Epistles and Psalms

The Blog of Bobby Ray Hurd

Month: May, 2012

Psalm: Wooden Heart (by Listener)

If you follow me on Facebook (or know me in person), I have shared this with many of you in the last few months.

If anyone were to ever ask what I feel sums up what Simple Church is trying to be and what I feel the Church should be like, I would point them to this poem. It is by far one of the most deeply meaningful, beautiful, and profound things I have ever heard. I will let it speak for itself. Reflect on this a while…let it hold you. Now breathe.

We’re all born to broken people on their most honest day of living
and since that first breath… We’ll need grace that we’ve never given
I’ve been haunted by standard red devils and white ghosts
and it’s not only when these eyes are closed
these lies are ropes that I tie down in my stomach,
but they hold this ship together tossed like leaves in this weather
and my dreams are sails that I point towards my true north,
stretched thin over my rib bones, and pray that it gets better
but it won’t won’t, at least I don’t believe it will…
so I’ve built a wooden heart inside this iron ship,
to sail these blood red seas and find your coasts.
don’t let these waves wash away your hopes
this war-ship is sinking, and I still believe in anchors
pulling fist fulls of rotten wood from my heart, I still believe in saviors
but I know that we are all made out of shipwrecks, every single board
washed and bound like crooked teeth on these rocky shores
so come on and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

I am the barely living son of a woman and man who barely made it
but we’re making it taped together on borrowed crutches and new starts
we all have the same holes in our hearts…
everything falls apart at the exact same time
that it all comes together perfectly for the next step
but my fear is this prison… that I keep locked below the main deck
I keep a key under my pillow, it’s quiet and it’s hidden
and my hopes are weapons that I’m still learning how to use right
but they’re heavy and I’m awkward…always running out of fight
so I’ve carved a wooden heart, put it in this sinking ship
hoping it would help me float for just a few more weeks
because I am made out of shipwrecks, every twisted beam
lost and found like you and me scattered out on the sea
so come on let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, just some tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

My throat it still tastes like house fire and salt water
I wear this tide like loose skin, rock me to sea
if we hold on tight we’ll hold each other together
and not just be some fools rushing to die in our sleep
all these machines will rust I promise, but we’ll still be electric
shocking each other back to life
Your hand in mine, my fingers in your veins connected
our bones grown together inside
our hands entwined, your fingers in my veins braided
our spines grown stronger in time
because are church is made out of shipwrecks
from every hull these rocks have claimed
but we pick ourselves up, and try and grow better through the change
so come on yall and let’s wash each other with tears of joy and tears of grief
and fold our lives like crashing waves and run up on this beach
come on and sew us together, were just tattered rags stained forever
we only have what we remember

from Wooden Heart Poems, released 06 July 2010

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Epistle: Pax Romana– Remembering Rightly and Memorializing Righteously

Dear Friends,

As you memorialize those who die for what is good in the world (right, wrong, or indifferent), may you also remember an obscure, Jewish rabbi who lived two thousand years ago in the Roman-occupied Near East. He was betrayed by his closest friends– tortured and killed by the treachery of the religious elite and conquering powers of his day (Rome). May you also remember (or come to accept) that he died for all that is good in this world and, therefore, remember that there is no need to celebrate death given at the hands of nationalism any longer.

May you remember that his death has left an alternative to the violence of the world called the Church; a gathering of Christ’s followers who live as if this death has left an immanent call on our lives to do as Christ did by defeating powers that cannot worship the free G-d but only the divine appointment of themselves that often results in something like this:

Pax Romana

On this Memorial Day, may you remember that this sort of death and sacrifice is what is worth memorializing; and may you also remember those heroes called saints and martyrs who have stood in the face of the world’s violence to preserve the meaning of Christ’s life and death; the sort of death that births life through selfless mercy rather than the perpetuation of death posed by the arrogance of empire, the temporariness of domain, and the futility of war.

Let us remember Jesus received his penalty for being perceived as a revolutionary– a threat to “peaceful” society, as He preached the radically subversive Gospel of G-d’s Kingdom that dismantled the theological need for nationalistic pageantry in all its forms (whether Roman, Jewish, pagan, or American).

Let us remember that Jesus was a social critic and an agitator; a drop-out from the social climb that assumes one can attain true peace through the peace of empire (Pax Romana) that cannot believe beyond the authority and supremacy of their self-justified cult celebrated on holidays that look much like Memorial Day.

Let us remember that the “Pax Romana” is peace by the security of the empire’s sword rather than the grace and liberation of G-d.

Let us remember that Jesus– amidst a culture whose minds were completely captive to the “Pax Romana”– was the spokesperson of a counterculture; an “upside-down”, alternative kingdom; one he perceived truly liberates people from the farcical “peace” of the violent Pax Romana that knows nothing of G-d’s grace but only the self-important genius of self-justification.

Today, it has become quite clear that the common American patriot and many American Christians can hardly be distinguished from each other. It seems we would rather choose to remember the self-justified works of our guns, bombs, and military genius of soldiery that only perpetuate the violence of the world. Today, I am overcome with sadness as I lament that distinguishing from the Pax Romana and the Pax Americana is increasingly difficult on days like these; because by celebrating this day’s idolatrous pageantry, you celebrate the war crimes of those of those “fallen:”

Pax Americana

On “holidays” like today, I am reminded that American Christians have widely fallen into the same historical delusion that killed Jesus; and such idolatry continues to kill Jesus and the Spirit from which he acted as it is manipulated into another representation of what Jesus clearly renounced through his death on the Cross.

My call to you today is refusing to be fooled by the propaganda of the empire you live in. Do not believe in the straw men and twisted propaganda that the American media sends out to convince the public they are fighting for peace. Jesus knew nothing of such “peace” as that defined by the cult of empire.

When defended with violence by his close friend Peter, Jesus says, “All who use swords are destroyed by swords” (Matt 2652 MSG). Then Jesus asks those arresting him, “Am I leading a rebellion…that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” (Matt 26:55 TNIV). I am sure that the casualities of the many American bombings on Middle Eastern soil were thinking similar when they were bombed, shot, and murdered. Perhaps they were thinking, “Are the people bombing me so threatened by me that they must kill my family, friends, and neighbors?”

Therefore, may you believe better for yourselves, your families, and your communities and choose to worship an authority that calls us out of intellectual and physical slavery to the temporary kingdoms of this world. Today, do not say “God Bless America” and call it righteous remembrance or a righteous memorial. Nothing could be further from the truth given our current circumstances.

Today, on Memorial Day, may you remember that this:

Pax Romana

Is this similar to this:

Pax Americana

Today, may you remember and celebrate the ways of war no more. Do not believe in the “peace” of security but the “peace” that comes through long-suffering and mercy. Today, may you memorialize the death of the “peace of empire” brought to judgement on Calvary through remembering the saints of martyrs of the Church; not the tragic deaths of those who were were led to sin like cattle to the slaughter through their idolatrous worship of militant nationalism.

Why Women Should Still be Silent; Why Men Should Too (Part 3)

8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety— I Timothy 2:8-15

Dear Friends,

In respect and submission to the context of theological and ethical powerlessness, what does Timothy then offer as an alternative lifestyle of worship to the coercive, graceless political powerfulness of this world to his sisters in Christ? He beckons her to good works.

Why is this?

Because for Paul, there is a relationship between “good works” and the rejection of a spirit of worship that rejoices in powerfulness and gracelessness. Therefore, there is a connection between doing good to your neighbor and powerlessness. In fact, Paul communicates here that there are no good works that are powerful in a sense of the graceless and powerful cults of the world.

Therefore, neither it is not acceptable that a sister in Christ be coercive in her presence for G-d’s liberation to be manifest in her life; this is even in the wake of there being injustice that only a woman could know. Therefore, as a way of vanquishing a religious spirit of powerful gender politics, she is asked to deny her powerfulness and take up her cross by performing good works in remembrance of Christ. Therefore, take notice to the theology that contextualizes what an appropriate expression of “good works” is here — they are works submissive to the peculiar claims of the gospel that they should overcome the world by refusing to enter into its cycle of political domination and revolution.

In submission to this theology, she is, once again, a model of godliness. In submission to this distinctly christological commitment, she is the greatest of Christian leaders in a way that proclaims great authority in her community.

Nevertheless, how should we then understand verses 11 and 12 that proclaim it is not permissible for a woman to be the teacher of a man? The answer is simple. It is unacceptable for Christian worship to act in “authority over” one of their equally powerless brothers in Christ– it is, once again, their place to be in silence and in a mode of listening that does not act in “power over” another but out of grace, powerlessness, mercy, silence, and love for her brothers. Therefore, a newly liberated female from the tyranny if the cult of man should not use her freedom to become the new dictator– she should sit in silence and pray for the repentance of herself and her brothers in Christ of which there is no distinction between male or female but only worship of the powerless Christ.

And so, set in this context of sound Christology, this completely reframes how we understand holy gender relations in the community of Christ. Thus, we are faced with the grave reality that we, as Enlightened Westerners, have failed to set our communities is a context of powerlessness and, thus, lust for political power despite each other in the slirit of the self-justified cult of gender. Thus, because of this exegetical failure, we read the Timothian letter as if it were some primitive expression of dangerous patriarchy. But as we have seen here, Timothy is not advocating for patriarchy at all; but an ethic of powerlessness normative for how the community carries on relating to each other.

Therefore, I can do nothing here but agree with Paul, and I call you to agree with him too. It is essential to Christian worship that we should seek the fruit of powerlessness in our communities. And so, we should consider the possibility that simplicity (v. 9), good works (v10), silence before G-d (v.11), listening to each other (v.12), that the “knowledge of good and evil” is why we cannot know G-d (12-13), and that those who live powerfully and gracelessly will be saved by their children– because the children of the powerful will eventually come to reject the arrogance of their parents’ power-mongering as G-d rescues them from the tyranny of their gracelessness (v.15).

And so, may you be silent, powerless, and graceful before each other; and it’s damn time we decided this is still how we should act with each other.

Be Powerless,

Bobby Ray

Epistle: Reflections on Hitler and Osama bin Laden– Retribution AT BEST!

Dear Friends,

Several years ago, I had an email correspondence with pastor Greg Boyd. I was wrestling with a Christian response to how Christians should answer the questions presented by rulers like Hitler, the brand of revolutionary violence proposed by Osama bin Laden, and the “just wars” and “just violence” that often emerge from the trouble that they propose. I’d like to recall the fruit of that conversation and share some very personal thoughts with all of you as well.

The killing of Osama bin Laden is retribution at best; just like the killing of Hitler would have been had he not committed suicide. Though many Christians (including myself) would consider any act of murder sin, I must admit that I am not naive of the fact that his murder will benefit Western rule, democracy, and that which the West holds to be their most cherished values and philosophical norms. Nor am I naive that the actions of the American military benefit me; because I live in America.

In light of this, I would like to say this briefly, because I find it disturbing that many Christians find the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death to be a moment of celebration when it is anything but:

Just because the killing of a tyrant like Hitler or bin Laden is “just” doesn’t mean followers of Jesus should participate in it, advocate for it, and most definitely not celebrate the murder of them.  When they met the edge of the sword that was swung before them, they then chose to swing rather than put their sword (or AK47) down. They then reached their demise because of these patterns of swinging the sword. Those who live by swords die by them is not some morality; its a fallen liturgical reality and a reflection of the depravity of mankind.

This is why Christians are called to:

–A higher standard than “justice.” We are called to love our enemies, do good to them, and serve them; including the Hitlers and bin Ladens of the world.

–In doing this, we bear witness to a kingdom that is “not of this world.”

People always say, “Well, if all Christians did this we’d all be Nazis”  or “Well, if all Christians acted this way, Osama would eventually enslave the world to his brand of Islam.” To which I say:

A) You have to trust G-d at some point

B) If all Christians acted like this, there would not be any Nazis since good German Lutherans and Catholics fought in Hitler’s armies.

C) If all Christians obeyed Jesus, there would not have been the centuries of anti-semetism in Prussia/Germany that made the Holocaust possible.

D) If all Christians obeyed Jesus, than it would be likely that some of the violent and corrupt patterns of America– the so called “Christian nation”– would not have provoked bin Laden to believe America was an evil power needing to be destroyed. Such as, acts of imposition on other Arab countries for their oil and stationing a military base in their holy land.

When you swing the sword, it swings in all directions, and when you fail to live peaceably with all people, you begin giving yourselves the excuse to neglect loving your neightbor in order to preserve your interests by any means necessary to preserve them.

What happens all the time is:

–The church fails to be the church which creates

–the “need’ for war and the “need” to resort to murder; which then leads people to

–tell Christians they must join in the war or resort to violence else evil will take over. In other words, we use the failure of the Church to justify the Church continuing to not be the Church.

I say, lets trust G-d to run the world and keep going back to “A”; and do so relentlessly.

WE did not kill Osama bin Ladin; the patterns of violence in which we are bent and in bondage to claimed yet another life the Lord gives unsurpassable worth. This is yet another example of a world held captive to religious hubris; both Islam and the American civil religion alike. This is yet another example of one who lives by swords shall die by them. This is not a happy occasion; this is a time to mourn that we once again fell into the vertigo of a world that does not love their neighbor but instead chooses to embody the patterns by which tragedy keeps its stronghold.

The anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden has created an overwhelming sense of sorrow and anguish in my heart today. It has stolen my joy. I held my son in my arms this morning and wept praying that he might inherit a better world and a better Church where we imagine it possible this better world; a world where we do not celebrate death any longer.  

Be Powerless,

Bobby Ray