Three Posts from Last Week

Three posts on three different blogs caught my eye last week. Though I’ve shared them via Twitter and Facebook, I want to feature them one more time here.

First, Alan Knox asks “Why priests?” A pretty lively discussion followed in the comments on this post.

Second, Keith McAliley wrote about “The quest for the New Testament church.” While I still believe we should follow the apostolic counsel so far as we can discern and agree upon it, the point about the church universal on earth now being the New Testament church was well-presented.

Third and finally, Blaine Tucker had an innocently-titled post called “The Club.” An accurate alternative title would possibly be “The Avoid Hell Club.” Sharp indictment of most of what is considered American Protestant Evangelicalism.

Brazil From the Inside


In October 2003 my family was putting the final matters in order for our move to the United States. One day as I stood in Uberlândia’s main city bus terminal awaiting my ride home for the evening, I looked around and reflected on my experiences in that country. My few years in Brazil opened my eyes to different ways of looking at the world, some which I found helpful, but many that I continue to find frustrating at least and infuriating at the worst. I had witnessed the thorough devastation accomplished in a society that buys into the lies of collectivism, centralism and positivism. At the same time I had witnessed the patient resolve and resilient creativity of a beautiful multi-racial but somehow homogeneous people facing incredibly adverse economic circumstances. Amazing. That late afternoon as I got ready to get on the bus I thought I could write a book.

The thought of writing a book about my perspective on Brazil was always purely theoretical. I had no real interest in such an endeavor. Still, I wish I would have documented more of my observations from that time. With the passing years my memories of the absurdities and joys of life in Brazil have lost some of their clarity. Details fail me, and sometimes when I remember something particularly odd I think, “That can’t possibly be right.” So far, my flashes of recollection have turned out correct.

Earlier this year I was pleased to discover articles written by Seth Kugel, an American journalist living in Brazil. He writes from there on an ongoing basis, and I have enjoyed everything he has written. His articles are from fresh experience and carry that tinge of amazed frustration I felt almost daily while in Brazil.

The following are my favorite articles (thus far) by Seth Kugel about Brazil:

How much do you know about Brazil? Published: April 23, 2009
People I knew in Brazil told me that Americans don’t bathe every day (some bad apples have confirmed these embarrassingly mistaken notions over the years) and that I only bathed regularly because my wife was Brazilian. Yes, people actually told me this. No, they didn’t think I’d find it incredibly offensive. Yes, I was insulted. This is only the tip of the iceberg as far as dumb ideas Brazilian people have about Americans. As you will see in Seth’s article, they also believe we don’t know what their capital city is (Brasília). Really, though, there are roughly 200 countries in the world. Are we supposed to know all the national capitals of the world? Do Brazilians know them all?

Adventures in Brazilian bureaucracy Published: March 2, 2009
In the United States if you want to open a bank account, it shouldn’t take more than a couple of forms of ID, a signature or two and perhaps 30 minutes of your time. In Brazil it is an ordeal.

Home ownership woes in Brasilia Published: January 21, 2009
What this article doesn’t really discuss but which I discovered looking deeper into Brazilian property law is that all real estate ownership is conditional. That’s a topic for another blog post.

The Elian Gonzalez of Brazil Published: March 25, 2009
This case makes me so mad every time it comes up in conversation that I can barely speak.

Longing for ginger ale Published: April 18, 2009
I really wish American immigration policies made more sense, were less xenophobic and focused more on contributing to the diversity and strength of the United States on all levels of society.

Book Review: A Long Way Gone

From the outset of reading “A Long Way Gone” I knew the writer, Ismael Beah, was going to become a “boy soldier.” After all, the subtitle is “Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.” So, while it really wasn’t a question of “if” he would be drafted, the real suspense built around when, how and by whom.

This book is the true story of a young man who was swept up in the civil war that afflicted the West African nation of Sierra Leone. He left one day with one brother and some friends to go to a talent show in a nearby town and never returned home again.

Throughout perhaps more than half of the book Ishmael recounts how he went from place to place, lost track of his brother and saw unimaginable carnage and atrocities. Although I expected him to be conscripted into military service, I had no idea whether it would be by rebel or government forces. Somehow I expected it to happen suddenly, illogically and entirely against his will. When it came there was an element of haste to it, but the process seemed bizarrely reasonable and natural, given the situation.

Despite the horrors he had witnessed up to the time of being drafted Ishmael had managed to keep himself together, in a sense. This was lost after he took up arms. Between the violence, the drugs and the brainwashing, Ishmael became a killing machine. This book shows how an image-bearing child of God can lose the divine likeness through extreme hardship and first witnessing and then participating in atrocities.

The process of recovery also was not immediate. When Ishmael and others were finally removed from the fighting and taken to a place to recuperate and reintegrate with society, they struggled not only against the vicious demons of their past but the very real and present pain of withdrawal from narcotics.

Somewhere I read online a comment from a person who read this book who said he lost his belief in God after seeing the evils people were permitted to do. To that I can only suggest that commentator was sheltered, has a rather childish Sunday School vision of God and needs to come to terms with the fact that this book isn’t about the nature or existence of a deity, but about the depths of human depravity. That a child can be made into a murderous terror demonstrates what pervasive systemic wickedness in our world is capable of doing. At the same time, we learn that restoration is possible, given love, patience and plenty of time.

Feed the Dump People Day (2)

Trey Morgan has declared this coming May 5th “Feed the Dump People Day,” and I’m with him in this effort. The video above discusses work going on through the Igreja Anglicana Água da Vida (Water of Life Anglican Church) to help people living off the garbage in Recife, Brazil. In a previous post I shared a video report by Nick Kristof from a dump in Cambodia. This is a problem that impacts people in multiple locations throughout the Third World.

On May 5th Trey will be gathering funds to feed some “dump people” in Honduras. Let’s make this the start of something deeper than feeding people one day, and bigger than a single country.

See also:
21st Century Third World Gehenna (Igneous Quill)
Huge Announcement About Feeding the Dump People (Trey Morgan.net)

Reportagem sobre igrejas “em focos de violência urbana”

http://st1.mais.uol.com.br/embed.swf?path=/7/34/EF/&id=180510&host=http://st1.mais.uol.com.br&mediaId=201641&codProfile=1575mnadmj5c&hash=igrejas-encontram-espaco-em-focos-de-violencia-urbana-04023168D8890346

Este video demorou demais para carregar, e tenho banda larga em casa. Acho que deve ser o site. Espero que todo mundo consegue assistir, porque gostaria de ver seus comentários. O que você acha?

Atualização:
Clique aqui para ver a séria completa de reportagens.

Uma Ex-Pastora Episcopal e o Sincretismo

Poucas semanas antes da Páscoa este ano uma pastora da Igreja Episcopal deixou de fazer parte do sacerdócio daquela denominação. Ela diria que não foi por opção dela, Ela queria continuar a celebrar a missa todo domingo, mas também quis ir rezar na mesquita. É isso mesmo. Ela achava possível seguir a Cristo e Maomé ao mesmo tempo.

No princípio era aquele que é a Palavra.
Ele estava com Deus, e era Deus.“

João 1:1 NVI

O Novo Testamento da Bíblica afirma em vários lugares que Jesus de Nazaré é Deus em forma humana. Este foi o ensino dos apóstolos e profetas, e a igreja nos primeiros seculos de sua existência afirmava que Ele é 100% Deus e 100% homem, de acordo com as Sagradas Escrituras. Os cristãos também afirmam que somente Jesus é o Senhor e Salvador do mundo, o único caminho ao Pai (João 14:6).

Os muçulmanos, porem, negam tudo isso. Dizem que Jesus foi um profeta, mas nada mais do que isso. O islã aina ensina que Maomé foi o maior dos profetas, e o Alcorão nega que Cristo morreu numa cruz.

Com diferenças tao grandes, como alguem pode ser muçulmano e cristão ao mesmo tempo? Não pode. Pelo menos, não pode honrar completamente nenhuma das duas crenças.

Existem seminários e denominações que praticam o sincretismo. Aqui em Nova Iorque onde trabalho dever ter várias, mas um que sei que existe (porque recebo e-mails dele) é o One Spirit Interfaith Seminary. Este seminário forma e consagra cleros sincretistas. Estas pessoas misturam elementos de várias religiões de acordo com a vontade e o interesse deles. A liberdade religiosa diante da lei permite tais praticas, mas não o bom senso ou o respeito pelas crenças.

A igreja episcopal fez bem em tirar a ordenação desta pastora (não foi a decisão da denominação toda, mas…). Espero que ela reflete mais, pensa bem e defina logo qual dos dois caminhos ela vai seguir, mas se ela quer continuar a desrespeitar tonto o cristianismo quanto o islã, pode fazer isso abertamente com um grupo sincretista em vez de se disfarçar como líder cristão.

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea


Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time” was a title I had seen around for a while, but never got around to buying. I probably never would have, except a cousin recommended it. Taking her word for it, I picked up a copy at Barnes & Noble one weekend. I’m glad I did.

As impressed as I should have been by the hardship and determination of the Balti people of mountainous northern Pakistan, I actually felt more shocked by the life Greg Mortenson led in California in the days his work in Pakistan first started. While he struggled to raise the first round of funds (nearly clueless of how to do so) he lived in his car, showered at a gym where he held membership and worked nights as an emergency room nurse.

His connection to the Balti people and his drive to build schools for them and others in Pakistan and Afganistan began when he failed to make the summit of K2. Sick, starved and bone weary, he took a wrong turn into an isolated mountain village. Taken in by the kind but poor folks of the village, he regained his strength and was located once again by his guide. Before he left the village, he promised the chief elder that he would return one day to build a school for the children.

When he asked earlier to see the school, what he was shown was an open field where children congregated to practice their numbers and letters in the dirt with sticks. Seriously. There was a teacher who came a couple of days a week, but otherwise they were on their own.

The promise Greg made was of the sort that many First Worlders make when they see extreme hardship and need in developing countries. Then they get home, settle back into a routine and forget everything they saw and said. Greg kept his word, despite not knowing how to raise funds or even (in 1993) how to use a computer.

The story of Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute teaches several lessons. It demonstrates how a failure and a wrong turn can end up taking a person in a new and better direction. Greg went from an essentially meaningless, purely self-satisfying goal (summiting K2) and went on to embrace a life of service to others. He started this work with limited resources and knowledge, worked with what he had and gained new skills along the way. Although the support of the wealthy was necessary to get the work underway, American school kids also kick in support, and none of it would have happened anyway without one man doggedly striving to keep his promise to people a world away.

Pick up a copy of this book and give it a read. You’ll be glad you did.

Feed the Dump People Day (1)

It was when I was living in Brazil that I first heard about people picking through garbage at the dump to find food. This was completely outside of my experience in life, and hard to imagine. Garbage was something we fed to the cats (if there were table scraps involved) or pigs (if it was potato peelings, watermelon rinds and the like), but not something we look at as food. Sadly, the reality millions around the world face each day as they away is their sharp and ongoing hunger. The miserable solution for many is the fetid piles of trash at the dump.

In February of this year (2009) I wrote about the problem of people depending on garbage for food and for money from recycling to buy food and supplies. In that post I shared a video Nicholas Kristof made from a dump in Cambodia. That post, which you can read by clicking here, provides the theological support for why I believe we should be taking action to help people out of the gehennas of our modern world.

What I didn’t realize was that Trey Morgan had already posted about this same issue and directed readers to a ministry in Honduras that helps feed people in these terrible circumstances. Since that effort was a success, Trey is now calling for a “Feed the Dump People Day” on May 5th. We’re going to try to raise at least $2500 to feed hungry people.

What good will this do? Won’t they just get hungry again? True, it is only a one-time help. The value of it is twofold. First, at least the money will be doing something good that one time. Second, it will help raise awareness.

What good is “awareness”? Again, twofold answer. First, it will serve as I indicated in my gehenna post to put a finger in the eye of the powers that be, making them know we see the shameful secret of their supposed authority (that they are so corrupt and incompetent that they can’t do anything to help raise people out of abject poverty, and in fact it is their policies that hold them down there). Second, it may inspire more people to do more to help out. Perhaps someone will be inspired to pledge money to regularly support feeding the hungry. Maybe someone will spearhead an effort to build, equip and finance schools for children living and/or working in dumps. It could be that missionaries will be sent with medical skills and other expertise to demonstrate through sacrificial service that Jesus reigns over this earth.

None of this will happen on its own. Let’s do this.

Please read:
21st Century Third World Gehenna (Igneous Quill)
FEEDING THE “DUMP” PEOPLE and HUGE ANNOUNCEMENT (Trey Morgan.net)

Icy, Sunless and Salty…but Harboring Life

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/js/2.0/video/evp/module.js?loc=dom&vid=/video/tech/2009/04/16/sot.mikucki.glacier.microbes.cnnEmbedded video from <a href=“http://www.cnn.com/video”>CNN Video</a>
Life has been discovered in yet another improbable place. As you can see from the video above (if you are reading this in my Facebook notes the video won’t appear for you), an “iron-breathing” form of microbial life has been discovered. It survives in sunless, briny water in extreme cold.

This provides yet more evidence for the adaptability of life and the possibility of finding it in other parts of the solar system or galaxy. No, when we speak of life on other planets, that doesn’t necessarily mean little green (or gray) men. It could be that the most common form of life in the universe is microscopic in nature, and that more complex organisms can only develop in optimal conditions.

For further reading:
Ancient Ecosystem Found in Ice Pocket (Discovery News)
Ancient microbes discovered alive beneath Antarctic glacier (CNN.com)
From the Depths of the Earth to the Heights of the Sky (Igneous Quill)