We all know the story of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – four remarkably similar accounts about his life. What we don’t agree on is our interpretation of what he taught. I’m talking about the Gospel message that Jesus intended to be a guide for how we should live our lives, and to be passed on to others to help them understand what it means to be a Christ follower. Jesus shifted us from the law-based religion of the Old Testament to his radically new principle-based way of living, and it just makes sense that he’d choose to use a different style of teaching to do that. Parables and metaphors replaced rules and regulations but the downside is that it leaves the door wide open for a myriad of interpretations that make us wonder if we’re all reading the same Bible. I have to admit that sometimes I wish God would have just replaced the Ten Commandments with another set of stone tablets with a whole new set of rules carved into them. Things like “Don’t even think about being violent…ever.” and “Take care of the poor, even if it means reducing your standard of living.”
Archives For Jesus
It Forces Human Interaction
The common response among many believers is that God commands us “to be a good steward” of our wealth, which is the Christian way of saying “I don’t want to give away any of my time, energy, or resources to people who are just going to flush it away.” Thus, the accumulation of wealth is quickly adapted as a form of spiritual virtue, highly esteemed among American believers and attributed as a sign of God’s favor.
But giving directly to the poor forces us to actually interact with humankind, with the people God wants us to be with! Christians have a nasty habit of donating to charities and organizations simply because they don’t want to be uncomfortable or get their hands “dirty.” It’s their way of “helping” without having to actually do anything….
We now come to the final reason given my Stephen Mattson for helping the poor. I am a strong believer in the idea that you must give a face to something in order to make it real. In other words just talking about the poor in a general way does not give it much meaning but when you see a small child crying because he is hungry you see the face of the poor.
We Christians have a way of insulating our ourselves from the very people Jesus meant us to be fully engaged with. We also have a way of justifying our inaction with phrases like “I will pray for you”. Strip this most common Christian phrase down to its reality is the same as saying “I don’t want to be involved with it so I will just pass it on to God to take care of.” Jesus insisted that we, like him, get our hands dirty and be our brother’s keeper. To lack in doing so is well, unChristian…
What Jesus calls us to do as followers is to create a world in which family is not a matter of blood, but of spirit. This more expansive view of family sounds lovely in theory, but is absolutely radical in practice.
SOURCE: The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus (Meyers, Robin)
What do we do as Christians when confronted with these harsh realities? The Bible urges us to “remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself!” (Hebrews 13:3). Jesus knew what it was like to have a loved one incarcerated. His cousin, John the Baptist, was falsely accused and arrested (and eventually executed). Perhaps this is why Jesus, in Matthew 25, tells his disciples “when I was in prison, you visited me.” As a victim of false imprisonment and injustice, Jesus entered into solidarity with the incarcerated and exposed the flawed justice system of his day. Of all people, Christians should be the most skeptical of prisons. A simple survey of prisons in the Bible will reveal that prisons were mainly used to oppress minorities, exploit the poor, and silence the prophets. And the prison system today continues to do so.
One of my favorite Christians and author is Shane Claiborne. Several years ago he established and still lives in a strong Christian community in a very poor neighborhood in Philadelphia. He definitely takes the words of Jesus to heart both physically and mentally. He also has a very unique sense of humor which makes his books and writing very appealing to me. One of his books entitled Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals is much in the line with the words above.
Lets face it if Jesus were around today he would very likely be shunned by almost everyone including, and maybe even especially, the current Christian religious establishment and especially the conservative evangelical variety. He would be thoroughly trashed by the likes of Fox News Channel as being one of those dying heart liberals who care too much for those lazy people who won’t lift themselves up by their bootstraps. He would simply be too radical for most in those groups. He would be called one of “those” people. You know what I mean. This simple but obvious fact saddens me greatly. When did taking care of the poor and visiting prisoners go out of style with many of my conservative friends?
“Mixing religion and politics is like mixing ice cream and manure. It doesn’t do much to the manure but it sure does ruin the ice cream”, my friend Tony Campolo likes to say.
No one would vote for Jesus.
Seriously. Firstly He’s one of those boat people. Well, at least one of those “donkey people”.
According to the second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel his family were refugees who in the middle of the night had to flee and seek asylum.
He’s also a Middle Eastern man. Oh, and he’s not Christian. (Yep, he’s Jewish) He was involved in repeated seditious civil-disobedience and the religious right of his day repeatedly accused him of partying too hard and with all the wrong people.
Politicians and religious leaders today still find it convenient to scapegoat, alienate and demonise all the people Jesus loved hanging out with.
What is even more amazing it that Jesus turned those ten into just two. Love God and Love each other. How could it be simpler than that.
April 15, 2013 — The rise of the so-called “Nones”—the increasing percentage of adults who claim no religious affiliation—has been a much-discussed trend in American religion. Is the nation moving away from Christianity and other forms of conventional faith?
To provide insight on this topic, Barna Group analyzed 42,855 interviews conducted in recent years, looking at 15 different measures of non-religiosity. In other words, the research explores the emerging post-Christian landscape of the nation.
The above words are from an email I recently received from the Barna Organization. For those of you who might not know Barna is a Christian oriented research/polling organization. The trend away from Christian religious denominations is getting almost to be a panic with them. They are now researching and reporting on the top ten Christian cities and the bottom ten. I debated whether to put this post on this blog or my other one that addresses spiritual stuff. For some reason, maybe because this blog gets more attention, I decided to post it here.
This trend has been going on for some time now. Long enough to have been given its own moniker “Post-Christian”. Anyone who has been reading my blog over at RedLetterLiving knows that I have been reporting about this trend for some time now. To me most Christian denominations are “shooting themselves in the foot” so to speak. We have splintered into 39,000 different versions of Christ’s church. Could that be one of the causes for us becoming a post-Christian society? As fractured as we are there is just no credibility anymore.
It is utterly a shame that the messages of Jesus Christ have always been lost on younger generations to one degree or another but now the trend is also moving to those who are older. They are just not coming back to the church as they have in the past. This trend is very likely to increase until the church either implodes or comes to its senses regarding its message. When we say “come to us as we are the only ones who have it right” most can see through this veil of hypocrisy.
One of my favorite boat-rocking followers of Jesus is Shane Claiborne. Check him and his books out on Amazon or Wikipedia if you are not familiar with him. Shane seldom minces words and here is what he says about the church losing it younger generations:
I remember asking in disappointment, “What happened, bro? What went wrong?” He just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I got bored.” Bored? God forgive us for all those we have lost because we made the gospel boring. I am convinced that if we lose kids to the culture of drugs and materialism, of violence and war, it’s because we don’t dare them, not because we don’t entertain them. It’s because we make the gospel too easy, not because we make it too difficult. Kids want to do something heroic with their lives, which is why they play video games and join the army. But what are they to do with a church that teaches them to tiptoe through life so they can arrive safely at death?
Claiborne, Shane (2008-09-09). The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Kindle Locations 2024-2032). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
The statistics show that not only are we losing the younger generations but all generations are starting to fall away in numbers never seen before. If the church hopes to survive this proclaimed “post-Christian” period they must move outside of the ultra conservative political realm and address the troubles of the world today. It needs to get out in the world more instead of hunkering down in their often lavish cathedrals waiting for the end-times.
But I am just a simple guy who happens to be an avid follower of Jesus but not particularly religious right now so what do I know….
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. — 1 Corinthians 13
Looking back on my life Gandhi’s quote above inspires me with its wisdom and the second quote from the Bible mirrors the same message. Being able to see the circumstances and the facts and then making changes is where the greatness lies.
This seems to be a very tough message in today’s world where gridlock and stubborn instance of being right is the norm. There are just too many in the world who are consumed by their current worldviews and are totally unwilling to even consider that they just might not have all the answers. Continue Reading…
It is terrible to think what the churches do to men. But if one imagines oneself in the position of the men who constitute the Church, we see they could not act differently. The churches are placed in a dilemma: the Sermon on the Mount or the Nicene Creed–the one excludes the other. If a man sincerely believes in the Sermon on the Mount, the Nicene Creed must inevitably lose all meaning and significance for him, and the Church and its representatives together with it. If a man believes in the Nicene Creed, that is, in the Church, that is, in those who call themselves its representatives, the Sermon on the Mount becomes superfluous for him. And therefore the churches cannot but make every possible effort to obscure the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, and to attract men to themselves. It is only due to the intense zeal of the churches in this direction that the influence of the churches has lasted hitherto.
The quote above seems pretty radical! It must be from one of those new age thinkers! Guess again. It was from the Author of War and Peace Leo Tolstoy in 1894. Although he says it much more bluntly than I ever would I can’t say I disagree with most of it.
The Nicene Creed which was authored under the Roman ruler Constantine is mostly what we are supposed to believe about Jesus Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is what Jesus himself told us how we are supposed act if we are his followers. Tolstoy saw that the church even during his time put much more energy in maintaining man-made beliefs about Jesus rather than just following Him. Not a lot has changed in that regard. I think almost all clergy are well-meaning men who have simply bought into a tilted system based on beliefs about Jesus instead of lessons from Jesus.
Tony Jones a hundred years later also speaks of this in his book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier
In the twenty-first century, it’s not God who’s dead. It’s the church. Or at least conventional forms of church. Dead? you say. Isn’t that overstating the case a bit? Indeed, churches still abound. So do pay phones. You can still find pay phones around, in airports and train stations and shopping malls-there are plenty of working pay phones. But look around your local airport and you’ll likely see the sad remnants where pay phones used to hang-the strange row of rectangles on the wall and the empty slot where a phone book used to sit. There are under a million pay phones in the United States today. In 1997, there were over two million. Of course, the death of the pay phone doesn’t mean that we don’t make phone calls anymore. In fact, we make far more calls than ever before, but we make them differently. Now we make phone calls from home or on the mobile device clasped to our belt or through our computers. Phone calls aren’t obsolete, but the pay phone is-or at least it’s quickly becoming so.
Churches are like pay-phones? That is a very interesting analogy. God is not dead. It is only the man-made institution built in his name that is on life support. I have hopes that this new emergent movement will prove to be a worthy substitute for fast dwindling church structures of today. We have to return to doing what Jesus says….
But what do I know…
Ayn Rand was not only a schlock novelist, she was also the progenitor of a sweeping “moral philosophy” that justifies the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only the slothful, undeserving poor but the lackluster middle-classes as well.
Her books provided wide-ranging parables of “parasites,” “looters” and “moochers” using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes’ labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O’Connor (her husband was Frank O’Connor).
As Michael Ford of Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream wrote, “In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.”
This is an ongoing study of the new vice presidential candidate in the Republican party. It is well-known that Mr. Ryan, like several others in his party, is a huge fan of Ayn Rand. He says when his loses his focus he picks up her books to rejuvenate his path in life. So, I wanted to learn a little more about his hero. I knew from hearing about her in college in the 60′s that she was a radical and an enthusiastic McCarthy supporter. But what I have learned about her since is even more telling.
One of her most famous quotes is:
Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. – Ayn Rand
I don’t know if, being an avowed atheist, she was mocking Christ who basically said the opposite or just what were the circumstances of this quote but I just can’t put a benevolent spin on it in any circumstance .
A final quote I want to present of Ms. Rand is her beliefs about altruism. For those of you who might not know what an altruist is the definition is person unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others. Here is the quote:
If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.
I know Ayn Rand is also a hero of an elder in the Lutheran church where I was a member a few years ago. He prided himself in his beliefs that he got from her that there are two types of people in this world “makers” and “takers”. The makers produce things and the takers are just a drain our society. He included everyone in government service as a “taker”. His philosophy, which seemed to be agreed upon by several others there, was one of the reasons I decided to not challenge my expulsion from that congregation due to theological differences (I think the earth is more than six thousand years old and the Bible contains stories that are not always literal and without error).
Ayn Rand seems to almost be the anti-thesis of Jesus Christ who she loathed so much. It seems totally ironic to now see Ms. Rand as a hero of the political party who deems themselves to be so Christian. How can this be?
So, here I am looking for reasons why a very good clergy friend of mine from the past has such a high regard to Mr. Ryan. Could my friend be one of those one-issue voters? Paul Ryan is very consistent in his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape and incest. Could that be the sole reason for my friend’s endorsement? I hope not….