Len Hjalmarson wonders,
(Wednesday, November 27th, 2002)

...is it really possible to understand the gospel from a position of power and privilege?

And in a related story:

why has the Catholic Church historically taken such a militant position on interpretation? why have they enforced it with the sword, with banishment and with disdain?

because the Catholic Church, unlike the majority of the Protestant Churches (until recently), has always realized that interpretation is all that we have.

does this make their posture of physical, ideological and social violence acceptable? by no means. nonetheless, it underscores what is at stake in the act of interpretation.

reality is interpretation. the stories we tell help establish the boundaries for our actions. our actions are partner in enacting destiny.

interpretation is all that we have.
engage it authentically.
hold it sacred.

From Dan Hughes:

there seems to be a series of assumptions that either support or are created by this notion (the professional mediating strange ancient texts to the masses):

1. that the secrets of G-d are locked in the text and need to be unlocked by a "bible expert," who is defined in terms of technical literacy.

2. that somehow the received text is a sufficient answer to the question of the genealogy of the textual tradition. thus the task is simply one of translation and communication--questions of strata and critical texts being left to the side, or rather, not generally even acknowledged as questions.

3. that there is a right interpretation. that somehow we can possess the author's intent by translating and interpreting the text "objectively."

in this view we need experts to unlock the linguistic mysteries of G-d that come from inerrant texts which we can objectively know absolute truth from.

doesn't that make us feel all warm and fuzzy.

what a crock of shit. what a dangerous delusion. "Inerrant in the original manuscripts" is the traditional mantra. as if that solved anything. what does inerrancy mean in a world without recourse to objectivity? inerrant to whom? when? in which situations? interpretations can never be inerrant. interpretation is our ever present enterprise. i'll give you inerrancy if you demand it, but i warn you, it does you no good when over the perspectival line of contingency you step. and step you must! in practice if not in purpose.

He's right, you know.


I was over reading the arguments at nologo.org and following the links to the counter-arguments, and all it does is get me back in that "what the heck is truth really anyway". Everyone is very convinced of their side, but both sides operate as much in terms of faith as they do knowledge. It increases my suspicion of anyone with an over-arching plan. The only over-arching plan that I find convincing is the one that is the most local and particular. Love each other, even your enemies. One thing that is easier to do than "join the movement" is to identify selfishness and selflessness within myself. I think that is all I really have certainty about. God is Love. Love pays attention to the small things. The rest is God's domain... isn't it?


Adbusters wants to get the big pig on a CNN financial show, but they need some help. Anybody got money for that??

Check it out here.


There's a good article floating around out there...

"Simply put: Being a Christian means following Jesus. If our discipleship is not leading us to continue to give away our lives to other people, at great personal cost, then we are not following Jesus.

"There is a fundamental call to Christians to be involved in generous compassion to the poor and the broken and the underprivileged. There's more in the Bible about justice and compassion than evangelism."


Still working on getting connected at home. ADSL seems to be the prime option. Though they have some sort of fiber optic connection here now that is supposed to be super crazy fast. Little more expensive, but....
These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head a lot lately, and then today I found them well-said on Len Hjalmerson's blog:

"[The subject] of wealth and poverty is one of the most pervasive biblical themes.. In the New Testament there are more than five hundred verses of direct teaching on the subject, one out of every sixteen verses (not including implicit teaching in the actions of Jesus and the disciples). Jesus talked about wealth and poverty more than any other subject including heaven and hell and sexual morality.

"Wealth is seen, at best, as a great spiritual danger and, most often, as an absolute hindrance to God. The rich are continually held responsible for the sufferings of the poor, while God is portrayed as the deliverer of the oppressed.

"Yahweh demanded justice and righteousness and declared that nations would be judged by how they treated the poor..

"Jesus is God made poor. .His coming was prophesied to bring social revolution, and his kingdom would turn things upside down.. Jesus Himself identified with the weak, the downtrodden, the outcast...

"The Bible often refers to the oppressed, the alien, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. These are the defenseless ones, the powerless, the disenfranchised, the voiceless ones at the bottom of the social structure. But by his relationship with the poor, Jesus establishes their value. So must the church. The Christian point of view must be that of those at the bottom. Their rights and needs should always be the most determinative elements of the church's social stance."

Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion


This article sent to me by a friend, prompted this response from me:

Hey Nathan,

Good article. Came at a poignant time for me, as I am
also reading Naomi Klein's No Logo. Both raise the same
question in my head. Is the alternative vision somewhat
Luddite and anti-technology? Is poverty inherent to a
technologically advanced society? Because
anti-corporate, anti-globalization arguments, though
not explicitly, tend to point in that direction. Not
that I am saying that is bad. I remember reading Thomas
Jefferson saying that for a society to remain good, it
had to remain primarily agrarian. But is that true??

I dunno. Just my questions. I am sure the Naomi-goddess
will make everything clear by the end of the book....


And then today I came across Joel Mowchenko's blog. Uh huh, just what I figured, let's take it back to the land people...

Of course, being in Japan, it might be finding some land that proves to be the tricky part...

Coming from a Mennonite heritage, I can see where at times withdrawl from the world goes to such an extreme of non-engagement that the community ceases to have any relevance to the world, or influence therein. But I can really see where such a community, if linked to some sort of community venture going on within an urban centre, could be really redemptive (salvific even!!). Two short weeks in urban Japan are reminding me of the extent to which the city is a glorification of man and all his conquests. And my hunch is that isolation in such an environment eventually does some sort of violence to the spirit (there is something about the massive, though obnoxiously loud and despairingly plastic game arcades here that drives this point home to me).

So Joel, hurrah for your venture into rural community. And though I know I don't know you from a hole in the ground, my advice would be don't forget the poor in the cities...


I am sitting in the biggest Starbucks in Nagoya. Yesterday, I bought Naomi Klein's book No Logo, so I suppose this could be the last time I ever come here, but for now, ignorance is bliss. Though this isn't really such a blissful place for me. I don't really like coffee, so instead I just paid $5 for a steamed milk, which seems a little overboard for warm milk, but hey, I bought the image, and I am sitting in Starbucks, which makes me infinitely cooler than I was just minutes ago...

Yep, if we have it in North America, they pretty much have got it here, just with better service. All except for size 11 shoes. I have searched far and wide for a pair of size 11's - not because I need them but because I will need them - and have met with no success at all. There was a size 11 pair of nike basketball shoes in one place, but they were orange and yellow, and I will do a lot more searching before I go back for those.

Today I am looking around for English teaching jobs. I need something to do with my week, and I need some extra money to pay off the startup costs of life in Japan. We got a nice house about 25 minutes out of Nagoya in a place called Seto. It has lots of room, and the rent is very low, as we are getting it from a pastor friend of mine. Diana and Natsumi, Andrea, Simon and I are all going to live there together, which should be a good experiment in intentional community. All of us, with the exception of Andrea and Diana, have lived together before, so I don't foresee too much friction. Well, maybe some between me and Diana because, come on, we are siblings. And I suppose between me and Andrea because, come on, we are married...

Yesterday we were talking excitedly about the house parties we would be able to have at the new place. I have been musing a little about how, in my estimation, traditional church has fused the school and the party with poor results. You either have a boring party or a vague and confusing school. I am wondering to what extent we can experiment with separating the two �Eeither let a get together be a party of wide open relational connecting, or a more focused and intentional look at issues and theologies. Well, we'll experiement a little anyway. Apparently, the party might run into a little trouble as house parties are just not very normal here. The Japanese tend to confine their partying to the downtown areas, while keeping their homes for quiet family living. It is quite a rare thing to go over to someone's house even just to hang out. Relational connecting is usually done at a bar, restaurant, karaoke lounge, arcade (YOU SHOULD SEE THE ARCADES HERE), etc. So we might have to walk softly in our neighborhood with that one. I'm not really interested in a "loud, obnoxious gaijin" kind of reputation.


Gaijin. That means �goutside person�h. I�fve heard that the politically correct version is �gGaikoku-jin�h. That means �gperson from an outside country�h. I can�ft say that the original version offends me that much, as it is just plain true that we are outsiders. Why try to sugar coat it. I find that among foreigners in Japan, the reaction to being a visible minority varies. Some absolutely hate being constantly noticed. Others treat their difference more like celebrity, and almost revel in it. I lean toward the latter. I figure we better get use to being somewhat of a curiosity in a country that is 99% ethnically homogenous. Yer not in Canada anymore, Dorothy...

It is a little easier when you know that most people are positively pre-disposed to North Americans. I remember once saying to a friend at home that, having lived in Japan, I know what it�fs like to be a visible minority. As a member of a visible minority in Canada, he kinda scoffed and said that it is a little harder to play the odd one out when the majority is condescending and disrespectful. He�fs right. I remember being in Korea for only three days and having one drunken man come up to me yelling, �gToo many white!! Get out! Get out!�h I mentioned, in the presence of a black woman from Washington DC who I was traveling with, that it was a slimy feeling, to know that I was disliked because of my skin color. She remarked that she felt more that way in her own country than she did in Korea. Ouch.

The experience in Japan has been quite different. Yesterday, my sister and I were on a train, and an old woman came over from her group of seniors and said to us, �gPlease, welcome to Japan.�h The grammar might have been a little off, but we sure appreciated the sentiment. You could tell she was a total hero among her group of friends, as you could see their looks of disbelief at her boldness in going right up and talking to a foreigner. I mean she could have been killed.

It does tend to be true that some Japanese people are terribly scared of foreigners. And that can lead to awkward/pathetic situations. It can be extreme too. I had one student last time I was here who explained it all to me during our first lesson. He began by making it clear to me that he had no interest in learning English. So why was I there? Well, years ago he had been walking up Mount Fuji with a friend of his. The friend had some gaijin friends that he had met on the way up. My student said he was so scared that he literally stood behind his friend and shook with fear. He told me that he realized this was utterly absurd, and determined to change his feelings toward foreigners. So I was there to be a foreign friend, to chat and exchange cultures with. It was the best teaching gig I have every had. He paid me $50 an hour so he could teach me Japanese. He is still a very good friend. And he doesn�ft tremble when I come around. Mission accomplished.


Seems like Kinko's is the best option for internet as long as I can't get it at my house. We went to an internet cafe that seemed really cheap, about 4 bucks for a half hour, but changed our minds when they charged us 6 bucks a piece for our Cokes.....

Here is an unfinished blog entry that I wrote on the plane:

Wow. It�fs -63 degrees outside. That is almost as cold as Winnipeg in January. I am 30 000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, about seven hours into a thirteen hour flight. I have reached the head-spinning-need-a-gravol stage of the flight. Japan Airlines is pretty good for entertainment; I have my own personal screen with about five movies playing, as well as five video games to play, but I am exhausted with cheap Hollywood movies, and I just found out that I am not good at Tetris anymore. Good time for a blog entry, thinks me

It has been a smooth trip so far. A couple things worked out so perfectly that I reminded myself to be even-minded the next time I want to jump into a �gwhy do things always go wrong�h kind of mindset. Today, things are really going right. My bag was heavy; the check-in lady thought too heavy. We weighed it, and it came in at 69.5 pounds, .5 pounds under the limit. I heard at the desk that the flight was very crowded. Indeed, it is, but no one showed up in the seat next to me, so I am thankful for the elbow room. But I still can�ft say I am enjoying the trip. I am tolerating the trip. I can�ft wait until someone invents a Star Trek like teleporter so they can just zap me back and forth between continents.

This is a big chapter change in my life. I have been coming back around to that theme all day today. I was feeling a sort of deep thanks to God for the intricate and unexpected way that he does things. In the last five years, we pretty much lost interest and passion for the institutional side of church. At times that would make me a little stressed as I gazed into the future, because since I was a teen I have been fairly single-minded about wanting to be a �gchurch planter�h. How strange then that my perception of the community of faith was so drastically altered, to the point that �gchurch planter�h had so changed in definition so as to become unrecognizable.

But here�fs the thing that makes me so thankful. I am on a plane heading off to a foreign land to be a missionary. Funny, that terminology carries meanings that I don�ft care to join in on, but essentially, that�fs what we are up to. We go to incarnate a message of the Love of God as a community of faith. Not really anything different than we were doing in the North End, but God knows how much I love cross-cultural settings, so this must be his kindness to me.

But with the foggy definitions of what it means to be a �gmissionary�h in these changing times comes a nervous uncertainty. I mean, I don�ft think my picture is on anybody�fs fridge. There is no church board to raise my funds and pay my way. That system has its advantages. But God has provided well for us in the absence of those things. I have friends, very deep friends, who I will stay connected with all over the world. We are praying for each other, covering each other.


Ok. It has been a long and difficult journey, but I am in Japan, and I am online. You would think for such a techno-freakish country, there would be a lot more and a lot easier access to internet, but no no, it took me while and a lot of fumbling around in Japanese to find this internet cafe. I have all kinds of back-logged blog entries that I should upload, but I haven't yet got internet at the house, so they are stranded offline on my laptop for now. I will post them as I get online from our place. Also, not much I can say on this update, as time is almost up, but we have found a house that is quite roomy by Japanese standards and should be all moved in within the next month. I am looking forward to being the blog-correspondent in Nagoya as soon as I get all hooked up.

'Til then....


Japan: The Missing Million
Whoah. I am buzzed. Sugar buzzed. That's what happens when fewer kids come around for Halloween than you anticipate.

This weekend looks like it is going to be a blur of goodbye dinners with friends. Olive Garden tonight. The Keg tomorrow. I've been working hard in the last couple of weeks at visiting all my favorite non-Asian restaurants (as I shall be getting my fill of Asian food - no complaints there), and this weekend should round it out nicely. And the last Bomber game of the season tomorrow. Means nothing for the standings, but it will be fun to sit in the cold and see Khari Jones go for the "most touchdowns in a season" record. Of course, he is from California, so the cold seems to back him off a little.

What sucks is that I am going to miss all of the playoffs. Although last time I was in Japan, I did know of a foreigners bar where Canadians could get together (at 9 am) to watch CFL games, so I will have to track it down again. And I hear that they show the CFL on ESPN 2 so maybe somebody will have the right satellite package.

Maybe I should just put less effort in to sports. Last time we were there, I was so determined to watch Michael Jordan get beat by the Jazz (didn't happen) that I went down to an electronics superstore at the right time of the morning and stood in front of one of the display TV's for two and a half hours to watch the game. You know, the whole time I don't remember seeing a salesman, but the next day when I showed up again, a chair had been placed exactly in front of the television I had watched the game on the previous day. How's that for Japanese hospitality!


And here is something I think I am going to do one day. A Masters of Arts in Global Engagement. Finally, a masters degree that is all about the things I want to be looking deeper in to...

Update from Christian Peacemaker Teams:

Bringing peace to Colombia: one prayer, one conversation at a time
by Carol Foltz Spring
October 25, 2002

In our work as Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) we plant seeds of peace daily. We do not know which of the seeds will bear fruit, but each time we talk about peace it can be a seed.

On October 11, 2002, Lena Siegers (Blyth, ON) and two members of a recent
CPT delegation to Colombia saw a lineup of armed men along the
riverbank. The three were headed down the Opon River at midday in CPT's
motorized metal canoe. The dozen armed men represented a local
paramilitary group. They wore new, matching uniforms with insignia of
their organization. Paramilitaries are the illegal armed group responsible
for approximately 80% of politically motivated kidnappings and killings in

The leader of the group asked Lena to leave and mentioned that there was
another group downriver. She said, "First we'll pray." The group of
CPTers joined hands on the riverbank and Lena prayed loud enough for all to
hear. After they finished singing "Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying,"
the men were gone.

The CPTers then followed the men downriver where they encountered another group of paramilitaries, standing at attention with their feet apart, from
the same unit. Each carried an assault rifle slung over his shoulder. The
commander was surprised to see the CPTers and wanted to talk to Lena
immediately, but she shook hands with each of the young men first. When
she began speaking with the commander, everything got quiet. She talked
with him about CPT, about nonviolence, about vengeance that only creates
more violence.

Meanwhile, Barbara and Charlotte talked with the other armed men. The men
were all in their teens and twenties and spoke respectfully with the young

The commander politely asked to speak. "The newspapers say bad things
about usit's all propaganda. We work for peace, for the people. We are
farmers too." He said his superior was trained in the United States.
Lena responded, "If you are farmers too, then you understand that you are
putting these farmers at risk. If you really want to help them, meet in
the woods away from their houses."

She continued, "While you're killing your brothers and sisters, the United
States and Canada are taking the oil and other natural resources from this
rich land. Colombia is so beautiful. If everyone would work together to
develop your resources, it would truly be a rich nation."

Lena asked about the commander's family. "Oh, yes, I have two beautiful
young girls," he said, and talked of his love for them.

Lena said, "Oh, it would be so wonderful if you could go back to your
little girls."

His eyes glistened with tears. "But I'm working to build peace, so that I
can go home again."

"I feel so sad," Lena told him as she put her hand on his
shoulder. "Someday, before you lay down your weapons, you will meet your
brother and have to kill him. He has a face too, he has a mother
too." She traced his face with her hand. "I know your face now." She
traced her own. "And you know mine."

CPT has maintained a violence-reduction presence in the Medio Magdalena regin of colombia since May 2002 at the invitation of the Colombian Mennonite Church. Current team members include Lisa Martens (Winnipeg MB), Lena Siegers (Blyth ON), Charles and Carol Spring (Palo Alto CA), and Keith Young (Comer GA).

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative among Canadian and U.S. churches committed to active peacemaking, which prepares small teams to intervene in violent and militarized regions using active nonviolence. Contact CPT, PO Box 72063, 1562 Danforth Ave., Toronto ON M4J 5C1, ph 416-423-5525, fax 416-423-9213, email cptcan@web.ca; or CPT, POB 6508 Chicago, IL 60680, ph 312-455-1199, fax 312-432-1213, email cpt@igc.org. To join CPTNET, visit us on the WEB: www.cpt.org