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28 January 2007 Issue

1. Leafleting Feedback

2. An Urgent Call to Action: Scientists and Evangelicals Unite to Protect Creation

3. Christianity and Violence: Questions Raised by Parabolic Teaching

1. Leafleting Feedback
Jackie, leafleting at a AZ Phoenix 1/25 Chris Tomlin Christian Rock Concert in Phoenix, AZ on 1/25 writes: I leafleted the concert Thursday and Friday. Things went smoothly and it was easy to hand out the 500 booklets.

Featured Upcoming Events

2/10 AL Mobile Steven Curtis Chapman Winter Jam 2/10 FL Palmetto Bill Bailey' 2007 Winter Gospel Music Convention 2/10 WV Beckley Barlow Girl Christian Rock Concert
2/13 CA Sacramento CeCe Winans Christian Concert
2/15 OH Mansfield CeCe Winans Christian Concert
2/15 VA Roanoke Steven Curtis Chapman Winter Jam
2/15 MI Detroit Newsboys Christian Rock Concert
2/16 MI Detroit Living Proof Live with Beth Moore
2/16 HI Kailua Kona Sonic Flood Christian Rock Concert
2/16 SC Greenville Steven Curtis Chapman Winter Jam
2/16 SC Greenville Steven Curtis Chapman Winter Jam
2/17 NC Greensboro Steven Curtis Chapman Winter Jam
2/18 FL Tampa CeCe Winans Christian Concert
2/18 VA Norfolk Steven Curtis Chapman Winter Jam
2/18 MI Kalamazoo Newsboys Christian Rock Concert

2. An Urgent Call to Action:
Scientists and Evangelicals Unite to Protect Creation January 17, 2007 National Press Club, Washington, D.C.


Scientific and evangelical leaders recently met to search for common ground in the protection of the creation. We happily discovered far more concordance than any of us had expected, quickly moving beyond dialogue to a
shared sense of moral purpose. Important initiatives were already underway on both sides, and when compared they were found to be broadly overlapping.

We clearly share a moral passion and sense of vocation to save the imperiled living world before our damages to it remake it as another kind of planet.

We agree not only that reckless human activity has imperiled the Earth-especially the unsustainable and short-sighted lifestyles and public policies of our own nation-but also that we share a profound moral
obligation to work together to call our nation, and other nations, to the kind of dramatic change urgently required in our day. We pledge our joint commitment to this effort in the unique moment now upon us.


This meeting was convened by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and the National Association of Evangelicals.

It was envisioned as a first exploratory conference, based on a shared concern for the creation, to be held among people who were in some ways quite different in their worldviews. It now seems to us to be the beginning point of a major shared effort among scientists andevangelicals
to protect life on Earth and the fragile life support systems that sustain it, drawing on the unique intellectual, spiritual, and moral contributions that each community can bring.

Our Shared Concern

We agree that our home, the Earth, which comes to us as that inexpressibly beautiful and mysterious gift that sustains our very lives, is seriously imperiled by human behavior. The harm is seen throughout the natural world,
including a cascading set of problems such as climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, and species extinctions, as well as the spread of human infectious diseases, and other accelerating threats to the health of
people and the well-being of societies.

Each particular problem could be enumerated, but here it is enough to say that we are gradually destroying  the sustaining community of life on which all living things on Earth depend. The costs of this destruction are already manifesting themselves around the world in profound and painful ways.

The cost to humanity is already significant and may soon become incalculable. Being irreversible, many of these changes would affect all generations to come. We believe that the protection of life on Earth is a profound moral imperative.

It addresses without discrimination the interests of all humanity as well as the value of the non-human world. It requires a new moral awakening to a compelling demand, clearly articulated in Scripture and supported by science, that we must steward the natural world in order to preserve for ourselves and future generations a beautiful, rich, and healthful environment.

For many of us, this is a religious obligation, rooted in our sense of gratitude for Creation and reverence for its Creator. One fundamental motivation that we share is concern for the poorest of the poor, well over a billion people, who have little chance to improve their lives in devastated and often war-ravaged environments.

At the same time, the natural environments in which they live, and where so much of Earth's biodiversity barely hangs on, cannot survive the press of destitute people without other resources and with nowhere else to go. We declare that every sector of our nation's leadership-religious, scientific, business, political, and educational-must act now to work toward the fundamental change in values, lifestyles, and public policies require to address these worsening problems before it is too late. There is no excuse for further delays. Business as usual cannot
continue yet one more day.

We pledge to work together at every level to lead our nation toward a responsible care for creation, and we call with one voice to our scientific and evangelical colleagues, and to all others, to join us in these efforts.

Religion and Climate Change

3. Christianity and Violence: Questions Raised by Parabolic Teaching

[This series reflects my views and not "official" CVA positions. It is being archived at http://www.christianveg.org/violence_view.htm.]

Jesus' speaking in parables raises several challenging questions.

First, if it is true that people have always ignored or killed true prophets who have revealed the scandal of scapegoating, how did their writings become
parts of the Jewish Holy Scriptures and, later, the Bible

Perhaps the ancient Hebrews were starting to recognize the scapegoating process, in which case prophetic writings with non-sacrificial messages resonated with
them. The Bible relates that God gave the Hebrews the revelation of monotheism, which was enshrined in the First Commandment. If a critically important aspect of monotheism is that it envisions God as having one essence, and if that essence is love (see 1 John 4:8, 4:16, the ancient Hebrews would have recognized truth in prophets who decried the violence and injustice of scapegoating.

Monotheism also works against scapegoating by
discouraging idolatry, which involves projecting human desires onto the divine. People have always attributed their own scapegoating to divine will, but monotheism makes it harder to engage in such idolatry, because a
God with one essence cannot both love Creation and want to see parts of it destroyed.1

As much as other people, the Hebrews were discomforted by prophets who revealed the scandal of "sacred" violence. However, the Hebrews differed from other people in that their monotheism provided a dim awareness that the prophets may have grasped some profound truths.

This view would help explain why they saved and revered the prophetic writings, even as they shrunk from fully internalizing the later prophets' claims that God does not
want sacrifices (Hosea 6:6; Jeremiah 6:20, 7:22; Amos 5:21-22; Micah 6:6-8).

The Hebrews' recognition of the scapegoating process reached a peak with the Songs of the Suffering Servant. It is not remarkable that the Suffering Servant was a victim of scapegoating, which has been a universal phenomenon.

What is striking is that Isaiah recognized the scapegoating process at work, an insight that qualifies Isaiah as a true prophet.

Second, what did Matthew mean when he said that Jesus spoke in parables "to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet" (Matthew 13:35)?

This relates to Psalm 78, in which the prophet Asaph wrote, "I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us" (78:2-3). Asaph then described God's anger at the Hebrews' lack of faith after the Exodus from Egypt, while they lived in the wilderness.

The Hebrews experienced much violence and death, which Asaph attributed to God. According to Asaph, the people's craving for flesh so angered God that God ". . . slew the strongest of them, and laid low the picked men of Israel" (78:31). This likely relates to Numbers 11:31-33, in which the Hebrews in the desert craved meat, even though there was plenty of manna. God provided abundant quail, and "While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a very great plague" (11:33).

Perhaps the term "plague" was meant to describe a rash of violence that occurred because everyone attempted to grab as many quail as possible. It is possible that God was particularly displeased that the Hebrews craved
flesh when there was ample non-animal food available.

Just as Adam and Eve were not satisfied by the plant foods God had provided in Eden, the Hebrews in the desert desired what God did not want them to have.

According to Asaph, recalling the "dark sayings from of old" will identify the Hebrews' past faithlessness and remind the Hebrews of the importance of keeping God's commandments (78:7-8).

A Girardian reading indicates that faithlessness involves not trusting in God's judgment. Consequently, people "punish" according to their own human judgment, which
invariably leads to scapegoating.

Third, how can we recognize our own scapegoating

People have always found it easy to recognize when other people scapegoat; it is much more difficult to identify their own scapegoating, because they tend to regard
their own violence as righteousness and justice.

Perhaps the best way to avoid participating in scapegoating is to listen to the voice of the victims, but we resist hearing their stories, because doing so can make us aware of our personal failings and our own contributions to the strife that plagues our communities. It is easier to look upon past generations and condemn their victimization (e.g., America's crimes against Native Americans) than to acknowledge contemporary scapegoating (e.g.,America's crimes against animals). A second way that we can avoid scapegoating is to remain mindful that it happens. If we find that our anger is growing, we must step back and, as detached as possible, assess the situation.

An excellent strategy is to mentally put oneself in the place of those with whom we are angry and ask, "How would they describe the situation? How would they defend their actions?"

Fourth, if the scapegoating process has been hidden since the foundation of the world, how have we come to recognize it? Girard has said that we have a book that fully articulates the scapegoating process - the Bible. Without it, we might be unable to recognize our participation.

Fifth, why has it taken so long for us to recognize the scapegoating process, if the Bible so clearly describes it? Perhaps, because people have intuitively known that scapegoating has helped keep communities together,
they have resisted internalizing Jesus' teaching that scapegoating is universal and scandalous.

Christianity's non-sacrificial message has become
more obvious as modern anthropologists have shown that analogous myths, rituals, and taboos have existed throughout the world, all of which have involved or related back to blood sacrifices. Upon recognizing that
scapegoating is universal, we may more readily see how the Bible speaks to us when it exposes the scandal of scapegoating.

Sixth, if Christianity has revealed the scapegoating process, why have Christians so often participated in scapegoating, e.g., against people of color, indigenous peoples, homosexuals, and animals? I think that,
individually, we find it tempting to project our own anger and violence onto other people and believe that "punishing" them is just. Collectively, Christian communities have been drawn to myth, ritual, and taboo for similar reasons as other people throughout the world.

Last, if scapegoating keeps communities together, are we doomed to widespread chaos and violence without scapegoating? I do not think so. In addition to revealing the problem - scapegoating - the Bible also offers ways that we may transcend this universal human tendency. For insight, we will look at several parables over the next few weeks.

1. Does the Flood contradict the view that God does not want to see Creation destroyed? To my reading, God was dismayed by violence and saw no alternative to destroying most of the earth with a great flood. God's regret about taking such drastic measures was so great that God made a covenant with humankind and all the animals never to flood the earth again.

Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Your question and comments are welcome

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