So This is Christmas (War Is Not Over)

4 01 2014


by Jennifer Galicinski

Today is one of the days in the church calendar that I most appreciate – the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents. During the 12 days of Christmas, there is a day to remember that the birth of the Prince of Peace threatened the Roman Empire so much that it resorted immediately to the tool that marks every empire – violence. With a lust for power and control, King Herod ushered a decree that baby boys under the age of two be massacred, in hopes of killing the one who was deemed to be the true King. It was a state-sponsored infanticide, thousands were murdered, and the Holy Family fled as refugees.

As I’m writing this my nieces and nephews are squealing with delight as they run around and play with each other. The two youngest are under two years of age, and I cannot imagine the horror of an army coming around and murdering them in cold blood. (Later, at the dinner table, I was discussing this article, and my dad asked why the “Holy Innocents” are so “Holy”. My 9 year old nephew wondered if it was because being holy is being set apart for God, and these infants died instead of Jesus, so they were set apart in heaven. Genius.)

My appreciation of this awful day might seem a little masochistic. After the peace and beauty and joy that we’re supposed to feel at Christmas, the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents plunges as back into the reality felt by most people in the world: life is cruel and marked by suffering. It’s authentic.

As I speak, violence is rising in the South Sudan and the newly formed country is quickly deteriorating – with hundreds of innocents slaughtered in the past two weeks and a friend of mine having to evacuate the country.

The number of Syrian refugees continues to rise well over the million-mark.

Disaster is still wide-spread in the Philippines after the horrendous typhoon.

The empire of globalized capitalism consumes its slave-labour victims year by year.

In Canada, where I live, First Nations people were ruthlessly slaughtered by European colonists. To this day, Canada’s First Nations are perpetually and systematically thrown aside on their own land. So-called “reserves” are more like majority-world countries. First Nations commitment to stewarding their land, in opposition to the advances of Big Oil are ignored by the settler state, and the majority of Canadians.

This day provides the opportunity to cut out all the bullshit that sometimes comes with Christmas – the other-worldly angelic joy, the commercialism of it all, the pretending that Christmas has saved us all – because it hasn’t…yet.

The Massacre of the Innocents introduces us to what Christ faced in his lifetime. It’s what we are up against in ours.

For Christ, there was a violent empire that when challenged, would not hesitate to kill and destroy all in its path. The same is true for us. The penalty for following this Prince of Peace into darkness and suffering will ultimately threaten the empires that rule today (if we are doing it right).

Hell hath no fury like a threatened empire. So what do we do?

Anne Lamott says in her new book Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair:

“We are not served by getting away from the grubbiness of suffering…we have to stand in the middle of the horror, at the foot of the cross [like Mary], and wait out another’s suffering where that person can see us….To be honest, that sucks. It’s the worst, even if you are the mother of God.”

Presence and solidarity with those who are suffering, without any cute platitudes like “God’s plan is perfect” is hard. Such statements only makes things worse, which is why true presence and true solidarity are so essential. They are good places to start.

But then what? Lamott continues

“Most of us have figured out that we have to do what’s in front of us and keep doing it. We clean up beaches after oil spills. We rebuild towns after hurricanes and tornados. We return calls and library books. We get people water. Some of us even pray. Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice. The equation is: life, death, resurrection, hope. The horror is real, and so you make casseroles for your neighbour, organize an overseas clothing drive, and do your laundry…we live stitch by stitch, when we’re lucky.”

We can do something equally dramatic. To do so, we must go and be present with those who suffer most in our world. Together, we can work for justice in whatever ways we are gifted and able.

One of my seminary professors once said:

“Every act of social justice (or simple kindness) is a foretaste and foreshadowing of the coming Kingdom of justice, peace, and flourishing for all.”

So today, we remember. We educate ourselves, and others. We lament. We are present with the suffering. We get stitchin’. But first, we must let go of our sadness and meager attempts to love God. From the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,
whose children suffered at the hands of Herod,
receive, we pray, all innocent victims
into the arms of your mercy.
By your great might frustrate all evil designs
and establish your reign of justice, love, and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


This blog originally appeared on Jennifer Galicinski’s website, Sacred Imperfections, and has been lightly edited. 

A New Way Home

23 12 2013

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

It’s that time of year again. That time to journey home, the place of anxiety, fear, frustration and pain. Home. It’s where the hurt is. Yet again this week, in light of the Duck Dynasty Debacle, social media lit up, and along with it, the renewed call from various folks for the death of Christianity specifically, and religion in general.

Somehow, it’s just easier to believe that Phil Robertson’s Christianity represents all Christians. Somehow it’s just easier to invoke Dawkins’ and Hitchens’ simplistic critique. Religion is the source of evil in the world. Religion must die. QED. Read the rest of this entry »

Advent Pain, Aching Hope

20 12 2013

by Brian Walsh

Maybe it is somehow natural that we want radical new beginnings.
Maybe there is something about the human condition that wants newness in our lives,
and we want it now.

But then again, maybe such impatience is also a feature of a culture that needs
the excitement of the ‘new’ in order to keep the market growing.

To live in “modern times” is to be incurably impatient,
we are not a people who like to wait.

Heck, even the way in which Christian conversion is presented
seems to be all about arrival,
all about a radical, total and final break with a past way of life
and the embrace of a new identity in Christ as a done deal. Read the rest of this entry »

Community: Wounded and Blessed – a workshop for Idealists, Hypocrites and Wanna-be Disciples of Jesus

19 12 2013


The Jeremiah Community and Urban Remixed present:

David Janzen from Reba Place Fellowship in Evanston, Illinois

for a half day workshop on the joys and sorrows of intentional community.

Saturday, January 11: 8.30am to 1.00
Church of Epiphany and St. Mark
201 Cowan Ave, Toronto
Suggested Donation: $25.00

David Janzen will speak twice that morning and there will be a series of break out sessions dealing with various dimensions of community life – things like, “who is doing the work around here?”, “who’s money is this?”, “loving our neighbours,” and many others.

Having Nothing

18 12 2013

by Andrew Stephens-Rennie

We demand so much.
From ourselves. For ourselves.
We demand so much.

And others demand the same. Demand. Demand. Demand. It has to happen now. Faster, quicker, better.

The weight of the world
keeps us nervous at night
locks up the light
makes our efforts seem slight

We work ourselves into a frenzy, we push ourselves to the limit.
We are what we love (or so the argument goes).

But is any of this about love? And if it is, love of what kind?

We are what we love. And I don’t know how it is for you, I don’t know how it is where you are, but I’m not sure half the time what I love, how I love, that I love. Half the time, I’m not sure if the love I feel is enough, is the right kind. Not sure if the love I live is as deep and pure as I’d wish it to be.

There are times I wonder how self-congratulatory, self-motivated, self-righteous, self-absorbed, and self-aggrandizing this thing is that passes for love.

The apostle writes:

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. —1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Without it,

Talk is cheap.
So love.

Prophecy is overrated.
So love.

Knowledge is vanity.
So love.

Charity is frailty.
So love.

Sacrifice is bullshit.
So love.

Love with all you’ve got. Love in your talk, your prophecy, your knowledge, your charity and your sacrifice. Without deep, profound, self-giving love, it’s all a hollow, empty, fraud.

So love.

So love,


Love with all you’ve got. And even if it’s not that much, it will be enough.

Mandela, Calvinism and Derrida

8 12 2013

by Brian Walsh


As I’ve been reflecting on the death of Nelson Mandela, two thoughts keep crowding my mind.

The shame of Calvinism and the vacuity of Deconstruction.

I’m sure that most of my readers will catch the significance of the first reference, but perhaps not the second.

Let me explain.

As someone who stands in the tradition of John Calvin, indeed, who is a servant of the Christian Reformed Church, the death of Mandela recalls for me (amongst many other things) one of the greatest moments of shame in the history of ‘Reformed’ churches. Throughout the history of Apartheid and Afrikaaner rule in South Africa, the oppression of ‘blacks’ and ‘coloureds’ received explicit blessing from the vast majority of Reformed churches in that country.

But these churches didn’t just ‘bless’ the racist policies of Apartheid, they provided scriptural legitimation  for them as well. Through a dubious reading of the biblical story, African people where characterized somehow as descendants of the biblical character, Ham. Preachers used this reading to argue that blacks were forever destined to be a lesser race, in need of the benevolent rule of whites. Now this isn’t that surprising, really. You see, a sin as heinous as racism, and a policy as evil as Apartheid, will always need some sort of sacred blessing. How else could you justify such things, unless God Himself, were to command it! Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus, Obama and de Certeau: Redemptive Tactics in the Security State

6 12 2013

by Brian Walsh

Some opening thoughts on John 7. 1-36.

It’s a good thing that the whole Jesus thing didn’t happen in the 21st century.

I mean, we keep reading about people wanting to kill him, but can’t quite find a good time and place to do the deed. He seems so often to be keeping a step ahead of the authorities. Slipping off to the wilderness every now and then to pray, but also maybe to keep a low profile.

And while in John’s gospel he goes to Jerusalem numerous times, it is clear that he knows full well of the danger of these forays into the belly of the beast. So he slips into the city secretly.

Now if this was the 21st century, the story would have to be considerably different.

In a world of the NSA and CSIS keeping tabs on pretty much everyone who might possibly be a subversive, you gotta know that Jesus would be high on their surveillance list. The guy sure couldn’t use email, social media or a cellphone. And blogging? Forget it. Read the rest of this entry »


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