Wiping Bums and Following Jesus

Daz Gardiner

I’ve been wondering lately how you can know when a Christian leader, speaker, minister (whatever) is moving from being a servant to a celebrity.

When do you start to cross that line and when are you so immersed in your own image development and promotion that you forget who you actually are?

I think its’ a bit like ‘ugly’ – you can’t quite define it, but you know it when you see it. Its something that makes you go ‘ech… really?… oh dear…’ And in the midst of your cringe you wonder if you should say anything or if you are just the party pooper who ‘doesn’t get it’. Because celebrity Christians are rarely questioned (face to face) and actually don’t like being challenged. It spikes the conscience.

There are a few tell tale signs of celebritism that always set off my finely honed ‘wanker alarm’. There’s the nasty stuff like only flying business class or only staying in 5 star accommodation. If that’s your thing then I won’t ever be calling you.

Then there’s the slightly less obvious ‘speakers rooms’ at conferences where the important people get to hang together away from the plebs, a practice often justified by some curious logic. There’s reserved front row seats… the chunky ‘love offerings’ (technically not tax deductible as they are gifts), a bizarre form of hero worship that only feeds the beast, and then more recently there has been the awful and embarrassing self promotion on social media. Facebook hasn’t helped the cause by creating ‘fan’ pages, but seriously I think I’d reject those things on principle.

Yes, this could all be sour grapes because I’ve never been successful or famous enough to ever be in celebrity mode, but I have been in positions where there has been the opportunity to enter into some of that stuff. My gag reflex on Christian celebritism is pretty strong so I tend to sniff it and call it fairly quickly. But I’ve also been privileged to know some people who regularly speak to crowds of thousands, but haven’t been seduced.

A few years back when we were in full swing with Forge in Perth I invited Darryl Gardiner from New Zealand to come and join us. Daz isn’t well known in WA, but he is a brilliant, hard hitting communicator who regularly speaks to big crowds around the world. He happily spoke to a very small crew, engaged with them before and after and showed himself to be the real deal. He even returned all of his speaking fee because we were doing it tough financially at the time in Forge.

However the real test for Daz came early on Saturday morning when our son Sam – aged 3 at the time – made it to the toilet, got his business done, but couldn’t finish the job. We always laughed when Sam was on the toilet because we would hear this little voice screaming out, ‘Muuuuuuummmm…. can you come and wipe my bottom?!’ (I was always glad that my name was not ‘mum’) That Saturday morning he must have yelled and screamed for a bit, but mum never came. With the doors closed we obviously couldn’t hear him – but Daz did…

So what do you do when you’re the international guest speaker sleeping in the room next to the toilet while the 3 year old is stuck? I’m guessing if you’re full of your own importance you ignore the kid and complain about it later (to someone else), but if you’re in servant mode then you do what Darryl did.

You wipe the kid’s bum.

He told us about it later amidst some laughter. Ok so we didn’t do it on purpose (promise Daz) but in that action Daz made a huge statement. The Jesus we claim to follow wasn’t too full of himself to do the menial task of washing someone’s feet and Daz wasn’t too self important to perform one of life’s less pleasant tasks either.

While we are wiping bums we are unikely to be too concerned about whether we are flying business class or staying in the Hyatt…



Vose Seminary

Jarrod McKenna

Last night I was invited to see the Baptist Theological Collage chance it’s name to the Vose Seminary to honor a great man that who has been so good to me and the Peace Tree Community over the years, Noel Vose.

For those who don’t know Noel, you should. 🙂  He is a wonder, wise, prayerful and humble servant of Christ who I am honored to have as an elder in my life. It was a wonderful evening but I felt a little under dressed (just me or are suits the equivalent of Baptists liturgical robes? :)) But I was pleased I brought my thongs so I wasn’t bare footed. 🙂

My mate Thomas Day thought it funny that a middle aged man in a lovely suit who was also waiting to say hi to Noel, couldn’t stop staring at my feet.  Tom said he went in to near shock and his mouth wouldn’t close when Noel excused himself from a conversation to come over and gig me a big hug. Tom said afterwards that people would think Noel more wonderful because of how he embraced the homeless looking guy (I wasn’t that shabby!).

A friend who lectures there commented to me that he thought the only thing that would have been a lovely touch to the night was to mention the traditional land owners, the Noongar peoplem, when telling the history of the collage.  I’m interested if others think this important for us as the church to acknowledge? I recently wrote this for Sojourners that people might be interested in:

http://blog.beliefnet.com/godspolitics/2008/02/australia-says-sorry-this-is-h-1.html download to hell and back dvdrip

 (picture from “God’s politics”) cabin pressure free


Occasionally people come along who fit in the category of ‘statesmen’, leaders of note who by virtue of character and moral authority stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

Noel Vose is one of those people and I had the privilege of enjoying lunch at his home today. Noel was the founding principal of the Baptist Theological College in Perth and has been a much respected leader for many decades in our city.


A few weeks back I was preaching at Quinns while Noel was present in the congregation. We spoke briefly afterwards and Noel asked if we could catch up as he wanted to know more of what we are doing in Brighton. At 86 years old he is genuinely interested in what is happening around the church and what new ideas and innovations are being practiced. Today he told me that he wants to know more of what Steve McAlpine, Jarrod McKenna and I are doing…

I hope that at 86 years old I am half as receptive to new ideas.

Over lunch we discussed the changes Noel had seen in 60 or 70 years of involvement in Baptist churches. We discussed theology, church history, family life and Jesus. It was an inspiration to me to meet with a man who has lived a life of faithful service and who is still as vigorous in his faith now as he was 50 years ago.

His advice to a young (relatively) missionary?…

“Stay close to Jesus”

What can you say?

In Jesus Love has won.

Jarrod McKenna

Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:

 “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always.” Mohandas Gandhi

I’m off to Indonesia this Friday (forgive me my carbon debts) to the Historic Peace Church Gathering on behalf of AAANZ and Quakers (It will be a bunch of very respectable, intelegent and impressive people from around the world… and this dreadlocked kid from Perth!).  So this will be my last ‘Wednesday with Gandhi’ for the year.  It’s funny I set out to write about a bunch of stuff that I didn’t get round to but I trust the Spirit will take what I have done and use it to invite and inspire people to know in deeper ways for themselves this Jesus that Gandhi said was the greatest practitioner of nonviolence in history, central to his revolution in India, and the one through whom, I believe, God’s dream for creation has broken into history.

I thought I’d end by letting you in on a little of the life of our community. Us Peace Tree mob can say with our hero Dorothy Day “We have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” As a community we seek to ‘serve in silence’ and not make a big deal of what we do but since the gang fights and the subsequent killing in the street behind ours was so public and made the news overseas, we thought we’d let our light shine in the hope that it doesn’t glorify us but the God who is transforming our world not through force but through a love seen fully in Jesus.

As Eastern Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware writes (I love this quote);

“The Cross, understood as victory, sets before us the paradox of love’s omnipotence.  Dostoevsky comes near to the true meaning of Christ’s victory in some statements which he puts into the mouth of Starets Zosmia:

“At some thoughts a man stands perplexed, above all at the sight of human sin, and he wonders whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide: “I will combat it by humble love.” If you resolve on that once and for all, you can conquer the whole world.  Loving humility is a terrible force: it is the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.” “

We witnessed something of this humble love and healing on Saturday with our ‘Peace and Pizza’ event in response to the gang killing in our streets. As Nick Cave might put it “God was in the house” (well… garden). The family of the 18 year old kid who was killed bravely join us as well as many indigenous people and white fellas like me. We had yummy wood fired pizzas, great music, and Maori, Noogar and Wajalla (as well as  people from Malaysia, Iran, Indonesia, Kenya and elsewhere) came together for a time of silence to honour the life of John[ston] the young man who was killed and tree planting and prayer for an end to violence in our neighbourhood and our world. Thanks for all who have supported us Peace Tree crew over this time. Please keep the families involved, and our neighbourhood in your prayers. 

These photos were taken by our good friend and brother Tom Day who is an amazing photographer now in Perth. (his website is worth bookmarking: http://www.thomasdayphotography.com/ )


 the guy with the dog in this photo is classic 🙂

Prayer with the family that have lost their loved one on our streets.


This was one of the most moving parts of the day when Noogar elders, parents and children helped to plant a tree to honour the life of a Maori boy killed by a Noogar gang.  It was truly beautiful and touched the family and the community gathered deeply.


Youth Worker, Community gardener, co-chaplain at Hampton High and Peace Tree brother Josh Hobby, helps plant the tree with one of the family members.




Thanks to all who have journeyed with me and Gandhi this year. I can still be found at http://paceebene.org/blog/jarrod-mckenna. Thanks more so to all who don’t put out PR releases but quietly go about living the decision “I will combat it by humble love.”   

You inspire me to know Christ more, to walk in the resurrection more. You witness to the reality that in Jesus love has won… and not even violence’s ultimate threat of death can stop resurrection power.

Grace and peace of the new world breaking in be with you,


Orthodoxy and heretics like Calvin?

Jarrod McKenna

Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:

“Today I rebel against orthodox Christianity, as I am convinced that it has distorted the message of Jesus.  He was an Asiatic whose message was delivered through many media, and when it had the backing of a Roman emperor it became an imperialist faith as it remains to this day.”

Mohandas Gandhi, (May 30, 1936) from “Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings” by John Dear, p. 79

I’d like to start this post not just with a quote from Gandhi, but a quote from 3 others:

Quote 1.

“Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt.”

Quote 2.

“Anyone who can be proved to be a seditious person is an outlaw before God and the emperor; and whoever is the first to put him to death does right and well. For if a man is in open rebellion, everyone is both his judge and the executioner; just as when a fire starts, the first man who can put it out is the best man to do the job.”

Quote 3.

“If what I’m saying about the centrality of Calvary-looking love is right, we need a major paradigm shift on how we view orthodoxy – which in turn should effect who we see as the “heroes” of orthodoxy.”

If the words of this last quote were written and acted on in the 16th century the writer could expect a second baptism of the involuntary variety where you never come up for air again.  These aren’t the words of some dreadlocked, kingdom-fuelled, commune starting, dumpster diving, fringe-dwelling, freegan, (eco)activist, permaculturalist wanta-be  (but thanks for reading my posts anyway ;)) but of Charismatic-Evangelical megachurch pastor, and theologian, Dr. Gregory Boyd.

So what his problem?

Well… quote 1 and 2 were written in the 16th century.  Not by some crazed peasants fuelled by a violent feudal variety of liberation theology on some crazed apocalyptic crack (but enough about Münster). Rather from the two men that many evangelicals consider the golden boys of the Reformation:

  • Quote 1: John Calvin (after the execution of Servetus for preaching a non-Trinitarian understanding of God )
  • Quote 2: Martin Luther (in a pamphlet one historian described as “boldly encouraging the slaughter of peasants” who held agendas other than that of the Elector of Saxony)

Now Dr. Boyd and I aren’t arguing for a reactionary “they sinned so I’m going to discount their whole work”. There are too much faults in my own life to be able to even want to argue something like that (!!) and there is also too much richness in the work of these brilliant men. On that logic we also have to discount the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, John H. Yoder, Gandhi and… well… everyone except Jesus! 😉 That kind of dismissive approach shows little spiritual maturity and a lack of hard work in coming to terms with, and removing the logs from, our own eyes in our own contexts.

So from a deep desire to first remove our own logs and then assist the church in doing likewise, this recovering sinner would like to raise some questions regarding the bench marks for orthodoxy. Why is it that the litmus test for orthodoxy for many evangelicals has been frozen in the 16th century in the thought of brilliant men who never the less had theologies that made it possible to disobey Christ’s commands to put away the sword, love our neighbour and even enemies like God has loved us (ie. not drowning, beheading or burning those who disagree with us). In particular questions about the bench mark of “orthodoxy” being systems of theology which fail to preach Christ crucified in ways that keep Christ central for atonement AND discipleship.  That have found approaches to preaching Christ crucified in ways that have failed to bear fruits that look like the church refusing to crucify others!! That have failed to continue reforming to an extent that we no longer perpetuate a history of Christianity that looks like the patterns of this world and nothing like the Christ who rejects the sword and goes the way of the cross trusting only in the faithfulness and sovereignty of a God who hears the cry of those in captivity.

Pastor Boyd suggests 16th century magisterial reformer John Calvin of the “worst heresy imaginable” in killing those who were in error. Greg’s argument:

“The New Testament defines agape love by pointing us to Jesus Christ (I Jn 3:16). To love someone is treat them like Jesus has treated you — dying for you while you were yet a sinner… Now follow me: If love [not a sentimental ideal but incarnate in Jesus] is to be placed above all else, if everything else is to be considered worthless apart from love and if everything hangs on fulfilling this one law, how can we avoid the conclusion that refusing to love even our enemies is the worst heresy imaginable? To miss this all important point renders whatever other truth we may possess worthless.”  

I wonder if one of the biggest heresies in the church today is a clever trick where by we keep the centrality of the cross in our understanding of atonement yet have created systems where the cross-shaped love of Jesus is not central to how we understand issues of power, of how we get things done, how we do conflict, how we relate to enemies, our way of being in the world (ie. following Jesus or “discipleship”). And I wonder how any theological system which is blind to this can be considered fully “orthodox”. For surely right belief leads to right practice?  And maybe it’s not until we start to practice what Christ commands of us that we can start to understand our belief. For doctrines (not a popular word but important none the less) such as the Trinity aren’t just boxes to tick but profound realities of who God is to be expressed in our lives.  So it seems that not just Servetus but Calvin was also in error regarding how he understood the Trinity because it didn’t express itself in refusing to kill his enemy because of the kenotic, self giving love, love that is seen in the Holy Trinity.

I recently wrote to our blogging mate Andrew Jones (aka tall skinny kiwi) regarding discussions of the Reformation:

Mate I was thinking the reformation conversation seems very ‘Magisterial-centric’ (did I just invest a word?). I don’t understand why we let Calvin or Luther set the bar for “orthodoxy”. What about the radical wing of the reformation that insisted orthodoxy lay in the witness of the early church and were therefore willing to die but not kill for Christ? I feel embarrassed that the conversation gets so nasty. While we don’t kill our brothers and sisters today over difference (in doctrine… we might still kill them in difference of nationality if asked by our nations in war) we still don’t think loving each other means not attacking each other. Why is that? What about Jesus’ Lordship in this area? If we really think each others in error should there not be tears in prayer for one another not ‘virtual burnings’. I think the church is still in need of a savour who rejects violence, and I think we have one in Jesus. Surely these conversations can be opportunities to for the church to journey deeper in the process of sanctification, of ‘divination’ as the Orthodox have put it, in become more Christ-like. If we can’t love our sisters and brother well how are we going to love our enemies?

Today there is a direct correlation between the theology of these 16th century magisterial reformers and evangelical leaders in the U.S. like James Dobson and Don Carson who actively oppose other evangelical leaders in actions like the ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative’ to prophetically confront the biggest ecological disaster in human history.  This is the same group that reject much of the work of who I think is one of the most promising thinkers on a ‘Jesus shaped orthodoxy’, N.T. Wright. They do this on the basis that his scholarship challenges some of the ways the Magisterial Reformers have taught us to read the Bible in light of their argy-bargy in the 16th century. And while gifted communicators Mark Driscol are able to use these Reformers to critique some of the stuff that passes for Christianity today such as the “success, self help and saved by rapture” nonsense, until we can let Christ be central to our critique we will not recover the dynamic faith and faithfulness of the early church which challenges the practice of these reformers (and our) comfort with violence.

But I’m not holding Gandhi up as a theological alternative. Gandhi was far from Christian orthodoxy in his beliefs and though I think conversation with his life is incredibly fruitful for discussing the log in our eye as westerners who claim to follow Christ, I have never held him up as providing a theological framework for deepening ourselves in the biblical narrative. Yet the “orthodoxy” which Gandhi rejected I think is no orthodoxy at all. An orthodoxy with an “imperialist faith”, that plays the chaplain to the kingdoms of this world that crucified our Lord is not “orthodox’’ (lit. “Right believe”) but a dangerous heresy. (for those interested here’s a link I put to a short 2min interview with Dr. Cornel West on this subject and photos of our Peace Tree ‘commun(e)ity’ and our initial response to the recent gang killing on our streets). 

So this plea for a Jesus-shaped orthodoxy will not be found in out arguing each other but out living (out witnessing! 🙂 ) each other. We remember the only way we can deepen in orthodoxy is by prayerfully seeking to do so in a way that reflects the way of Christ, after the likeness of the mutual love of the Triune God who is fully revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. In the love we see in the cross and the power we see in the Resurrection. We must learn to engage in ways where we deepen our journey of discipleship. Where we become more aware of our own desperate need for God’s transforming grace that lead us on the exodus journey out of our own captivity to the cycles of domination that can never witness to what God has started in Jesus, the kingdom of God.

ABC’s Radio National did an interview with me and others on parts of the Reformation traditions which insisted that following Christ means living Christ-like lives where we drop our weapons that we may pick up our cross: Here’s the link if interested

and an article on the “emerging peace church movement” and an orthodoxy in keeping with the witness of the early church: click here

Goodnews to all of creation?

Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:

“When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator. I try to see Him and His Mercies in all these creations. But even the sunsets and sunrises would be mere hindrances if they did not help me to think of Him. Anything, which is a hinderance to the flight of the soul, is a delusion and a snare; even like the body, which often does actually hinder you in the path of salvation.”


How does this quote strike you?

This morning I write this post from under the shade of eucalypts in the Lockridge community garden that us Peace Tree crew have helped birthed with other locals. One of the things that has shaped the Peace Tree is what the Spirit has stirred in us regarding the gospel being good news for all of creation (not just humans) and considering what this means in a society that is seemingly asleep behind the shopping trolley while we hurtle towards creation destruction (for those of us who have trouble connecting the dots… that means self destruction!). The Lockridge Community Garden is an exciting and humble venture in reconciliation, permaculture, food security, the reclaiming of public space, and as Harry (showing of his crazy latin skills and penchant for St. Benedict would say) “ora et labora” (prayer and work). Because it’s a Wednesday there a number of people who are volunteering in the garden, one of which is a friend who is a Buddhist nun. I ran the quote by her for her take:

“I really like it. He seems to be talking about detachment and perception and that what is external can either help or hinder depending on your state of mind.”

What I found so interesting is that I think many Christians, not just liberals, but evangelicals would actually agree with my Buddhist friend. They would use different language (maybe language simular to what Gandhi) uses here to say,

“It’s great but don’t let it (God’s good creation) get in the way of spirituality, or relationship to God, or ‘the gospel’ or ‘eternal salvation’.”

It’s always risky to paint with broad brushstrokes but the quote above reveals something Gandhi’s worldview where he viewed the goal of faith being a spiritual salvation (moksha) form the ‘illusion of this world’ while living lives of loving service. This ‘dualism with an activist twist’ is sadly what many Christians think the gospel is about as well. Somehow today Christians often think that right relationship with each other and with the land is a secondary thought to right relationship to God. For the early Christians it was an integral part of the reconciliation of all things which God has started in Jesus.

Somehow today Christians have walked away from our calling to be image bearers and witnesses to the transformation of creation (the coming of the kingdom). Instead we have become religious vendors of ‘spirituality’ to accompany the foolish and diabolical destruction of creation. Instead of preaching ‘in Jesus the exodus from all domination has started’ we preach a neo-Gnostism of ‘in Jesus the exodus from creation has started’. As my friend Ian Barns recently wrote:

“many Christians believe that God is primarily interested in humans and their eternal salvation, and not in other creatures and ecosystems. Although the doctrine of creation (God made the world and saw that it was good) saves us from being Manichean (matter is bad, spirit is good) nonetheless, Christian worship, practice, and theology and involvement in worldly life is shaped by a practical dualism which makes us generally unconcerned about ecological issues. Moreover, the focus on issues of personal spirituality means that we fit comfortably within the utilitarian approach to the natural world that is part of modern urban and industrial life.”

“For this movement of American evangelicals, issues of abortion, same sex marriage, and stem cell research have been much more important issues than the long term health of the planet. To be sure, in February 2005, 83 prominent US evangelicals published the so-called ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative’, with a ‘Call to Action’ to governments and churches. Yet evangelical leaders such as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Charles Colson and Don Carson actively opposed this initiative.”

And drawing on NT Wright issues this prophetic call:

“if we pay attention to the ‘bigger picture’ gospel that the Bible proclaims, we can see that far from being merely a temporary vehicle for us humans as we make our way to heaven, the creation is integral to God’s salvation purpose. God does not make a good creation, which he then destroys because of the disfiguring effects of human sin. Rather, his eternal purpose is that, as human creatures faithfully reflect God’s image, the created order should enter into the liberty of the children of God (Romans 8). The gospel message is that Jesus, the first born of a renewed humanity, has done what Adam, and humanity ‘ after the sinful flesh’, could not do: be the perfect image of God. Through his obedience unto death, Jesus opens the way for not just humanity, but God’s good creation, to enter into that glorious destiny God always intended.”

Living during this ecological crisis, if we are to have any integrity to the Scriptures, the early Church, and our Lord, we must preach a full gospel that is good news to all of creation. Otherwise “evangelical” will no longer be associated with ‘good news’.

Blasphemy & Missional Solidarity

Jarrod McKenna

Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:

“My experience tells me that the Kingdom of God is within us, and that we can realise it not by saying, “Lord, Lord,” but by doing God’s will and God’s work… Do you know that there are thousands of villages where people are starving and are on the brink of ruin? If we would listen to the voice of God, I assure you we would hear God say we are taking God’s name in vain if we do not think of the poor and help them.  If you cannot render the help that they need, it is no use talking of service of God and service of the poor. Try to identify yourself with the poor by actually helping them.”

Mohandas Gandhi, (March 31, 1927) from “Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings” by John Dear, p. 81


I don’t think there would be many who would argue that as Christians we can affirm with Gandhi that “we are taking God’s name in vain if we do not think of the poor and help them.”

And while Radiohead’s fans are excited the bands been thinking creatively about questions of economics and how they distribute there next album, what does that look like in our lives as God’s people? (economics and justice that is, not so much our next album distribution) Does it look different from the bands PR exercise (not that I’m not stoked Radiohead are letting me decide what to pay for their next album!)

What does it look like to move from ‘church charity’ run by some sweet old ladies, to being ecclesia of missional solidarity?  (not to disrespect radical nannas everywhere doing awesome stuff!)

For you or your community what does ‘doing God’s will’ when it comes to ‘the least of these’ look like? What are you inspired by, that it might look like? What do you long for it to look like?

Our crew have really struggled with this stuff. I don’t mean struggle in the noble sense. I mean struggle in the sense of it being bloody hard! Nearly as hard as living with each other 🙂  And like much of our life as community, it’s left us with not much to show other than some colourful (and painful) stories and a burning desire for God, for healing, for justice, for the kingdom and an awareness of our own brokenness and sin. Should we all move overseas to the slums we have only visited with our expensive cameras? Should we all just join UNOH?  What does it mean to practice hospitality when you’re continually stolen from, physically threatened and taken advantage of?  When all you’re left with is their used needles, hardcore porn, broken promises, and debt. When you show up in court to support them but they dont. When you’re dumped with other people’s toddlers for days on end while they get high and you have to decided do you ring DCD and your only comfort is the lament of the Psalmist and your sisters and brothers prayers. Only to find out that our parts of the body of Christ are bagging you out without praying for you or seeking to correct or encourage you. Please don’t hear me writting these things out of bitterness. I write as a brother struggling with what “actually helping them” (as Gandhi put it) looks like (anybody else?).  Sometimes I come out of visiting in prison and just feel like crying for a day. Maybe these are the stories we need to tell too aswell as the times we come out feeling totally inspired.

Recently I was contacted by a pastor (of what most would consider a successful mainstream church), who had opened up his home to someone who had lived on the streets for years. This Pastor wanted to talk through the heart ache of seeing someone throw away the opportunities offered to him because he was stuck in cycles he couldn’t break out of. Maybe these stories are as important to share as the “success stories”? Maybe these are the stories that can ween us of the quick fixes and easy answers that we can so often hear to our worlds deepest problems. Maybe if we told these ones too we’d celebrate God’s transforming grace all the more! And real joy would truely be our strength.

Some of our crew were recently hanging out with a similar community to us in the States called ‘The Simple Way’. The Simple Way have a huge public influence through the success of Shane Claiborne’s wonderful book “The Irresistible Revolution” (which I highly recommend!!)  But we were joking if we were to write a book it would be “A how [not] to” (shout outs to Pete Rollins who I also highly recommend!!!!).  Maybe our book would be called ‘The Resistible Revolution’ or ‘The Very Resistible Revolution’. 🙂

So for those of us who believe James 2:15-16 is part of the inspired Scriptures what does this look like in a world where 3 billion of God’s children live on less than 2 dollars a day?

Who are a good example of an alternative?  Is Gandhi a good example?  Is St. Francis of Assisi? Is our Lord? (Seriously!) If we say they are (or if we say ‘Jesus is Lord’) what does that look like for us as the church practically?  Who are the communities or people who inspiring you to see Christ glorified in the churches response to  poverty and ‘affluenza’? What churches in your city have encouraged you in the journey by their witness?

Anybody else need to voice failed efforts 🙂 Prayerfully reading the quote from Gandhi, what does God stir in you?

Son of God?




Jarrod McKenna

Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:



“Jesus expressed, as no other could, the spirit and the will of God. It is in this sense that I see him and recognise him as the Son of God.”

Gandhi, (October 1941) from “Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings” by John Dear, p. 79

How does Gandhi’s understanding of ‘Son of God’ sit with you?

I don’t think Gandhi was talking about the “hypostatic union” of the Father and the Son. I don’t think Gandhi had in mind the fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon considering the two natures of the Son of God. Nor did Gandhi have the Sixth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople and it’s discussion of, not just the two natures, but the two wills of the Son of God.

But in fairness to Gandhi, nor does the average evangelical Christian. While I don’t want to take away from any of the important spiritual lessons that can be learnt from studying the “Councils”, I’d like to suggest it’d be fruitful to consider what another non-Christian probably meant by “Son of God” and what the Apostle Paul meant in context.

The Unnamed Soldier

We don’t know his name. And there is little recorded about him. What we do know: He was a solider who’s job declared “good news”. The Good News of the ‘Son of God’ bringing salvation and justice to the world because he is now Lord of the whole world and calls for our allegiance. I know what your thinking,

“Jarrod, I thought you said he wasn’t a Christian?”

He’s not.

CaesarThat’s the language used by the fastest growing religion in Jesus’ day, the Cult of Caesar. The ‘Cult of Caesar’ announced Caesar as Divine and provided the spirituality for the Empire’s invasion, colonisation, oppression and continual domination. This unnamed soldiers job was his spiritual act of worship, to oversee the brutal and public humiliation of those who would challenge the hegemonic control of the world by it’s true Lord and Son of God, Caesar, the Roman Emperor. The Empire did this through Caesar’s saving methods, means, politics, ethics and spirituality; VIOLENCE. In particular for this centurion, his job was overseeing the violence of crucifixion which made a spectacle of would be revolutionaries that would challenge Caesar as Divine Ruler of the world.

Yet, one Friday the politics, ethics, spirituality and allegiance of this centurion of the oppressive Empire did a radical life changing back-flip. As Mark Gospel records it chapter 15:37-39:

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

“SON OF GOD?!” These words are not in the mouth of a Jew referring to the rich Jewish imagination associated with this term; the real King of Israel, the real liberating anointed leader (messiah). These words are instead in the mouth of someone who as a Roman Centurion knew the term “Son of God” to refer to his violent political leader, Caesar.

Yet, after maybe watching the death of thousands via crucifixion, something about the cry and the way this nonviolent messiah died, brought him to a conclusion that still threatens the heart of violent empires everywhere (including Burma this week). In this bloodied dying revolutionary he had seen and heard real power. Real leadership. Real sovereignty. Real divinity. The real ruler. The ‘Son of God’ that instead of ruling with violence would expose the “comic backfire” of violence and the structures which have institutionalised it’s reign, making a spectacle of it and triumphing over it “by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)

Tom wrightAs N.T. Wright has said,

“A close comparison of the “good news” of the Caesar cult with Paul’s words shows that Romans is, among other things, a deliberate parody of the [violent] pagan message. Paul’s readers in Rome must have understood this, and he must have intended them to. Paul’s ideas do not derive from the Caesar cult, as some have suggested; they confront it.”

The Apostle Paul is not, as some liberal theologians have argued, (and sadder still, some evangelicals practice), lifting his ideas from the cult of Caesar worship in an act of political vasectomy to neutralise and hellenise a Judaism that would bow the knee to the Empire’s violent agenda. Instead the Apostle Paul is practicing the nonviolent ‘spiritual jujitsu’, (to nick Wink’s term), that Jesus taught to subvert the language Empire (and it’s spirituality of domination and violence) to expose and undermine it.

The early church, filled with the Holy Spirit, did just that and it often cost them there lives. Much like the unarmed actions of the Buddhist monks in Burma this week, the early church showed a fearlessness in the face of the rebellious principalities and powers. Yet unlike the monks and their brave actions (which I admire deeply) where not simply fueled by the desperation of the situation but by the resurrection of the Son of God; the dawning of God’s nonviolent dream for creation. Unquestionably they understood the cross to be what God has done for us, empowering us to “put away the sword” and to take up the cross as our way of defeating evil (as seen in the early churches refusal to fight wars for first three centuries of Christianity).

Tragically today we even have church leaders who accuse those who challenge the hijacking of Christianity in service the diabolical exploitation of God’s good earth and the poor as ‘twisting the Scriptures’. That accuse those who are calling the church to obey Jesus Christ and therefore love our enemies like he did, (through the way of costly love NOT the way of ‘smart bombs’ and preemptive strikes) of distorting Jesus for our own agenda.

I wonder if the challenge of a pagan solider at the cross of Jesus, the courageous unarmed Buddhist monks in Burma and the context of the Apostle Paul’s writing, will be enough for us to see how often we have made “Son of God” mean less than, (as Gandhiji put it), “Jesus expressed, as no other could, the spirit and the will of God”. More than that, I wonder if the Scriptures will be enough for Christians to believe like the early Church did that Jesus is not less than the Messiah, God incarnate, God revealed fully to be Love.

And calls us to live in ways that reflect such a love as revealed in Jesus.

here is one small way you can support the Burmese Protestors 

“go ye” and Gandhi

Gandhi greeting a little one


 Jarrod McKenna‘s Wednesday’s with Gandhi: “May it not be that ‘Go ye unto all the world’ message has been somewhat narrowly interpreted and the spirit of it missed? It will not be denied, I speak from experience, that many of the conversions are only so-called. In some cases, the appeal has gone not to the heart but to the stomach.”

-Speeches and writings of Gandhi: p.336, Feb. 14 1916

Gandhi’s reflections come out of his horrible experience as a child in India seeing people convert to Western ways in ‘Christian drag’ and not to Christ.

Some thought on mission and ‘go ye’

  1. Have others too experienced people “Go[ing] Ye…” but not making disciples, that is, students of the nonviolent way of Jesus?

Gandhi 'going ye'2. The biblical passage which Gandhi is referring to is Matthew 28:18-20. In part it reads, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”. Is it the ‘mission’ of the God revealed in Jesus if we are not teaching people the practicalities of what Jesus taught? If we teach a theory of atonement and neglect to teach ‘converts’ to live Jesus’ way have we really made disciples? If we don’t teach giving to the needy in secret (instead of calling a press conference), to pray for God’s will of justice,peace and joy to be done (instead of our will or the will of our nation), to seek first God’s transforming presence (instead of careers or our agenda) to first remove the plank from our own eye (instead of judging others) and to love our enemies (instead of bombing them) have we really made followers, students, disciples of Jesus?

3. Gandhi talked about “so-called” converts where the appeal has gone not “to the heart” but “to the stomach.” In your experience do evangelists today invite people ‘take up their cross’ and follow Jesus in the way of love come what may? Or simply appeal to peoples stomachs?

4. What might it look like to prayerfully seek to embody an alternative to the “so-called conversions”, the “appeals to the stomach” and “go[ing] ye” without calling people to obedience to the ‘royal law’ of Love?

For going deeper:

what difference to mission might it make if we were to spend time meditating on Matthew 28:18-20 inlight of Matthew 5-7 while praying for a ‘conversion of the heart’. Gandhi read the Sermon on the Mount daily for his mission, how much do we for Christ’s mission?


I watched Amazing Grace on Thursday night and was totally inspired.

I had never done much research on the Wilberforce story, but seeing the movie has certainly provoked me in that direction. It was great to see a man who took seriously the way his faith impacted his place in the world. There were several ‘quotable’ moments in the film, but the first visit of the Clapham Sect was certainly poignant as they suggested to Wilberforce that he didn’t need to choose between praising God or a life in political activism, but rather he could do both. Hmm… I thought it would have been much better for him to ‘go into the ministry’…

I don’t know about you but I often find myself walking out of movies like this wondering if my life will be as significant as his… and then catching myself as I ask again ‘what does significant mean?’ and ‘what has God called me to do & be?’ I would reckon the Wilberforces of the world are maybe one in a million, or less, and yet the danger of seeing a movie like that, is to then see your own life as pretty lame by comparison. I know (right or wrong) that is one of my first responses and to be content with making the much smaller contribution that is mine, is sometimes a challenge.

One of the things the movie did well, was to show the agonisingly extended length of time it took for Wilberforce to see any change come about, to be continually opposed and to fight for a cause we now see as so bleeding obvious, but at the time to be considered a fool. His tenacity in the face of enormous personal opposition as well as failing health was powerful. Also we didn’t see much of the ‘dark side’ of this type of work – the effect on family or marriage – but I’m sure it had to be there. There is always a personal cost when you devote yourself to a cause. (William Booth’s story in a case in point.)

It was interesting that the moral question was not the one driving the debate in the British parliament, but rather it was economics. There were too many $$$ invested in the sugarfields for the English to outlaw slavery. In many ways not much has changed. I was reading New Internationalist this week and reflecting again on the genocide in Darfur where the primary reason for non-intervention my the west was economics and politics of the oil trade.

We may appear more civilised these days but…