Your dance with technology: who leads? – “Everyday Sabbath” book review by Charles Strohmer

In 1954, Jacques Ellul published La Technique, the French Protestant intellectual’s groundbreaking work on the emerging technological world, a world he perceived as monolithic and inevitably totalistic. A decade later, the English translation appeared as The Technological Society. The book’s troubling and prescient takeaway is that technology is out of our control; in fact, it controls us. Resistance is futile. Having been enlightened to the problem of technological control, readers are left with a sense of powerlessness before the cold mercy of Technique, a dehumanizing idol that grows ever stronger and steadily coerces us toward its own ends, about which we are in the dark. Ellul doesn’t offer solutions to his disturbing conclusion – perhaps in part because he doesn’t discuss the distinguishing human quality of responsibility.

Thankfully, human responsibility toward technology is front and center in Everyday Sabbath: How to Lead Your Dance with the Media and Technology in Mindful and Sacred Ways. Paul Patton and Robert Woods have co-authored an exceptional book that provides answers to the problem Ellul diagnoses. Using the metaphor of dance, they offer a biblically grounded musical score for learning how to lead when dancing with technology, social media, and pop culture.

Patton and Woods are all about developing our God-given, albeit often neglected, responsibilities toward digital technologies. We have these useful technologies at our fingertips all day long. The authors see them as gifts from God. Yet they can easily gain control – not just occasionally but habitually. And when they do, our relationships with God, family, church, friends, school, and work, and even play take a beating.

The authors contend that “the biblical notion of Sabbath is under a unique kind of assault in our digital culture,” from a “24/7 flood of distractions” that “can drown out our capacity to rest in God’s presence.” The way ahead is to find sabbath rest amid the busyness of our digital culture by cultivating “holy habits” through what the authors call the Three Sacreds: “sacred intentionality, or a purposefulness toward God’s ultimate calling; sacred interiority, or an immediately accessible inner thought life and memory serving redemptive purposes; and sacred identity, or an understanding of who we are and who we are to become as people made in the image of God.”

The book’s nine chapters bring the Three Sacreds on stage to offer a wonderfully inviting panorama of insights and practical disciplines for creating – and maintaining – regular times of sabbath. To cultivate the Three Sacreds and “disentangle us from the dominance of spectator passivity,” each chapter includes fresh biblical exegesis relevant to life in our digital world. Conversation with sources from the past two millennia – Ignatius, Rumi, Calvin, Emily Dickinson, J. R. R. Tolkien, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Richard Rohr, and many others – also fills the pages. In addition, the book contains thoughtful breakout boxes, practical tips, and discussion questions designed to provoke readers with new ideas and exercises for moving the dance with technology into more comfortable rhythms.

A feature I find particularly appealing is the authors’ clarity on the Jewish practice of Shema. Using the biblical Shema – “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4) – as an illustration, Patton and Woods encourage readers to adopt their own brief confessional prayer as a further means to develop godly rhythms for leading the dance. One’s prayer may be short or long. It includes scripture relevant to one’s dance (examples are offered), but it can also include truths from other relevant sources. It is memorized over time and “asserted explicitly everyday” as a central confession.

Patton and Woods know their stuff. From assignments and discussions with students in their university classrooms over many years, these two scholars of communication and media discovered that most of the students were in varying degrees addicted to their phones and social media. Not a few even experienced withdrawal symptoms when they were given simple assignments that included going without those technologies for a mere twenty-four hours.

Concerned, the teachers began creating curriculum that both affirmed technology as a gift from God and teaches students how to identify problems and change their responses toward pop culture and social media to form wiser habits of engagement. Everyday Sabbath is the fruit of that labor in book form.

The book’s interior has been laid out for easy use in classrooms for courses in pop culture, media and technology, and spiritual formation, but the book is not only for students. The authors write “for the ‘thinking Christian’ who wants to develop a biblically based, holistic way to respond to our digital culture’s worldview and grow Christ-like habits of the high-tech heart.”

Winsomely written, amply illustrated, and potentially life-changing, Everyday Sabbath is the kind of book you can’t go wrong with. Its insights, conversations, and practical exercises serve the authors’ purpose of helping move readers from being mere recipients of the book’s wisdom to becoming daily participants in leading a dance with the digital world for the glory of God.

It’s a dance, but it is also a battle, as Ellul identified all those years ago. We have a responsibility to became wiser stewards of our time so as not to allow Technique rule our daily activities. “In a technological age,” the authors write, “Christians are called to be ‘resistance fighters’ who take part in a worldview guerilla warfare and practice what apologist and author C. S. Lewis describes as ‘resistance thinking’ in our daily involvement with media and technology.” In other words, resistance is not futile under God in Christ.

©2023 by Charles Strohmer

This review was originally published in the January 2023 issue of The Christian Century under the title “In the dance with technology, who leads?” Subtitle: “Jacques Ellul diagnosed the problem. Paul Patton and Robert Woods offer some solutions.


Dear Friends,

Okay, you’re right. I’ve never before written a letter to you my faithful readers here on my blog, but I wanted this post to be a bit more personal. So here goes.

We live during such a fast-paced and unusually dramatic and demanding period that the day we take to stop in grateful memory of the most significant event in history can by now seem like an event in the distant past. Old news. No longer on our minds. Even though it was only a few weeks ago. We’ve moved on. Today’s events are the thing.

But is the greatest event in history, what we call Easter, behind the times? Behind your times? I ask you.

Thanks to one of the more constructive benefits of the Internet, I listened online to two Sunday morning messages by Pastor Mike Osminiski in the quiet of my study on the afternoon each one was preached, Palm Sunday and Easter. Each teaching was an hour long and I found myself taking a lot of notes, but it was not time spent but time deeply blessed. I was so totally blessed receiving fresh and relevant insight and understanding about the last week of our Lord’s life and the resurrection that I’m linking both messages here on my blog for you.

Opening up Psalm 118 and Psalm 22 in the context of Mark 11, Pastor Mike took me into the story of Jesus as Jesus personally entered the story of God for the closing days of his life on earth, moving from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the Passover meal and then through the betrayal to Jesus’ trial, death, and resurrection. Although this was theologically solid stuff, it wasn’t abstract theological teaching. It was rich immersion into Scripture corresponding to what Jesus faced then and there, during a week that at times even for him seemed unimaginable.

We are often told that Jesus fulfilled the Scripture. And that is true. Yet Jesus’ life was also embedded in the Scripture. The two Sunday messages brought out to me that Jesus had a very real personal understanding of having entered the narratives of Psalm 118 and Psalm 22. Jesus saw in them timely words from Father to Son (from hundreds of years earlier!) that gave him courage to face the way ahead, to keep going, so that his own mind, will, and emotions did not dominate his decisions that terrible week, when unthinkable grief and suffering were to be placed on his shoulders (that he might fulfill the Scripture). Also, and importantly, the two Psalms gave Jesus vision and hope of the joy he will experience after his resurrection from the dead.

And there was this too. Both messages gave me fresh insight that helped me understand more clearly as to why seeking the Lord to locate ourselves in scriptural narratives, particularly during dramatic and demanding days such as ours, is a vital part of following Jesus.

Mike did not use the word “Easter” to talk about this. He talked about Resurrection Day.

Resurrection life, not bunny rabbits, is what we ought to be gratefully remembering on the day everyone calls Easter. That indestructible life is God’s gift to us. It’s not passe. It’s for our life today. Hey, here’s a thought. Perhaps we should start a movement to replace the name “Easter” with “Resurrection Day”?

As we understand more about Jesus’ life that week, its unprecedented personal challenges, and where he took inspiration from, perhaps we may be able to see and be inspired to keep going by seeing at times where to enter the story for God in Scripture for our own lives, humbly and obediently, to receive more of that resurrection life of Jesus to get us through whatever kind of trial or suffering we face. Please don’t read that as offering a “there, there now” brother or sister, “all will be fine.” This is not that. Who knows what lays ahead for us during the ongoing, demanding, time-foreshortened moment that we still find ourselves in as followers Jesus. We live in seriously shifting times. Let us not take the world-historical event of Resurrection Day as a thing of the past.

I ask you, what other than the everlasting power of the life that defeated death will do for you today?

I don’t know how Pastor Mike’s teachings will personally bless you. But this I pray. If you’re longing for a fuller lifting of the veil in order to better see Jesus today, and to receive insight into the power and authority of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection as essential graces for your faith and life today, in whatever you face, or that faces you, no matter how demanding, I pray that you will find all of that and more in these two messages.

‘Nuff said. It’s over to you now. Here’s the two links. Oh, I should add that Mike opens the start of each Sunday service, but you may then want to scroll ahead to where he starts each message, as preceding each one is a 20+ minute word on Communion from someone else – not to say those are not worth your time! Also, you’ll see two different ways to listen. I suggest listening by clicking the little white arrow at the bottom of the church scene, rather than the one below it, which is audio only.

Pastor Mike starts the Palm Sunday message around the 20min, 30sec mark:

He starts the Resurrection Day message around the 38.00 min mark:

If you have any difficulty accessing a talk, let me know.

Yours truly, in His life,

©2022 by Charles Strohmer

Image courtesy of Creative Commons, Samantha Simmons

Our Citizenship (on earth as it is) in Heaven

In August of 2020, I guest-preached at Evergreen Church about the difficult historical moment the American church finds itself in. There are, of course, many and varied aspects to this unusually challenging period in American history, and by no means do I understand all that’s going on, not by a longshot. But one aspect had been getting clearer – the centrality of the human heart – and since that theme had been building in me for quite some time, that is what I talked about. (A Vimeo of that message – The Refiner’s Fire in a Time of Crisis – is here: .)

Recently (Nov. 14, 2021), I guest-preached again at the church and spoke about another aspect of our still difficult period that seems pretty clear: the theme of “Our Citizenship in Heaven.” You may listen to it on the Vimeo, linked just below here. (If you prefer an mp3 file of the talk (vocal only), send me an email and I’ll send you the link.)

A brief word: although the word “heaven” turns our thoughts to the next life, the talk focused on our citizenship “on earth as it is in heaven” – to adapt a phrase from how our Lord taught us to pray. As I understand it, a challenging moment must be met with an even more challenging redemptive response. So in this message I introduce the much needed conversation that needs to begin among American Christians: the difference between the duties Jesus calls us to fulfill in the Sermon on the Mount v. our rallying around the protection of our individual rights.

I want to thank Pastor Wes White for the invitation to speak and worship leader Brennon Carpenter for making it available here.

PS: this talk starts immediately after clicking the white arrow, so if you miss the opening words, I’m just saying that Philippians is one of the apostle Paul’s prison letters.


Charles Strohmer is a Christian minister and writer. He blogs at

©2021 by Charles Strohmer

The folly of listening to conspiracy theories

glass chess piecesIn a 1952 essay on the return, or Second Coming, of Christ, C. S. Lewis wrote that our “ears should be closed to any future William Miller in advance. The folly of listening to him at all is almost equal to the folly of believing him.” It’s a warning not to fall prey to the heedless disregard some people have for Christ’s own words about his return. To typify this, Lewis looked back to William Miller, a nineteenth century American farmer who also served in the War of 1812. But Miller was also a religious enthusiast. During the 1830s, he preached and published pamphlets of lectures proclaiming the world would end in 1843, with the bodily return of Jesus Christ.

Miller justified his belief from Bible passages he had strung together and put his own spin on. He preached with such passion that many who at first just listened ended up believing that he had actually decoded from Scripture the unknown; that he actually knew. Tens of thousands of people, called the Millerites, amassed around his view, convinced that he knew. Of Miller’s folly, Lewis, relying on the words of Jesus – “of that day and hour knoweth no man” – writes that Miller “couldn’t know what he pretended, or thinks, he knows” (Lewis’s emphasis). But Lewis goes further. In the essay he shows the folly not only of claiming to know when “the world’s last night” (the title of the essay) would arrive but even of listening to the claim.

While reading the essay it hit me that we today would do well to listen to Lewis’s warning about listening. But not about dating systems for Christ’s return. Every generation of Christians since Miller’s has learned its lesson about that. Today we need to learn it about conspiracy theories. And if we say, “well, we don’t really believe them,” with how much honesty can we say that we aren’t listening?

I learned my lesson the hard way. In the late 1970s, a newish believer, I listened to Christians who spoke in hushed tones about secret organizations that had strange names such as the Illuminati, the Bilderbergs, and the Trilateral Commission. Most people don’t know anything about them, I was told, but they have a lot of money and power, and they control world leaders, and through the European Union they’re going to usher in the anti-Christ and set up a new world order. It’s all in the Bible, they said, the signs are everywhere if you look for them.

I came to regret my naivety, but what did I know? I was a young believer. Aren’t we supposed to listen to older believers? But I wasn’t going to take anyone’s word on conspiracy theories. Not even a Christian’s. The stakes were too high. During my years in the occult, before becoming a follower of Jesus, I listened to, and then believed in, and then taught what I later found out were the most unbiblical ideas and views. Christ had delivered me from those subtle yet powerful beliefs and I wasn’t going to let myself get fooled again. So after earnest prayer for guidance and my spiritual antenna tuned up, I plunged down the rabbit hole.

During that labyrinthine journey I saw how even well-meaning people might spin into dark webs of intrigue any number of conspiracy theories from twentieth century old bookshuman history. But after awhile I also saw that all such listening-journeys were a waste of precious time. A distraction from following Jesus and listening to him.

Trying to pin down the truth about conspiracy theories is like trying to trap a wet watermelon seed between the tabletop and your fingertip: just when you think you have it, it darts of at the last second. Time and time again. That personal experience was supported by a sense of the occult that I discerned on occasion drifting around the dark corners and cul de sacs of conspiratorial thinking.

Besides, I thought, if I were a member of a cabal that really could take over the world but did not want the public to know what our plans were, the first thing we would do would be to concoct a conspiracy theory that had nothing whatsoever to do with our plans; but to a naive public it would seem credible enough to be listened to, if not also believed. Once we had devised that, we would then cleverly use our vast resources to start leaking it out to the public. Its purpose would be to create an on-going distraction in the minds of a gullible public from our real plans. Surely, I thought, any cabal with the money and influence to take over the world would certainly have brains enough to include that kind of misdirection in its plans.

I should add that my decision to have nothing whatsoever to do with conspiracy theories anymore was not an easy decision to make. For the pull into listening is fascinatingly hypnotic, the spell hard to break once you’re lured. But it was such a relief to break free. Knowing the trap even of listening, I refuse to waste time looking into even the popular whisperings available to our ears today. I have done a little look-see into recent offerings, but only briefly, to know what all the fuss is about.

The bottom line is that listening to conspiracies reveals a childish ignorance of God’s sovereign rule over history and opens the door for replacing the fear of the Lord with one of the worst kinds of fear: “the fear of man, which brings a snare” (Proverb 29:25). It ought to be second nature to Christians to know that time and time again the Bible records various interventions of God to stop the wayward plans of rulers and their nations while simultaneously admonishing God’s people to “fear not” the plotting of cabals but instead to “fear the Lord.”

Yet through belief in a conspiracy theory the people of God become ensnared by fear. That is partly the topic of Isaiah 8:10-17, where the prophet announces God’s rebuke to the people for their belief in a conspiracy:

“Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread” (v. 12).

The prophet brings lack of trust in God’s sovereignty and both kinds of fear into sharp focus during a time of international intrigue, secret alliances, and public confusion. The message is clear. A faith-based confession in God’s sovereign rule had been replaced by a fear-driven belief in the sovereignty of man. Like severe arthritis can cripple the use of one’s hand or knee, the fear of man had stopped the ability of God’s people to think rightly as God’s people.

Isaiah is in effect disclosing a tragic irony. Bad times are indeed looming for the people of God, but its source is not going to result from the conspiracy being fulfilled but from God’s judgment (vv. 14-15).

But there is another significant part to the text, one that is often missed: even a prophet of God can be about to step into the trap. Using his own words, not the Lord’s, Isaiah includes an explanatory note to his audience that God had warned him not to follow the way of the people. The prophet was in jeopardy of being caught in the same snare, of not thinking rightly.

“The Lord spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people…” (v. 11).

This personalized warning to the prophet needs to be heard and internalized by God’s people today. Pervasive fear in many Christian circles, particularly in American Evangelical communities, is greatly harming the church’s witness and damaging the nation. So it is encouraging to hear David French, for one, a notable writer in the conservative Christian world, speaking to this. As a pastor and friend of mine said, it’s admirable that one of the things to be admired about what French is doing is that he is writing not only as a member of conservative Christianity but as one who makes sense and appears to put Scripture above party platform.

French has been offering not only incisive analysis of why the fear is rampant but why it is rampant now, during a time in America when political and legal movements of the last forty years, at both federal and state levels, have favored conservative Christians, colleges, and businesses more the ever. And yet excessive fear reigns. Here is a recent piece of insightful analysis by French to get you going: “How American Christendom Weakens American Christianity.”

In his essay on the return of Christ, Lewis writes that believing in dating systems for the end of the world has “led Christians into very great follies… To write a history of all these exploded predictions would need a book, and a sad, sordid, tragi-comical book it would be.” We would do well to hear that today about our own folly.

We Christians have made ourselves into a sad, sordid, and tragi-comical lot in the eyes of the world, deservedly so. By listening to conspiracy theories, whispering to our friends about them, blurbing about them on social media, we are not thinking rightly. Enough is enough. “God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Best we repent and seek God for mercy and grace to close our ears to conspiracy thinking and to instead live in the fear of the Lord. And then, following Isaiah’s lead, let us publicly confess to our Christian friends and on social media how the Lord got our attention and warned us. Whether we are prophets or not. It would be a good start.

Charles Strohmer is a Christian minister and writer. He blogs at

©2021 by Charles Strohmer

Images courtesy of Creative Commons.

Why the Experts Need the Intelligent Amateurs

“For the task [of] developing an authentic biblical wisdom among the people of God in this generation, we need in particular two kinds of Christians in our churches. One kind will be what rather hesitantly we might call the experts, those called to work in a particular area of life. It may be what they do for a livelihood, and often it is. But in this rather odd fallen world it may be a spare time activity. These people develop expertise by a certain degree of concentration and specialization. They are likely to be experts in only one field, and so in other respects they will be no better off than the rest of us. They tend either to become leaders and spokespersons in particular aspects of life or to provide resources for leaders and spokespersons.

“Besides the experts, we need the intelligent amateurs. These people are ordinary, average Christians who pursue their own callings but who also seek to understand the world around them as far as God grants them resources, abilities, and opportunities. They won’t be experts, but then they won’t speak like that, either. Most of the time they won’t be on platforms or in pulpits or writing authoritative books. This does not mean that they will be silently submissive or inert.

“They will do all sorts of study as their interests lead them, and they will be able to talk clearly, to listen intelligently, to make worthwhile contributions in discussions, and to have opinions worth accepting or disputing. Any of which may lead to discoveries. When they see a call to action, they soberly commit themselves to it. Above all, they know how to ask good questions. Such people are indispensable for creating a climate in which wise leadership can flourish. They may volunteer for community projects, or join education committees, or become precinct delegates, or even deacons and elders.

“The experts need the intelligent amateurs. This above all the expert needs. The worst possible thing is for the experts to go unchallenged. We suffer at present far too much from the tyranny of the expert. Not only does the expert tend to have an inadequately challenged authority in his own area of competence, but he also gets to be listened to with reverence in areas in which he is not competent. So rock stars are interviewed to pronounce on social ethics, physicists pontificate on the meaning of history, and politicians seem expert about everything! The only people who are expected not to address the world (though within the church the situation is different) outside their competence are religious leaders. (We wonder why?)

“Further, constant work within one’s own discipline easily leads the expert to become unaware of significant questions from outside that are vital for that work. Any teacher worth her salt knows, possibly more than she cares to admit, that her thinking and understanding has developed best in response to intelligent questioning, especially the sort that rocks her on her heels and makes her rethink some position.

“The intelligent amateur has a special power of discrimination. This is invaluable. Paul prays for those engagingly loving Christians at Philippi that their love would abound in thorough knowledge and insight, so as to discriminate the best from the rest (Philippians 1:9–10). Experts, curiously enough, are not the best endowed with this ability – maybe they are too busy studying the trees to appreciate the forest and the surrounding countryside.

“None of us can fulfill our callings as well as we might without a supporting community, and the experts are no exception. Other things being equal, a community like the church is going to have teachers and leaders whose quality is chiefly determined by the acumen of its general membership. If the members are suckers, they will be led by fools or rogues and hardly suspect it.

“If we hope to witness Christianly to this age in the Name of the Lord and in the interests of a more obedient culture, it is essential that as a Christian community we do good work in this area. A doctor will tell you that half her task is about good diagnosis, and half of that is about good observation and analysis. Careless work or arrogantly superficial efforts are going to be disastrous on the part of people who think that they are automatically experts because they know the Bible text or have a degree in sociology.

“It would be easy to give up. We may not be experts, and we may not have the time or the talents to embark on taxing programs of study. We may not be used to such demands being required of our intellectual life to become intelligent amateurs. And maybe our background has taught us to believe that our answers must always be simple, so that “he who runs may read” the message.

“Certainly there is a simplicity in the Gospel. To meet Jesus and trust him is the most natural thing in the world for a child. But living faithfully as an adult in a complex world is not simple. We are not expected to think like geniuses (unless we are one), but each of us is expected to think as hard as we can and to make what contributions we can to the ministry of the whole body of Christ in its witness, teaching, preaching, healing, and persuading. We must all do our part in this, as service to God in the world according to our particular gifts and callings. And we may need to be prepared to double up for others who have stopped functioning.” (Uncommon Sense: God’s Wisdom for Our Complex and Changing World, S.P.C.K, 2000; cpt 15.)

©2021 by Charles Strohmer

A rare astronomical event is happening this Christmas. Is it the Star of Bethlehem?

(This essay by Charles Strohmer was originally published in Religion Unplugged, December 14, 2020)

Stargazing into the western sky this December has captured the interest of millions, as news stories of every kind highlight the appearance of a rare conjunction appearance together of our two largest planets, Jupiter and Saturn. Amateur astronomers are manning their expensive telescopes taking once-in-a-lifetime photos. Astrologers are counseling clients to use to their advantage the energies of what they call “the great conjunction.” Social media outlets have millions imagining that this is the return of the Star of Bethlehem in the story of the Magi. But is it?

Most of the buzz has arisen from the fact that this is an exceptionally rare extra-close conjunction of the two giants, pulsing in the night sky with enough combined light to impress even the most uninterested. That the two planets will be at their closest and brightest on Dec. 21, the winter solstice, has only added to the mystery. The two giants may also be seen nearing their closest proximity night after night in the weeks leading up to it, and then moving away from it for many days afterward. The last time these two planets shone so brightly to the naked eye was 800 years ago, in 1226.

If I were still an astrologer, you can be certain I would be advising my clients to take advantage of the good vibrations. After turning to Christ and becoming a Christian, I lost interest in astrology, but since becoming a minister I still get asked about the nature and meaning of the Star and the Magi who followed it. But even after two millennia of scholarly research, questions remain.

Were the Magi astrologers, astronomers or some combination of the two? What starry indications, if any, motivated them to allocate time, money and effort to travel hundreds of miles from the East by desert caravan to Jerusalem to search for the Christ child? Were they following the stars, as many presume? Or some other natural phenomenon? Perhaps it was a supernatural sign seen only by the Magi? And what is the religious meaning of the Star made famous by the Gospel of Matthew and still the subject of speculation today?

Religious scholars generally agree that the history of the Magi can be traced back to an elite priestly class in the royal courts of the Medes and Persians, centuries before the time of Christ, and that their religion included belief in the advent of a savior. Their counterparts in neighboring Babylonia likely were persons such as the sage Daniel who, although Jewish, rose to become a diplomat and trusted counselor to successive Babylonian kings.

The biblical book Daniel details what their exceptional education entailed. The entrance exam alone would exclude many of us. Prospective students had to be “young men without any physical defect,” as well as “handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.” Once admitted, they were taught “the language and the literature of the Babylonians” and received “a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table.” After three years, “they were to enter the king’s service” (Daniel chapters 1–3). Religious historians also agree that the Magi (wise men) were learned in religion, diplomacy, literature, divination, esoteric wisdom, magical practices and the zodiac.

As for the nature of the Star of Bethlehem, views abound, from the purely natural to the mystical. Astronomers have calculated that Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction around the time of Christ’s birth, but they also have reasons to understand that the starry visitor may have been a nova, or a comet, or a meteor, or perhaps a supernova. Others think that it may have been a completely new star, a tremendously bright yet inexplicable light in the heavens created as a token of the Savior’s birth, a light that shone on the shepherds, which they took for angels and which the Magi saw as a star. Or perhaps it was not an external light, only a vision given to the shepherds and the Magi. Some think that it was a supernatural phenomenon. None of these views has ever been established to the exclusion of the others.

For the birth narrative in Matthew’s Gospel, as understood in the Christian tradition, a purely naturalistic view fails to account for the religious meaning of the Star of Bethlehem. The narrative does not deny that a natural phenomenon and the laws guiding it may have played a part in announcing Christ’s birth, but only a part. For it records the Star as having “appeared” at a particular time, and that it “went ahead of” the Magi “until it stopped over the place where the child was.” This seems to hint at some kind of personal rather purely natural guidance behind the phenomenon. The likelihood of that is supported by linguistic studies of the original Greek language of the New Testament, where many times the same words translated as “appeared,” “went ahead,” and “stopped” (to describe the movements of Star) also describe deliberately taken actions of people (Matthew 2:1–12).

Another possible clue that something more personal is taking place than anything purely natural may be found after the road weary Magi arrive in Jerusalem with their large desert caravan. Their persistent questions about a king of the Jews cause such a public and religious stir in the ancient city that it arouses the interest of King Herod, who invites prominent rabbis to the palace to get to the bottom of the disturbance. The rabbis point Herod to a prophecy in the Bible: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

Herod, now fearful about the birth of a rival king, secretly plots to have the child put to death, and he enlists the Magi as unwitting pawns. Summoning them to a private meeting, he sends them to Bethlehem to search for the child there, but he also directs them to return to Jerusalem to give him the child’s address, saying that he, too, wants to go to worship him. The Magi depart for Bethlehem, just several miles south of Jerusalem. But there’s a problem. They now know what town to go to but they don’t have an address.

It is clear from Matthew’s Gospel that the Christ child was no longer at the place of his birth, the manger, with Mary and Joseph. Months, if not a year or more, have passed since Christ’s birth when the Magi finally arrive where the family are living. And it is the Star that reveals the address. The Star “went ahead of” the Magi “until it stopped over the place where the child was.” This would be pretty unlikely behavior from a mere natural phenomenon. The Magi reach their goal, worship the child, and present him with their precious gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh. Unaware that Herod is using them as pawns on his political chessboard to have the child murdered, the Magi are warned in a dream not return to Herod, and “they returned to their country by another way.”

In the Christian faith, the little phrase “another way” opens up the religious meaning of the Star of Bethlehem via some strange alchemy left to us by the witness of these Magi long dead. How so? It is commonly presumed that the Magi were astrologers who merely followed stars to Christ’s birth. Nothing in Matthew’s Gospel precludes the Magi as being astrologers, but even if they were, the record in Matthew does not show them relying on astrology but on Scripture to interpret the religious meaning of Christ’s birth.

The Magi leave Jerusalem for Bethlehem by following the rabbi’s interpretation of their scriptures, and it is likely that they left their homeland in the East by following the Bible. Magi of the Ancient Near East were, among their many other skills, sages learned in the religious literature of neighboring cultures. In their diplomatic roles as shuttle diplomats, this would have been a necessity. Ancient Israel being part of the neighborhood, the Magi of Matthew’s Gospel must have had among them some collective awareness of a prophecy in the Hebrew Bible, that a “star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). This was usually treated as one of Israel’s messianic prophecies about the divine Ruler to come. It may have been enough to motivate the Magi to head for Jerusalem, the heart of Israel’s religious life, to receive further their understanding after the appearance of the unusual and prominent Star.

In the Christian faith, more is going on with the Star of Bethlehem and the Magi than meets the eye. They represent the divine help that even the currently remarkably rare and bright conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn cannot provide to those soul searching for the Savior. Although some may need to suspend disbelief to imagine the possibilities, it is “another way” indeed.

Image via Creative Commons: Texas Monthly (stars); George Thomas (surprised look)..

©2020 by Charles Strohmer

“Arms and the Man” v. “Put up thy Sword”: Tough Questions for Rick Joyner, Jim Bakker, and the Prophetic Movement

Swords into plowsharesNot many years before Jesus was born, the Roman poet Virgil died. In the decade preceding his death, Virgil was writing the Aeneid, a poem that has been called the national epic of the Roman empire. In the second half of the epic, Virgil brings his skill as storyteller to the subject of anger, revenge, violence, and bloody warfare.

In a visionary book that explores the limits of violence and war, and skillfully shows the benefits of peaceful change, the late Jonathan Schell puts his finger into history at the time of Virgil and Christ to write about two coexisting yet conflicting traditions. One is worldly and violent, Schell writes. It is “a system, at its best, of standing up for principle with force, right with might; at its worst, of plunder, exploitation, and massacre.” This tradition, Schell notes, was exemplified by Virgil in the Aeneid, whose opening words set the stage: “Of arms, and the man I sing.”

Not long after Virgil was writing “Of arms, and the man I sing,” Jesus, Shell writes, was speaking words that would become much better known: “Put up thy sword, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” And “it was in the heat and fury of [a] bloody altercation, not from the quiet of a philosopher’s study,” that Jesus said this. Jesus, Schell continues, “sang of the man without arms,” and since then “the two conflicting traditions – one sanctioning violence, the other forbidding it – have coexisted,” each retaining its power in spite of the other. But, he concludes, “Force can only lead to more force, not to peace. Only a turn to structures of cooperative power can offer hope” (The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People).

I was disturbingly reminded of the diametric tug of these two perennial traditions upon the human heart when I watched a television interview of Christian author and speaker Rick Joyner. For those unfamiliar with the name, Rick Joyner founded MorningStar Ministries in 1985 and became fairly well known within charismatic Christian circles for his books and for teaching about his many dreams and visions, which he claimed were prophetic. In 2004, MorningStar purchased part of the former Heritage USA complex, once owned by Jim Bakker and PTL, in North Carolina. Bakker and Joyner have been close friends for decades and it was Bakker’s interview of Joyner that I listened to.

The interview aired two on September 11, 2020, on “The Jim Bakker Show” and ran for nearly an hour. It included much mutual back-patting that lead to this question from Baker: “Where are we in the prophetic time line?” What follows is a long and disturbing conversation in which Joyner mentions a dream he had in 2018 about what he calls a “civil war” being fought in the streets of American cities.

As the interview progresses, Joyner sounds more closely allied with Virgil’s violent warrior Aeneas than with the gospel’s peaceable Jesus. Joyner asserts that America is already in that civil war and that followers of Jesus need to be prepared to take up arms and fight in it. Although Joyner briefly mentions that he “hates to say this,” and that “some people don’t even want to comprehend” it, any fellow feeling meant dissipates before his contention that followers of Jesus get out their guns and join in with those he calls the “good” militias to fight bloody battles in the streets of their cities against those whom he identifies as “the bad people.”

One cannot listen to the second half of the interview and conclude anything other than that Joyner is talking about followers of Jesus getting their guns and participating in a violent civil war. That is the plain message, which Joyner loads with comments such as: “we’re already into it”; “we’re gonna have to fight for what we believe”; “it’s time to choose sides”; “we’ve gotta fight to win.”

wisdom traditionFollowers of Jesus are meant to join militias to fight and kill fellow American citizens? Followers of Jesus?

Joyner’s battle cry to Christians is not compelling. There are many reasons why, more than can reasonably be assembled here, including the dubious, if not flawed, enlistment of biblical texts to support the call to arms.

But one particular text must be discussed, Luke 22:35-38. It is a brief word from Jesus to his closest followers about forsaking the violence of swordplay and instead follow his way of self-sacrificial love of others, including enemies. Strangely, Joyner flips this word about non-violent resistance around to mean the opposite of what Jesus meant. He lifts Jesus’ comment about a sword out of its context to justify today’s followers of Jesus heading out into the streets to fight a literal civil war in American cities. I want us to spend some time with that text here, as its meaning cannot be quickly understood. But when understood in both its immediate and larger contexts, Jesus’ words actually undermine the entire call to arms.

In the interest of full disclosure I should perhaps first say that I am offering this critical analysis of Joyner’s interpretation of the Luke text as someone who in principle is not opposed to what the New Testament identifies as the gift of prophecy, which, being part of “the way of love,” is meant to be spoken to people “for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort,” or, in short, for edifying the church (1 Corinthians 14:1-4).

I spent most the first fifteen years of my new life as a Christian in charismatic fellowships where, blessedly, mature expressions of the gifts of Spirit were operative, including that of prophecy. If someone stepped out of line, pastoral oversight appropriately addressed the situation. I personally benefited from this learning curve. Although I was eventually called to serve in (so-called) non-charismatic congregations about thirty years ago, I have enjoyed, benefited from, and been greatly thankful for being invited to minister countless times in charismatic fellowships since then. I try to be among them as best I can in the way of love, for their strengthening, encouraging, and comfort. (For the record, I am not a fan of the word “non-charismatic” applied to churches.)

If memory serves, I became acquainted with Joyner through two of his books in the mid-1980s, when I was still active full time within the charismatic tradition. (I don’t recall those books as objectionable in any fundamental sense within what I understood orthodox charismatic theology.) Around 1990, Joyner’s name dropped off my radar. Until the Bakker interview..

Now let’s get down to business. Here is a typical translation of Luke 22:35-38:

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That is enough!” he replied.

During the interview with Bakker, Joyner places Jesus’ comment about the sword in the service of motivating today’s Christians to fight with weapons in a civil war in American cities. Joyner offers no explanation why he believes in this equivalency, which makes followers of Jesus instruments of violence and bloodshed. “We need to recognize the times, be prepared for them,” he explains, while confessing to viewers his worry that “God’s people” won’t become “part of the militia movements, the good militia” to fight the “bad people.” But “Jesus himself said there’s gonna be a time when you need to sell your coat and buy a sword. That was a physical weapon of their day. And we’re in that time here. We need to realize that.”

Bakker makes not a peep of protest to what Joyner is saying. Nevertheless, prophecies and interpretations of dreams and visions presented to the body of Christ as authoritative have to be tested, examined to determine if they are credible, authentic, or morally acceptable. After careful consideration of the Luke text, I believe that Joyner’s contention fails the test.

Jesus’ meaning about the sword, when considered in both its immediate and its related contexts, cannot be interpreted as call to arms. Instead, it undermines that call. Here’s why.

The immediate context is the Last Supper, where only Jesus’ twelve closest followers were assembled with him (until Judas leaves). The related contexts include events immediately following the Last Supper and also events in the three-year witness of Jesus’ life and ministry on the hillsides and in the towns of Galilee and Judea. Let’s start with the latter.

During those three exceptional years on the road with Jesus, the Twelve had witnessed Jesus’ self-sacrificing love of others, including of enemies. countless times. (The supreme expression being, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”) That is essential to who Jesus is. His ministry exemplifies it. In all sorts of relational encounters – whether someone needed counsel, or healing, or was up a tree – Jesus graced people’s lives with all sorts of various and diverse good. Day in and day out, the Twelve not only saw the beneficial effects of this on others, they even a hand at times in making it so.

But something else essential was also taking place. It wasn’t only through his acts of compassion – what the Old Testament person would call chesed (God’s loving-kindness) – but through his teaching that Jesus sought to instill the practice of self-sacrificing love of others into the lives of the Twelve. The fundamentals of that radical teaching are set forth in what we call the Sermon on the Mount, which arguably, can be understood as the Constitution for Jesus’  followers to live by. Their having been diligently taught for there solid years by their Rabbi, whose acts are consistent with what he taught, you can be forgiven for assuming that by the time of their last meal together the love of others would have become normative ministry for the Twelve. But our text in Luke reveals that a strong pull to take up arms had gotten hold of them. How so?

All four Gospels reveal that in the weeks leading up to the Last Supper Jesus knew he would soon be enduring a violent religious and political opposition that would put him to death, crucified as the archetypal act of self-sacrificing love. He also knew he was not going to resist this death with arms, even though he could command a legion of angels to fight for him (Matthew 26:53). With that understanding, let’s enter into some of the sights and sounds of the Last Supper.

All kinds of conversations and activities are going on among the thirteen men who have gathered privately to remember the Passover, a ritual meal that takes several hours. Jesus knows his arrest and violent death are imminent and that this would be their final meal together. In what has been called his farewell discourse, given to us in John chapters 14-17, Jesus offers many words of comfort and instruction for the eleven remaining disciples (Judas had left the meal early on, apparently; see John 13:21-30).  At some point during those hours of communion and prayers in that room, Jesus detects a rising attitude of violence among his intimates. It needs to be addressed. So he brings up the subject of swords. He is, in effect, wanting them to know that although things are going to be different for them after his death, his message is not changing. It is still the gospel. The good news. The redeeming love of God. And they are to preach it and live it after he is gone, just as they saw him doing, day in, day out.

wisdom wayWhy, then, was Jesus telling them to go buy swords? The answer is, he wasn’t. The Luke text intends for us to understand that no one at the Last Supper slipped out of the room to buy a sword. They did not need to. Some had arrived carrying swords: Lord, we’ve got two swords right here, they tell Jesus, no need to go buy any. As if he hadn’t noticed. Of course Jesus saw their weapons. If you have dinner guests over and two of them are packing, you may not notice that, but you’re sure going to notice if they arrive armed with swords.

What’s with the sword comment, then? The answer will emerge from clues in a few other scenes during this period. One is found in John’s Gospel (18:1-11), which describes a moment during Jesus’ arrest that identifies the bluntly outspoken Simon Peter as one of the two with a sword. The personal identification seems more than an aside. Not many days before the Last Supper, Jesus had revealed to the Twelve, in plain language, that he was going to get arrested, suffer, and die. Hearing that, (Simon) Peter tried to talk Jesus out of going the way of the Cross. For having that attitude, however, Peter got rebuked by Jesus in no uncertain terms. Then Jesus adds: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:21-25). Here was yet another teaching moment from Jesus, seeking to instill in his followers a heart attitude of self-sacrificing love toward others, including enemies.

Did Peter take the hint? Apparently not. The arrest scene described in John’s Gospel seems to imply that Peter arrived at the Last Supper armed with a sword. Maybe he regularly carried that weapon. Maybe he was carrying it the day he rebuked Jesus for wanting to go the way of the Cross. The Gospels are silent on these matters.

Another clue to Jesus’ meaning about the sword is found in Matthew’s Gospel in a scene described after the Passover meal. Jesus takes his inner circle to the Mount of Olives, where he again explains that he is soon to die. This time, Peter does not try to talk Jesus out of going to the Cross. Instead, he declares that he has such steadfast loyalty to Jesus that he is prepared to die with him right then and there. “And all the other disciples said the same” thing (26:35).

How Jesus understood the implication of that ad hoc agreement among his inner circle is important. Under Roman law there would be no legal reason for Peter, or any of the Twelve, to have been in jeopardy of prison or capital punishment at his arrest unless they had broken the law, which they would have done had they brandished weapons and ended up killing people in the mob who had come to arrest Jesus. Now Jesus and his disciples would have been fully aware of this Roman law. Yet at some point during the Last Supper, the eleven remaining intimates let their emotions get the better of them, becoming really angry and motivated by a spirit of violence. By the end of the hours’-long meal and much back-and-forth conversation during the meal and on the heavy walk to the Mount of Olives, these good guys (now sans Judas) are locked and loaded and ready to fight the bad guys, intent on becoming a band of street fighting men, a militia for Jesus.

In other words, the weapons carried in to the Last Supper and then to Jesus’ arrest had a literal meaning for his disciples. The inner circle (sans Judas) will take up arms to fight, even kill if necessary, those who had come to arrest Jesus. They seem to think that’s a good thing. That it is what Jesus is calling them to do.

Jesus had just dedicated three years of his life as a crash course of instruction and training to equip his closest followers to follow his lead, the peaceful way of the gospel. No way he does want them to get arrested, tried, and executed for acts of violence. If they go that way, end of them, end of story. No Book of Acts. It is difficult to imagine how distressed Jesus must have become by their rising attitude of violence just then.

They want to go kill the bad guys? Really? We’ve just broken bread together for the last time. I’m going away. They’re meant to carry my message of love to others, including love of enemies, out into a violent world. Are they going to do that now? What is this spirit of armed resistance among them? They’ve brought swords and mean to use them. What’s up with these guys? That’s not the the message of the Cross. Why do I even bother?

It is not difficult to see why the inner circle held a literal meaning to the swords. Just as we today know what weapons are used for, they too had absorbed that meaning since childhood. By the time they had reached adulthood it had become a given in their worldviews. All around them, for all their lives, they saw Roman legionnaires carrying a gladius (short sword), a pilum (six-and-a-half-foot javelin), and sometimes a pugio (dagger). How often any of the Twelve saw these weapons used in violence, your guess is as good as mine. What does not need guessing is that the sight of these weapons, and a knowledge of what they were used for, was inescapable to anyone who lived in the Roman empire. Jesus alludes to that widespread understanding in an arrest scene described in Matthew, Mark, and Luke: “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?”

Can there be any other that a lethal meaning to the swords carried by Jesus’ followers? Jesus is about to demonstrate love of enemy to the uttermost empathy. Yet his intimates have decided they will move in the opposite spirit. I offer that in the Luke text Jesus, through grim irony, gives the weapons another meaning. Consistent with his message and example of love of enemy Jesus eschews the literal meaning of the swords and instead gives them a symbolic meaning: the violence in heart that objects to love of enemy. Jesus, deeply trouble by their attitude, in effect bursts out with, I’ve had enough of this! Let’s just go!

Although that is not how any translation I’m familiar with “hears” the words of Luke 22:38, and though personally I am not partial to paraphrases, at least not for serious study of Scripture, I often benefit from the fresh insight that can be derived from them, such as from this language in The Passion: “The disciples told him, ‘Lord, we already have two swords!’ You still don’t understand,” Jesus responded; and this from The Message: “They said, ‘Look, Master, two swords!’ But he said, ‘Enough of that; no more sword talk!’”

Why no more sword talk? Because Jesus see that his followers are in jeopardy of unleashing violence. They haven’t gotten it through their thick heads that the way of the gospel is absolutely not the way of violence.

Yet even during the heat and fury of his arrest, Jesus has a last go at changing their minds. When a cadre of Jewish religious officials and a crowd of their supporters are about to arrest Jesus, Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Personalizing that violent act even more, John includes the servant’s name, Malchus. And to that violent act Jesus immediately responds with a twofold action whose meaning could not be clearer. First: his sharp rebuke to Peter – “No more of this!” “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” Second: the healing of the servant’s ear (Luke 22:51; Matthew 26:52; John 18:11). Here we see Jesus, the quintessence of love toward others, even to those in the mob come to arrest him, acting consistent with his cry of deep frustration, recorded in Luke 22:38. He has had enough. Off he goes to his crucifixion.

This was not the only time Jesus laid a stern rebuke on members of the Twelve for being motivated by a violent spirit. Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, the brothers James and John (the Sons of Thunder) cited an incident from the life of the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:12) to try to justify calling fire down from heaven to destroy an entire village. But Jesus “rebuked them and said, ‘You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man [has] not come to destroy lives but to save them’” (Luke 9:51-56).

Gruenwald's Isenheim AltarpieceIsaiah chapter 53 indicates that the Messiah will be the suffering not the military servant. Sure, followers of Jesus may and do face violent opposition at times and even death. If that hour arrives, let us come boldly before the Throne of Grace for divine help in our time of deepest need, to cry out for the grace of sacrificial love toward our persecutors.

Things are going to be different, now, Jesus in effect said to his disciples. Times are changing. I’m going away. But my message to you to love others is not changing, even when you are threatened with violent religious or political opposition. You have not been called by me to take up arms but to open arms of love. And this you will do through the peaceable gospel in power of the Holy Spirit. For I have come into the world not to add violence to violence but to subtract violence from the world.

Jesus’ intimates eventually got the message. The love that Jesus had toward others became his followers normative witness after his death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit, who testifies about Jesus (John 15:26), took up residence in their hearts. And thus we do have the Book of Acts. It is noteworthy, is it not, that in no place in the Book of Acts, or in any other Epistle, does an Apostle or any other follower of Jesus take up arms, even when facing violent social, political, or religious opposition. In other words, the Last Supper was not just meaningful to Jesus but also to his followers. As the Last Supper represented to them how Jesus had lived, it gave them direction as to how they were to live.

And live that way they did, not perfectly of course, but they were continually reminded about what was at stake through their regular practice of the Lord’s Supper, first mentioned in chapter eleven of First Corinthians. What was at stake was their faithful communion, day in, day out, in the church and in public, with the meaning and message of the Last Supper. And the consequences of maligning that knowledge.

Today we have what we call the Lord’s Supper, which we partake of in remembrance of the Last Supper. (It may known by other names, such as the Lord’s Table, the Breaking of Bread, the Eucharist, Communion.) What are we today remembering? What are we partaking of? What are we agreeing to when we receive the bread and the wine? Of what is it a symbol to us today? For the earliest followers of Jesus it was indeed remembrance of Jesus’ sacrificial death. But it was also a symbolic reminder as to how they were to live everyday, and not just toward some people but to all people, and not just in one’s family or church but in all areas of life. Let us ask ourselves how we’re doing at this. In humble prayer, let us ask the Lord how we’re doing.

To partake of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of so great a salvation that Jesus Christ has accomplished for us sinners is a great thing. But it is not the only thing. Perhaps every time we partake of the bread and the wine we are also meant to remember that we are no longer our own, that now we live for Another, for the One who himself lived for others. Perhaps each time we partake we are giving our assent anew to follow Jesus, to live in the world as he lived in the world, serving others in denial of self. Perhaps every time we partake we are renewing our commitment to be living epistles who demonstrate to whosoever as best we can, including to enemies, the grace-giving love of Jesus, in small things and large, in any state of affairs, including socially and politically. If it is true that our partaking of the bread and the wine commits us to following Jesus, to live as he lived, it would make it a serious matter indeed to partake unworthily (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

Will we not be judged as bearing false witness to Christ’s love of others if we if we partake of the Lord’s Supper one day and take up arms the next?

There is another sword spoken of in the New Testament. It is not the sword of a violent, murderous world. It is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17), which we are called to study and rightly divide (2 Timothy 2:15). And “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword…, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). These are exhortations to open our hearts to let the word of God search and refine them in utterly personal ways, including how we interpret the meaning of Luke 22:35-38, especially in the heat and fury of our national moments.

Choosing between the two perennial traditions – the one violent, the other forbidding it – is always being placed before followers of Jesus. Will we walk humbly in the grace and power of the Holy Spirit into the pages of our own Book of Acts? Or will we take up arms to participate in the kind of violence that killed our Lord?

Top photo: Sword sculpture photo by Andrea Brizzi. Lower photo: Grunewald’s-Isenheim Altarpiece. Star flower and two paths images courtesy of Creative Commons.

©2020 by Charles Strohmer

The Refiner’s Fire in a Time of Crisis

If you missed this or haven’t had the opportunity to listen yet, here is a recent talk I gave, in which I plucked up my nerve to share some thoughts that have been pressing on me for quite some time about this difficult historical moment that is deeply challenging all of us across the whole spectrum of life. Thank you to Pastor Wes White for the invitation to speak about this, to Brennon Carpenter for making it available to you on Vimeo, and to those who have been sharing it around both here and outside the States.

I should add, briefly, so that it’s not confusing when it occurs, that at about 2/3 of the way through the talk, there’s an unexpected time of quiet when I became so overwhelmed I couldn’t talk. When I regained a little composure I was fighting back tears, voice cracking at times for the remainder of the talk. Also, stick around for the reading of a poem, which concluded the talk. If you have time to listen and wish to offer some input that would be good.

©2020 by Charles Strohmer

Video by Vimeo.