and degrading. Upper income children hear directional language too. However, they are also engaged in conversation of a deeper nature involving inquiry. As a result of this more extensive conversation, the negativity they hear is more ‘diluted’ than the negativity of the lower income child.

What is Congress doing about this? How is the Department of Education helping close this gap? Without funds from Congress, the gap continues, the children fall further behind and the dropout rate remains high. Then comes the funding for welfare, and the crime and prison.

You pay up front or you pay years later. Does anyone get that?


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Nun Killer Priest Gets Full Religious Funeral

In one more paper in the Catholic Church file, “Can you believe this?” Fr. Gerald Robinson will receive a full clerical church funeral mass- the same as any priest. Robinson was convicted of the ritualistic murder of Catholic nun.

Former religion editor of the Toledo Blade, David Yonke, wrote the following:


The nun’s murder was a heinous, despicable and cowardly crime. The petite, elderly sister, hard of hearing, was attacked from behind. She most likely was caught entirely by surprise.

The killer first choked her nearly to death using a ligature, or cloth, wrapped around her neck, squeezing so hard he broke two bones in her throat. He then laid her unconscious body, her heart barely beating, on the sacristy’s cold terrazzo floor.

Her body was then covered with an altar cloth, in the chapel sacristy on Holy Saturday, the only day of the year when the Holy Eucharist — or Body of Christ — is removed from the chapel and placed in the sacristy, symbolic of the day between Jesus’ crucifixion and his resurrection. The Paschal (Easter) candle was beside her.

The symbolic elements run deep.

The killer first stabbed her nine times in the chest, later determined to be in the shape of an upside down cross. The form of the inverted cross was so precise that detectives believe an actual cross was placed atop the altar cloth and the body and used as a template.

Stabbed 32 times

The murderer then stabbed Sister Margaret Ann another 23 times in the chest, neck and face.

He made a mark on her forehead with her own blood – a perversion of the religious “anointing” ritual.

Before leaving, he pulled her habit up to her chest and pulled her girdle down to her ankles, leaving her body naked and exposed until it was discovered by another nun, who understandably became hysterical.

- ———————————

The Toledo Catholic Diocese said in a press release today (Saturday, July 5) that the Rev. Gerald Robinson’s funeral will follow “the usual protocol” for a diocesan priest’s funeral, despite the fact that he died a convicted murderer.

Imagine that! A full ceremony. Only the Holy Roman Catholic Church would permit that.


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Cicadas Already

imageTwo evenings ago I heard the first cicada of summer. My grandson also heard the classic sound as well and he groaned, “Summer’s going fast!” I remember the chirping/droning call of the cicada in late August, reminding me that school was just around the corner! Groan!

June 30 has to be a record in these parts for the arousal of that insect. Has to be. Could this early arrival be yet one more clue that our climate is changing? Bet so.


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