the long way home (coming soon)

the blog of Pal Burkhart

Category: Christianity/Theology (page 1 of 24)

Wikileaks, Lies, & Truth: Who to Trust?

I have been watching, reading, and pouring over the events surrounding Wikileaks, wanting to write some sort of thoughtful commentary. But, as The Atlantic points out, this event has brought about some of the best journalism, political analysis, and writing we’ve seen in years and I find it difficult to try and say something newer or more insightful than those that are more knowledgeable of the past and have more time and acquaintance with the primary sources in question. With more of these leaked diplomatic cables being released every day, this coverage is literally non-stop. My productivity at worked has suffered because of the tangled web of links one can get caught in going from one story to the next to the next; I have at least a couple dozen quotes and links saved in my Evernote notetaking app in order to use in some future writing (or present).

But nevertheless, even among my friends who care about this situation, there appears to be some common misconceptions about this whole situation, leading them to direct their frustrations, diatribes, and anger in the wrong direction. I wish to clarify some of those here today. First, I must say on the outset that I am absolutely, entirely in favor of most all that Wikileaks has done and is doing. I think they are serving America’s longterm interest and the well-being of its citizenry far more than even our own federal government is doing. Do I think they have done everything perfectly and responsibly? No, but no four-year old media organization can be said to have done so. Wikileaks has (and will) make mistakes–its founder has even admitted that–but so will/has our federal government in its own “attempts” at serving the greater good. The only question remains: who do you think does more damage when they make those inevitable mistakes (the government or Wikileaks?), and therefore, who requires more scrutiny, responsibility, accountability, and fear of being out of control? I (as well as Glenn Greenwald and The Economist) wholeheartedly fear the results of a government out of control more than a Wikileaks out of control. But, in fact (as we move on to the misconceptions) ….
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On History & Economics, a Book Review: “Popes & Bankers”by Jack Cashill

cashillI have a new article up on Patrol Magazine (yeah, I know; it’s the first in a long while).  Patrol recently changed up the philosophy and design of the site, making it much more of a blog-type format, as well as trying to focus more on consistently substantive and “Christianly” reflections on the world today.  In the spirit of that, today was posted I review I wrote for Thomas Nelson Publishers on Jack Cashill‘s newest book, Popes & Bankers.  Some of you may remember that while I was in the middle of reading the book, I wrote for Patrol about Cashill, and how I thought he was a propagandist, revisionist historian, and (frankly) crazy.  I also mused about how it was that Thomas Nelson Publishers, a Christian publishing house came to publish this particular book.  This caused a response from someone involved in the nonfiction acquisitions process at Thomas Nelson that was involved in getting Popes & Bankers published.  I get what he was saying at the time, but even now, after having finished the book, I stand by what I said.  You can read the exchange below after the link and the break.  Enjoy the review and leave your comments!

Review: “Popes & Bankers,” By Jack Cashill | Patrol Magazine

Here was the exchange:
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REVIEW: “Outlive Your Life” by Max Lucado

Max Lucado-Outlive Your Life

Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference
by Max Lucado
Thomas Nelson, 2010
My Rating: 3/5
Purchase at Amazon


“Social Justice” is all the rage right now. The swaths of American twentysomethings serious about their faith who have found Evangelicalism to have a heart inflamed for the wrong things, a head stuck in the wrong places, and absolutely no legs at all have tried to wrestle with and take seriously the call for God’s people to be not simply his “ambassadors” or “proclaimers”, but rather his very Hands, Feet, and Presence. Movements like Shane Claibourne’s The Simple Way here in Philadelphia and New Monasticism have shaken many from the fog of an (ultimately inadequate) purely intellectual faith into a faith that is firmly rooted in life. As Calvin put it, “For we cannot with propriety say, there is any knowledge of God, where there is no religion or piety.” In other words, the truest knowledge of God and His Gospel is found in its practice just as much (if not more) than in its content.
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My Brother’s Keeping (Happy Birthday, Matthew)

As is now becoming a typical preface to the American twenty-something story, I was raised in an Evangelical family. It wasn’t until high school though that these ideas began affecting my soul. But, being in my watered-down southern Baptist experience, the spiritual appetites this “awakening” had produced were never satiated. I longed for the deeper things of God that I had only then, 16 years or so down this journey, realized were even there: a God that cared about far more than “consistent quiet times” and “witnessing to my friends”. A God whose call for me was not first and foremost to fight the modern-day vicars of Darwin (my public school science teachers), but a God whose call for me was a call for me – a deity far more interested in my enjoyment in Him rather than my service to Him – who sovereignly and independently called out for me through the fog of my emotionally turbulent, perpetually “emo” high school existence into a new, vibrant, and abundant emotionally turbulent, perpetually “emo” high school existence. Me and my crew of fellow impassioned “youth groupies” who met at the JAM House (Jesus And Me) every Wednesday night longed for growing miles deep when the church seemed far more interested in growing miles wide.

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The Best Wedding Scripture Reading Ever (Marriage Blessings, Andrew & Laura!)

One of my dearest friends, Andrew Vogel, got married two weeks ago (p.s. He has an amazing blog). He had originally asked me to do this Scripture Reading at the wedding. But unfortunately, the drive from Philly to Newark, Ohio is a long one, and many variables can make for much delay, and indeed, this is what happened.  (Amy and I went on to the rest of our plans: a wonderful visit to God’s country, Pittsburgh).  Anyway, to add to the pain of this loss, this particular set of Scriptures that I was going to have the honor of reading just happens to be the best set of Scripture readings I’ve ever encountered for a wedding.  No Song of Solomon or 1 Corinthians 13 here; just a proper and exegetically sound exploration of the sweeping story of God’s relationship with his own Bride.  Therefore, I felt compelled to share these verses with you today.  May they stir and woo you for Bridegroom for Whom your soul was made.

Andrew and Laura, I pray that this feeble attempt at publicly participating in the celebration of your union communicates the love and grace of our Lord to your hearts.  May it bless you.

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A Theology of Water & Justice (Blog Action Day 2010)

Every year, sponsors its Blog Action Day, where they take an issue of world importance and try to get as many bloggers writing posts about as possible, hoping for a viral effect that can influence larger political structures. This year’s topic is global access to clean water. I had known this was an issue, and an issue of importance, but it wasn’t until I signed on to write this post and started researching it that I realized what all it entailed.

The Problem

“Social Justice-y” issues are in style right now. As globalization and social media collide, our global neighbors are feeling ever and ever closer, and our awareness to global issues is rising. What’s your little pet issue? Women’s rights? Children’s rights? Animal right? Poverty? The Environment? Global conflict and wars? As the website points out in its suggested post ideas page, this clean water access issue is a primary factor in all of the above areas. Unclean and unsafe water is the primary cause of 80% of all disease and it kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war. 90% of all of these deaths happen to children (source). Many global wars, including the conflict in Darfur can find their root in water access (source). The hours spent finding, carrying, and distributing water–and not going to school or working–are so numerous that it is a major source of poverty in the world (source). Indeed, there are even more implications for this most basic of issues, and they are well-catalogued on that “suggested post ideas” page, but these were the issues that struck me most.

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I Am A Fearful Man (and i need to get over it) {pt3}

Finally, this is done. This is the last post in a three-part series that’s been walking through my development as a thinker and feeler in this world. The first part, at its core, was about the culture and world around me as I grew up that helped cultivate the arrogance I still war against inside me. The second part was about the things that have humbled me and showed me my finitude. So where does that leave me now; and why does it warrant this little series?

The confluence of all of these forces (of arrogance and humbling) has made a very interesting creature out of me as of late. A recent trip back home to visit my parents found me getting into several vehement fights with them over (of all things) politics. It’s not even that I disagree with them very much! It was mainly a frustration over just how unwavering and (I felt) naively arrogant their commitment to these ideas were. In short, I was getting mad that they seemed to allow no room for disagreement or for them to be wrong. A couple of times my Dad asked me, well what do you think? And I realized I had no answer. All I knew was that no one could know so surely what was right. Why? Because God had showed me in the past several years that I couldn’t. And if I (of all people) couldn’t know with certainty, then surely no one else out there could, right? (P.S.- that was sarcasm) It all culminated in a moment where my dad pretty much said that my writing had been steadily losing it’s quality ever since the “pinnacle of my writing”: a post I wrote called “On Holy Week, Suicidal Ideations, & My Heart“.

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Unceasing Worship (a liturgy)

[photo by p*p on flickr]

[This was a liturgy I delivered at my church this past Sunday as we continued our series from Luke called “conversations with jesus”.  Here is the audio from the message that followed this opening liturgy.  Much of this opening material I stole from the incredible book Unceasing Worship by Harold Best]

Greeting and Preparation

Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.

Hello, my name is Paul, and I want to welcome you Liberti Church. Liberti is a community of individuals still trying to figure out this Christian faith we’ve found ourselves in. And if you’re around here long enough you’ll see that we all do this to varying degrees of imperfection, more often than not. So, whether this is your first time here, or you are firmly rooted in this community, I hope that your time here today is meaningful; that you feel warmly welcomed and that you are able to experience the God we love in a tangible, real way.

In a few moments we’re going to stand and do the whole traditional, super structured, church thing. We’re going to read things back and forth, say them together, sing some songs, stand up, sit down, stand up again, say hello to one another and listen to a sermon. It’s easy to look at all this and begin to think that all these trappings and movements are what it means to be a Christian; that this is the substance of our faith. It’s easy; after all, we can see, observe, and measure our participation of these things.  But that’s not why we do this.

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I Am A Fearful Man (and i need to get over it) {pt2}

And… intensity at work, lack of sleep, church home group beginnings, Fall TV premieres, a trip with the lady to meet the parents, and two weeks later, I find myself here, computer atop my lap, typing these words over a bowl of stove-top-made oatmeal. I’m ready to pick this blog post up again after more facebook, blog comments, and text messages than usual asking when the next post would be. This sets up a pressure under which I don’t work well, but it’s a pressure I feel is appropriate to bring up considering the content to follow.

In my last post, I unpacked a bit of my own story which has led me to often be perceived as an arrogant overly-sure man–and indeed I see this in myself often. But I went on to point out how this arrogance is not necessarily at its root sprung from pride or over-confidence, but rather a deep fear and insecurity that at the end of all things I wouldn’t be found pleasing to the God I know I love.

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I Am A Fearful Man (and i need to get over it) {pt1}

Oh the perils of post-modernity.

There once was a time where I was arrogant in what I thought I knew. I know, I know, many of you are thinking “once”? Let me explain.

I grew up in the South; or at least (if you don’t believe Dallas is in the True South) the Bible Belt. I was raised in an atmosphere that choked with fundamentalism. What’s more, I was fully enveloped in this culture as a Southern Baptist, and all of the cultural retardation that accompanied it. Most everyone in my world was “religious”. Actors and “liberals” were the only ones that were “atheists”, and they were all in Hollywood, D.C., or Berekeley–far, far away. I lived my younger years not knowing even of the existence of other “denominations”. Everyone in Texas was either Catholic or Southern Baptist, and in Sunday School they taught me that Catholics believed in salvation by works and were therefore not going to heaven anyway. Only we Baptists were right. In short, I grew up with a sense that I was part of the cosmic “in” crowd: God’s One and Only Faithful.

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