Friday, June 18, 2010

Kabul Church Plan Ignites Backlash

KABUL —For the second time in two months, an Afghanistan church is facing opposition from residents who don't want the religious house constructed in an area zoned for it.

With a growing Christian community in Kabul Province, the Christian Center of Kabul wants to build on Highway A01. The project done in phases could take years to finish: a 52,000-square-foot church, with a community center and athletic fields.

Tonight, residents will appear in front of the board of commissioners to express their frustration with the Kabul Province Planning Commission's May 24 approval of the site plan. The meeting is slated for 6 p.m. at 1 South Public Square, Suite 200.

"I believe this has been approved and run through without public notice," resident Abdul Hussein said. "Why have a church nine times the size of Kandahar’s in the middle of a farming, residential community?''

Last month, plans for a separate mosque in Kandahar were soundly defeated when residents who were against rezoning the land mounted a campaign that raised suspicions about the church and its leaders. Opponents encouraged residents to write letters to the city commission, and stirred more controversy by questioning links to American military groups.

Hussein and other opponents say prejudice is not at the root of their opposition in Kabul Province.

"I'm Caucasian-Arabic," he said. "It's not an issue of diversity, race or religious freedom. I would say the same thing if it was a Muslim Mosque."

The Christian community is confused over the opposition. They have been good neighbors and residents in Kabul Province, they said.

Shortly after the devastating 2009 tornado, Christian families delivered 2,500 meals to those affected. They volunteered to help the community. They invited Muslims and Hindus alike to take part on their holidays.

When they announced their plans to build their dream facility, they also invited residents. They didn't expect a backlash.

Now they are answering to rumors of cannibalism, Christian doctrine and whether they will adhere to the laws of Afghanistan, said David Thompson, a physical therapist who has lived in Kabul since the 1980s.

"We have nothing to hide," Thompson said. "We do not have a hidden agenda. We're not affiliated with anyone. Where is the tolerance?"

Christians need room

Thompson said the Christian community, with 250 families, has outgrown its current location.

It's not uncommon for houses of worship to face opposition. Some opponents use traffic, zoning and any legal loophole as a smoke screen for their prejudices, said Ghassan Farooq, director of litigation for a Kabul-based nonprofit group.

"No one really comes out to speak against people, using traffic, which is malleable, to manipulate to the detriment of those applying for the property," he said.

Ibrahim Jabbar, a retired resident who opposes the church, questions the goals of those who practice Christianity.

"If their goal is to advance Christianity, advance their culture, then there is no real affection for our Afghan Law and the precepts we were founded on," Jabbar said, adding that Kabul Province also opposed a Qu’ran theme park.

Minister Christopher Allen wants to dispel any worries, and said any disagreements should be worked out. He had to answer tough questions from his own as well. A child asked, "Why do they hate us?"

"I said it's just a misunderstanding, miscommunication," Allen said. "I told him to love the people because one day they can love you, too."

See the original article this was based on.

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31

Friday, June 11, 2010


before bed,
I went to the garage to get a pair of shoes for tomorrow.

I'll be working, but not as usual. Along with
most people from my company,
I'll be in the community.

As I looked at the shoes,
I noticed holes.
White Dust.

The holes come from countless miles walked in them.
Through trails.
Up streets.
Down the cobblestones sidewalks of Loughborough, England.

The mud came less than a month ago.
Trees and mud came down in neighbors' yards.
Forced by a deluge down a natural path to an unnatural resting place.
The mud came from being stuck ankle deep taking off limbs
of the tree, hoping to help in a small way.

The white dust came from a stranger's house.
Someone who needed help. A name I don't remember.
It came a little after the mud, in a fit of impotent frustration
that turned into action.
A condo with trash piled outside, and a grand piano that had become trash.
I offered help; they accepted.
And the dust of a life covered the shoes and embedded in the treads.

Tomorrow, there will be new signs.
Whether mud, or paint, or stains, or something unforeseen.
New holes.
Or perhaps just a smell.
Perhaps they'll become unwearable.
But even in that,
The shoes will be a sacrifice,
A pleasing aroma to The One Who inspires the action
of Faith.
Of a life lived for others.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Thought on Pentecost

Yesterday, Christians celebrated Pentecost, the 50th day after the Passover Sabbath. It's a holy day in the Christian calendar, because it celebrates the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the gathered Christians, as recorded in Acts 2. Josh Graves, our teaching minister at Otter Creek, spoke on it in service yesterday, giving some great insights, and as yesterday was the 4th Sunday of the month, I went to the prison and had an opportunity to speak there, so I decided to speak about Pentecost as well.

I think Josh made some good points about Pentecost and you can listen to them here if you so desire. But I found something interesting as I was investigating Pentecost. One of the passages where Moses talks about the establishment of the Feast in the Penteteuch was in Leviticus 23:15-22. What's really interesting to me is verse 22. Pentecost was about giving the first fruits of what the Israelites grew back to God and to take care of the priests. But in the establishment of this feast, God also makes provision for the poor.
22 " 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.' "
Now, what's really interesting to me is how much this dovetails into the end of Acts 2, where we have the famous "communalism" verse in Acts 2:44

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It's very easy for us to focus on the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues. If you grew up Church of Christ, you might have heard a lot about Acts 2:38, the "answer" to What Must I Do To Be Saved? But I think it's important for us to note that even in the establishment of the Feast of Pentecost, God had the poor in mind and when the Church came together, they kept the poor in mind. That should probably be something that we need to think about in our own congregational settings.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why "We Are Nashville" Can't End With Flood Clean-Up

Just after the rains ended, Patten Fuqua wrote a blogpost that inspired a city called, "We Are Nashville." It's a great piece that you can read here:

What this simple phrase has done is unite a city behind an idea that we are more than the sum of our parts and while we are individuals, we are part of a greater whole, we have a collective identity as a city that draws us together. These are ideas that we saw in the US after the 9/11 tragedy. These are ideas that Christians need to grasp at a greater level in finding our identity as the body of Christ.

There have been bumper stickers, t-shirts, posters, and more t-shirts created as a part of this. A good friend of mine expressed some doubt about a tragedy being remembered with a t-shirt, which I think is an idea that has some merit. A tragedy where 23 people died shouldn't be souvenir-ized into a t-shirt.

But if it's not so much a souvenir, but a sign of a unity of purpose that Nashvillians can have, that's a sign of something. If it's something that galvanizes people to action to care for others, that's when it becomes something bigger.

And here's where I'm going with this. "We Are Nashville" has to last longer than flood recovery. There's something about a tragedy that brings people together. When we see our neighbors' houses flooded. We can't help but want to do SOMETHING... ANYTHING. But here's the truth. There is tragedy every day in this city. Every day, a child goes hungry. Every day, people go home to a house that is unlivable. Every day, there is hurt and pain and suffering on a scale that I as an upper/middle-class white man doesn't usually have eyes to see.

The spirit/Spirit behind "We Are Nashville" is something that can push us to a higher purpose. One that goes out and seeks what we can do to help the people who don't have, but who desperately need help. And we as Christians have to be at the forefront of this. If we're not, and we slink back into our brick-housed ghettos, then we have failed, and all "We Are Nashville" is a call to action to get ourselves back to where we were and not to help lift up our neighbors as well.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Hopefully, most of you are aware of the devastation that struck Nashville and the surrounding areas this weekend. I know that the national news hasn't covered it as much as the Times Square bomb or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but I think word is getting out regardless.

The Wilsons, all facets of us are ok. Our house had a little bit of water in the garage from the deluge on Sunday, but nothing significant that couldn't be taken care of with some brooms and a sump pump connected to an outlet. My mom and dad's house was fine as well, since they are on a high hill, but much of their neighborhood was not. My sister Julie is fine, even though her house was cut off by an impromptu lake over the soccer fields where Connor plays. My brother is fine and had no issues, and my sister Sarah is good as well. We were fortunate.

Much of this city and especially the Bellevue area where we live are not good. Water got into places where it's never been before and had never been thought that it could get to. Neighbors of ours on our street had mudslides which brought significant amounts of earth into their yards and even trees onto their houses. Downtown has flooded from the Cumberland river and some of the poorer areas of Nashville have been affected as well, including a homeless encampment where Otter Creek has done work called Tent City was completely swept away.

Nashville is hurting. But Nashville is also stepping up. When volunteers for sandbagging were called for, people of all faiths and no faith banded together to save a water treatment plant from flooding and putting Nashville in even more dire straits with regards to water supply. And these sandbags were put together by inmates who volunteered for the duty to help the city where they are incarcerated. A movement has sprung up on Facebook and Twitter called "We Are Nashville." And it's not just for Nashvillians; it's for those that wish to stand in solidarity with Nashville. Those who have called it home and moved, or just those that sympathize.

But more importantly to me than Nashville stepping up, the church is stepping up. Due to many churches having experienced clean up in NOLA and the surrounding areas during Katrina, most of them know the task facing the city and how to respond. And to me that's one of the best ways that the church can be Jesus to an area that needs the church to be the Body of Christ, perhaps more than ever.

Just a couple of links.

If you want to keep up on the news within Nashville, is one of the best ways.

If you want some tangible ways to help and you're in the Nashville area, my congregation Otter Creek has a lot of options on the home page

If you're out of town and want a way to help, you can send gift cards to national store like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, etc to the Otter Creek Church office at 409 Franklin Road, Brentwood, TN, 37027 and those will be given to those who need them.

Thanks so much for your continued prayers for us.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Otter Creek in the News

It's been an interesting 6 months in the press for the Otter Creek Church of Christ. Back in August, we were featured in an article in the Tennessean about work being done in Tent City and our collaboration with the Temple Congregation Ohabai Sholom. On Christmas Day, the Tennessean featured a family that Otter Creek has worked with and highlighted some of the work Doug Sanders has been doing with those on the outside of the comforts of life many of us enjoy. Then on Sunday, once again, the Tennessean featured Otter Creek in another article about how some Churches of Christ are dropping isolationist views.

Because I love Otter Creek like I love a parent, I'm really happy to see us portrayed positively in the news. I've stated before that I don't agree with everything about Otter Creek, but our sense of family there is one of the reasons we stay. I'm also very happy that how we're being portrayed in the news is because of the work that's being done on the margins of society with the homeless. In my mind, it's much better than being in the news because of a new building or something like that.

But whether we get positive press or not, I am grateful for the work that is going on at Otter Creek and the direction we seem to be heading. It's a different congregation that it was five years ago; moving into a new building and getting a new preaching team and worship minister can do that for a church. But underneath it all, the same Spirit presses us on to continue to work out our salvation, to continue the work and the response to God's grace that has been a guiding principle for Otter Creek for our existence. And that the Spirit will continue to do so, as we seek to be the Body of Christ.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Unlikely Disciple

2009 was a bit of a funky year reading wise for me. I'm sure I read some books, as I always do, but I don't have any serious recollection of them.

However, this year, I've already devoured 3 books and I'm looking forward to reading even more. The Pixar Touch fed into my tech geek and movie geek side (Excellent read). The View From the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood
fed my Star Trek nerd side (OK. The Star Trek parts were very interesting, but Nicholas Meyer's is a bitter, bitter man).

The most significant read I've done this year is Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. And it might be one of the best I read this year. The upshot is that Roose is an Ivy League college student who decides he doesn't know enough conservative Christians. So he decides to take a semester studying "abroad" at Jerry Fallwell's Liberty University. But he decides to do it undercover as a conservative Christian. He rightly ascertains that Christians would put their "best face forward" if they knew he was writing a book about it or was not a Christian. So after a crash course from a Christian friend, he registers for classes and spends the spring semester of 2007 at Liberty University.

There are several excellent aspects of this book. Roose is an excellent writer. He has an engaging style and the fact that the book is written narratively makes it flow incredibly well. 2) Roose enters the world of a conservative Christian with as much of an open mind as it's possible for him to have, growing up outside of that world and having most of his opinions of Christians formed by the media. And it's because of this open mind that Roose himself is actually changed by his exposure to Christianity. Spoiler aalert: He doesn't become a Christian as a result of this, but what he does do is realize that Christian college students aren't much different than his friends at Brown. They're interested in pop culture and the world outside of Liberty. Roose also decides that he will abide by Liberty's rules (mostly) and do the things that a Christian would do. He dates but doesn't pursue sex (which he says frees up a man and woman to actually talk and find out about each other, rather than pursuing carnal pleasures), he prays (which he says forces him to focus on other people and their needs rather than his own [a lesson many of us Christians could stand to learn]), and he participates in a Spring Break mission trip (that one's best left for the book). Here's the other way I know this is a great book: Sheryl read it almost as quickly as I did and found it just as fascinating.

I've always been interested in alternate perspectives, especially ones of things that I believe or participate in. The Unlikely Disciple is a great example of this, and I think it's one that Christians should read to see what an outsider pretending to be an insider really thinks of us and one that nonChristians, especially nonbelievers in any religion, should read. Do we have flaws? Yes. Are these flaws sometimes so apparent that it's hard to see the good in us? Yes, maybe, but just as Roose looked at us with an open mind, not only would I hope that others look at us similarly, but that we should to those who don't share what we believe charitably as well.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti is Not Cursed

What did it take to get me to break my blogging hiatus? Not the wonderfully entertaining insanity of the Late Night TV shuffling. And not even necessarily the tragedy in Haiti, but one Christian's response to Haiti. I understand that by even talking about this I'm giving Pat Robertson a smidge of publicity, but I also feel like I have to make a couple of things very clear.

First the comments from Robertson. "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," he said on Christian Broadcasting Network's "The 700 Club." "They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you'll get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal."

"But ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle; on the one side is Haiti on the other is the Dominican Republic," he said. "Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to god and out of this tragedy I'm optimistic something good may come. But right now we are helping the suffering people and the suffering is unimaginable."

Two responses to this.

1) The majority of Christians do not agree with this statement. I can't think of any that I know, and I'd love to say that no other Christian agrees with this, but I also know that a lot of people watch Pat Robertson's show, so there are probably many who do agree with him. But in the majority, Christians think Pat Robertson is wrong about this.

2) Even if he were right, this would not mitigate the need of Christians to act in support of the people of Haiti. That we would have a responsibility to assist in any way possible for the good of the Haitians. It seems that Robertson thinks that way as well, but it doesn't change the fact that I think not only is he wrong in his estimation, but somewhat dangerous as well.

However, even in my disgust for Robertson's comments, I have to remember that God loves him just as much as the grieving mother in Haiti, and that my love for him should not be affected by his unguarded tongue.

A couple of other pieces. One of my Facebook friends posted this about a cause of Haitian poverty. It's well worth the read.

Also, Pat Robertson has issued a clarification on his statement.

And Donald Miller also posted a great and much more eloquent response than mine on his site.
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