It means "writings." I write things.

7:17 AM

When did I start taking drugs?

Posted by Brad Polley |

Until last night, the weirdest dream I had ever had was in high school.  I was flying on an airplane, but the airplane was shaped like a cat, and the flight attendants were mice.  Pretty weird stuff, and one of those dreams where you wake up laughing.  Last night was different however.

In my dream, my wife was pregnant again.  Ok, pretty standard dream considering she's been pregnant for the better part of two years.  Here's where the dream becomes anything but standard.  She started giving birth to the kids, but she was giving birth to them by half-squatting like a penguin.  So she gives birth to two kids in this manner, then she lays an egg.  This is a pretty good sized egg, and when the egg opens, out pops a Panda.  Then she gives birth to another Panda, followed by another egg which produces another Panda, then another Panda.  So if you're keeping score, that's two kids and four Pandas.  The rest of the dream consisted of me freaking out about vacation and trying to figure out how we were going to get our eight "kids" to Tennessee for vacation.  I also remember saying, "There's a show called Jon and Kate, plus eight on TLC, what about Brad and Mandy plus eight?  When are we going to get our show?"

I woke up an hour before my alarm went off in a cold sweat and couldn't get back to sleep.  I'm happy to report that, as of this morning, Mandy is not pregnant and we still only have two kids at home.  I've yet to find a Panda in the house.  I was also unaware that Pizza Hut was now putting LSD in their pizza sauce, but apparently they do.  This is the only way I can explain my restless night of Panda nightmares.

11:55 AM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 4

Posted by Brad Polley |

So how did the early followers of Christ respond to his words following his resurrection and ascension to heaven?  One thing is for certain, any reading of the NT will show that the early Church took very seriously the idea that they were Christ's body on earth.  Imbued with his Spirit, they sought to live out the words he taught and the way he lived, full of love, peace, and compassion.  In today's Church, I find very few Christians who truly understand how literal the writers of the NT were when they referred to the Church as the body of Christ.  It seems to me (and I've been in the Church my entire life) that the Church sees this idea as nothing more than a fuzzy notion.  However, the implications of the Church being Jesus' body on earth are huge.  If we are his body (representatives, hands and feet, etc.), then it is imperative that we seek to live out his teachings and his way of life in order to finish his work of rescuing the world.  This isn't just a nice, clean, and fuzzy idea, but a concrete reality that we must take as seriously as the first Christ followers.  So what did they have to say along the lines of pacifism?

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." - Here again, we must enter into some history.  In our day and age, we don't take blessings and curses all that seriously.  The ancient world was a whole different ball game.  We throw horrible words and phrases around like, "I hate you" and "You suck," and, many times, don't really mean them at all.  In ancient times, a blessing was something you conferred on someone that set the pattern of their lives.  These were words that people believed God participated in.  So if you said to someone, "May your life and home be prosperous," it was assumed that God heard you and made this happen.  Curses worked the same way, but with opposite results.  To heap a curse on someone was to wish them the worst kind of life.  It was to heap bad things upon them and their household.  So when Paul (the dude who apparently wrote this letter) tells the Church to bless those who persecute them, he was definitely setting up a new way of living.  He was telling Christians to turn the tables on people who hated them by invoking a blessing on their lives and wishing them well.  Once again, this doesn't work in a war theology  You can't wish someone well and then blow them up or splatter their brains across the desert.  It just doesn't work that way.

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.  On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." - I was tempted to just let that passage speak for itself, but alas, the preacher in me just can't do that.  Paul says that "as far as it depends on us," live at peace with one another.  This means that we can't control the actions of other people, but we can control our own actions.  He calls us to fight with unconventional weapons.  He says that we are to fight with a spoon and a canteen.  If our enemies are hungry, we're supposed to feed them, if they're thirsty, we're supposed to give them something to drink.  So how do win a fight?  By not fighting at all.  On the surface, this looks like nothing more than laying down and losing, but it isn't.  It's winning through aggressive service to the ones who hate us the most.  How do you beat an idea?  With a better idea.

"Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails." - On the surface, it doesn't look like passage has anything to do with war and violence, but I ask this question: how can you fit blowing someone up into this passage?  If we're called to love our enemies, then this passage takes on a whole new revolutionary meaning.  Love always wins.  

"God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love." - Love is made complete when we live like Jesus here and now.  Jesus didn't fight back, if we are going to live like him, we can't either.  The reality is that fear is the root of all war.  We fear that something is going to happen if we don't act, so we lash out in violence.  The writer makes it very clear that fear and love are incongruous.  If we love our enemies, we don't fear anything they can do to us.  Jesus rising from the grave was a way of saying, "Now what?  You killed me, now what are you going to do?"  The worst thing that anyone can do to us is kill us.  But then what can they do?  Nothing.  They can't touch the soul.  

These are just a few examples of how the Church responded to the brutal Roman Empire in the first century.  There are many more examples, and I encourage you to look them up.  The next post will focus on what pacifism means and what it looks like.  We'll also talk about what author Shane Claiborne calls the prophetic imagination.  


8:00 AM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 3

Posted by Brad Polley |

In my mind, Jesus' words singlehandedly prove that his followers should be pacifists.  Regardless of any argument for war made by using the OT, it seems to me that the words of the person by who's name we are called should take precedence.  If we are going to be called Christ-ians, then his words should be of utmost importance to us.  So let's look at just a few examples of what Jesus has to say.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." - How can we be peacemakers and condone violence?  And don't try and use the argument that war brings about peace.  If that was true, then there wouldn't have been a WWII.  WWI would have worked and true peace would have been achieved.  More on this in a minute.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth.'  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.  If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."- The OT law stated that it was legal to take an eye for an eye, etc.  The thing about this law was that it was designed to be prohibitive.  It was set up so that if someone stole your goat, you couldn't cut their head off.  However, this is all made irrelevant by Jesus' words.  He's essentially telling us not to seek vengeance.  This passage about turning the other cheek is one that has caused great debate among Christians for years in this country.  I've heard on a number of occasions someone say that he didn't really mean it literally.  Let me tell you why he meant it literally.

In Jesus' final hours, there are a number of different incidents which show Jesus' seriousness on this point.  When Jesus is being arrested, one of his followers draws a sword and lops off the ear of one of Jesus' captors.  Jesus' says this to his follower, "Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.  Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?"  Jesus' point of living by the sword and dying by it is another way of saying that violence only begets more violence.  The idea that violence can bring about true and lasting peace is ridiculous.  Look at history and the fact that a war has been going on since the beginning of time (and yes, some of those in the name of Jesus himself).  So my question is, where's all of the peace?  If violence and war achieved peace, why does there seem to be so little peace in the world?  The word "legions" in that passage also lends itself to a pacifistic ideal.  The legion was a unit of Roman soldiers.  He is saying that he could very well use violent and military means to save himself, but he refused. 

After Jesus is arrested, he sits before the ruling counsel and listens while they bring all sorts of false accusations against him.  The text says that they were mocking him, spitting on him, striking him with their fists, and slapping him.  Jesus' reaction?  Nothing.   

I've thought a great deal about what would happen were my kids to get beat up at school when they are older.  The reality is that Jesus wouldn't fight back with conventional violent means.  If I'm going to raise my kids in the ways of Jesus, I have to tell them to not fight back and to turn the other cheek.  It doesn't thrill me to think of my boys getting the crap beat out of them, but Jesus' way of life is the better way, and I must trust that he will take care of them.  

"You have heard that was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." - This is the final nail in the coffin of this argument.  No one can truly love someone (in the unconditional way that Jesus proposes) and hit them, beat them, or kill them.  If that is possible than we also have to say that a father who physically abuses his children does it because he loves them deeply.  No one in their right mind would claim that, so why the double standard among Christ followers?  You absolutely cannot kill someone that you love, there's no way to justify that.  

The reality is that Jesus calls his followers to a new plane of living; one that looks like utter foolishness to the world.  When the world uses force, we use the power of love and prayer.  When the world comes at us with the sword, we come back at it with the cross.  That is the way of Jesus, and it must be the way of his followers. 

11:52 AM

Great video

Posted by Brad Polley |

If anyone ever wonders what makes this country great, watch this video.  It may be one of the funniest, and most bizarre, videos I have ever seen.

8:16 AM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 2

Posted by Brad Polley |

Inevitably when someone is defending a pro-war stance biblically, they immediately go to the Old Testament stories of Israel attacking everyone in sight.  They do this for two reasons: 1)It's easy, because the OT is full of wars and, 2)You can't even begin to make a convincing argument for war and violence based on the NT, so they avoid it.  

The OT is full of war.  Anyone has to concede that.  In fact, I still haven't completely reconciled all of the violence and how it fits in with the picture of God we receive from Jesus.  The OT is the written history of one country, Israel.  Despite the best efforts of the religious right to convince people, America is not the new Israel, so let's stop using that argument right there.  There is nothing in Scripture to support this idea.  I say this because all of the wars were fought in a particular time and place, with a particular country, Israel.  So when an American tries to use an argument along the lines of, "God told the Israelites to attack the Canaanites," I will look at them with glassy eyes and say, "And your point is...?"  

The OT was written thousands of years ago and it chronicles the life and history of people who lived thousands of years ago.  The culture was different, the people were different.  The entire nature of civilizations at the time was one of war and violence.  If God is trying to get people to understand the fact that he is the only God, he can't just come out and say, "Cease all war and violence" to a culture who is steeped in war and violence.  They would immediately reject him and we can wave bye bye to monotheism.  The Bible speaks of progressive revelation.  Here's what I mean by that.

On a number of issues, the Bible works from front to back in a progressive series of steps which lead toward an ultimate social (and godly) ethic.  To give an example, let's look at women's issues.  In the OT, there is a passage which states that women can be taken as spoils of war, but they must be treated fairly and with respect.  In our day and age, that sounds totally barbaric, but in ancient times, this was nothing short of revolutionary.  It was saying that women had certain rights, something that wasn't the case in ancient cultures.  Jesus continued working toward a broader social ethic of women being treated as equals when he had women followers of his ministry, we call these followers "disciples."  In first century Judaism, rabbis did not have women followers, Jesus (who was a Jewish rabbi) did.  The rest of the NT speaks of women having leadership roles in the Church, leading house churches.  Paul then says that in Christ, "there is no male or female," in other words, we're all equal.    

Did you notice the progression?  Instead of going from a barbaric custom straight to having a woman president, the Bible works toward the ultimate goal of equality in a series of steps.  I argue that the same applies to war and violence.  The OT may be full of violence and war, but there is no mention of God's people engaging in it in the NT.  If we are to call ourselves "New Testament Christians," then we have to refrain from violence and be against all war.  Next week we'll look at what Jesus and the New Testament writers have to say to their culture (and by application, ours) about violence.

11:16 AM

Hey Mississippi...

Posted by Brad Polley |

1968 called and it wants its society back.

Read this article about a high school in Mississippi that had its first integrated prom with blacks and whites this year.  You read that right.  For the first time, black and white kids were able to go to prom in the same building at the same time.  Congratulations Mississippi on this giant leap in civil rights...maybe 40 years late though.

2:15 PM

Why I'm a pacifist - part 1

Posted by Brad Polley |

Per Michael's request, I'm going to write a series of posts on why I'm a pacifist.  I have no idea how many posts this series will entail.  I understand how polarizing this issue is, but I feel the need to say what I think, and given the fact that the internet is the last great bastion of free speech, I will exercise my right.  If you're offended by what I say, I refuse to apologize.  No one in church apologizes to me when they spew out their pro-war rhetoric, so I will not apologize for my opposing stance.  If you don't like what I have to say, then just stop reading.  So without further ado, here's a completely non-academic view of why Jesus is calling his people out of a violent mindset.

I must say that I wasn't raised a pacifist.  I didn't spend my childhood days sitting in drum circles with adults, taking in the faint smell of peyote in the air.  I grew up in a fully Christian (whatever that means), ultra right-wing Republican home (thanks to W, that home is not so Republican anymore).  Politics wasn't discussed much in my home, but I do have very vivid memories of the beginning of the Gulf War.  I remember sitting the home of my aunt and uncle on Sunday night after church and talking about the war with them.  My uncle said, "We're kicking butt and taking names."  I remember feeling a huge swell of patriotic pride at those words and thinking, "Yeah, darn right.  Don't mess with the U.S.A."  In fact, I would say that this swell of pride marked the first 25-ish years of my existence.  When a war would come along, I would get this sense of America being the world's police force for good.  I never once remember questioning why a war was being fought, or whether there was another way, I just accepted that if the President of the United States saw fit to annihilate a bunch of people, then there was probably a good (and Christian) reason for doing so.  

When 9/11 happened, I was a senior in college and I remember sitting on the couch in my house watching the news and balling my eyes out.  I remember my dad calling to ask if I was okay, and I remember sobbing that I was scared.  I didn't know what to do with evil that huge (I've since realized that this kind of crap happens all over the world on a fairly regular basis, but no one in America cares unless it affects us).  When we invaded Afghanistan I remember feeling that familiar sense of pride.  I remember seeing footage of the bombers and thinking, "It's okay now Brad, everything is going to be alright."  Something had to be done as a response to 9/11, so I just figured that blowing up people who were indirectly responsible for blowing up our people seemed reasonable.

A shift began taking place when we invaded Iraq however.  Shortly after the invasion, it became clear that our reason for going to war (WMDs) was faulty and stuff started sliding downhill quickly.  I started wondering if we really had a good reason to invade, or whether there was such a thing as a good reason to invade a country.  Afghanistan was one thing, but this was another.  That was retaliation, Iraq couldn't be pigeon-holed so easily.  This is where I became less pro-war and more of a believer in just war.  My thinking shifted from war for any reason to war for some reason.  In my mind, there needed to be a perfectly good reason for attacking a country (Pearl Harbor and 9/11 for instance), before we proceeded to do so.  

My next shift occurred when when I started studying the culture behind the Bible's writings.  I started realizing that the Bible wasn't written for me, it was written for a particular people in a particular time and place.  This changed everything.  I stopped reading the Bible from a 21st century American perspective and started reading it from the perspective of the ancients in which it was originally penned.  Stuff like "Blessed are the peacemakers" started making more sense when I realized that Jesus was speaking to poor peasants living under the brutal and violent Roman Empire.  I started reading the sayings of Jesus in a whole different light.  I will write more on this in a later post.  

Long story short, I want all of you to know that my change in thinking was a long process.  As you will see in coming posts, I find a pro-war mindset very difficult to justify using the New Testament.  I do, however, understand the desire to justify it using the Old Testament.  In the next post, I will take a look at the Old Testament versus the New and how the Christian is to reconcile the two.  

1:28 PM

Quiz Question Number 1

Posted by Brad Polley |

So how can you love your enemy and blow them up at the same time?  Hmmmm.  It seems that you would have to do some pretty fancy biblical exegesis to get around that one...or you could just ignore it like a vast majority of American Christians.

8:12 AM


Posted by Brad Polley |

Congratulations Obama on winning the nomination.  

So how long before we hear the argument that he's really a Muslim?  Let the racism begin.

7:40 AM

Pictures of my boys

Posted by Brad Polley |

I promised some pictures of my boys, so here you are.  First, Ezra:

Now, a picture of Abram:

Ok, just kidding.  But seriously, if he continues growing at his present rate, we're changing his name to Siddhartha and moving to India. 

To say that I'm fortunate would be an understatement.  Two beautiful boys.