In surprising announcement, Paul of Tarsus throws support behind Nero for emperor

CORINTH—In a stunning press conference that sent shock waves throughout the Roman imperial kingdom, Paul of Tarsus (formerly known as Saul) announced that “after much prayer and discernment” he will support Nero’s bid to replace emperor Claudius, “despite serious misgivings about the candidate’s character and unpredictability.” Paul made the statement on Wednesday while staying with friends in Greece’s southern city of Corinth.

“To state the obvious, Nero is far from being an ideal candidate,” Paul declared. “Yet even if he doesn’t provide a perfect path forward, he is at least the lesser of all other evils.”

Friends were quick to express their confusion with Paul’s statement. Not only has the controversial Nero earned a reputation of being cold, callous, and divisive, but several of his policies are in marked contrast to the ethical teachings prized by Paul himself. Paul’s friends said it wasn’t immediately clear why Nero’s policies were viewed as the lesser of all evils, if based on the criteria established in Paul’s own writings. 

“This endorsement is far from consistent with the person I know and love,” said Timothy, who served as Paul’s protégé for many years. “While I recognize that people are feeling a lot of anxiety regarding the state of affairs in our world today, it was Paul himself who once wrote a letter to me saying that ‘in the midst of distressing times, I should avoid people who are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.’ . . . Yet now it appears that my dear mentor is casting his lot with them.”

Peter “The Rock” Johnson has shared a long and at times contentious relationship with Paul that dates back to their mutual admiration for Jesus of Nazareth, a failed if not beloved Jewish leader executed for insurrection against Rome nearly a generation ago. The Rock expressed his bewilderment at Paul’s endorsement, saying, “Our Lord was the victim of state-sponsored torture, yet Paul is now okay endorsing a leader who not only lauds torture but wishes to expand it?” 

While the counter-culture movement widely associated with Peter and Paul has frequently been criticized for being far too idealistic in its valorization of non-violence, Peter—who tells us he hasn’t picked up a sword since his Lord told him to put it away many years ago after a brief but heated altercation with a high-ranking official—still doesn’t understand why Paul is willing to reject the movement by supporting a candidate who casually speaks of violence and retribution as if they are virtues to be cultivated instead of vices to be condemned. “It just goes against everything we’ve valued for so long,” he said. “I mean, whatever happened to loving your enemy? To not returning evil with evil, or insult with insult, but returning evil with good? To caring for the least of these, including the hungry and the homeless? If our Lord knew of Paul’s support for the vindictive policies championed by Nero—a man who has a heart trained in greed—he would be turning over in his grave.” After a momentary pause, The Rock quickly added, “If he was still in there, that is.”

According to anonymous sources within Paul’s network of trusted colleagues and friends, this is a decision that even Paul himself acknowledged he may live to regret. One contemporary scribe speculates that Paul has lost his faith, no longer believing that peace will come through justice, as his early writings suggest, but rather through violent victory — the way of Caesar and not of Christ.

“He isn’t proud of what he’s doing,” a source close to Paul disclosed on condition of anonymity. “Frankly speaking, like many others these days, he appears to have succumbed to the kind of fear and existential despair that leads one to abandon key principles that were once cherished.”

When pressed on whether or not his refusal to support Nero’s chief rival had anything to do with her gender, Paul abruptly ended the press conference. As he stormed out of the room, his spokesperson simply said, “No comment.”

This has led some observers to wonder if Paul—who was once a strong supporter of the leadership of women within the communities he founded—might revise his views related to gender and hierarchy in subsequent writings.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


Darryl Schafer contributed to this story from his office in downtown Springfield.


“Get even with people. If they screw you, screw them back 10 times as hard. I really believe that.” – Not Romans 12:17-20 or 1 Peter 3:9 or Matthew 18:21-22 but Donald Trump

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10 Reasons You Might Be More Pro-Life than You Think

Being a pro-life Christian may mean a lot of things, but if at the very minimum it means affirming that all life is sacred – as it should – then truly being pro-life means affirming in no uncertain terms that:

1) The humanity of a woman is as valuable as that of a man;

2) The humanity of an immigrant is as valuable as that of a citizen;

3) The humanity of a Muslim is as valuable as that of a Christian;

4) The humanity of a Mexican is as valuable as that of an American;

5) The humanity of a poor person is as valuable as that of a rich person;

6) The humanity of a gay person is as valuable as that of a straight person;

7) The humanity of a transgender person is as valuable as that of a cisgender person;

8) The humanity of a black person is as valuable as that of a white person;

9) The humanity of a differently abled person is as valuable as that of a conventionally abled person;

10) The humanity of a baby that has already been born is as valuable as that of a baby that is yet to be born.

As such, being pro-life means that if we live in a culture where it’s okay to demean and objectify women — whether in a locker room or any other room — then we live in a culture that needs to change. Pro-life Christians should speak out against all forms of misogyny.

Being pro-life means that anytime LGBT people are dehumanized or demonized, there is a responsibility to instead show dignity and respect. Pro-life Christians should speak out against all forms of discrimination.

Being pro-life means that all lives matter; therefore, if a disproportionate number of people of color are unjustly killed or imprisoned in this country, then pro-life Christians have a responsibility to remind people that you can’t say all lives matter until you also affirm that black lives matter. Being a pro-life Christian means you notice the places and ways that life is diminished and destroyed, and you work to change it, even when uncomfortable protests that point to uncomfortable truths are necessary in order for this to happen. Unless you prefer supporting a culture of death, being pro-life means that Tamir Rice’s life matters. Eric Garner’s life matters. Philando Castile’s life matters. Terence Crutcher’s life matters . . . Pro-life Christians affirm that Black Lives Matter.

And lest one be confused, being pro-life also means affirming that the lives of police officers matter. As the official Black Lives Matter Facebook account posted just after the tragic shootings that took the lives of five Dallas police officers: “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it.” Likewise, pro-life Christians speak out against all forms of violence.

Being pro-life also means there is a responsibility to care for refugees fleeing violence. Pro-life Christians would do well to remember that Jesus himself was once a Middle Eastern refugee fleeing violence, and we should care for refugees fleeing violence as if we were caring for Jesus himself.

Being pro-life means there is a responsibility to sustain life. Pro-life Christians should work to curb climate change so that life on this planet will be possible for future generations. Denying scientific insights about the peril of our species is not pro-life, it’s pro-death.

Being pro-life means you should care for life from womb to tomb. Instead of working for policies that threaten life and health, pro-life Christians should understand that the most effective way to care for unborn babies is by providing resources to mothers in need. Every major study shows that reducing poverty and providing access to quality education are the most effective ways of reducing abortion. From a pro-life perspective, it’s absolutely hypocritical to say you care about unborn babies if at the very same time you aren’t working to change economic injustices and policies that exacerbate poverty.

Being pro-life means that all workers should be paid a living wage, because it’s not very pro-life for someone to get rich if it means taking advantage of another human being. Pro-life Christians should care about the poor not simply by giving to charity but by transforming the very systems and structures that keep people poor in the first place. Pro-life Christians know it’s hypocritical for business leaders or corporations to give to charities if at the very same time they refuse to pay their workers a living wage.

The list goes on, but suffice it to say that being a pro-life Christian is not about being a single issue voter; it means you truly affirm the sanctity of all life. Otherwise it just sounds like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (which I suppose may get you somewhere in politics, but not very far in the way of love).

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Phillips Theological Seminary offers prayer in response to the death of Terence Crutcher

Brentwood Christian Church

pts-logoPhillips Theological Seminary, a Disciples of Christ graduate school in Tulsa that trains ministers and leaders of the church, including Phil (’02) and Emily (’07), offers the following prayer in response to the death of Terence Crutcher, the son of one of its graduates. You can read the full post from the seminary here.

Prayer of Longing

In a time when some are left to wonder whether black lives matter,

In a time when children are killed and left in streets and on sidewalks

      well after their premature last breath,

You are present, O Spirit of God,

Groaning and sighing when words offer no solace.

God, you are present with everyone

Who hungers and thirsts for justice,

Who lives in fear,

Who grieves,

Who buries loved ones,

Who cannot breathe.

So too, God, are you present

With everyone whose hunger is satiated, and thirst quenched,

Who prioritizes comfort over…

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The Gospel According to Colin Kaepernick

It is bad enough to be reminded that we sing allegiance to a nation built on the death of indigenous peoples, the slavery of black and brown bodies. It is far worse to be reminded of this by a black man. Given the vicious response to his actions, it seems that no form of protest by blacks is welcome, even a peaceful and articulate protest. How dare a man whose job is to entertain us make us uncomfortable? We don’t like to be uncomfortable, and when someone makes us uncomfortable, we tend to get mean, nasty, and violent.

via The Gospel According to Kaepernick — WIT

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Is Hope Possible in the Wake of Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas?

“Is Hope Possible in the Wake of Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas?”
By Rev. Dr. Phil Snider
July 10, 2016
Brentwood Christian Church

We ended last week’s sermon by reflecting on how part of the way that good religion keeps an open mind is by believing that change, that hope, for ourselves and our world, is possible.

And then we had a week like we just had, which makes us wonder all the more if change is possible.

Today’s follow up sermon is on finding hope — it’s about how good religion is supposed to be hope-filled. It’s part of our summer sermon series; the themes for which have been planned for over three months. But who would’ve thought it would be so difficult to speak a word of hope on this day? Who would’ve guessed? Sometimes hope seems so hard to come by. As Langston Hughes wrote, “I am so tired of waiting, aren’t you, for the world to become good and beautiful and kind?”

Many of us have felt more despair than hope these last few days, these last few weeks. From the shootings in Orlando, to last week’s extra judicial killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, to the killing of officers serving in the line of duty, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa and Brent Thompson, killed by sniper fire.

“I am so tired of waiting, aren’t you, for the world to become good and beautiful and kind?”

The kind of headlines we’ve been reading are the kind we expect to come out of Baghdad or Lebanon, maybe Jerusalem. But they are coming out of Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul and Dallas, and not long before that, headlines out of Stanford University. Sometimes it feels like more than we can bear.

The writer of Lamentations echoed the poetry of Hughes:

“My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground, because my people are destroyed.”

In many ways this state of affairs in America seems so “new” to me — but this newness simply reflects my naïveté and my privilege. My naïveté from the perspective of history [when in America have there not been struggles related to power, racism, violence, sexism, heteronormativity? — how many struggles have there been throughout American history that maybe weren’t captured and shared on social media but are just as real, from the violence of public lynchings to the behind the scenes violence of domestic abuse to the violence of perpetual warfare to the violence associated with the valorization of and obsession with military grade weaponry — from a historical perspective I have been naive].

But I’ve also been privileged, especially from the perspective of race and gender. Several years ago, when I was doing my doctoral work, I took a class on how ministers and churches can meaningfully respond to the racism that remains far too prevalent in our world. One of my colleagues in the class — an African-American minister — talked about how he stopped wearing football jerseys when driving to school, and switched to wearing ties, because it keeps him from getting pulled over as often. I had no idea. It was the first time I became aware of being pulled over for a DWB (Driving while black). Just a couple of years ago, Wes Pratt, who is also African American (many of you know him from his work at MSU), stood in our sanctuary during a panel discussion reflecting on the tragic death of Michael Brown, and he talked about how he had been in the car with a friend (another African American man) just a couple of weeks before, and they had been pulled over for a minor traffic infraction. Both officers had their guns out of their holsters, pointed at Wes and his friend.

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been pulled over several times for minor traffic infractions, but never once has an officer even begun to draw his weapon. And while I may have been naive for most of my life, examples like these abound. These stories are just as much a part of the American experience as my own, but they are experiences that I don’t like to acknowledge because they make me feel uncomfortable, but they must be acknowledged. To hide from the kind of truths that one doesn’t personally experience doesn’t make the experiences of others any less real, just because they are not your own, and silence in the face of such experiences equates to complicity in, or at least the sanctioning of, the system that perpetuates them.

In many ways we are living under the conditions that make for a perfect storm. A history of racism — centuries and centuries of unfair treatment of brown and black bodies, coupled with a culture that has sold its soul to the myth of redemptive violence; with the near valorization of explicitly racist vernacular in recent public rhetoric; to the mistrust and lack of respect of people different than ourselves, “the others we don’t know”; to the rampant availability of military grade weapons that can lead to massive death tolls in a matter of minutes, which in turn leads people to be all the more defensive and on edge at all times, to fire first and ask questions later… It’s not all necessarily a history of our making but it is a history we’ve inherited, in which we live and move and have our being. And because we’ve inherited it, we are stewards of it. And history is still in the making (history is not what happened it is what we make happen) and we are left with the questions of what kind of history future generations will inherit, and what our responsibility is to them. This morning, the great great great great nephew of Robert E. Lee, the Rev. Rob Lee, will stand in his pulpit and say the names Alton Sterling and Philando Castile because he knows American history needs to change.

This morning, let’s be clear: Jesus was another brown body executed by the powers of the state, that is true; but it’s also true that when Jesus’ disciple Peter drew his sword against the powers of the state, Jesus told him to put it away, saying that “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” — for returning violence with violence, from Jesus’ perspective, was unequivocally and categorically wrong. That’s why so many protests against inequities and injustices draw on the ethics of the non-violent resistance which was described, demanded and enacted by Jesus. As Gandhi is credited as saying, “An eye for an eye would make the whole world blind.” Last night at the Black Lives Matter rally on the Springfield square, one person who showed up had a sign that approved of the Dallas shootings, but the organizers quickly went to the press in order to say that does not represent the views of the BLM movement. As the official BLM Facebook account posted on Friday, the shootings in Dallas were unequivocally condemned, “Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it.”

So where is God in the midst of all of this?

The Christian tradition symbolically juxtaposes two things that don’t seem to go together — the cross, which is a site of death, and hope — or as St. Paul calls it, hope against hope.

The symbol of the cross stands for all places and all times in which life is unjustly taken, where all hope is lost, where the darkness is all we know.

Hope, as St. Paul describes, is hope against hope. In other words, it’s not hope when things look bright, when our chances look good, when we have good reason to be optimistic about the future. No, hope is only hope when we’ve been pushed to the brink, up against the wall, and all hope seems lost.

That’s why the cross is the central symbol of Christianity. The cross is a symbol of the place of hopelessness, yet, paradoxically, precisely the place in which we find God at work. While a lot of popular theologies these days like to talk about the cross only in terms of it representing the place where God forgives our sins by killing his son, we must understand that such an interpretation was largely shaped within the context of privileged classes and is primarily used to establish and reinforce privileged norms. It’s not the only theology of the cross.

An even older interpretation of the cross, and one that still finds a great deal of resonance today, especially in African American churches, is the cross as a sign of Gods identification with those who unjustly lose their lives, who are victimized and exploited and derided, often by the powers that be, and it’s a symbol that God unequivocally and categorically condemns unjust suffering and unjust blood being taken as a sacrifice that appeases the cultural norms of our day.

And, ultimately, this is the symbol St. Paul refers to when he says that nothing, not even death on the cross, can thwart the abiding and transforming love of God that is stronger than even the most unjust deaths in our world, a transforming love that will not rest until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. The cross provides hope because in the Christian gospel hope comes alive precisely when we expect it the least, God brings forth resurrection, when we thought all hope was lost.

This is not a cheap hope, or a shallow optimism. And it’s not just a sentimentalism (I love the hugs between police officers and BLM protestors, but interpersonal exchanges are not enough — for true hope to emerge in our future, systems and structures must change also). Hope is not the same as sentimentalism or optimism. As Cornel West describes, “optimism adopts the role of the spectator who surveys the evidence in order to infer that things are going to get better. Yet we know that the evidence does not look good. By contrast, hope enacts the stance of the participant who actively struggles against the evidence in order to change the deadly tides of inequality, xenophobia, and despair. Only a new wave of vision, courage and hope can keep us sane — and preserve the decency and dignity requisite to revitalize our organizational energy for the work to be done. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.” It’s been said that as human beings, we can light candles, or curse the darkness. As Christians, we light candles.

Because of the gravity of the last week, indeed, of the last few weeks, I often feel as if I don’t have words. So I’m drawn to prayer — not as a passive way of doing nothing about the violence and injustice — but out of the recognition that all of our best efforts often are not enough, and that we need help that comes from beyond ourselves. Prayer, at its most basic level, draws us out of ourselves toward the needs of the other. It’s not some sort of magical formula in which we ask God to grant our wishes, but it’s an act that centers us, that grounds us, so that we might focus on what matters most.

In prayer, we cry out to God with hopes and sighs and tears too deep for words…

– O God, in a world torn by violence — around the world and here in the U.S., we cry out for your help

– For the blood on the streets of Baton Rouge, we cry out

– For the blood on the streets of St. Paul, we cry out

– For the blood on the streets of Dallas, we cry out

– For the centuries of racism that threaten the very fabric of our being, for the stranglehold of fear and prejudice that too frequently lurks within, we cry out

– Deliver us, O God — from silence in the face of oppression, from the failure to treat black and brown bodies with the dignity they deserve, from actions that return violence with violence, that tear apart and destroy your beloved people

– O God, may your redemptive and liberating power move among us, as we long for your justice to flow down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream


After preaching this sermon, a friend sent me the following quote, which I think is apropos for Christianity as well:

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Now that Trump has been born again, we can expect some pretty great policy changes

“What does it say about evangelicalism in America that James Dobson, one of our leading voices for the last three decades, can claim that Donald Trump has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior yet not a single one of Trump’s political policies or tactics has changed or been significantly modified by the lordship of Jesus?” – Tom Fuerst [link]

Forgiveness of debts owed to him — Luke 4:19 & Matthew 6

Elimination of predatory payday lending industry — Luke 6:35

Selling his possessions and giving all the proceeds to the poor — Luke 18

Ending torture — Matthew 5

Welcoming immigrants and treating them fairly — Matthew 25

Free healthcare for all — John 5

Feeding the hungry without giving them a drug test — Mark 6:31-44

Radical and swift disarmament — Matthew 26:52

Not to mention the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control (Galatians )

Thank you James Dobson for the new Donald Trump!



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A Prayer for Orlando

Brentwood Christian Church


Via the Salt Project

A Prayer for Orlando

God of Life, God of Justice, God of Healing, God of Love, have mercy on us all.

In ancient days, in the face of a world filled with violence, your rainbow promise embraced the skies with every color in creation.

Renew in us our commitment to that rainbow of hope.

We pray for the lost and the wounded, for their families and beloved ones.

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep.

Hold fast the sorrowful, and make us all instruments of your peace.

We pray for the LGBTQ community around the world, but particularly here in this country we call home, as together we confront this devastating act of terror, the worst shooting in U.S. history.  Our hearts are broken.  Surround us with your Spirit of healing, your graceful presence in the midst of grief.

Save us from…

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