“Fort Jesus,” defensive faith


Yesterday, Paul Carline took the thirteenth session of the biannual Crandall University missions course, “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement,”

Paul and his wife Kelly and family served in mission to Garissa, Kenya, East Africa from 1995 to 2012.

Garissa is near Kenya’s border with Somalia, where many ethnic Somali Kenyan Muslims have made a home for generations. Two generations of Canadian Christian workers served in Garissa before the Carlines.

Christians are a minority in this part of Kenya, a point Paul made forcefully for us by comparing Garissa with Thika, a Kenyan city and outpost of Christendom not far from Nairobi, the capital. In Thika, one might hear Christian worship music in a supermarket. Not so in Garissa.

While the faiths coexist in Garissa mostly peacefully, the marginal status of Christians prompts distinct strategies. One Christian approach is to imagine your community as an embattled outpost in need of stern defense, walled against surrounding threats.

Don’t imagine the majority does not pick up on the fear.

Paul and Muslim friend were walking by a certain church which was building a proud new structure. “Fort Jesus,” said Paul’s Muslim friend.

Paul showed us the picture you see at the top.

What did Paul’s friend mean?

Fort Jesus is located in the port city of Mombasa, Kenya, on the Indian Ocean. It is “Forte Jesus de Mombaça” in the language of its builders, the Portuguese. It was finished in 1596, when European powers were gaining control of historic trading routes along the African coast. The 1600s map below makes clear the control. Fortified trading posts were integral to European control.


As well as a money-making venture on behalf of the Crown and Portuguese merchantile interests, perhaps Europeans as Christians imagined forcible expansion as legitimate expansion of the true faith. The light was forced to dawn, as it were.

Business and mission went together in the Congo of King Leopold or the east Africa of David Livingstone’s famous adventures. Christians have bad episodes to live down.

Since we studied the World Christian Movement this semester, it’s worth remembering that with the end of colonialism, mission-minded Protestants and Catholics have been working out non-coercive, genuinely inculturated mission, propelled by faith. Post-colonial mission has not usually relied on secular power to advance the cause of Christ.

And, the grace of God reached over and past some misbegotten efforts. Think African Christianity late 20th century ‘til now. Think Chinese Christianity. It’s amazing.

Fort Jesus – now a UNESCO World Heritage Site — stands as a contradiction. “Fort Jesus” might even be an oxymoron, an impossible linking of terms.

For Jesus himself was not defensive. That is, he did not take steps to prevent aggression against himself. He did not wall himself off from his sometimes hostile countrymen. He trusted his Father to defend him as he did good and taught.

He knew when his time was not yet come, and absented himself, for sure. He had several close escapes.

But finally his vulnerability before the legal machinery was something he accepted as coming from the hand of God. He trusted his Father to bring good out of his death.

In an era in Western societies with deep challenges to followers of Christ, shall they look for legal walls to protect them? Should they accept possible deprivation of goods and persons?

“…(R)ecall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward.

Fort Jesus, a colonialist structure, stands for power to dominate. Colonialism made for an odd faith.

One can see now, as some should have seen before: mission is love is being open to the possibility of suffering. It is like love always must be – open to pain. Ask any husband, wife, father, or mother. Goes with the love territory.

The Cross shouldn’t be high up behind a wall. See again the picture. The Cross has to be naked on a hill so anyone can reach it. That makes for, yes, vulnerability.

Fort Jesus AND Cross? Or, Fort Jesus OR Cross?


Easter sunrise prayer for civic leaders

Moncton city hall, March 27th, 2016, 7am AST.

(With huge thanks to edgy “preachersmith,” and the Book of Common Prayer)

“We come to you in the name of the one who told us, ‘from everyone to who has been given much, much will be demanded; and, from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.’

For the Queen of Canada Elizabeth and the Governor General David

For Justin, the Prime Minister and the cabinet and all civil servants

For the secretary general of the United Nations and its assemblies and councils

For members of parliament and the senate

For judges of the Supreme Court of Canada

For premiers, cabinet members, and legislators of all provinces especially Brian and Cathy, Ernie, and Bruce*

For the mayor of Moncton George; of Dieppe, Yvon; of Riverview, Ann

By your help may they seek justice and truth, peace and concord.

Almighty God, who can bring good out of evil, and who can make even the wrath of humanity turn to your praise:

Thank you for arranging that a semblance of order remains in our shared life.

Praise be to you for not allowing disorder and anarchy.

We lift up our hearts, O Lord, for these who carry civic and political responsibilities.

Make them sensitive to the effects they have on the most vulnerable in society. Grant them the courage to gladly stand up for them without hesitation, apology, or compromise.

Surround them with good counsel, friends, and support, lest they find themselves surrounded by those who would do evil to them or through them.

Protect their hearts from callousness that can grow from being exposed to the friction and toil of gossip, lies, misrepresentations, misunderstanding, rumors.

Pour out on them a steady shower of your discernment and wisdom that they may be quick to forgive of things past and equipped to forge a foundation for better relationships between all in the future.

Still the tongues of all who heartlessly criticize, judge, and demean these servants of yours. Remind us to do to others as we would have them do to us.

Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace.

Give space for the gospel to increase so that in tranquillity your dominion may increase

Through Jesus Christ our Lord.





Photo: Wikimedia

*Brian Gallant, Cathy Rogers, Ernie Steeves, Bruce Fitch – the premier of our province and Moncton area elected representatives especially close to those assembled for worship and prayer


“Thou hast taken hold of my right hand.” –Psalm 73:21


When he realizes the fantastic success of practical people, the writer is strongly tempted to abandon his faith,. The rich and powerful have it all now; no seeming need to refer to any god. Earlier the writer says: my feet almost slipped – an image of walking on a narrow path, losing one’s balance, and falling.

Now he affirms: God, you are holding me even when I was an unthinking this-world-only being, not remembering your promises and your power. “I was like an animal before you.” Now he realizes, in this unrolling meditation that sees him restored, that even his foolishness was in God’s hand. The Spirit kept him, we see in the light of the New Testament. Even as a beast before you, I am continuously before you (same Hebrew word for “before” or some translations, “with.”

Not only my brain, not only my thoughts; you Lord have taken my right hand bodily to physically guide me and keep me from pitching off the road.

What a great, great assurance. For in-Christ people, the spirit of Christ himself lives within. Talk about a “paraclete,” a Comforter, one who comes alongside (John 15-17).

Photo credit “Guard Rail and Grass Woodstock Vermont,” Christopher Sessums via Flickr, license Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Now, that’s praise! “Songs Of Praise” from a migrant/refugee church In Calais, France

The BBC Is Filming “Songs Of Praise” At Migrant Church In Calais And Some People Are Furious

TV crews plan to broadcast footage from a migrant camp in Calais, France full of people hoping to reach Britain.

The BBC‘s decision to film a special edition of ‘Songs Of Praise’ from Calais’ biggest migrant camp has inflamed opinions, with critics branding the move “insensitive” while others say it could help humanize the crisis.

Crews for the TV program have been filming at a church in the so-called ‘Jungle’, a sprawling encampment home to thousands hoping to reach Britain.

 A woman enters the site of a church in a make shift camp near the port of Calais on July 31, 2015 in Calais, France. Strike action and daily attempts by hundreds of migrants to enter the Channel Tunnel and onto trains heading to the United Kingdom is causing delays to passenger and freight services across the channel. British Prime Minster David Cameron has announced that extra sniffer dogs and fencing are to be sent to Calais and land owned by the Ministry of Defence is to be used as a lorry park to ease congestion near the port of Dover in Kent. 

Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford, told The Sun on Thursday: “This is an insensitive thing to do. We are facing a grave crisis.

PHILIPPE HUGUEN via Getty Images

The BBC Is Filming “Songs Of Praise” At Migrant Church In Calais And Some People Are Furious.


Free resource for baptism candidates and classes

I had responsibility to prepare a handful of candidates for adult baptism some fifteen years ago. After completing Jack Miller’s Sonship Course in 1996 (World Harvest Mission, Jenkintown, PA), the German Reformer Martin Luther’s understanding of active faith in Christ became precious. As I thought how to prepare candidates, it came to me that there is no need to reinvent twenty centuries of Christian experience. Thinkers and pastors have worked on initiation into the Christian life. So, I prepared an approachable edition of Luther’s Small Catechism. Run it in at least three sessions. You would need to research, possibly by personal Bible study or hearing a sermon or lecture related to each session. Click below and help yourself. If you see possible edits or changes in structure, or would like to add commentary, please, get in touch. Baptism, Move of Faith

I should note that Jack Miller’s disorganized but quite wonderful Sonship course took inspiration from many sources including Luther’s Commentary on Galatians (available here and there on the net for free;  probably the best thing you could read today or any day for free, except the Bible). Richard Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life — Lovelace was a Gordon-Conwell Seminary prof at the same time as Jack was a renegade prof at Westminster Seminary Phila. —  tracks closely with Sonship. “Why do we live the Christian life as orphans when those in Christ are sons and daughters?” might be the focussing question of Sonship.


Smart article on marriage in NYT July 18

2015-07-19_211429Pretty funny piece on being married, smart, this weekend’s NY Times.


Great bits: Her proposed toast!

“…it’s unlikely they will be each other’s best friend every single minute forever. And that while it’s good to aim high, it’s quite probable they will let each other down many times in ways both petty and profound that in this blissful moment they can’t even fathom.

Hard to imagine that making many glasses clink happily, but press on!

Her editorial comments:

It is easy for people who have never tried to do anything as strange and difficult as being married to say marriage doesn’t matter, or to condemn those who fail at it, or to mock those who even try. But there is so much beauty in the trying, and in the failing, and in the trying again. Peter renounced Jesus three times before the cock crowed. And yet, he was the rock upon whom Christ built his church.

Hey, a theology of grace in the NYT. Whew. So much better than the good old “try harder.” Ragamuffin Brennan Manning Jack Miller Martin Luther Sonship pure pleasure. Have your own read.