Ted Grimsrud

Archive for June, 2015|Monthly archive page

An interview on justice, mercy, and God’s love

In God, mercy, Restorative justice, violence on June 17, 2015 at 9:18 am

Ted Grimsrud—June 17, 2015

In February, 2015, I was privileged to be a guest on a radio show, Community Justice Talks, on KHEN-FM, Salida, Colorado. The show’s host, Molly Rowan Leach, interviewed me for about half an hour. We talked about an article I had written, “Violence as a Theological Problem” and my two books, Instead of Atonement: The Bible’s Salvation Story and Our Hope for Justice, and The Good War That Wasn’t—And Why It Matters: World War II’s Moral Legacy.

The recording of that interview is now available. Here’s a link to a page that allows visitors to listen to the interview directly or to download a podcast. Or it can be listened to here as well. What follows is an edited written transcript of the interview.

Molly Rowan Leach—This is Community Justice Talks. And I’m your host, Molly Rowan Leach. And you’re listening to KHEN-LP Salida, Colorado, 106.9 FM. You can stream us at khen.org. It’s great to be here today and I am really looking forward to the conversation that we’re about to have with Professor Ted Grimsrud from Eastern Mennonite University. He’s on the line live with us, coming from his university back east in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Here on Community Justice Talks we like to talk with people from local and statewide as well as nationwide movements towards solutions in conflict and crime. This show aims to provide hope, solutions, and to have an open, honest dialogue about justice that is unfiltered—at the very personal as well as communal and national levels.

We are focusing today on unpacking violence as a theological problem. Ted had a blog post that was published just last week on Open Democracy, which is an excellent blog and news site. You can get more information and read blogs and news there at opendemocracy.net. His post, on the 16th of February, was called “Violence as a Theological Problem.” It has a lot of inspiring details that unpack why we in the United States seem to justify violence. He writes: “Deeply ingrained in the religious consciousness of the United States is the belief that retribution is God’s will. According to the logic of retribution, holiness governs God’s behavior. As a holy God, God cannot stand to be in the presence of impurity, of human sin. Human beings invariably violate that holiness because all of us are sinners. God is bound to respond to sin with punishment because to forgive would violate God’s holiness. Compassion without satisfaction is not possible for God in this tradition.”

Further on in the article, Ted talks about restorative justice. And of course at Eastern Mennonite University, there’s a powerful program called the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice that was spearheaded by Dr. Howard Zehr, who is considered and honored as one of the wayshowers and leaders of the movement here in the United States, at least of the modern movement.

Ted is Professor of Theology and Peace Studies. Prior to teaching at EMU, beginning in 1996, he served ten years as a pastor in Mennonite churches in Oregon, Arizona, and South Dakota. He is especially interested in the connection between Christian theology and pacifism. He teaches classes in theology, peace studies, ethics, and the Bible. His books include, most recently, published just this last November, The Good War That Wasn’t—And Why It Matters: The Moral Legacy of World War II. He also blogs at ThinkingPacifism.net and has a website that gathers his writings at PeaceTheology.net. Read the rest of this entry »

Sin: What it is and what to do about it—Paul’s message in Romans 6

In Apostle Paul, Biblical theology, peace theology, Romans on June 15, 2015 at 9:52 am

Ted Grimsrud

A sermon preached at Shalom Mennonite Congregation—Harrisonburg, VA, June 14, 2015, Romans 6:1-23

Sometimes little things are powerful—the most dangerous spiders are those little brown recluses. The hottest chili peppers are the tiny Carolina creepers. And the word “sin”—with only three letters—has all kinds of significance for religious people, and those who know religious people.

Problems with “sin”

One of the problems in North American Christianity is that the word sin is used mainly by people on one side of the theological spectrum. It feels like a harsh and finger pointing kind of word. So good peaceable progressives tend to avoid it. The result is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy where everybody cedes the meaning of sin to those who do use it in hurtful ways.

We all do know that to call something a sin is to say it’s very bad. It’s like the famous story about President Calvin Coolidge back in the 1920s. He was notoriously a man of few words. One Sunday he went to church and later met with some reporters. “What was the sermon about,” he was asked. “It was about sin.” “What did the preacher say about sin?” “He said he was agin it.” … What more is there to say?

Well, a few decades later, the Louvin Brothers, one of the great country music brother singing acts , recorded a song called “Broadminded” that did say a little more: “That word broadminded is spelled s-i-n. I read in my Bible, they shall not enter in. Depart, I never knew you. That word broadminded is spelled s-i-n.” The song goes on to list the really bad sins—to “gamble now and then for pleasure,” to “drink a little whisky to please a friend,” and to go “dancing with friends.”

Of course we can think of even more hurtful ways the label sin is used. If it’s people others want to exclude or silence or marginalize, they can be accused of being sinful, of “living in sin.” One of the reasons this hurtful use of sin language is too bad is that many of us tend to react against using it at all then—and that makes for a challenge when we want to find language to use to talk about things that are genuinely wrong—like war and environmental exploitation and racism. We don’t find it meaningful to say those things are sinful—but we don’t have other words that work, either.

But there is another problem with the way “sin” is used among Christians. If it’s used as a word for the evils of “broadmindedness” or if it’s a word we refuse to use—in both cases we think of “sin” mainly as rule violations or moralistically objectionable behavior. To think of sin in these ways makes it harder to understand one of the Apostle Paul’s use of sin language—and we miss Paul’s helpful contributions to how we might approach life in healing and creative ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Revelation Notes (chapter 12)

In Eschatology, peace theology, Revelation, Theology on June 1, 2015 at 9:11 am

Ted Grimsrud

[See notes on Revelation 11]

With chapter twelve, John begins a more detailed account that provides a fuller picture of the forces at work in the plagues we have seen and will see more of. It becomes more clear over the next several chapters how the Powers of evil are involved in the kinds of events that make up the plagues—and how the victory of God is won and implemented.

First, “God’s temple in heaven” is opened (11:19) as part of the seventh trumpet vision that announces “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah” (that is, the One on the throne and the Lamb) and the time has come “for destroying those who destroy the earth” (11:18). This “time has come” should best be seen as a plot device—the time of the story where we turn to the “destroyers of the earth” and their fate has come. Revelation is not setting out a chronology for the world’s future so much as exhorting its readers to part of the work that will destroy the earth’s destroyers—who are the Powers behind the empires of the world, including the Roman Empire.

The “opening” of the temple here signals the coming change in focus in the second half of the book that will culminate with a return to the temple—though we will see in chapters twenty-one and twenty-two that John has in mind a radically changed notion of the temple.

Revelation 12:1-6—The two main actors

Chapter twelve contains a wealth of images and events—many are cryptic and difficult to understand. As elsewhere in Revelation, with this chapter we should focus more on the overall sensibility that is being conveyed more than expect to see in each of the images a direct correlation with a particular historical person or event. With all the uncertainty we can’t help but have about many of specifics, the general message here is pretty clear—a new dimension is added to the story with the introduction of the Dragon. We are now able better to understand the paradoxes of previous chapters concerning the plagues in relation to the One on the throne who is so closely linked with the Lamb. God is not the only cosmic actor in this drama. Read the rest of this entry »