Samuel, the Billy Graham of his day, was adviser to the political leader Saul, the Pete Rose of ancient Israel. Samuel anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel. But soon (to quote James Thurber), “confusion got its foot in the door” and went through the entire “system.” Samuel observed Saul disobeying the explicit word of God, and it became Samuel’s job to inform Saul that God had rejected him as king.
When William Stafford died in 1993, he was not the most famous or most critically acclaimed poet around, but he was certainly among the most beloved. To the many who knew him personally or through his work, he was not only an innovative poet, but one who managed to bring his life and his writing together into a seamless, striking witness to nonviolence and poetic freedom.
As Christians, we are joined together, responsible for one another’s Christian walk and well-being. Paul talks about “one body and one spirit,” so when someone we know is in trouble—some metaphorical fuse is burning in his or her life—we’re there for that person, praying, talking, listening and helping. We “bear with one another in love,” with “humility, gentleness and patience.” Of course, it's easier to describe that kind of fellowship with good religious words than to actually pull it off.
In the poem “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” Wendell Berry’s mad farmer warns against the love of “the quick profit, the annual raise, vacation with pay,” a life which makes one “afraid to know your neighbors and to die.” Instead, the mad farmer exhorts us, “Every day do something that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
I am probably not alone in deploring both the suicide bombings carried out by young Palestinians against pathetically vulnerable Israeli civilians and the now predictable military attacks by Israel carried out against pathetically vulnerable Palestinian civilians.
Before the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plunges even further into its cycle of violence, we should pause to examine one day in July when peace almost broke out. After weeks of intense discussions, diplomats from the European Union and the U.S.
Never in my life has the violence in the Gospel of John seemed so recognizable. Now it corresponds to the daily news: a man fears going out in public in Jerusalem, as Jesus did on that festival of booths. This simple act can result in either glory or destruction, depending on whether “the street” murmurs disapproval or approbation.
Recently, in a class titled “Theology and Trauma Theory,” we read the text that catapulted Karl Barth to theological fame: Epistle to the Romans, written shortly after World War I. In the light of current events, what resonated with some of us was Barth’s critique of religion. Religion is not the solemn music that accompanies all the noblest human experiences, argued Barth.