Blog

To stand in solidarity with refugees and immigrants is not to politicize the church. It is to fulfill the exhortation of Christ in Matthew 25:45, “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do it for me.”

February 13, 2017 4 31 comments
Blog

It sometimes feels like an unlikely fit, but my journey has God’s hand all over it!

February 3, 2017 2 1 comments
Blog

I’m not a political activist and was even a little nervous. But grieving with my Muslim neighbours and taking a stand for peace and justice was important for me in living out my faith. 

February 1, 2017 3 2 comments
Blog

Sundays are about justice, not just us. That's something hard to say and harder to swallow. Sunday justice is about living differently and being a blessing to those around us. 

January 26, 2017 2 1 comments
Blog

My deepest regret during my service as an Elder is that I did not advocate more for, nor amplify the voices of, marginalized and ostracized minorities while in office.

January 12, 2017 1 2 comments
Blog

To eliminate the Affordable Care Act without simultaneously replacing it with an alternative jeopardizes its recognized progress and puts ongoing access to comprehensive, affordable coverage for people with disabilities at risk.

January 11, 2017 5 3 comments
Blog

Cindy Stover has just started working part-time as Justice Mobilizer for the CRC in Canada. So without further ado, here’s a little Q & A between Cindy Stover and Do Justice editor Danielle Steenwyk-Rowaan.

January 9, 2017 1 1 comments
Blog

During our week of learning, one of the most powerful experiences we shared every year was an Anointing Service. Yes, our Christian Reformed church hosted an Anointing Service! 

January 4, 2017 0 0 comments
Blog

"Can you recommend a good devotional?" I suspect this is a question that pastors are frequently asked (I know it's one I receive fairly often). In response, here are 12 resources I've used and would recommend. 

December 22, 2016 2 3 comments
Resource, Devotional

In a world that has nuclear weapons and drones and a myriad of other weapons, it takes strong faith, hope, and love to engage in peacemaking.

December 8, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

I lost my apartment in a fire and it has been tough. Tough to think about anything else. Tough to start again. . .again. But there has been this amazing group of people who have held me up. 

December 5, 2016 1 0 comments
Resource, Website

It's been 58 days since my daughter Eloise went to be with Jesus. We pray her life inspires others and serves as a reminder about the value and beauty of every life, which is why we're sharing her story on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.

November 22, 2016 6 2 comments
Blog

This past June, the Christian Reformed Church declared the Doctrine of Christian Discovery to be a heresy. What does this mean? And how should it affect the way we live? 

November 18, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Lesson or Study

For the Love Of explores the journey of four worship artists to Paris for COP21 to learn about how climate change is affecting the world's most impoverished people. The Climate Witness Project developed a study to accompany the film.

November 15, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Devotional

This year's Advent devotional series by World Renew and the Office of Social Justice focuses on stories about the things that make for peace. 

November 14, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

The freedom to worship and serve God is a God-given right. And yet there is a growing epidemic of persecution of religious minorities around the world. Get involved in working for change. 

October 24, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

Check out the new and improved CRC Centre for Public Dialogue website! Find resources about Indigenous justice, human trafficking, refugee rights, and more. 

October 24, 2016 0 0 comments
Blog

The exponential growth of serious diseases such as cancer, dementia and autism should make us think.  What are we putting into our bodies?  It turns out that deadly toxins are everywhere in our modern society, from oatmeal to shampoo to receipt (thermal) paper.  We need to be aware.

Have...

October 17, 2016 0 2 comments
Resource

So much of the conversation about immigration during this election season has not been based on facts or on the biblical value of philoxenia. How can this change? 

October 17, 2016 1 3 comments
Resource, Litany

Will your church be marking the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Nov. 6 or 13? The CRC Office of Social Justice is pleased to offer a powerpoint and litany for churches to use. 

October 17, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

How is your congregation observing the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church? We welcome your ideas. 

October 14, 2016 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Warm greetings.

I would like to hear from anyone with an interest or knowledge about pesticide residues in food and their link with human diseases.  I believe this is a major social justice issue and therefore requires the Christian Church to be involved, especially Reformed Christians. ...

October 11, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Website

Looking for resources about refugees, indigenous justice, human trafficking, climate change, and more? Check out the new Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue website! 

October 7, 2016 1 0 comments
Blog

Even if the political talking points are shifting, the path of discipleship has not changed for CRC members. Cchurches on both sides of the border continue to reach out in welcome and support to refugee families. 

August 24, 2016 1 2 comments
Blog

Racism is not part of God’s grand design. Human beings are the architects of racism. However, through Jesus Christ, God is reconciling us to Himself, and to each other, rebuilding what we destroyed.

August 19, 2016 0 0 comments

Pages

RSS

Greetings:

      Matthew you raise many important points. Here are a few areas in which I can wholeheartedly agree:

1. Governments should be allowed to set policies.

2. Christians should be charitable.

3. Christians should utilise prophetic voices in the face of injustice.

4. When one part of the body suffers, then the rest suffers.

Each of these, categories can be subject to category confusion and manipulation, if not treated with discernment. Let me explain.

1. I lived in North Africa. A new president with a lot of resolve came into power. He worked hard to ensure that the day to day lives of people had a sense of security and stability. This was accomplished in part by jailing people who were implicated in causing insecurity, but not necessarily guilty. From the local people's stance, they saw this as the cost of having a largely stable country. That is to say, there was a certain amount of collateral damage. Sounds cold, but they saw this as part of the cost of being at war against the forces that would cause instabillty. Guess what the reaction of some journalists from the West was? They cried injustice, unfair, heavy-handedness and the like. What they were doing was imposing a certain idealistic view on a situation that was not their lived experience. Thus, it would have been convenient for even churches who expressed a lot of sentimental humanitarianism to join forces with the Western journalists and call for the ousting of the president. It would have made good press, but some of the realities on the ground called for other responses.

2. Christians should be charitable. Absolutely. But that needs to be with eyes wide open. That is to say, we need to understand the motivations and means of any group according to their own statements, their own declared intents and their own actions. If a talking snake says that it has a declared intent to topple all of the values and Judeo-Christian ethic in a hen-house, then one must ask if it is prudent to invite the snake into the henhouse under the guise of charity.henhouse under the guise of charity.

To focus Christian charity on Christian refugees and groups that are systemically targeted i.e. the Yazidis, is, as you mentioned, a necessary duty. Just yesterday, I signed a petition asking the government to help with those Pakistani refugees stuck in Thailand, and between a rock and a hard place. In some way their plight is more pitiful yet than some from the Middle-East. They don't get much press, because the press is highly selective especially with stories that can invoke an emotional reaction, such as drowned children etc. Of course, one can be accused of being hard-hearted here, but we need to avoid both sentimental humanitarianism and indifference to the fate of others--both of which are questionable.

3. Christians should speak prophetically against injustice. Absolutely. I agree with you, that should be even when it is politically incorrect. However, recall liberation theology and its advocacy for the poor. On the surface this was great. What actually happened though, was the inclusion of Marxist-Leninist views into this so-called 'prophetic speaking' and it became a tool for socialist leaning governments to co-opt the church. The same can be said of the temporary ban on visas issue to certain passport holders. The church could get co-opted. Not saying it will, but the tendency is easy, especially when righteous anger with a touch of sanctimony sells sermons and print. Sounds callous, but most of the work of Old Testament prophets came with a lot of weeping in quiet for injustice and wrestling with God. Didn't seem to be the stuff of "look how prophetic I am, and look at what a wonderful advocate against injustice I am.' Should concerned Christians address the authorities? Absolutely. With eyes wide open.

4. When one part of the body suffers the rest suffers. Absolutely. Yet, we need to tease apart a few categories. America is not paradise. All Christians in the world are not called to come to the Americas. Some will remain in countries where their witness is vital. They might be abused, be poor, and even die. I have seen this first hand in another country in Africa where I lived. Guess what? Many would not trade in all of the trinkets from the West for the ability and privilege to suffer. They taught me how to pray. Let's drop the notion that we are the solution.

 Secondly, some suffering is more newsworthy than others. It is more 'sexy' to highlight the suffering of someone in the West Bank--perhaps with a political agenda behind it--than someone from, say NGoroland. That is why it is prudent for the church to do her homework, as to which sufferings are the most un-noticed, and which should and could be alleviated. Anything that causes the church to receive undue good press for its noble efforts, might be looked at carefully. It might also cause us to ask serious questions about our motivations. 

In conclusion:

   A while back, we met with what we called "the most powerful woman in __________" Eyes lit up. You met with the First Lady? Actually not. She was the second wife of her husband, now taking care of her five children while he had his fling with his new wife. She walked to work. Sang all day. Came to work tired sometimes because she had been at an all-night prayer meeting. She knows the Living God. For her. Trump? Who is that? 

 

Blessings in Christ

JS   

 On Facebook this past week I have read about how civil servants working in American airports handcuffed a five-year-old boy because he was Muslim; separated a woman from her two children and detained her for about 48 hours without food or water ALSO because she was Muslim; and detained another woman for 20 hours ALSO without food or water and ALSO because she was a Muslim.  How do Americans who say they are Christians countenance such atrocities?  What does it do to your witness to your Mulsim neighbors, if you let your government get away with treating people who are seeking refuge like that just because they belong to a certain religion and come from certain countries that were not even the ones from which terrorists who attacked your country came from anyway?  Why didn't Republicans target Saudi Arabia, for example in their list of countries from which people are banned?  How do you think you will convince Muslims to even consider Christianity when people who claim to be Christians behave that way and enact such inhumane policies that go against our Lord's teachings and commandments?  Obviously, the people in power in Washington don't care about that, and if they say they do despite ample proof to the contrary, you can call them liars to their faces, but if you do care, what are you going to do about it?  As a Canadian I can sign petitions until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, it's your country and your government.  According to your political system, you are the ones who have to hold those politicians accountable for the laws they pass, especially when they're immoral.

posted in: Sunday Justice

  

      Stay Strong David ! Muslims are my friends also !....Dean Koldenhoven Palos Heights, IL

Thanks, Dave. I don't know how many others participated in similar events, but in St. Catharines I know both Jubilee Fellowship and Covenant  CRCs sent email invitations to all on their lists, inviting people to participate in a vigil downtown. We gathered in front of city hall, the imam led prayers for Muslims, who bowed on the ground facing east. The prayers were followed by brief, fitting speeches/comments by several political leaders. From city hall we moved, many carrying candles, with police traffic patrol to the mosque about one kilometre away. There the imam welcomed the marchers, led recited passages from the Quran in Arabic, then translated them to English. Those he recited shared Christian and Jewish moral and spiritual values and principles. As well, three Christian clergypersons made brief speeches, ending with a prayer or blessing. The mosque congregation had several large containers of Tim Hortons coffee and boxes and boxes of Timbits, but there were far too many people--and there was no multiplying of coffee and Timbits, though that would have been a really nice touch. The next day the St. Catharines Standard said about 500 people attended, though I think that was well under, because the column of walkers stretched three blocks, occupying one land of Church Street--with about 10 persons in each row. During and after the ceremony at the mosque, members of the congregation walked through the crowd thanking attendees for showing up. It was a blessed occasion caused by a great wickedeness and hatred. I was very pleased to see at least 15 folks from local CRCs and I might not have seen anywhere near all.

Ken, while personally I have many concerns about Donald Trump as president, even supporters acknowledge that he's made lots of claims and promises that do not include specifics, or that he's changed his mind about later.

I respect Paul Ryan and, like you, believe him to be grounded in the Christian faith. I wasn't attacking Ryan as much as summarizing what I have heard him say repeatedly — promises and claims lacking specifics. Whether he's a Christian or not, it remains troubling that details of an ACA replacement have been so long in coming. Along with many others, I'm still waiting for the evidence that Trump or the Republican Congress will come up with a plan that maintains the positives of the ACA and "leaves no one behind."

Here is a post by Ed Stetzer who writes a blog for Christianity Today on some of the implications of a "repeal without a replacement" approach.

And, just yesterday I received an email from another denominational disability organization — the Anabaptist Disabilities Network — noting that one of their field associates, Rebekah Flores, will be impacted if the ACA is repealed without a comprehensive replacement plan. Rebekah wrote, “I can only afford to see my doctor and pay for my medications to treat my Multiple Sclerosis because of the Affordable Care Act.”

I don't feel it's unreasonable to ask for a replacement plan before repealing.

Doug,

As I said in the post, I didn't think it was necessary for me to be more vocal. Maybe that's the bubble I live in, maybe it was naivety with how the parliamentary system of our denomination works. And while there is a lot I can still do and say as a member of a CRC, I cannot, for example, be a voting member of Synod as a non-office bearer.

If you want a more specific example, my Classis sent a rather mundane overture to Synod related to the Pastoral Guidance Committee report. It was not until I arrived at Synod that I found out you cannot serve on a Synod committee if your Classis has an overture before that committee. I would have spoken much more vocally at our Classis meeting had I known this. I assumed that since the "real" debate would be at Synod, there was no point in making a fuss at the level of our Classis. At least as a delegate to Synod, I was grateful I got a chance to speak on the floor there.

My heart goes out to Mr. DeYoung. Some of those near and dear to me have disabilities so I can sympathize. Nevertheless, I would like to respectfully point out why I think this post is an excellent example of "good" and "not-good" in a church publication. It might have been useful to edit this item just a little before posting it. I think it's "good" to submit a list of features one might hope for in legislation; I think it's "not good" to attach that list to rumors, baseless accusations, and other such statements such as those in the first three paragraphs of this post, in a denominational magazine or website such as this.

This post begins with a vague "Multiple reports suggest..." and goes on to a derogatory comment about the President-elect well before the inauguration and follows that with an attack on Rep. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House. (Ryan was depicted in political ads a few years ago pushing grandma over a cliff in her wheelchair, but some view him as one who lives his Christian beliefs, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit.) This introduction concludes by questioning the morality of legislators in the early weeks of a new term for not providing evidence that legislation still being written will be completely satisfactory. This makes one wonder if it isn't just a tad politically oriented.

If we are going to have political statements here, perhaps we should seek some balance. Would the monitors consider a post that reported that, for the first time in history, a U.S. president spoke at the annual meeting of Planned Parenthood, leading abortion provider in the U.S. and dealer in body parts of aborted babies? This would be the same president who, as a state legislator stated that he trusted doctors performing abortions to provide necessary care for viable infants surviving abortions. These are doctors who believe a dead baby is the best solution to an unplanned pregnancy. As the adoptive father of two grown daughters, now the mothers of five terrific grandchildren, I beg to differ.

Jonathan:  I have to ask, and intend these questions respectfully:  So why didn't you?  And a second question: Why can't you now, even if not an elder?   And finally, What specifically do you believe you so failed to do?

  Unfortunately, since I live in Canada, I can't do much about this.  However, I have shared it on Facebook for my American friends.

Hi Cindy!  Welcome to the CRCNA.  I look forward to working with you.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Lou. I have a couple of thoughts in response. First, the OSJ was not recommending these devotionals, I was. Second, Rohr's devotionals, as many of the others, are challenging. I do not agree with everything that all of these writers put out, particularly as a Reformed pastor. This is why I listed the denominational affiliation of the devotional writers. Personally, Rohr's penchant for the mystical compels me as a Reformed Christian, which I why I recommended him.

Thanks, Shannon, for sharing some resources; of the ones I recognize they will be a blessing to those who pursue them.

What did disappoint me was the very top recommendation - Richard Rohr's Center for Action and Contemplation.  Based on just the last week's worth of postings it can easily be demonstrated how far away he is from the faith "once for all delivered to the saints."  The presumption shown by his disdain for historical Christianity is saddening; more pretentious than charitable.  Does he really think he/CAC leads a "New Reformation"?!  The OSJ can do better than that.

PS  If anyone wants an analysis of the last week's "worth" of postings, send me an email:     wagenlma@aol.com

 

You can find a few more at www.edwinwalhout.com; on the book of Revelation, or the Psalms, or a few theological topics.

Thanks for sharing the story of Eloise. Beautiful little girl!  

posted in: Eloise's Story

Thank you, Angie, for sharing Eloise's life and story. She truly was created and dearly loved by God. While I can't pretend to know your grief and pain, your courage is clear. God will use her life and your story to save others.

posted in: Eloise's Story

I agree with Noel.  This is not the first time there have been refugees coming to the US.  My CRC Church (in Oregon) took in (sponsored) several SE Asian families post-Viet Nam war in the 1970's, and that involved more than a little of our time and money.

We didn't argue or debate about the war, or about refugee/immigration policy, or about government policy, nor did we debate the net good or bad that the refugee intake might do for this or that part of the economy, job market or society.  Those things could be and were argued about in other contexts.  What we focused on is doing what we should do for refugee families who were coming or had come, regardless of any of our political disagreements about broader questions.

It was there that we could find unity as Christians of a local church fellowship, whatever our differences might be as to other questions.

 

Since our country is receiving refugees, we should welcome them and show them Christian love. We should make sure they are not being taken advantage by unscrupulous corporations, they have thorough health screenings and treatment before beginning a job or school, and they are truly granted the freedoms we have as Americans. It seems like they are being treated as a commodity by a lot of people and organizations. We need to pray for them and speak against injustice.

I would change it by making it less about politics and government policy and more about person-to-person interaction in our neighborhoods and local communities.

I would change it by getting rid of simplistic mantras like "immigrants are a blessing and not a burden."  That bumper sticker slogan is merely a political pitch that we all join together to broadly advocate for a particular government policy on immigration.

Finally, I would change it by de-emphasizing the immigrant or non-immigrant status of people and emphasize more the biblical mandate that we demonstrate love to all, without first categorizing them into classes like immigrant v. national, illegal immigrant v. immigrants with green cards or visas -- and also other classes like black v. white v. Asian  (etc), criminal record v. no criminal record, more wealthy v. less wealthy, younger v. older, those who live in the west or south sides of town v. those who live in the east or north sides of town, etc.

Government policy is one thing (and we, CRCers, will differ on that a lot); how we are to treat each other and people in our neighborhoods or communities is quite another (and we, CRCers, should not differ on that much at all).  The first is a really complex subject matter, the second not so much.  The first has nothing to do with the fact that we are CRCers, the second a lot to do with it.

 

Thank you for your excellent comments.  Yes, I have also heard that gluten issues may be more related to glyphosate residues, especially due to late spraying.  I am shocked about how unhelpful governments are being in these matters, seeming to care little about public health while health costs are skyrocketing.  The companies have managed to strongly influence government and the public and to label anyone who questions this situation a whacko and a freak.  Please let me know if you have ideas about how to better educate our denomination and the general public about this huge public health risk.  I look forward to hearing from you again.  Thank you again for your supportive comments.  May God bless you.

Thank you for your thoughtful message about glyphosate and health issues. I had severe health issues for several years that were alleviated by going gluten free, but many people question if gluten is the problem, or if the glyphosate routinely sprayed on wheat just before harvesting is as much of a culprit for ill health. Please note that "Big Agra" is a huge business. Congress just passed a law making it more difficult to know if foods are GMO or not, and if the TPP is passed, my understanding is that countries will not be able to put their citizens' interest ahead of the interests of the international corporations.My prayers are for truth and light to be manifested in this world, and my prayers mirror yours. 

I agree with Doug. I don't think it is appropriate to discuss a complicated issue such as this in such a simple article.

This article characterizes the US as "debat[ing] to shut[] down its refugee resettlement completely," but the Canadians as "being applauded for its increase in hospitality, welcoming 29,817 Syrian refugees this year alone." But according to the Pew Research Center (see at: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/16/nearly-half-of-refugees-...) the US "... has received 28,957 Muslim refugees so far in fiscal year 2016, or nearly half (46%) of the more than 63,000 refugees who have entered the country since the fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2015...," which doesn't count those "27,556 Christian refugees" allowed in "so far this fiscal year."

In other words, the US is not being a refugee grinch and Canada is not, by comparison, being a refugee Santa Claus.

I would agree with the author that Christians ought to play a role in welcoming refugees that are admitted to their country.  At the same time, I believe the political discussion (or debate) about middle east refugees -- including by Christians -- ought to be far more constructive and nuanced than simply 'let's see how many refugees our country can take in.'

While I don't at all take Trump's stated position on immigration (although I'm not actually sure what that is from day to day), I do tend to see the the middle east refugee question to be remarkably complicated and would favor, politically speaking, providing much more assistance to Jordan and possibly other middle east countries as they provide refugee camps that would keep Syrians near their own home country, for example.  It seems to me that the permanent resettlement of refugees in foreign countries should be a disfavored solution, even for the sake of the refugees, many/most of which don't want to leave their home country.

We do well to separate questions of personal action given the political decisions already made, from the question of the political policies we advocate for.  Too often, we don't do that, assuming the two questions are only one.

Thanks for this incredibly helpful piece! 

Doug and Kris, 

While I appreciate your discussion, this conversation may be better over email, as you had mentioned. Please feel free to email me at network@crcna.org if you'd like me to connect you in that way. 

Thanks,

Staci DeVries

Network Community Manager

posted in: Advocacy Works!

Since the title of the handout is Biblical Advocacy 101 I think it's fair of you to say it's the "tip of the iceberg." If you want people's credentials you would have to ask agency directors or someone more important than me. Personally, I think that is an odd request to make in the comments section of an article about an advocacy 101 handout. I hadn't caught until now that you are a lawyer. That sounds like a really interesting line of work. 

posted in: Advocacy Works!

The advocacy that is being discussed in this article is not, as you characterize it Kris, "advoca[cy] with people who are oppressed or on the margins" but rather lobbying of the government to persuade it to pass certain legislation, done for and behalf of the CRC and its members.  The difference is enormous.

If I advocate in behalf of others that the government pass this law or that law, I should have the expertise/ability to be able to competently evaluate "this law or that law," as well as the likely effects of passing this or that law.  The requirement to be competent should not be ignored by my saying I'm merely "advocat[ing] with people who are oppressed or on the margins" -- saying that doesn't accurately express what I am doing.

Let's bring this concretely to the "advocacy" (more accurately and commonly called lobbying) discussed in this article.  If I were to lobby government in behalf of a client/constituency as to the Global Food Security Act (whether pro or con), I would probably want to read the intended statute (the bill).  I'm a lawyer and so I would of course bring that set of skills and experiences to bear in reading it.  I can read the nuances of "legal language," and I know from experience that drafted bills are often intentionally deceptive in some ways, as evidenced when bills are so often given names to suggest they have an effect other than what have.  It is not uncommon, for example, for large companies or industries to want legislation that benefits them (allows them to sell goods/services) and so they lobby for bills that purport to help those in need (their intended revenue source).  Thus, for example, if the US dairy industry wanted more revenue from its surplus supply of milk, it might propose to the government that it pass nice sounding legislation, like "Global Food Security Act," which predominantly benefitted the dairy industry by requiring the federal government to buy the industry's powdered milk supplies and delivery them to third world counties overseas.

After reading the bill, I would then want to check out more details about the potential problems I found with the bill.  For example, would this law really just help the US dairy industry by giving milk supplies to lactose intolerant third world populations?  Or, do the provisions in the proposed law virtually guarantee that in some, many or most cases, the real recipients will be corrupt governments or not-so-corrupt governments that are allowed to intercept or repurpose funds given them?

Another thing I'd likely want to examine as to a law of this kind is how much "hurting more than helping" it might do.  If, for example, the proposed law would export powdered milk to third world countries, would it be having the effect of destroying or damaging a local milk industry in some of those countries?  That would be nice the US dairy industry but damaging to dairy providers in those other countries (who can compete with the price of zero after all?)

These are the kind of inquiries/investigations hired lobbyists (which OSJ is when it engages in activities aimed at passing legislation) should make/do as to any legislation it lobbies for.  And doing those inquiries/investigations required expertise and experience.

So when this article concludes with "You can advocate on any issue [too] ...", I think it is important to point out that "advocating" (lobbying) for or against legislation, done well, involves much, much more than just convincing people to say "yes" or "no," or getting CRC members to tell their political representatives to say "yes" or "no," to proposed legislation.  The latter is, as I said, just the tip of the iceberg, at least if the lobbying is to be done well.

I would certainly appreciate, off-line if you like (you have my email address), an indication of credentials OSJ brings to bear when it lobbies for or against legislation like the Global Food Security Act.

 

 

posted in: Advocacy Works!

Are you suggesting that all CRC Deacons and CRC staff who advocate with people who are oppressed or on the margins receive special CRC specific training and accreditation like Pastors do before they take on such work as part of the institutional church? That would be interesting. Obviously, CRC specialized ministries and agency staff people who do this work have degrees, experience, and outstanding records of effectiveness in the fields where they serve--if you want to question the legitimacy of that claim it would probably be more appropriate for you to ask those questions offline.    

posted in: Advocacy Works!

Indeed, advocating is not all that hard.  The far more difficult thing is figuring out exactly what to advocate for.  It's a tip of the iceberg vs the base of the iceberg thing, maybe a lot worse.

Especially when we claim to represent others when we advocate -- like OSJ does -- it is really important that we question whether our advocates really have the subject matter expertise as well as the analysis/decision making skills and experiences that one should have when he/she leads others (advocating is leading).

In the CRC, for example, we require that pastors have considerable formal education, and other training/experience, before we allow them to lead/advocate as a pastor does in our churches.  Those pastors are equipped, for example, to do their own original research, knowing the original biblical languages, before suggesting what scripture says when they stand behind a pulpit. They have formal degrees and real training from "industry experts."  This is so important to us, we've decided, that we've established a school where just these things are taught as a specialized area of concern.  The degrees conferred as specially name.  

Question: does the CRC do likewise when it takes on the role of advocating about political, legal, ecomomic and scientific matters in behalf of, and to, CRC members?  What is the preparation/experience of those who advocate in the denomination's (our) behalf about these matters?

posted in: Advocacy Works!

"In difficult conversations we so often choose to be kind or honest, not both kind and honest. We capitulate to our own anxiety by either being kind at the expense of truth, or honest at the expense of kindness. But we can choose a better way. "  -I love this!

Thanks, Amy, very well done!

Thanks, Amy, very well done!

First, when my friend and "American son", Kabba Jalloh from Sierra Leone, attended Dordt  20 or so years ago, he was very well received. I'm sure they were less multi-cultural then than now, but there seemed to be no issues. Kabba received a standing O, against commencement rules, when he accepted his diploma, the only graduate to do so, and I don't think any of the other graduates felt discriminated against.

Re: Internet. I enjoy using humor to lodge protests. Recently, I sent the following message to Chevrolet. When I posted it on Facebook I got several "Likes", some from unexpected sources. I think it's just as wrong to take offense when none is intended as it is to give offense, and I grow weary of the "offense industry", but this was a serious question couched in a semi-humorous way, about something that definitely concerns me. I wondered how many of the kids that mouthed this near-profanity even know God.

Ken Van Dellen

To Chevrolet ad department: Re: The "Oh, my God!" ad with kids. "Did it ever occur to you that this could offend atheists, Christians who believe we should not use God's name lightly,  and possibly some Jews?"

Well it would be great if the nuances are part of the workshop.  Really, I hope they are nuanced.  But that wouldn't completely resolve, in my mind at least, the problem created by the simplistic bumper sticker slogan (and published articles consistent with the bumper sticker simplicity) of "Immigrants are a blessing and not a burden."  Too much of our society learns all that it learns by bumper sticker political slogans, and then forms political opinion based on that.  I just think it is unwise, even manipulative, to use this political technique.

As for my church, we're pretty nuanced in our thinking about immigration because of our own real world experience.  Farmers in our church use a lot of immigrant labor (dairies especially); we have lawyers who know a lot about it; and our area has historically had a lot of immigration, both from south of the border but otherwise as well.  My own neighborhood is close to have Hispanic, and I know some are legal and some are not. In my own law practice, I have some clients for whom the immigrant labor force is a definite benefit, and then others for who it is a definite burden, and some for whom it is some of each.  I have also represented illegal immigrants.

Hey Doug -- I think you're actually describing our Church Between Borders workshops. If you're looking for a venue to "explain the nuances of immigration, the law, the reality, the history, the various economic impacts (both macro and microeconomic), etc., and then let CRCNA members and others form their own more informed conclusions, about more questions than they first even realized existed" we'd love to come to your church. ;)

This is so true.  Most political things, for example, are far more complicated than political candidates or activists would have you believe, including when the CRCNA, and OSJ, are the campaigners.

The current OSJ led campaign, "Immigrants are a blessing and not a burden," is an example of that.  Certainly, immigration to the US, legal and illegal, is probably not the threat or harm claimed by some political candidates who hope to gain certain voters' approval for their simplistic and hyperbolic statements, but this OSJ political follows suit, even if in the opposite direction.  

Following the advice of this article writer, OSJ would do better to pitch a campaign slogan like "Immigration: it's not as simple as you think," and then put in some serious work explaining the nuances of immigration, the law, the reality, the history, the various economic impacts (both macro and microeconomic), etc., and then let CRCNA members and others form their own more informed conclusions, about more questions than they first even realized existed.

Thyra.

Amen to your plea of recognizing complicatedness and practicing gracious listening.

These are important principles of conflict transformation and reconciliation, that we need more teaching and learning about.

And the Gospels have lots of examples of how Jesus practiced these in how he interacted with people.

thanks

RvdZ

I would enthusiastically agree that both churches and individuals do well in providing help to past or present incarcerated persons and their families.  There are few areas of concern where the need is greater and potential impact more profitable.

But I do cringe at how this article frames what is discussed as strictly a matter of "justice."  Indeed, neither the lead-in verse and sentence -- nor any other part of the post -- makes mention of "mercy."  A better lead-in verse would be Micah 6:8, which commands us to both "do justice" and "love mercy."

As an attorney, I have been involved in questions of justice in behalf of inmates and ex-inmates.  But we do well to clearly understand that we are obliged to extend mercy even when there is no question about justice.  Most of those we should help out are in fact not "oppressed" persons we must "[let] free," as this articles states.  Some should remain incarcerated inmates.  Still, we do well to serve them, while incarcerated, and their family members waiting for their release -- because of our "love of mercy."

 I work part-time for World Renew.  My recollection is that the majority world lives off of $2 a day.  That is what is used to define extreme poverty, my understanding of World Renew's definition.

I think people who have to live off $2 a day or less need help.  Where should that help come?  It should come from their family, church, non-government  agencies and yes the government too.  That is the point of the law, the prophets and the New Testament when it speaks on social implications of the Word of God.

The government is a divinely appointed agency to do good. Romans 13, Matthew 25, Psalm 72.  The ruler is a channel of God's authority.

Larry: So exactly what to you mean when you say "take care of the poor?"  My response clearly indicated that government had an obligation to provide a "safety net" but I'm not sure -- and said so in my comment to your post -- that qualifies as "providing for the poor," as you understand that phrase.

So let's clarify what we might be agreeing or disagreeing about.  What do you mean when you say that "government should take care of the poor?"

Hi Doug,

#1.  I did not draw a straight line from the theocracy to modern governments.  I only drew a line from the theocracy on the principle that the nation of Israel had to provide for the poor.  The prophets understood the scriptures that way or they could not have said that Israel would go into captivity for their idolatry and neglect of the poor.  This principle of accountability and responsibility is carried over into the New Testament.  What part of care for the poor or provide for the poor do you not understand?  We should not permit our modern differentiations of government responsibilities from excluding the governments responsibility for the poor.

 I do not agree with your statement that he year of jubilee had anything to do with caring for the poor.  It was a major redistribution of ownership of land to the way it was in the time prior to the 49 years.  That is, in my opinion, major caring for the poor which was commanded by God and legislated through Moses.  It stands not as law that needs to be replicated but as a principle to be honored.  I think your understanding of Jubilee is not held by Calvin, Berkhof, or any other Reformed theologian.

Besides the year of Jubilee which took effect in the 50th year and staid in effect until the next 50th year, there is the legislation of leaving the corners of the field for the poor, still observed until the time of Ruth we know, the Sabbatical year, the third year tithe which as to go to the poor, (Deuteronomy 14:28-29), zero interest loans (Deut. 15:1-11).  The principle of caring for the poor was deeply imbedded in the life of Israel.

Thanks for your comment, Roger. I think you're partially right in saying that many discussions are already very polarized, so that it is hard to find middle ground to talk about. But I believe that it's still possible to find that middle ground, and that there are many moderate positions on contentious issues. Dialogue that actually changes people's minds is still possible. I know my mind has been changed on contentious issues before by reading an article or speaking with someone with whom I knew I didn't completely agree. We especially try to highlight the voices of marginalized people on Do Justice through series like What Being Pro-Life Means to Me and the Listening to Marginalized Voices Challenge, because we believe that when real human stories are told, the conversation can be changed.  

In response to your comment about turning on the "conversation function", it's more difficult than flipping a switch. We would actually have to pay a web developer to add that functionality to our site, and we're not convinced that money and staff time is worth it, given that commenting is already available (and clearly functioning, since we're having this conversation) on The Network and our Facebook pages (Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue and Office of Social Justice). 

Amen as to 1, 3 and 4.  Forehead scrunches as to 2 and 5.

As to 2, I would favor learning about your neighbors, indigenous or otherwise.

As to 5, I would favor praying "locally on out." That is, pray first for those around you, then those around them, etc.  If you get there, it's fine to pray for all the places on the planet you can't find on a label-free map, but we need to recognize that 1) we are finite, 2) the best prayer is that which is accompanied by some level of real world action.  Hence my prescription for praying for "locally on out."

Taking your items, Larry, in numbered ordered:

#1.  I'm really hesitant to draw a straight line between God's mandates to Israel and modern mandates for government.  OT Israel was, as Jim Skillen would say, an "undifferentiated society" where institutions of government, church, even family to an extent, were merged (or, "undifferentiated").  Beyond that, Israel was a special nation, uniquely ruled by theocracy, even to a large extent after Saul became the first monarch.  If one draws too much from OT Israel to inform modern government, one must adopt some of the OT Israel laws that, even though not pointing to Christ, did apply to the nation/church/family of Israel.  Reconstructionist (theonomists) draw too much from the pattern of OT Israel government, I think, as do the social justice folks but on the "opposite side."

As to the Year of Jubilee, I don't so much regard that as a "taking care of the poor" measure as it is a "keeping macro balance" within society at large measure (somewhat like an estate tax imposed at death?).  After all, Jews were allowed to sell themselves into servanthood, to lose their land and all their possessions and become what was a form of a slave.  The Year of Jubilee didn't nothing for them, except every 49th year.  Were the Year of Jubilee about "taking care of the poor," it would be "active" during the 48 years as well, but it's not.

#2.  Jesus certainly said "give to Ceasar that which is Ceasar's" but I can't find any suggestion that government under Ceasar provided for the poor.  Ceasar didn't do that.  And although scripture suggests nations will have to account for how they treated the poor, that doesn't mean that government is responsible to take care of the poor.  A "nation" includes the people of a nation, not merely the government, which plays one of many roles within a particular political society, which again these days is "differentiated."

#3.  I would suggest your statement in #3 does little more than beg the question.  What, after all, does it mean to "take care of the poor"?  That could mean a thousand different things in a thousand differing degrees.  Having said that, I'll come back to a suggestion that I've made before in response to one of these posts: the fact that government is clearly given the power of the sword, which clearly means the power over life and death, I think we can fairly extrapolate that government has the affirmative authority/duty to provide a modern day "safety net" (even if Ceasar didn't) since without it, people die.  Does that degree of "providing for the poor" match your intention when you write "providing for the poor"?  I don't know because I'm not sure what your definition is for the phrase.

Thanks for creating the discussion, Larry.  These are important issues for Christians to grapple with, and not at all simple.

 

 

Thanks Danielle.  Interesting question.  “How do we stay in dialogue with people who strongly disagree with us on an issue we are passionate about, especially when that issue affects the lives of people in very tangible ways?”  I wonder, what is the purpose for such dialogue?  The question itself begs of the notion that we are right (an issue we are passionate about) and those responding are wrong.  Is the purpose of such dialog to convince those dialog that they are wrong?  Or is there a possibility that you might possibly change your position after such dialog?  I’m guessing, probably not.  

Such dialog, if not open to the possibility of changing opinions in either direction, in reality only serves to confirm those dialoguing in their own positions.  I think, quite possibly, that would be the result of such dialog for the “Do Justice” blog.  And that’s not all bad.  I enjoy such blogging for that very reason, that most often I come away confirmed in my own previous position because I’ve thought the issue through or have dug deeper into the issue.

Thanks, Doug, for your comment.  Turning on the “conversation function” is the right start.

Thanks Danielle: I'll look more for Do Justice articles on The Network.

Doug

Happy to respond to that, Doug. You are actually currently participating in one of the ways we do commenting on Do Justice--through The Network. We post Do Justice articles quite regularly on The Network, and will be posting every single article from this series. OSJ staff are very active on The Network responding to comments. We also post every single Do Justice article on the OSJ Facebook page and about one article per week on the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue's Facebook page. (By the way, Do Justice is a joint project of the OSJ and the Centre for Public Dialogue, a CRC ministry in Canada.) 

We want to steward our ministry share-funded staff time well, so we have chosen to manage comments on these two pre-existing, well-used venues for commenting rather than opening up commenting directly on Do Justice. 

Dialogue happens not just when people talk to (or yell at!) each other, but when they are actively listening and responding thoughtfully to the other's thoughts. I appreciate your respectful tone in this comment, Doug, and I hope that we can continue to have respectful conversations in the future. 

As I read this post, Danielle, I wondered whether the Do Justice blog had turned on "commenting" to allow responses to its blog postings.  I wondered that because your first sentence referred to Do Justice as a "conversation space," implying or even just stating it is a two way communications resource.

I would respectfully suggest that the first step to "encourage people to have conversations around justice" is to turn on the conversation function.

In today's media environment, blogs are not conversation sites unless they allow commenting.  Sans commenting, they are really propoganda sites for the views of whoever controls the site (OSJ in this case I believe).  Hence, even the Banner allows commenting, which in turn generates a goodly amount of genuine, constructive conversation, even if among "people who strongly disagree."

So what is the obstacle to persuading OSJ to allow actual conversations on Do Justice?

Right on!

I can't begin to express how much I have learned and been blessed by opening my home to an Iraqi refugee who had been stuck in Syria for four years.  Her story enables me to see beyond the statistics.

There are a billion people who would be rowing to the US across the Atlantic and the Pacific if it was possible. 

Pages