The news is full of Christians turning on each other

All too often, we hear politicians and celebrities using divisive rhetoric to divide Christians up into groups they call “believers” and “nonbelievers,” and pit them against each other. Recently we have heard Joshua Black make the claim that it’s time to arrest and “hang [President Obama] high,” this right after Phil Robertson was waxing philosophical on the sinfulness of homosexuality.

Farther down in the headlines are the stories of retired United Methodist pastor, The Rev. Dr. Tom Ogletree, who is also a former dean of Yale Divinity School and is soon going to trial for officiating at a same-sex wedding, and Valerie Lu, a Lutheran elementary school teacher who was accused of confiscating Christmas gifts a child wanted to give out at her school, candy canes affixed with the legend of how a candy maker invented them to symbolize the life of Christ.

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Charles deGravelles

Charles deGravelles

By Charles deGravelles

This is the fourth installment in a series called “The Quest for Peace in a World of Violence.” Charles deGravelles is an Episcopal deacon, chaplain and teacher at Episcopal High School of Baton Rouge where he teaches a course in peace and conflict studies. In the first installment, deGravelles wrote about his inspiration for the class and its inception. In the second installment, he wrote about class trips he took with his students to show them how the “pieces” of violence interconnect. In the third installment, he wrote about the lessons his students learned during a trip to Angola.

At our final meeting of this semester-long course, my seventeen students and I shared beignets and coffee and reflected on what we’d experienced and on our four major accomplishments, which the next set of students—starting January 6—would have to build on.

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A Kansas City trial for nuclear activists arrested for trespassing at one of the largest weapons centers in the country took a theological turn right before Christmas, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

The prosecutor, Kendrea White asked one of the defendants, 80 year old Oblate Father Carl Kabat, “Don’t you teach your parishioners to obey the rules?”

“God’s rules,” Kabat responded.

“Aren’t those rules the same as the law?”

“Well, I went to school in Mississippi [pre-civil rights] …”

The prosecutor, a black woman, interrupted: “OK, let me rephrase the question. Should you obey rules?”

Kabat went on to answer her question by saying that: “It was absolutely right for Rosa Parks not to get up and move to the back of the bus.”

Although he said he understood the Rosa Parks argument, Judge Ardie Bland, also African American, convicted the activists of trespassing. When it came to sentencing, however, he said he wanted to “do something a little different.” Bland sentenced the defendants to write a one-page single-spaced essay on each of six questions. Three of those questions focused on nuclear weapons. But for Threshold the three more interesting questions were questions of “God’s law” versus “human law”:

  • Fr. [Carl] Kabat says that you should disobey ungodly laws. How do you respond to someone who believes there is no God? Who is to say what God believes, for example, when Christians used God to justify slavery and the Crusades?
  • How do you respond to those who have a God different from you when they argue that their religion is to crush others into dust?
  • Who determines what “God’s law” is, given the history of the USA and the world?

How would you answer one or more of these great questions? We’d like to hear from you as we seek to restore justice to the center of the church’s mission. Share your answers in the comments section or on Facebook (or even Twitter if you can do it in 140 characters).