Monthly Archives: January 2011

The rich man and Lazarus: Why did Jesus tell this story?

I reflect on Jesus’ well known story of the fate, after death, of a rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, in my January 23, 2011 sermon—the eleventh in my series on Luke’s Gospel.

Why did Jesus tell this story? I suggest that his purpose has to do with exhorting his listeners to generosity. He heightens the tensions between himself and the religious leaders by likening them to the calloused rich man who finds himself after death across an unbridgeable chasm from “father Abraham.”

However, when we read this story together with the Prodigal Son story, located just one chapter earlier in Luke, we will see that Jesus seriously presents those who would identify with the rich man and his brothers with a way to healing. Simply return to the message of Moses and the prophets.

What is that message? Love God and neighbor. Jesus illustrates his words from the Sermon on the Plain in chapter six where he warns of coming woes to those who are rich now—in contrast to the blessings promised the poor. However, his overall intent is to exhort to generosity with the hope that healing is possible—not to assert people are locked into condemnation.

The sermon may be found here: it’s called “Listen to Moses.” The other sermons in the series may be found here.

The Military Industrial Complex and the Moral Legacy of World War II

Ted Grimsrud—1/14/11

[Presented at the Military Industrial Complex at 50 Conference—Guilford College, Greensboro, NC—adapted from earlier lectures at Eastern Mennonite University and Goshen College]

Dwight Eisenhower was, I think, an unlikely, and not altogether believable, prophet against militarism. Nonetheless, if we pay attention to a few of his words (in contrast to a long career of actions), we will find some powerful insights.

Most notably, almost exactly fifty years ago, on his way out of the presidency, Eisenhower critiqued what he so incisively called the “military-industrial complex.” Tragically, the past fifty years only underscore both the prescience of Eisenhower’s warning and regret that he did not do more to curb militarism when he had a chance.

In a typically perceptive article called “The Tyranny of Defense, Inc.,” in The Atlantic’s January 2011 issue, Andrew Bacevich writes in appreciation of Eisenhower’s speech. But Bacevich also points out that Eisenhower’s farewell speech came as a kind of bookend, paired with a speech from near the beginning of his presidency in 1953.

That first speech reflected on the dangers of militarism in the United States. Eisenhower stressed the problems of high military spending with these forceful words: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. [When a nation spends so much on warfare] it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.” Continue reading

Old Testament Bases for Christian Peace Theology

Ted Grimsrud

[Paper presented to the Scripture and Contextual Ethics Section at the American Academy of Religion annual meetings, Atlanta, Georgia—November 1, 2010]

The “just peacemaking” project that brought together Christian ethicists holding both to pacifism and to versions of the just war theory but united in the goal of “abolishing war”[1] has made a great start in a practical effort to overcome the curse of war. The desire to expand the project beyond Christianity is welcome—in fact absolutely necessary.

My paper points in two mutually reinforcing directions—one is to challenge Christians in our understanding of the bases for our peace theology, the second is to work at finding common ground between Christian peace theology and other traditions (most obviously Judaism, but potentially beyond).

The Old Testament as a Problem

Christian peace theology tends to be New Testament centered, especially drawing on the gospels. Most Christians would seem to assume that the Old Testament has little to offer for the work of overcoming war and violence. The comment of a friend of mine many years ago may be representative. We were in a Bible study group together and when someone suggested we study something from the Old Testament, my friend snorted and stated flatly, “I don’t want anything to do with that bloody book!” And many Christians who have wanted something to do with the Old Testament, going back to Augustine, have mainly used it as a justification for the acceptability of warfare. Continue reading