Tag Archives: Christianity

No April Fool’s Joke: FREE “After the War” and Extra Chapter!

It’s free, it’s free — again! I’m offering a two-day giveaway at Amazon Kindle of my 1955 family saga After the War. Mark your calendar and download it, Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1. 

And, if you’ve already downloaded and read this book, here’s an extra: I’ve penned an extra chapter for it that tells you what happens to some of the characters in the book more than ten years later! If you’d like a copy of this chapter, just email me at Libby488 (at) yahoo (dot) com, and put “extra chapter ATW” in the subject. I’ll send as a PDF!

After_the_War_Cover_for_KindleHere’s what’s new with this book: I redid the cover, and I tweaked the prose a bit, getting rid of a few phrases here and there that were either repetitious or clunky. Let me tell you, it’s a humbling experience to reread one’s work after it’s been published. Ask any author. We cringe when we crack open the spine of an ARC (advance reader copy) to proofread one last time before printing.

I’m excited to offer this book for free again because it has something in common with my new release coming out this fall, Fall from Grace (Bancroft Press, September 2017). While After the War is a historical and Fall from Grace a contemporary, they both share faith elements, where religious faith plays an integral part of the story, motivating characters to do both good and…not so good things.

So, get crackin’! Head on over to Amazon on the free dates (March 31 and April 1) and get your free Kindle editions of After the War. When you’re finished, email me for the extra chapter!

 

 

 

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“The family that love built”: the Charleston martyrs

“I acknowledge that I am very angry…(but) she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating.” Thus said Bethane Middleton-Brown, sister of one of the victims, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, killed last week by a racist murderer in a Bible study class at a church in Charleston, SC.

The family that love built — the parade of victims’ family members who addressed the murderer in the courtroom the day after his horrific act ended their loved ones’ lives was one of the greatest witnesses to Christian faith I’ve seen in my lifetime. Still grieving, their voices sometimes trembling with tears, sometimes strong and clipped, they came to the microphone one after another and offered this simple message: We forgive you.

“It was as if the Bible study had never ended,” a New York Times reporter wrote.

I suspect these families will struggle with the pain, the anger, and even some hate in their hearts over the years. But when they had the chance to speak publicly, on the record, in a courtroom, they used their moments in the spotlight to preach love, not hate, not personal agendas or political points. 540_293_resize_20120701_662a9a6687957abd8bb58f60d5257c1a_png

Would that we all learned from them. So often, when horrible acts like this occur, we reach for our own particular solution. Angry that it was never enacted (gun control, better mental illness care, anti-racism/terrorism programs), we let that anger spill into hate, at times, for opponents of the solutions we favor.

We saw this in the aftermath of the Charleston massacre. We saw, sadly, hate, not love from some quarters. Hate for gun control opponents. Hate for those who won’t rush to take down the Confederate flag from South Carolina. Hate for anyone we disagree with. Don’t get me wrong — I agree with some of the solutions these people espouse. But to be effective, you must learn to love your policy idea and the people you want it to benefit more than you hate its opponents . (For how this plays out, just look at the last push for gun control in the US Senate, where proponents were happy to use the issue to bludgeon opponents but lacked the fortitude to even “whip” the vote.)

To a certain extent, it’s understandable to get so riled up that we lash out during times like this. When something this horrible happens, even removed from the personal pain of those directly affected by it, we still ache for them in our hearts. It’s easy for that ache to search for expression. And it’s very easy for that expression to become: “If only those horrible people hadn’t done or said X or stood in the way of Y…”

A conservative website, Ace of Spades, acknowledged the legitimacy of this kind of feeling in a raw post right after the shooting:

“The feeling I have — apart from shock and horror — is shame. Shame that this creature looks anything at all like me, shame that there may be a few stray nucleotides in his envenomed heart that resemble my own….

Black people are going to be angry at white folks — even if they hide it, they’re going to be angry at white folks for what this bloody bastard did. And I won’t jeer at this feeling. I understand it…”

But then, in that courtroom, we saw the opposite of hate. We saw the love of Christ. We have to acknowledge it as this because those family members testified as Christians called to live their faith.

Christianity has been around so long now and has been such a part of the history of the western world that we have forgotten how revolutionary its message was at the beginning. As theologian David Bentley Hart has pointed out, Christ’s message of loving one’s neighbor, of forgiveness, was fresh and radical in an ancient world where violence and revenge were not only tolerated but in many cases sanctioned. Think a world dominated by the likes of ISIS, by tyrants. And then think what it must have been like to have someone preach a gospel of love, of “good news,” that actually turned hard hearts away from slaughter, hate, and oppression toward love and forgiveness.

Think of those families in Charleston.

They represent what Christianity should be, the “family that love built.” Thanks to those Charleston family members, we were able to witness it anew.

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Filed under Charleston, courtroom, love, racist murders, SC, testimony

Can I get a witness?

We’ve all been horrified, haven’t we, by the cruel executions carried out by ISIL? I can’t bring myself to talk about them, their barbarity is so horrible. And the question that dances around in my head is: What is to be done?

Not on a national or global level. But what is to be done on a personal level? How does one confront such evil acts on the individual level, in the here and now, in our own lives?

I’m too old to don a uniform and volunteer to fight to protect those who are in the path of this savage group. My thoughts instead go back to the gospel I’ve grown up with and embraced with more vigor as I age: Christ’s message of love. Love one another.

But to think of loving those barbarians who perpetrate such evil, horrific acts? It’s a hard slog. Far easier to love the person who irritates you or whose views you don’t share. There’s a smugness in that kind of love that lets you feel…superior. No, it’s far harder to love, to even seek to love, those who have only hatred in their hearts.

But I am a Christian, and this is the message of Christ, to forgive one’s enemies, to offer them love in exchange for hate. It’s hard to do. We can go through our entire lives without realizing how hard it is. The church’s life itself contains a history of not always recognizing the true meaning of the message of love.  As David Bentley Hart argues in his book Atheist Delusions:

“….men and women have done many wicked things in Christ’s name….(but) Christianity expressly forbids the various evils that have been done by Christians, whereas democracy, in principle, forbids nothing (except, of course, the defeat of the majority’s will).”

Hart’s point is apt.  Depending on your political sympathies, you might point a finger of blame for Mideast turmoil at the leader you think (or thought) most feckless and least honest.  But, come election day, the majority rules.

Speaking of majorities, Christianity is still the dominant religion in the US, according to Gallup, but over the years, the percentage of people identifying themselves with any religion has declined, and the percentage who belong to a church or synagogue has gone down even more. Gallup’s numbers on this are here.

john_15_12_love_one_another_poster-rac0d4c53566348458f59796e03c63b1a_au58_8byvr_512All of this leads me back to the word of Christ, His message of loving one another. There are a multitude of ways to exhibit such love . My friends and family provide examples for me daily, and I hope I reciprocate in ways that make a difference to them. Where I fall down on the job most, I think, is in spreading the gospel to those who might be seeking a spiritual home. I suspect many of us fail in that regard, if Gallup’s numbers are a reference. We don’t know how to reach out to seekers and searchers. We’re afraid of offending or turning off a searcher, especially in an age where religious sentiment is often mocked and religious-minded Christians painted as being one step away from an intolerant brand of fundamentalism that few share.

How does one evangelize in this secular, diverse time, where we celebrate tolerance and respect for other faiths — a good thing, a wonderful thing. But in our respect for other faiths and points of view, many of us have stopped celebrating our own beliefs. We think it impolite or politically incorrect to stand up and say, I’m a Christian, and Christ teaches us to love one another. Won’t you join me?

It’s that last question that’s hard these days. To ask someone of another faith to join you in your celebration of Christianity is, to some, an insult. “What–you don’t think my faith is good enough? You need me to convert to yours?”

Most mainline Protestant churches don’t do much evangelizing. The Catholic church doesn’t do much either. Oh, I know they all send missionaries overseas. But they don’t evangelize the way, say, Mormons do, going door to door. They don’t reach out the way evangelical churches might, on radio and television. It seems so déclassé, so outré, to engage in that kind of up close and personal religious persuasion. But maybe we Christians need to do more of it. Maybe we need to have the courage to stand up and actually talk about that message of Christ’s love and how essential it is in our lives. Maybe we need to…witness.

So, here is my witness:  I believe Jesus Christ came into a world of barbarity and said: It doesn’t have to be this way. You should love one another. Even when it’s hard. Let me show you just how hard it can be…

So, yes, I’d like to be able to say to those cruel barbarians across the ocean the same thing: There is a better way. And, in my view, it’s the way of Christ. But if you find that better way on a different path from mine, I will still be able to see Jesus in you.

If you love one another.

I cannot join the fight. I can only try to express the love of Christianity in my own life. For those seeking such love, let me issue an invitation–try going to your local church or temple. Find one where you are comfortable. It might take a while. You might need to go back several times to get to know people and figure out how you fit in.

My church is St. Edward’s Episcopal Church on Harrisburg Pike in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There, you’ll find a loving group of people who’ll help you when you’re down but won’t badger you when you need to be alone. It’s filled with groups that try to do good by knitting shawls (the Knit Wits!) for those ailing in body and spirit, by feeding the hungry through a local food bank, by actually serving the hungry at a local shelter, by squeezing the hand of a friendly soul who is suffering an inner pain. We laugh together. Sometimes we cry together. We eat together. We worship together. We pray together. We love together.

In the name of Christ, I ask you to come join us.

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