May 2007


I dropped this post over at the AfroSpear on the topic of abortion, specifically on the issue of when does life begin? I was not surprised by the positions taken by most of the commentators, however I found this comment by Francis L. Holland very interesting. It is lengthy, but I believe it is worth sharing here in it’s entirety:

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I read a post over at SmuloSpace about a resolution by the Southern Baptist Convention that dealt with their policy about the prohibition of alcohol consumption. Here is the resolution:

5. On Alcohol Use In America
June 2006
 

WHEREAS, Years of research confirm biblical warnings that alcohol use leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage (e.g., Proverbs 23:29-35); and

WHEREAS, Alcohol use has led to countless injuries and deaths on our nation’s highways; and

WHEREAS, The breakup of families and homes can be directly and indirectly attributed to alcohol use by one or more members of a family; and

WHEREAS, The use of alcohol as a recreational beverage has been shown to lead individuals down a path of addiction to alcohol and toward the use of other kinds of drugs, both legal and illegal; and

WHEREAS, There are some religious leaders who are now advocating the consumption of alcoholic beverages based on a misinterpretation of the doctrine of “our freedom in Christ”; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, express our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages.

RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to take an active role in supporting legislation that is intended to curb alcohol use in our communities and nation; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to be actively involved in educating students and adults concerning the destructive nature of alcoholic beverages; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we commend organizations and ministries that treat alcohol-related problems from a biblical perspective and promote abstinence and encourage local churches to begin and/or support such biblically-based ministries.

Now John 2:1-11 tells the story of Jesus’s first miracle, which was to turn water into wine. Would this then preclude Jesus from being elected to a leadership position in the SBC?

Athough the resolution is attempting to do a positive thing, I think this “smacks” a little of self-righteousness, elitism and legalism. It sounds like something the Pharasees would condemn Jesus for doing. Or am I wrong in my assessment? 

A few years ago I made a personal commitment to God that I would fast one day every week. I had engaged in prayer and fasting before that, mainly for spiritual wisdom and strength to confront specific situations I was going through in my life. All the Pentecostal churches I have attended, encourage it’s members to regularly engage in prayer and fasting as a way to address a number of issues, whether spiritual or temporal. So it is something I am comfortable with and I have an appreciation for the Muslim practice of fasting during the daytime, as they observe their holy month of Ramadan.  

I made this commitment for a number of reasons. The first was to establish a covenant with God. I would commit to denying myself of basic nourishment from sun up to 6pm once a week, and God in return would commit to increase my faith, spiritual wisdom and strength.

The second was to identify, even symbolically, with those who had no and/or limited access to food and water, to satisfy their own daily basic physical needs. I am aware though that this is just a “symbolic” identification, for the fact is that after 6pm, I not only have more than enough food and water to consume, but I also have a variety of choices of what I want to eat and drink. That being said, there is still much difficulty in denying oneself in the face of such abundance.

Therefore the third reason, which is directly tied to the second, is to develop self-control. We live in a culture/society, where we are not encouraged to deny ourselves anything. We live in the “Age of The Triumph of Greed and The Primacy of Selfish Fulfillment”. We are encouraged and even expected to fulfill all of our physiological, emotional and intellectual needs, wants, desires and luxuries…. and through advertising and marketing we are bombarded with the various pathways which leads to our material Shangri-la. Personally, I look forward to “that” first cup of coffee in the morning. I actually crave it! It has become more than a habit…. it’s a ritual…. an addiction. Making the conscious decision not to have that cup of java in the morning is painful…. it’s damn hard if you want to know the truth. I can’t explain it, but every week, when I deny myself coffee for that day, although it is relatively a small thing, it’s like I have conquered a psychological and physiological “shackle” on my being. Every week I prove that it has no hold on me and I am in control.

The final reason is a matter of health. Although there is some controversy within the medical community on the types or degrees of benefits from fasting, it is agreed that it does assist in detoxifying and cleansing the body. 

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you”.  Matthew 6: 16-18.

 

I am currently involved in a Bible study (Alpha Course) at my church on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). When we came to this topic of fasting, which the passage above is based on, I was a little taken aback that no-one, except myself, had ever fasted. I was even more amazed of the reasons (excuses) why they didn’t fast. The church has called for prayer and fasting a number of times since I’ve been regularly attending there since December 2006. I took it for granted that if not all, most Pentecostals fasted even periodically. I became aware of how much of a personal and spiritual commitment it was to fast, especially to do it weekly. To deny oneself of the very basic needs of life for “a part of a day” isn’t an easy endeavour to undertake, especially in a society of material abundance. However, I do not consider myself “special” or “more righteous or spiritual” than those Christians that don’t fast. I have come to appreciate God all the more for  providing me with the strength to do it…. for the truth is that every week I go through a tremendous struggle and look for excuses not to fast. 

So what is the joy of fasting? For me, it’s knowing that I have kept my commitment to God and have also overcome the power of my basic desires…. for that day…. and for that week.

Asa 

   

                    

Over at AfroSpear, there is a ongoing discussion as to the definition of racism and the idea that it is a form of mental illness. This discussion is a part of a wider discourse which is currently going on in the AfroSphere. It is enlightening as there are differing perspectives being presented. Here are the AfroSpear links.

Racism vs. Extreme Color Arousal: Part One

Extreme Color-Aroused Emotion, Ideation and Behavior, Disorder (ECEIBD)

Lynching: A manifestation of E.C.E.I.B.D. 

On this date at approximately 2:30pm, I began to receive the first of three phone calls that would change my world. They went something like this:  

1st Call: Hey…. do you know where Shelly, John’s wife works?

Asa: No… I don’t know exactly where or the name of the company…. but it’s an agency that looks after developmentally disabled kids.

1st Call: Ok…. (Hang up). 

My first impulse, as my heart started racing, was what a strange and unsettling conversation. I began thinking that something is definitely up but I avoid thinking the worst. Why would they call me looking for Shelly? Although John is my partner, I have been away on a special assignment for the last 2 weeks. Maybe he got hurt…. probably in a car accident (I’m hoping) and they just want to let her know he’s okay. 

2nd Call: Hey we need to get in touch with Shelly. Do you have a cell number or work number for her?

Asa: No…. what’s going on?

2nd Call: (Silence)…. John is hurt and we need to talk to her.

Asa: How bad is he hurt?

2nd Call: I’m not sure… I gotta go…. Talk to you later. 

Now I am getting that feeling of dread. It has got be really bad if they are scrambling to find Shelly. I try not to think the worst. I try to get the last two phone calls out of my spirit and bury my head in reading reports. I can’t shake this feeling though. I’m calm. It’s an unsettling calm though. I go to find a colleague who may have more information. I see that he is on the phone…. deep in conversation. I get an eerie feeling. I walk back to my office. This isn’t good.   

3rd Call: Hey…. where are you?

Asa: What do you mean? I’m at the office.

3rd Call: I’m sorry to tell you…. John is dead. He was shot and killed earlier this afternoon.

Asa: (Silence. I go numb. I feel like I’ve been placed in a vacuum. My soul goes blurry…. disoriented). Ok…. thanks.   

I leave the office and go out to the back of the building. I break down. I had never felt anguish like that before. Even when my Father had died earlier that year. His death was a surprised but not totally unexpected. An unexpected violent death of someone close to you brings a different dimension. It takes you to a dark place.  

I heard someone say recently that God can make something beautiful out of tragedy. I have had to search deep, for a year, to find the beauty in John’s death. I guess for me it’s appreciating my friends and co-workers. It’s easier to see the value in familial relationships. Now, I make the time to sincerely engage with those I work with. Now, I don’t take the moments I spend with my friends for granted. Now, when I say to a friend or co-worker: “stay safe” or “see you later”, it takes on a different significance.

I have also come to realize that the most sacred thing we possess in life…. is life itself. Cherish it. Don’t waste it. Share it with others. Make it count for something. 

One year later, I still ache. 

See you in heaven brother. 

 

John Charles “Sparky” Atkinson.

Born: 28 May 1968.

Died: 05 May 2006.           

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