Friday, December 28, 2007

Christmas Break

Last night, we returned home from Christmas in Iowa 2007. Great times had by all. It began with the perilous journey south through snow and ice covered highways. You know you're in for an adventure when you see the state patrol closing down the northbound lanes of the interstate behind you. After the fact, we found out that there was a "no towing" order in effect, meaning that if we had gone in the ditch (like the 50+ other cars that we saw along the way) they would not have come to pull us out. Probably the scariest moment was when we saw an SUV on its side in the median with a state patrol officer carrying a young child to his patrol car. We definitely slowed down a little for the rest of the drive.

After arriving, we enjoyed our normal Christmas fare of too many cookies and too many playing cards. My grandpa was there which means that nobody else gets to bid in our classic pinochle rumbles. It was my brother and his wife's first Magstadt Christmas as a married couple. We also participated in the Christmas Eve service at my parents' church - my brother, his wife, my sister and I played and sang a less than memorable version of "O Holy Night".

One of the things we tried to do this year was to give gifts that would be a little more meaningful than just a simple present. For example, this summer we visited my grandpa and interviewed him about his life. I compiled his stories and pictures into a memoir book that I had printed as gifts for the rest of the family. You can download a copy to peruse for yourself here.

All in all, it was a fun time.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Jesus Manifesto Article

I have a new article up on The Jesus Manifesto. It's about how we disagree with one another and finding the good in those with whom we might have serious disagreement.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Greg Boyd Weighs in on Denver

I think Greg Boyd nails exactly how I feel about the topic.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Reflecting on Denver

I've been waiting for a little while for the dust to settle regarding the shootings in Colorado before making any comments. It's so heartbreaking when innocent people are senselessly killed while simply going about their business. The fact that the victims in this case were missionary trainees and people attending church is hard to wrap my mind around. Certainly my sympathy is with the friends and families of those who were killed as well as with the YWAM and New Life communities as a whole.

The whole situation has made me think a little bit about security and churches. I had never heard of armed security guards at a church before. Maybe this was a special case since the YWAM shootings had happened earlier, but I'm not sure what I think about it. On the positive side, the security guard's presence likely saved a number of lives. Had she not acted, more people would have been killed.

However, I am not convinced that armed security guards are a good practice for churches, even for large politically active and potentially controversial churches like New Life. It seems that our trust gets misplaced. The Bible speaks repeatedly about God being our defender and protector. It seems that having weapons ready to eliminate a possible threat changes the nature of the gathering. It is no longer a community built around trust in God but has become a community built upon doing what we can do to ensure safety and security.

In many parts of the world, the threat of being violently interrupted during a church service is normative. But I don't hear stories of oppressed Christians using violent means to defend themselves. Instead they suffer, being wounded and killed while remaining devoted to Jesus' message of love and hope.

This is the security guard's statement to the media:
"I give the credit to God, and I mean that. I say that very humbly. God was with me, and the whole time I was behind cover — this has gotta be God — because of the firepower he had versus what I had was God," Assam said. "And I did not run away. I did not think for a minute to run away. I just knew that I was given the assignment to end this before it got too, too much worse. I just prayed for the Holy Spirit to guide me. I just said, 'Holy Spirit, be with me.' My hands weren't even shaking."
Jeanne Assam - Denver Post Article
This is tough stuff. Did God help her to shoot and kill the gunman? Did he prevent her hands from shaking? I don't know. Does God help one person to more effectively kill another person? I appreciate her desire to humbly give credit to God, but what if God doesn't want the credit for this one?

I don't know what I think about all of this. I know that I don't want to go to a church where I have to walk through metal detectors and past guards who are watching me suspiciously. I also know that if a gunman happened to show up at our church service and start shooting, I would definitely wish we had better security. I'd also be grateful for one of our elders who happens to have his conceal/carry license and usually has a gun with him.

I guess the big question is how much responsibility churches have to keep people safe when they come to worship gatherings. Is that part of the church's responsibility? Should it be? What level of security do people expect from their church?