I was recently gifted with a Kern Fellowship to attend a 3-day conference at Acton University, here in Grand Rapids. I really came with little knowledge of what I was committing myself to. The conference has brought together some 800+ delegates from some 85 different nations. Its purpose is to deepen one’s knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, theology, economics, and political science. Behind it all, I sense a world class faculty challenging us (pastors, businessmen, educators, etc.) to think through our moral foundations and speak boldly in the culture in which we live. So far, I have not been disappointed (oh, and the city is pretty cool).
A good percentage of the scholars are Catholic. And I must say I am impressed with their thinking on issues ranging from anthropology to Islam to economic theory to how to properly help the poor. I am reminded again and again how small my world is. There is so much to continue to learn…so much I want to see our church do, become.
Tonight, I listened to one of the most captivating speakers I have ever heard—Marina Nemat. She was born in Tehran, and when she was sixteen, she was arrested, tortured, and threatened with execution. She has written a couple of books (Prisoner of Tehran/ After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed). She drew me in as she described life growing up before the 1979 Revolution. After the Revolution, she was arrested for speaking out against the changes happening in her culture. Some take aways—
- Freedoms can be lost little by little if you are not vigilant. You do not realize how much is lost until it is too late. (needed words for our age. I fear we are losing our freedoms to a government that wants to dictate and control more and more of our lives. Will we wake up?)
- If you remain silent, you allow the horror to happen. Silence is a weapon of mass destruction. (We need to be a voice in our culture. We must write, call, speak to those who set policy. Speak for freedom, speak for the innocent, speak against violence, speak for justice, speak for morality, speak for marriage as God designed it to be, speak for life. It is our duty to stand up.)
- It is assumed that torture is about getting information. It is about destroying the soul.
- Forgiveness is the only way forward. When you are brutalized, the only other option is anger and hate, but this enslaves you in its own prison. The power of forgiveness, through Christ, liberates.
- Fear is one of the strongest emotions, and it intends to hold one down. When you are fearless, knowing God is with you, you can do anything.
Working through John 7 last weekend, I was impressed with Jesus’ sense of time (“My time is not present”) and His severe words to His brothers (“Your time is always here”-e.g. any time will do). Marina’s words again reminded me that we must be well aware of our divine moments—there is no time to lose.