Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Our" God???? and Christian Music

"Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other" ...

And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us.
And if our God is with us, then what could stand against.

... and so the song goes.

It's biblical, I suppose, pulling out pieces of Scripture that "say" these things, but mostly disregarding context and history and what those words and images meant in ancient Israel/Judah.

When I listened, I felt uneasy, because I "heard" the crippling and tragic message of "christian triumphalism," a message of power, invincibility, conquest and victory.

And if "our" god is bigger and better and brighter and stronger, then so are we, and the "other" gods of this world, and that means other faith-traditions, other religions, other points of view, philosophies and ways of life, are inferior, and so are the people who hold these views.

What I didn't hear is humility, and that's biblical, too ... like seeing through a glass darkly. Nor did I hear anything of justice, welcome and mercy.

I know the biblical writers of the Old Testament - how they struggled to help Israel/Judah maintain identity in a swirling world of many nations and religions, and part of that identity is truth vs. falsehood,.

I understand that!

When it comes to the gods of racism and white-privileged culture, I will say that "my" god is better than that, and perhaps, by extension, so am I. The conjoining of one's god with one's identity is unavoidable, and can be good ... but it's always dangerous, and requires emotional and thoughtful vigilance.

Stripped of humility, "our" god, "my" god, becomes deadly.

Anyway, just some random thoughts about christian music and "our" god.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

No One Should Call Themselves "Evangelical"

The term "evangelical" should never have been co-opted by a singular group of people.

It's one of the worst syntactical moves ever made.

Those who claimed the word are the descendants of the Anabaptists, and while many in that movement, such as the Amish and the Quakers, have given to the world some remarkable insights and examples of faithful living, but for many American "evangelicals," what with Billy Graham and his "puffed" 1949 Los Angeles Revival, and the money and the "under-God" crowd that flocked to his side, the term quickly became a badge of pride - they would show the rest of the Christian World what "true" faith, "real" faith, is all about. It was a stroke of one-upsmanship, an effort to divide the Christian World, into two camps, those who are "christian" in name only, and those are "really Christian" by their dogma, their enthusiasm and their title - EVANGELICAL, and to hell with the rest of ya'.

Jesus is the Evangel, the Good News - not any of us.

And everyone who claims the name of Jesus is both faithful and not faithful to that Evangel. No one has a leg-up on anyone else.

No one is evangelical - shall I say it?

Only Jesus is Evangelical - that is, faithful to the Father in all regards, faithful to God's People and faithful to the world, including all of humanity, and all creatures, great and small. Faithful from the beginning, and faithful to the end. Only Jesus is Evangelical.

The failures of the evangelical side of things - preachers who "fall from grace," and church members who sin reveal a simple reality: We're all sinners, and if we're saved at all, it's by grace, and grace alone.

So quit puffing yourself!

We're all in the same boat, and in spite of the fact that Peter got outta the boat - (a very evangelical move), with a brief moment of wave-walking, reality sunk him, and Jesus had to save him. And rather that trying it again, Jesus took Peter back to the boat, where he belongs, with all the disciples, and it's in the boat, that Jesus joins them, not on the waves where folks can show off for a few moments, but in the boat, where all of us are in this together, with all of our gifts and insights and abilities and sensibilities, the ways we see the world, and the manner in which the Holy Spirit has gifted and compels us.

How much better to say, "I'm a sinner saved by grace."

I can imagine Peter reflecting: "I tried wave-walking once, and it didn't work, and I'm not proud of it - I'll never speak of it again. Jesus took me back to the boat, and that's where I belong."

That's the end of it ... nothing more needs to be said, no titles claimed, and with that, the best is said, I"m a sinner saved by grace."