Project 12

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Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Project12 Continues to Track, Target “God Hates Fags” / Westboro Group

Posted by Jon on December 8, 2008

Last Thursday, a van load of us Project12ers went downtown to protest a group called “God Hates Fags.” The latter, however, didn’t show as they’d said they would (though did show up elsewhere later in the day after we’d gone home).

Today, I couldn’t get our Project 12 students sprung from their job and class responsibilities to go downtown with me. The G. H. F. people again had promised to show up, this time to picket President-Elect Barack Obama, who they (so predictably) say is the Antichrist.

And they were there this time as advertised.

“God Hates Fags”… and Barack Obama. Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church
displays their signs on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wabash, Dec. 8, 2008.
[Photo: Jon Trott]

I took up a spot across the street from them, not wanting anyone to think I was part of their group. My own signs read “Gays are Our Neighbors” and “Jesus’ Answer to Hate was the Cross.” Holding both signs was awkward, and it was quite cold, but since Monday had also prevented anyone else from showing up in opposition to Westboro, I stayed until they left around an hour after it began.

Chicago’s well-known gay newspaper, Windy City Times, did cover the event (the reporter is an old friend from days when she was part of Queer to the Left and we worked on homelessness and poverty issues). A van pulled up, a guy jumped out and… well, let’s say what he did with a water bottle mimicked one of Westboro’s signs. A few minutes later, that van pulled up to me and I noted they were filming. Those inside told me they were doing footage for Showtime, asked me for a waiver (which I gave), and then drove off.

I handed out fliers to a few passers-by, mostly those who saw I was in opposition to Westboro and stopped to thank me. (The flier’s contents I’ve posted in my Dec. 4 bit on Westboro.)

We hope to be present when Westboro shows up again in Chicago, perhaps this Saturday. By the way, Westboro… God LOVES you. Just thought you should know.

Posted in "Church (the)", Accountability, Bible, Christian Experience, Evangelism / Missions, Family Issues, Homosexuality, Philosophy, Women, Men, and God | Leave a Comment »

NO SHOW!! Fred Phelps’ “God Hates Fags” Fails to Appear after all…

Posted by Jon on December 4, 2008

Where was everybody?!

A few passers-by were the only people we initially saw where the “God Hates Fags” /
Westboro Baptist Church had said on its website it would march
against Barack Obama. Ah, well. We’ll save our signs and try again!

As I posted yesterday, our Project 12 program’s students went downtown today in order to picket the picketers. The infamous Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church (actually all members of his own biological family), were set to tell Barack Obama, the Canadian embassy, the Chinese embassy, and the Democratic National Party, that Phelps’ gawd hates them. We thought Jesus ought to be represented. So we made signs, wrote up a press flier, and drove our old rickety Project 12 van downtown to the Federal Building on South Dearborn.

But… We were there. Numbing cold weather was there. Lots and lots of police were there. Barracades were there. After a while a self-proclaimed satanic group called “S. I. N.” (Sodomite Insurgency Network) was there. (We tried to talk with them but they had no interest in our message.) Who was not there, however? Westboro Baptist Church. No idea on why.

UPDATE: It appears that Westboro changed the time of the event as well as the targets of it. They may or may not be appearing later today (near noon) at 233 N. Michigan Avenue. That is a severe scale-back from what had been planned. They also plan (if they’re to be believed) to appear at the same spot a number of times this month (as this pdf from their website lists).

At any rate, here we were:

Posted in American History, Bible, Christian Experience, Evangelism / Missions | Leave a Comment »

The Danger of American Christians as “Embedded Reporters”

Posted by Jon on October 9, 2008

Today in my Drama of Scripture class we discussed this quotation from the book:

Everyone has a basic story. How are we to relate the biblical story and the… story of western culture? In its different versions, the modern western story has been so dominant and has so strongly asserted its right to be the story that it is often assumed that we should use it for understanding the grand narrative of Scripture. But biblical Christianity claims that the Bible alone tells the true story of our world. [Italics mine]

Shelby Monroe, a reporter embedded with U. S. Troops in Iraq, learns how to fire an assault rifle.

Shelby Monroe, a reporter embedded with U. S. Troops in Iraq, learns how to fire an assault rifle.

In one of my usual digressions from the text, I asked the students if they remembered what the reporters who traveled with American troops during the invasion of Iraq were called. “Embedded,” I reminded them. And what did that term, “embedded reporters” mean? It meant that these reporters were having what they saw, what they were able to learn from others, filtered to them through the official channels of the United States military. “This meant,” I said, “that often what they reported to us was in fact the ‘official story’ of the United States government.” We viewers did not get the story of the invasion, but rather a story which had been sanitized and defined by our own government.

I contrasted this to the Viet Nam war, which I watched reported on television as a child. The reporters during that war were free to go anywhere, and to see and report on anything. I remember seeing actual firefights and wounded and dead soldiers and “unauthorized” footage which exposed American wrong-doing in Viet Nam. The result of such reporting? A rejection of that war by the so-called “silent majority.” Those reporters were not embedded, at least not in the way those in Iraq later on were.

But all that was illustrative, I suggested to the Project 12ers, of how we Christians in America are also “embedded reporters.” We hold cultural assumptions which, more often than we realize, are at direct contradiction to and variance with the Scripture’s clear teaching. It behooves us as believers to re-examine, and continue to re-examine, our assumptions and beliefs in light of the Word. American values should not determine what we see; biblical values are the lenses through which we are meant to perceive our neighbor, our enemy, our self, and Our God.

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How an Intellectual Could End Up a Prophet

Posted by Jon on January 22, 2007

Paul is essentially first and foremost a hero of religion. The theological element in him is secondary. Naivete in him is stronger than reflection; mysticism stronger than dogmatism; Christ means more to him than Christology, God more than the doctrine of God. He is far more a man of prayer, a witness, a confessor and a prophet, than a learned exegete and close thinking scholastic.–Adolf Deissmann, writing on the Apostle Paul

The intellectual Christian begins, in his beginning, with the tools he used to put God off and even dismiss Him altogether. That is, he begins with his mind, that instrument by which we categorize, analyze. Yet as we do this we place experience at a distance, which of course makes it psychologically “safe.” The danger of the immediate, which is where experience encounters our being, is that we have no room to maneuver.

Religion, then, is at its safest when we are able to postulate it clearly in terms of propositions, either/or statements of true/false, right/wrong, biblical/unbiblical. That process has real value in that Christianity does in fact have propositions embedded within it. Christ, for instance, was either the God/man or he was not. Yet saying that much does not offer any more to us than a proposition — it does not give us Jesus.

At this safe distance our minds create for us from the God of the biblical narrative, we find most offensive those religious “characters” today who speak as self-proclaimed prophets. “Thus saith the Lord” is a phrase guaranteed to put a Christian intellectual on edge. One imagines a Flannery O’Connor character, grossly uneducated yet with a mad sort of religious mysticism filled with dark fiery images and warnings he or she sees as literal, not symbolic. Such characters today are as close as the TBN channel.

Yet as the Christian afraid of this modern-day prophetic stream may find out, his own rationalizing stream is perhaps even more alien to human beings. The safe distance he has between himself and the God of Immediacy becomes less and less safe as time passes. The beginning made sense; use what one is used to. But the tools of intellect, no matter their sharpness, do not necessarily draw one any closer to the heart of things.

We cannot endure forever looking at God as though we are looking at the Grand Canyon. His vast vistas streaming into infinity are, for a time, enough. We look at Him, and believe we are with Him. Of course, in some ways we are. God’s patience for our feeble minds is as great as his patience for our sinful acts. He can wait. Yet we cannot.

At some point, the immediate is all that will do. And like a preacher alone in a southern swamp, or like that solitary individual Soren Kierkegaard, we do finally break past the safety net of reality neatly kept at arm’s length. The words that pour from us, like tongues, are objects of derision or perplexity to our audience (if there is even an audience apart from God). We begin to speak of that we’ve begun to know – the immediate rather than distant. And love transforms the truth we thought of as being in safely categorized lines and sentences and paragraphs and books. Truth becomes experienced love, and love as experience in the very moment “Now.” We speak as prophets because we begin to hear God in this present place and time.

I do not dare say we speak as the prophets of old spoke, inspired by the Spirit to utter words utterly authoritative and true which became so burning they remain still in the Book of the Immediate we call Scripture. But I do increasingly understand how the apparently non-reflective, even naïve, voice can speak words which if only we hear we can begin to call God’s word for us in this time. There will be liars, as well as those deluded, who speak for only the experience of brokenness they labor under. But there will be real voices, often unknown to many past their immediate circles of acquaintance, who speak the immediate and with such authority our hearts burn inside us.

It may be that one day we too will be used in this way. But it is not for us to say or seek. Rather, what we bound by our intellectual safety-nets need to seek is the Lord who gets too close. “Come!” he says. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And when we get that close, it is too late. There is only the yes or the no. The moment of decision. And it is now.

Posted in Bible, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »


Posted by gkaiser on January 18, 2007

What’s in a word? And does the meaning of a word really matter over/against experience? Perhaps one or more experiences bring fresh and real meaning to a word?

These are deep questions but in any case I have a simple comment and a simple plumb line that has served me for years and it’s based on the word “redemption”.

One way of analyzing the spiritual value of things is to ask oneself the question “What’s redemptive about this”?

Is there anything truly redemptive in my present attitude, this or that relationship, the media I’m taking into my mind, the stuff my eyes are viewing, you-fill-in-the-blank?

The core subject of the movie “Shawshank Redemption” and for that matter, many, many movies and stories is that of redemption. Interesting that even pop culture therefore raises the issue. It often boils down to personal questions such as “How can I change, what’s not only good, but best for me?” and the like. This is a common theme and one worth considering.

The basic definition of “redemption” relates to Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for our sins which “redeems” us, bringing us into right and healing relationship to God the Father as well as one another. But there’s more.

Redemption has to do with the act of redeeming or the condition of having been redeemed, recovery of something pawned or mortgaged, payment of an obligation, deliverance upon payment of ransom, rescue, salvation from sin through Jesus’ sacrifice.

If something or some relationship proves over time to be something less than redemptive, I have found it best to let it go and sometimes to purposely avoid it. Why?

There is plenty of temptation in my life, plenty of things to take me away from God, His Word and loving, serving, God-honoring relationships. I just don’t need more of those!

There are those things, people and events which have helped my life be positively transformed in Christ and toward Christ. Some things prove spiritually and practically fruitful while others tend to simply gobble up my time, energy and seem to be if anything, more a waste than a service to God, others or myself, spiritually speaking.

Why waste the little time you’ve got on this rock tearing yourself down or simply passive to the needs in yourself, your church and this broken world when you can be effective in the plan of God to be an instrument of redemption?

What’s redemptive about “it”? I think that’s a question worth considering. It’s a question worth answering too.


Posted in Bible, Evangelism / Missions, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Chris Rice added, Glenn to Come…

Posted by Jon on January 18, 2007

I’ve just added Chris to the growing list of authors / contributors / people with fast-moving typing hands here. Still to come… Glenn Kaiser. He’s leading a P12 seminar in the room next to my workspace as I write, and just mentioned the days in which he still had all his hair. That was a long time ago. For him and me! Anyway, Chris should show up with contributions of his own here soon. I’ll let everyone know when Glenn is also on board.

Posted in Abortion, Bible, Evangelism / Missions, Family Issues, Homelessness, Homosexuality, Poverty, Prisons, Project12 info, Uncategorized, Women, Women, Men, and God | Leave a Comment »