Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Did Jesus Teach Us What to Believe?

Jesus said very little about belief, and almost everything about behavior.

Fundamentalism, on a whole, is all about belief and getting to heaven upon death, with a heavy prescription on individualistic behavior; Evangelicalism would like to style itself a bit more progressive, but it's a tough road for Evangelicals because they tend to share the same belief- and behavior-systems of fundamentalism, though they may hold them a little more loosely.

Jesus comes to us with a message of social compassion - the Kingdom of God, "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." It didn't take long, in the history of the church, for the Empire (Thank you Constantine) to gut this message and turn it into an eschatological device, leaving this world to the Empire, and the next world to the church (nothing could have been further from the mind of Jesus).

Evangelicalism, whatever it really is, and fundamentalism, and Lutherans (with Luther's two-kingdom theology) perpetuate this arrangement. Paul's message on giving and care (e.g. 2 Corinthians 8.10-15) and the early church's practice of communal ownership hardly dovetails with the fiscal message of the current GOP (less of everything except business, and let nature take its course, which is a form of radical social Darwinism, if you will; I find it fascinating that those who reject biological evolution welcome it with open arms when it comes to "survival of the fittest" in society).

Fundamentalists and Evangelicals are pretty much peas in the same pod; I have yet to hear any one of them offer a clear and working description of who they are, though the Fundamentalists have an easier time with their Fundamentals.

Frankly, Evangelicals remind me of the guy who passes gas at a party, and then when folks smell it, quickly looks at the guy next to him. Sorry about that, but, in reality, if you want to spark a fight among Evangelicals, ask them to define it.

How much better for "Christians" to set aside belief-arguments and begin to look at the Sermon on the Mount, the Book of James, the Prophets and the deeply ethical passages of Paul. Jesus of the Gospels (not the Reformation - see N.T. Wright) can revolutionize the church, and the church can then be "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world," as it practices the kindness of God (Matthew 5.43-48).

I realize that quoting Scripture rarely helps; we all have our favorite passages that we haul out of the closet when needed.

The above note was posted in a FB thread, June 27, 2012.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thoughts about Peace and Violence

Jesus says to his disciples, Love your enemies.

Here is where we meet the power and depth of love - not a feeling, mushy and gushy, but a way of life, a form of behavior, deeply and wonderfully ethical. The word love describes an ethic that is honorable and fair - as Jesus notes, just like God, who makes his sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

In the world described here, God has no enemies, but treats everyone with fairness, and that’s always kindness - with regard to sun and rain, two essential components necessary to life.

Of such things, God deprives no one … because God is love.

Jesus then adds to this commandment, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

In a world full of violence, where nation takes up sword against nation, with hardly a thought about consequences; in a world where politicians win elections by promising a strong military and preemptive strikes as needed, Christians have got to do some serious thinking about Jesus, the one they claim to follow.

I sometimes wonder if Christians follow other gods, the gods of war - as history is full of Christians killing Christians, and Christians, and in the name of Jesus, conquering other peoples and even enslaving with hardly a thought.

The great challenge facing Christianity in the early part of the 21st century is violence, and the place of Christianity in the nations of the world, especially for Christians who live in powerful empires, or are caught up in war zones in places like Nigeria or Sudan.

It’s easy to give in to hatred and war. But Jesus offers us a different way of life. A way of life that fulfills the description of what God desires of us: to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.