The air still seems thick with grief and overwhelm after the recent attacks in Paris and Beirut. The response by approximately 30 governors in the United States to refuse Syrian refugees immediately took the thick air out of the room.

I like to stay out of politics in general, and especially on social media. But I couldn’t help myself when Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, and a literal neighbor here in Austin, was one of the first to try to shut the door.


Don’t be surprised when people don’t want immigrants around. Scapegoating a few people who look and sound different…

Posted by Chris Morton on Monday, November 16, 2015

While I stand behind my post, I need to add that it’s a lot more complicated than just accepting or not accepting refugees. And, I don’t necessarily blame the politicians. To explain that, I’ll have to go back a bit.

Osama Bin Ladin Changed My Life

When I try to make sense of my personal history, I like to say that Osama Bin Laden made me an Anabaptist. In short, I lost my stomach, when, after 9/11, so many Christians were quick to rush to war. I’ll never forget the two story tall American flag that took over the back wall of the stage where my small Christian University conducted daily chapel. I knew something was wrong.

I found some theological and political coherence as I began to read Stanley Hauerwas, J.H. Yoder and their mainstream theological children, Greg Boyd and Brian Zahnd. They introduced me to the countercultural peace tradition of the Mennonites, Amish and much of the pre-Constintinian Church.

As Hauerwas and Willimon say in Resident Aliens:

“The most creative social strategy we have to offer is the church. Here we show the world a manner of life the world can never achieve through social coercion or governmental action. We serve the world by showing it something that it is not, namely, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers.”

About a year or so ago, I saw David Fitch claim on Facebook that he was expecting the majority of the church to increasingly embrace the Peace Tradition in the coming years. I want it to be so, but I had trouble sharing Fitch’s optimism.

It’s easy to embrace the idea of a non-violent church. There’s a lot of us who responded to the Bush wars by saying “I’m a pacifist.”

That was before ISIS.

Before the greatest migrant crisis of all time.

Give Peace a Chance?

On social media it seems easy. “How dare those governor’s deny refugees because of a few bad apples!” But we know it’s not that simple. Another Paris or 9/11 seems imminent. I pity the governor who will have to say to their constituents “They came in on my watch.”

With ISIS seemingly so far away from our everyday life, it’s easy to hum the old hippy song “Give peace a chance.” At least, it was easy before Paris.

What the church needs is a well articulated Missional-Neo-Anabaptist response—not just to the current crisis but to power structures in general—that answers our current crises with tangible hope for the future. How can we get there?

Hopefully, four questions will help.

Four Questions

Who is my neighbor?

The first question is Jesus’s question. It’s easy, on the internet, to say “Refugees are my neighbor!” And it’s true.

Don’t forget though: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Or how about Paul? “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority.”

Who is my neighbor? The Syrian children, Jihadi John and the 30 governors.

“You don’t get to pick your neighbors,” Jesus might say.

Have we already cared for the widow and orphan in our midst?

Here’s the thing: If a Syrian refugee family got dropped off at your church, would you know what to do with them? Would you be ready to find them a place to live, a job, ESL classes, daycare and a car?

Now, how many refugees already live in your city? How many people in your church community could use some help…but maybe you’ve never asked?

This is where Christians need to be careful. It’s easy to get mad at the Governors refusing refugees, when, honestly, we might not know what to do with them if they came.

What methods does the church use to stand offer a contrast to the state, violent organizations and overpowering corporations?

According to Shane Blackshear, complaining about Governors who won’t accept refugees has something in common with complaining about the cups at Starbucks.

I probably need to clear something up. I am not shocked, or really even disappointed, that a politician chose to deny…

Posted by Shane Blackshear on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It’s not the job of corporations to promotes the values we like. It’s not the job of the State care for widow and orphan.

The job of the Church is to offer a tangible alternative that critiques their inability to solve the problems of the world—thereby, pointing people to Jesus. Or, as Hauerwas says:

“The way for the world to know that it needs redeeming, that it is broken and fallen, is for the church to enable the world to strike hard against an alternative to what the world offers.”

Who will go?

So how, then, do we help refugees? How do we defeat ISIS?

Brian Zahnd is fond of saying:

“As Christians we persuade by love, witness, Spirit, reason, rhetoric, and if need be, martyrdom, but never by force.”

The answer is, in the Jesus-like-posture Zahnd is describing to announce:

“Here am I, send me.”

What we as Christians believe, more than anything else, is that Jesus’ way is better. We believe there is new life in Jesus. We believe that anyone, no matter what they’ve done, can claim that new life.

We also believe that Jesus, seeing our plight, came to us.

The Jesus way to care for refugees? To have be a local church community that can truly welcome them.

The Jesus way to defeat ISIS? Convert them.


God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Local Church

by Charles Van Engen | Available Here

Charles Van Engen’s God’s Missionary People helped launch today’s missional discussion, and still has much to tell our local church. Before coming to Fuller, Van Engen was a missionary and theological teacher in Mexico. He has taught at other seminaries and served as president of the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America. He continues his work in Mexico through his organization Latin American Christian Ministries. At Fuller, he teaches various classes in the school of Intercultural Studies and provides mentoring from Doctoral students.

Continue Reading…


The way of Jesus, when properly understood is dangerous, disappointing, and even disturbing.

Many in our country is reeling from the attack at the Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina. John Stewart’s words ring true in the ears of many: this a terrorist attack, and the result of America’s lackadaisical approach to systemic problems of gun violence and racism.

We want something to fix.

“Take down that Confederate flag!”

“Pass stricter gun laws!”

Or even… “Pastors should carry guns.”

These are real problems, that as John Stewart, and even President Obama have said that we will probably continue to ignore. But even if we did solve those problems, our efforts would have very little power compared to dangerous, disappointing and disturbing hospitality of the Emmanuel Wednesday Night Bible Study.

Continue Reading…

Preaching Professor Lucy Lind Hogan imagines the audience at the Sermon on the Mount this way:

Like all good speakers, he began by capturing the good will of his listeners. Who doesn’t like to hear the good news that we are going to be comforted and inherit the earth? I would imagine nods of agreement and pleasure moved through the crowd like waves.

When did the nodding stop? Continue Reading…

The following was taken from a recent sermon (jokingly) entitled “How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep” at Austin Mustard Seed.


All throughout the Psalms, you have these moments that seem a little strange. David and the other poets saying incredible terrible things, sometimes about their enemies, and sometimes about God. Here’s an example from Psalm 4.

Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

This statement is shocking for a few reasons. First off, consider from a purely philosophical point-of-view: God, by definition, is infinite, almighty creator. But the poet seems to be bossing him around, accusing him, commanding him.

It gets even more interesting when you consider from the view of the language it was written in. The words “answer me” are the words “Shema.” Now, if you’ve ever been around anyone from a Jewish background, or if you’ve ever studied the Hebrew Scriptures, this will stand out to you. “Shema” isn’t a simple “can you hear me now.” It’s much more of a command, it’s like a drill sergeant walking down the line, yelling “Listen up!” The most famous prayer in the Hebrew Tradition begins with the same command “Hear, O, Israel,” “Shema, O Israel.” As God commanded people to listen to him, now this poet dares to command God.

This may be perhaps the strangest and the most uncomfortable element of getting a good night’s sleep. It begins with learning to be totally and completely honesty about our feelings. It begins with yelling at God, shaking our fist at the heavens. It begins with accusing God.

I love how this was captured in the classic episode of The West Wing.

President Jed Bartlet after the funeral of his friend and secretary, Mrs. Landingham. What’s so great about this clip is that it is somehow simultaneously honest, angry, explosive and somehow still reverential.

Bartlett is angry, so he let’s his anger show. He’s proud of his work, which he believes he did for a good cause, and so he let’s his pride show. He’s overwhelmed, not just with the the current state of affairs, but with the seeming brokenness of the world. It seems to remain broken, no matter how much good he does. He has trouble fitting a loving, personal, benevolent God into this reality.

The clip ends, with the President of the United States lighting up like an old school greaser from The Outsiders, turning back to the altar, and telling God that they should take a “divide and conquer” approach to reelection.

It’s almost as if, having spoken his mind, he can return to his calling.

This is the strange but necessary element to getting a good night sleep:

It starts with Accusing God.

We have to learn to be honest, both with ourselves and with God. Jesus himself modeled this honest dialogue.

You can listen to the rest here.