Archives For shalom

Invisible Girls book cover

When I was in middle school, there was this girl in my church that I had a huge crush on. I was a shy, gangly boy, sporting a bowl haircut, glasses, and braces. Each Wednesday night before youth group, I’d put on a Polo shirt, tuck it in to my pleated-front khaki slacks, put on my braided leather belt, and tie up my Converse All Star high-tops. Then I’d try and find ways to get in her line of sight, hoping she’d smile or, even better, start talking to me. It never happened.

After several months, I got up enough courage to call her one Wednesday night after church. I retrieved the church’s photo directory from the kitchen and thumbed through to the “L’s.” It took me 15 minutes to work up enough courage to dial all seven digits of the number and let it ring. Her mother answered. I politely asked if I could speak to her daughter. She said she’d be right back. When she returned to the phone, she informed me that her daughter was taking a shower and couldn’t come to the phone right now. I left my number and a request that she call me back. The phone never rang.

I don’t think she was in the shower after all.  Continue Reading…

crisis chinese

Popularized in a 1959 speech by President Kennedy, it is said that when written in Chinese, “crisis” is composed of the two characters meaning “danger” and “opportunity.” Though the actual linguistics of such a translation are a bit shaky, the sentiment is a good one: crises are crucial moments with high stakes.

The church is not unfamiliar with crisis. Throughout its long and storied history, the church has faced despotism from within and from without. She has been both the persecuted and the persecutor. She has been both endangered by standing against kings and kingdoms, and she has been endangered by playing bedfellow to Presidents and Prime Ministers.

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Earlier this week, Campus Outreach D.C. staff person Matt Hill went missing after meeting with a college student. Within a day, family and close friends were using social media to urge people to join in the search. A Twitter account (@findmatthill) and facebook page (FindMattHill) were set up and by yesterday evening the facebook page had over 10,000 fans and the twitter account over 2,000 followers. Flyers were distributed at the Washington Nationals game with his picture and vital statistics. The FBI, local authorities, and megachurch Capitol Hill Baptist joined together hundreds of volunteers which utilized a six-foot map of the surrounding area marked off into a search grid to try and locate the missing young man. Today, friends and family reported that Hill had been found alive and well some 470 miles south of his last known location. He has said he left of his own free will. Little else is known.
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    “I want the world to know I’m a human being,” Samson says. “Although I have a terrible disease, I still have feelings, I still have fears, and I’m still a child of God. It’s a very strange things when you’re sick and your entire community, people who have known you for years, treat you like a leper.”

    I nod, and my eyes focus on a handful of strange-looking spots spread out on his face. They look like boils.

    “I want you to take my picture. And under the picture, I want you to write, ‘The body of Christ is suffering.'” (from Scared, by Tom Davis, Kindle loc. 674)

Tom Davis’ Scared is a fictional account of his real experiences traveling in and through Africa. With sometimes brutal clarity the book weaves together the lives of Stuart, an award winning photo journalist on the verge of becoming a has-been, and Adanna, a young girl in Swaziland, struggling to live from day to day, destined to become a never-was.
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The sermon above was preached earlier this year by Jason Clark at his church in Sutton, London, England. He does a wonderful job capturing the “violence” of the Christian life. We are, he asserts, being formed all the time. Yet we rarely take the time to discern what it is that is doing the forming. Followers of Christ claim that it is God, first and foremost, who is forming them into the image of Christ. But is that true? When we take a look at how we prioritize our lives, do those priorities reflect Christ? Do we really have Jesus, all the way through?
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Like a lot of other evangelicals, I’ve been drawn in by the whole Rob Bell Love Wins discussion. By and large, I have been ashamed of the way that evangelicals have gone after Bell, largely without giving his book a fair treatment, many responding to an artfully produced marketing video as the sole basis for their critique. Even those that have had access to a slimmed down “review” copy of the book have decided to condemn the work before the reading public has a chance to assess it themselves. Why all the vitriol? Oddly enough, I think that evangelicals are scared to lose hell.
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My ministry context revolves around those who, by and large, have sold out to the quest for the “American Dream.” Consumerism and materialism are matters of course, so embedded within the culture they are barely noticed by those who have lived here for any length of time.

Material poverty is relatively low (and well-hidden) yet poverty of time is high. Schedules are packed with work and “play,” both of which attempt to further or reflect the “dream.” As a result, financial margin is low. Many households are living on the brink personal financial collapse. Continue Reading…


The keystone of Karl Polany’s The Great Transformation is what he calls the “double movement” (loc. 3,442). Polanyi explains that at the same time that laissez-faire was encouraging rapid market expansion in all directions, a countermovement to protect citizens from the effects of this self-regulating market (SRM) expansion was also taking place. This double movement was an attempt to resist the disembedded nature of the SRM utopia. On some level, even the staunchest market liberals intuited a need for limitations and restrictions that would protect people from the market’s potential ills (see Fred Block’s comments in the Introduction at loc. 459 and following). Polanyi holds that it was this tension, in the form of the double movement, that allowed SRM to move so quickly from theory to reality in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

This got me thinking about other “double movements.” Where else do we see almost paradoxical tensions providing the basis for the actualization of things that could otherwise never be? Continue Reading…

Polanyi and Peace

February 19, 2011 — 6 Comments


Most Christians, if asked if they know any words in Hebrew, will come up with at least one: shalom. When asked what shalom means, the most common response is, “peace.” Though it is used in a variety of ways in Biblical literature, shalom is often translated as “peace.” Our connotation of the word “peace” is inextricable linked–and often defined by–its antonym, “war.” Peace is usually seen as the absence of war.

Much of my reading and writing is centering on shalom. Whenever I come across and author’s use of “peace” I’m eager to understand how he or she unpacks the idea and compare that with my developing understanding of a fuller sense of shalom. Karl Polanyi, in his The Great Transformation seeks to chronicle the rise of the modern nation-state and market economy as linked social structures, embedded with one another. Early in the book he deals with the role of peace in the development of both. Continue Reading…


Much of the second half of Walking with the Poor by Bryant Myers revolves around asking and proposing answers to development questions. On understanding development from a Christian perspective Myers asks, Whose story is it? What better future? What process of change? And regarding development practice specifically he asks, Whom is evaluation for? What is evaluation for? What changed? Who changed? What do we assess? Will it last? and Are we doing the right things? These questions and their answers are designed to help the development practitioner keep the twin goals of program assessment and holistic transformation always in mind. He explores the use of Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) and Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in development settings, concluding that both have enough merit to warrant their use and contextualization within poor and non-poor communities as tools for project generation and analysis.
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