June 30, 2008
After reading page 187 of Brian McLaren’s new book, the Jesus Manifesto community is even more blessed to have Brian sit down and accept my request for an interview. It is on that page that he reveals one area of his life where spiritual practices have helped him manage his anxiety and discomfort–answering emails day in and day out. Perhaps my email was a spiritual trial of sorts, meant for Mr. McLaren to be made complete and “lacking in nothing”. At any rate, I hope my email gave Brian the chance to practice some of that “everyday sacredness” that he plugs in Finding Our Way Again. For Brian’s complete bio, check out his website.
So what’s an author whose written about a “new kind of Christian” and who supposedly carries a banner for emerging forms of Christianity doing writing an introduction to a series on ancient ideas?
Yeah, I guess it’s kind of ironic. But then again … one of the characteristics of modernity is the claim that we – we modern, Western, Protestant, Evangelical-fundamentalist-charismatic, and otherwise modified Christians – finally have it right, unlike the backward unenlightened generations that preceded us. One of the postmodern critiques of modernity is that we moderns threw out some babies with the bathwater and that we banished one too many ghosts in our eradication of premodern superstition, namely, the Holy Ghost. So, for Protestants to say we need to learn from Catholics, or for Western Christians to say we need to learn from the East, or for post-Enlightenment folks to say we need to learn from pre-Enlightenment folks … that’s all very much in keeping with the kinds of things I and my friends have been writing about in recent years. Read more
April 18, 2008
April 6, 2008
Today we kick off the new interviews section of Jesus Manifesto by interviewing Logan Laituri.
JM: Hello Logan, tell us a little bit about who you are.
Well, I can’t imagine answering that question without briefly addressing who I was. I grew up in Orange County, CA, which to me seemed to be the materialism capital of the world. Being lower middle class, I felt very disadvantaged. My folks did an awesome job providing for us, though, and I fell into the youth group routine after I was arrested for shoplifting at 14. My parents had split up and I apparently felt that was a great way to get some attention. For four years in high school, I almost literally wore my religion on my sleeve; I put it on while I was at church and took it off as soon as I was home. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my church (and still do, I return every time I’m home), but I saw a lot of superficial faith, and I really thought that was all there was to being a Christian. My faith was just a series of things I was not supposed to do (drink, smoke, have sex, etc.). Christianity was a simplistic, restrictive lifestyle that I followed very intermittently. I took that perspective with me when I signed up for the Army a few months before I graduated.
Looking back on my past, I am very grateful for the things I learned, the easy and the really difficult lessons alike. I completed my Military Service Obligation (MSO) a few weeks ago, and I am hoping to start college next fall. In the meantime, I am working for peace in every way I can find. Currently, I am employed as a developer for a very small but ambitious nonprofit. Additionally, I am very active in an organization called Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), because as a Christian, I feel it is imperative that I reject war in all forms, and I also happen to be an Iraq War veteran. I might be a unique member in that I came to these beliefs not as some political reaction to the war, but as a direct response to the call of Christ to be nonviolent; to love, not destroy, our enemies. I always hesitate to call myself a pacifist, however, because the root of the word implies that such a person is passive. Nonviolence, and similarly Christianity, is quite a vigorous endeavor, far from being docile or merely a reaction to the culture around us. One should take close notice that in the Beatitudes, the folks who most directly reflect God’s character (who are called ‘children of the Most High’) are called to make peace (not keep, or enjoy or just promote it); to deliberately and actively create peace where there is none. I hope that I am known as a peacemaker, as a blessed son of God.
Yours is an interesting story. There are (thankfully) many peacemakers in our world, but you’re the first peacemaker I’ve talked to who came to their nonviolent convictions while enlisted. What led you to the conviction that you cannot love your enemy while trying to kill them?
The first time I considered that I might have the wrong take on the Bible was many months after I had returned from my combat tour in Iraq. I had met a family that really lived out the word of God everyday. They knew the Bible was not just a Basic Instruction Manual Before Leaving Earth (B.I.B.L.E.), it was a romance novel describing the dynamic relationship between the Creator and His creation. When I sought advice about various issues, the father of the family almost had a script it seemed. Every question I brought before him was answered by a simple “It’s about love Logan.” A four letter word contained the solution to every problem I could imagine. It seems a bit too simple minded, but in a world that is as individualized and materialized as ours, you realize that it really is very complicated to apply that ideology. Christ even said that we would be persecuted and cursed because of it!
When I began to accept the truth in what he had taught me, I knew I had to objectively consider whether I could fulfill that great commission while employed in very indiscriminate forms of violence as a forward observer in the US Army. When I returned to him to ask his thoughts on justice and war, the story changed. He expressed his belief that we were serving divine justice in the Middle East through our violence against Muslims. I had had discussions with other Christians within the military and heard similar thoughts, but none of them jived with the repeated exhortations by our King to love our enemy. Regardless of where I went with nonviolence, my mentor reminded me, he would respect and support me, as it was a decision he had never been asked to make, and he could sympathize with the immense pressure I faced in concretely answering no to violence and yes to grace. As much as I could explain the roots of the Christian practice of vicarious suffering (wherein we adopt our neighbors’ sufferings as our own, never forcing that yoke upon their shoulders), it will forever be a bit of a mystery, a sacrament of the Church, that must not be displaced from it’s centrality in Christian discipleship.