clothed in righteousness: thoughts on moral trauma

In Cold Blood..

War is messy. It is a mess of dirt, sweat, blood, gunpowder, rubble, tears, death, and destruction unparalleled by anything else that comes about by the brute force of humanity.

Those affected by war as either its practitioners or its victims get this mess on their bodies, their lives, and their souls. Shrapnel tears through them physically with just as much power as their experiences tear through them spiritually. Its scars on our bodies and souls seem permanent. Unchanging. Indelible. Those scars may heal in time, they may lighten–better but never quite forgotten, or they may remain raw and painful. The holds true for the physical scars as well as the spiritual ones.

It has become routine to treat those spiritual scars under the umbrella of PTSD instead of what they really are, moral wounds or moral trauma. Describing trauma as ‘moral’ necessitates a judgment of right or wrong, good or bad, righteous or sinful. The trouble is, our society with its steady prescription of moral relativism is unable to cope with the objectivity required by this sort of judgment. As a result, our warriors go untreated. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are subjected to an ineffective regime of cognitive behavior therapy that might treat some of the symptoms but fails to offer a cure. As necessary as these therapies are for coping with PTSD, they focus primarily on desensitization, not complete healing. No amount of Cognitive Processing Therapy can heal a wounded soul. No number of sessions of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing can restore a broken spirit. No dose of medication can regenerate a wounded conscious.

There is true healing for moral trauma. True restoration is possible. True hope is available.

Nearly 3,000 years ago the Prophet Isaiah declared:

I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit
or a bride with her jewels.
(Isaiah 61.10, NLT)

Two millennia ago, the Apostle Paul wrote:

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. (Gal 3.26-27, NLT)

True healing is found in Christ Jesus. In baptism, we are clothed in his righteousness, which covers us in his perfection. In him are we dressed with the ‘clothing of salvation’ and a ‘robe of righteousness’ which covers the stain, hurt, and mess of our own sin and experiences. All of them. Even war.

This prescription is not a ‘take two and call me in the morning’ sort of regimen. It is not an overnight cure free of struggle or pain. It is a long, hard road to recover from such wounds. But it is the path to true recovery and healing.

photo credit: Creative Commons | Shadi Samawi via Compfight

dropping the ball

Somewhere along the line, I dropped the ball. I had built up a pretty good momentum. I was writing every day. I was enjoying it. I was thriving on the creative moment I got to experience each day. I was looking forward to the time I allowed myself to write.

It was good. No, it was great.

And then I quit.

I’m not sure how. I’m not sure why. I’m not sure when (though I could figure it out from the dates on my posts if I really wanted to). None of this really matters, though. The point is that I quit. And for that, I offer no excuse.

If I am to be a writer, I must write…consistently.

And so, I begin again.

the choice

Your days are numbered,
Your number of breaths finite.

You can spend your time
Consuming or creating.

Only the latter will make a difference
After you’re gone.

how the NSA made Gmail unpatriotic

Nov 3, 2008

NOTE: This post is seriously off-topic for this blog; but it is a subject upon which I regularly get questioned by friends and family…so I’m posting it here for public discussion.

Twenty-one years ago, I took the following oath of office as a new basic cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy:

I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

This is an oath I have been bound to for 21 years and am still as a commissioned officer in the Texas Air National Guard.

As any school child in the US can tell you, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. They include declarations of Americans’ rights to free speech and freedom from unreasonable searches.

The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech and states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Similarly, the Fourth Amendment provides for the protection of our privacy from unwarranted prying eyes of the government:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Unfortunately, for decades since Cold War technology enabled it, those rights have gone unprotected–or selectively protected–for some Americans. After 9.11.01, with the introduction of the Patriot Act, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle essentially denied these fundamental rights to all Americans enabling the now standard practice of the NSA (and who knows what other government agencies) to collect as much data about all of our communications as possible. These communications include not just public ones–blog posts, tweets, Facebook statuses, etc.–but ones that are reasonably considered private–text messages, emails, details about phone calls, etc.

Until last summer, when Edward Snowden’s revelations about our own government’s widespread data collection and spying on US citizens became public, I was a long-time user (think back to when Gmail was invite only!) of online email and storage services by Google, Dropbox, Box, and others based in the US. These are all technologically great services that exemplify the functionality, beauty, and cross-platform elegance many of us have come to love about online services. Since the initial news broke; however, there has been a nearly non-stop string of additional, ever-troubling disclosures about the NSA’s compromise of nearly every US-hosted web service imaginable.

For one sworn to support the Constitution, this is a big deal.

Because their compromise by the NSA is directly opposed to the rights established and guaranteed by the Constitution, I no longer believe using any of these services is the right thing to do. In other words, knowingly using a service that violates the basic rights afforded to Americans is anti-patriotic because it defies the Constitution. These rights and this argument has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not we as citizens have anything to hide–quite honestly I don’t. It’s a matter of principle, like the initial struggle that formed our nation. I no longer use these services because they (willingly or not, depending on which sources you believe) directly oppose the fundamental rights upon which our grand country was established.

So what services do I use? Great question. Over the past seven months, I’ve tried out many different services from around the world that offer various levels of security and privacy for their email and storage. Currently I use:

  • email: Posteo email — for 1 euro (about $1.30) per month you get email hosted in Germany (read up on their privacy laws if concerned) with 2 GB of storage (more storage is cheap), IMAP/POP, webDAV-accessible calendar, English-capable webmail interface, etc. The UI isn’t as fancy as Gmail or Yandex mail, but it’s plenty good enough.
  • online storage: Tresorit for encrypted storage (encryption takes place on your machine before being uploaded…this is important) / Jottacloud and Telekom-DE mediacenter for unencrypted storage that is easy to share. Each of these services is hosted in EU nations that are not keen on letting the US pry on their customers.

Is this a perfect solution? Nope. Can US spooks find their way into anywhere they really want to be? Probably. Like I said, it’s a matter of principle and a small one–a band-aid of sorts until such time as we the people can make legislative changes to prevent future disregard of our foundational American rights.

One final note: if you’re interested in signing up for Tresorit or Jottacloud, drop me a note (tcjudd AT posteo.org) and I’ll send you an invite. We’ll both get more storage that way! Also, if you’re intimidated by the German-only sign-up process for Posteo, let me know in the comments and I’ll put together a translated tutorial.

photo credit: Creative Commons | Kevin Dooley via Compfight

on Jesus’ baptism

jesus_baptism

This Sunday, January 12th, the church celebrates the baptism of Christ. This event is recorded in all four Gospels, which clearly points to its importance. Matthew’s account is given as the reading for this Sunday:

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

– Matthew 3.13-17 (NLT)

This passage is anything but unfamiliar to us, but what exactly does it mean? What is the point? Why was Jesus–the sinless Lamb of God–baptized? Whether one understands baptism as God’s work of grace (e.g., Lutherans, Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, etc.) or our own work of obedience (e.g. Baptists and other Evangelicals) makes no difference. That Jesus was baptized can be just plain confusing, especially if we get wrapped around the axle about Jesus’ baptism to ‘fulfill all righteousness’ or ‘carry out all that God requires.’

There are two facets to Jesus’ baptism for us to consider. First, he was baptized as an example for all of those who would follow him. Baptism is our visible entry to Christ’s Church. As Christ was baptized, so we also are to be baptized. As Luther pointed out:

Christ is baptized, not in order to be made righteous—for He is the Son of God and endowed with eternal righteousness so that we may be made righteous through Him—but as an example, so to speak, for us, in order that He may precede us and we may follow His example and also be baptized.

– LW 3:87

This is perhaps the more obvious reason Jesus was baptized, but it is not nearly the more important.

Jesus was also baptized not only to serve as our example, but to become one of us sinners. Clearly, Jesus did not become a sinner in actuality. He never sinned. But he became a sinner by association–in nearly every part of his life–beginning with his taking on humanity and ending with his death and resurrection. By descending into the waters of baptism, Jesus points out that he is like us, he is with us, he is us. Again, Luther:

He was entering into our stead, indeed, our person, that is, becoming a sinner for us, taking upon himself the sins which he had not committed, and wiping them out and drowning them in his holy baptism. And that he did this in accord with the will of God, the heavenly Father, who cast all our sins upon him that he might bear them and not only cleanse us from them through his baptism and make satisfaction for them on the Cross, but also clothe as in his holiness and adorn us with his innocence.

– LW 51:315

By becoming one of us, Jesus made possible what Luther called the ‘joyous exchange’–exchanging his righteousness for our ungodliness and vice versa. In his baptism, Christ takes on the sin of the world and drowns it in the waters–an act completed for us on the cross. And in return, instead of death and condemnation, which we deserve, we are clothed with the perfect righteousness of Christ.

This he did; he took the sin of the whole world upon himself; he became a curse for us, and thus redeemed from the curse all those who believe in him.

Let us joyously celebrate Christ’s baptism as we remember our own and take heart in the knowledge that in it, we are united with Christ and shall live forever. Amen.

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how do we know God? (link)

Morning View

How do we come to know God?

  • through philosophy
  • through nature
  • through the lens of the Old Testament
  • through reason
  • through religion
  • through (fill in the blank)

All of the starting places are wrong, because in each of them does God is at least partly concealed. Our starting point for coming to know God must be in Christ Jesus. In him alone are the mysteries of God clearly revealed.

As the blog, The Orthodox Life points out:

Jesus should not be treated as the endpoint to our chain of reasoning about God.

Rather, Jesus is the very beginning.
If you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father,
for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.

Meet Jesus.
Meet Him first.
Learn from Him how God thinks, behaves, and loves.
See His gentleness, see His firmness, see His compassion.
See Him healing, see Him bringing freedom, see Him weeping.

See Him humble Himself to the point of death,
stretching out his bloody arms on the wood of the cross,
for your salvation and mine,
and then confess,

“This is God.”

Please read the rest here.

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on silence

snowy meadow

After posting this quote from Bonhoeffer, I couldn’t keep it from running around in my mind:

We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word

What was true in Bonhoeffer’s day is infinitely more true in our American society today. Walking around the office or on the street, it’s rare to spy someone who isn’t on the phone, listening to music, or talking to somebody else. At people’s houses I often notice they leave televisions on when no one is actively watching–my children are as guilty of this as anyone–leaving the TV on while doing something else. And when was the last time you drove anywhere without the radio in your vehicle?

We surround ourselves with noise, even noise just for noise’s sake.

We can’t stand silence, even for a few moments…much to our detriment.

As Bonhoeffer points out, silence often begets introspection–something we tend to avoid in our superstar-obsessed society that demands we always look and act perfect no matter how far this diverges from reality. Christians are no better than secular society here, unfortunately. Somewhere along the line even Evangelical culture became obsessed with putting on a veneer of perfection no matter our true condition. Jesus had a term for this sort of thing–’white-washed tombs.’ Looking at ourselves and our souls in the mirror is an idea we simply cannot stand, because such an exercise necessitates admitting our flaws, weaknesses, imperfections, and sin. Our culture–even our Christian subculture–will have nothing of the sort because we are consumed with showing our (apparent) perfection, (seeming) success, and (the facade) of never-ending happiness.

Silence also begets waiting–also something we dislike in our society. We wait for nothing, even though those things that are most truly satisfying are often gained through patient waiting. Waiting, especially a Christian form of waiting, can take many forms: prayer, fasting, and contemplation to name a few. As a rule, Evangelical Christians have a pretty poor track record of these sorts of disciplines. We dismiss them as ascetic, outmoded, or legalistic. Perhaps we commit an even worse foul and write them off as “Catholic” (or “Orthodox”) and then fail to give them a second thought.

Here’s a hard truth. Silence, and its subsequent introspection and waiting, forms an integral part of the biblical witness and nearly 2,000 years of Christian practice. As uncomfortable as this reality might be to our culture of the instantaneous, we are much the poorer for our neglect.

Create silence. Take fifteen minutes–or ten, or five, or even one if that’s all you can bear at first–and be silent. Be silent before the mirror of God’s law and your own introspection. Wait patiently for God. Use this time to “draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (Jas 4.8, ESV)

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Bonhoeffer on silence

Eco

We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word

photo credit: Creative Commons | Daniel Zedda via Compfight

exceptionalism and American Christianity’s love of war

American Christianity–especially American Evangelicalism–has a love affair with war, guns, ‘freedom,’ and the military. Christians in America are historically very supportive of our military, our various interventions around the globe, and all things pro-gun-related. This support is manifested in Evangelicals’ love for patriotic church services, their admiration and gratitude for those in the Armed Forces, their consistent support of hawkish political leaders, and their outspoken support of the NRA and other Second Amendment groups.

All this may sound great, but there’s a problem. The more I have traveled around the globe and interacted with Christians in other nations; however, the more I have consistently and sincerely been asked, “Why?”

Christians in other places around the world are not nearly so infatuated with war, guns, and violence (political or personal). In fact, many of them loathe such things and cannot fathom why American Christians believe and act like we do. They believe that war is antithetical to Christianity, that violence begets violence, and that “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Mt 26.52, ESV). In short, their views are much the opposite of our own.

How can this be?

I think the answer lies more in the theology of American Exceptionalism than it does in the pages of Scripture. In his famous sermon, A Model of Christian Charity, Puritan John Winthrop first proclaimed the notion that America was somehow different, unique, and under the special watch care of God. While still on the seas from England, he taught his fellow passengers:

God Almighty, in his most holy and wise providence, has so disposed of the condition of’ mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor; some high and eminent in power and dignity; others mean and in submission…

From this beginning, Winthrop went on to encourage his shipmates in ways they might practically take care of one another, provide for one another, and forgive one another that their great journey of faith might be a successful one. Their success was important, because the world was watching, just as Egypt was watching Moses and the Hebrews when they were taken out to the wilderness:

We must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a going.

Winthrop’s idea of America as occupier of a special place in the heart and plan of God runs deep in the American DNA. Jesus’ phrase about the ‘city on a hill’ has been invoked by Presidents Wilson, Kennedy, Clinton, Reagan, Bush (43), and Obama as evidence of America’s uniqueness in the world. And what is popular in the secular realm of politics is even more strongly emphasized and believed in American Evangelical churches, where American biblical heritage and our direct blessing by God are routine talking points–especially in election years.

With this in mind, doesn’t it only make sense that American Christians would believe and act the way they do? If America is indeed specially blessed and endowed by God as rich and powerful, doesn’t that translate into enforcing our version of liberty and justice for all around the world? If America’s heritage has been enabled (dare I say guaranteed) by its indelible roots in faith, family, and guns (a la Duck Dynasty), doesn’t a faithful Christian family need that same American trinity? If America’s foreign policy is deeply influenced by Christian ethicist Richard Land and those of his ilk, who single-handedly redefined the Just War tradition to include pre-emptive wars, isn’t America’s warmongering heritage morally defensible?

No. No. No. And NO!

America is a great nation. There is nowhere I’d rather live. But we are far from perfect. American Christians, my brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s time to seriously rethink some things many of us take for granted as right, reasonable, and true. Our views on these things conflict with those of our brothers and sisters around the world. More than this, our views conflict with those taught by our Lord Jesus whom we claim to follow above all else.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.

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the economics of Christ (link)

Dirty Money

justifiedandsinner has some remarkable thoughts on luxury, simplicity, and our idols to ring in the new year. They are hard words to read but ones we must nonetheless take to heart:

The Gospel that talks of our being freed from idolatry, as we are united with Christ, as we walk with Him.  As we put things into an eternal perspective and we don’t cling to that which can be destroyed, When we realize that freed from such economic idols, we can show love to those who are our neighbors, without evaluating the economic impact on us and our family. The gospel that exchanges false gods for a God who comes to us, setting aside His riches, because of the love He has for us, who were not part of His family, but now are.

Such a detachment isn’t easy, we like being comfortable, we enjoy our flat screens and cars, we like seeing the work of hands rewarded with accomplishments and being assured that everything will be there.   But now we are going back to valuing an idol more than a real God.  It’s hard for me, even as I write this, to not hear it speaking to me.  To find oneself detached from things, and freer to love and to care and to serve. Able to use the resources God gives us, for that which would being Him glory, as we live like Christ.  It doesn’t change our work ethic, in fact, knowing we can help others may drive us to work harder, sacrificing more as we see the eternal rewards of people coming to know God’s love. It is a higher calling a higher purpose, a reason to invest ourselves in, this detachment that frees us from idols, and helps us imitate Christ as we find ourselves putting others before ourselves.

I encourage you to read the rest here.

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