According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Shane Clairborne - "Show Me the Real Jesus!"

This past week we've looked at the Pharisees and why the emergent movement is significantly different from its evangelical predecessor... now let's put it all together and talk about a Jesus theology that has shoe leather... one that leads out in love and fascination....
 
R.E. Slater
February 7, 2013
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
 
What If Jesus Meant All That Stuff?
 
By Shane Claiborne
Shane's website - The Simple Way
November 18, 2009
This radical Christian's ministry for the poor, The Simple Way,
has gotten him in some trouble with his fellow Evangelicals.
We asked him to address those who don't believe.
 
To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.
 
Forgive us. Forgive us for the embarrassing things we have done in the name of God.
 
The other night I headed into downtown Philly for a stroll with some friends from out of town. We walked down to Penn's Landing along the river, where there are street performers, artists, musicians. We passed a great magician who did some pretty sweet tricks like pour change out of his iPhone, and then there was a preacher. He wasn't quite as captivating as the magician. He stood on a box, yelling into a microphone, and beside him was a coffin with a fake dead body inside. He talked about how we are all going to die and go to hell if we don't know Jesus.
 
Some folks snickered. Some told him to shut the hell up. A couple of teenagers tried to steal the dead body in the coffin. All I could do was think to myself, I want to jump up on a box beside him and yell at the top of my lungs, "God is not a monster." Maybe next time I will.
 
Shane ClaiborneThe more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.
 
At one point Gandhi was asked if he was a Christian, and he said, essentially, "I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ." A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the U. S. among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That's the ugly stuff. And that's why I begin by saying that I'm sorry.
 
Now for the good news.
 
I want to invite you to consider that maybe the televangelists and street preachers are wrong — and that God really is love. Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it's that you can have great answers and still be mean... and that just as important as being right is being nice.)
 
The Bible that I read says that God did not send Jesus to condemn the world but to save it... it was because "God so loved the world." That is the God I know, and I long for others to know. I did not choose to devote my life to Jesus because I was scared to death of hell or because I wanted crowns in heaven... but because he is good. For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name. At the core of our "Gospel" is the message that Jesus came "not [for] the healthy... but the sick." And if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.
 
Don't get me wrong, I still believe in the afterlife, but too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God's Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God's will be done "on earth as it is in heaven." On earth.
 
One of Jesus' most scandalous stories is the story of the Good Samaritan. As sentimental as we may have made it, the original story was about a man who gets beat up and left on the side of the road. A priest passes by. A Levite, the quintessential religious guy, also passes by on the other side (perhaps late for a meeting at church). And then comes the Samaritan... you can almost imagine a snicker in the Jewish crowd. Jews did not talk to Samaritans, or even walk through Samaria. But the Samaritan stops and takes care of the guy in the ditch and is lifted up as the hero of the story. I'm sure some of the listeners were ticked. According to the religious elite, Samaritans did not keep the right rules, and they did not have sound doctrine... but Jesus shows that true faith has to work itself out in a way that is Good News to the most bruised and broken person lying in the ditch.
 
It is so simple, but the pious forget this lesson constantly. God may indeed be evident in a priest, but God is just as likely to be at work through a Samaritan or a prostitute. In fact the Scripture is brimful of God using folks like a lying prostitute named Rahab, an adulterous king named David... at one point God even speaks to a guy named Balaam through his donkey. Some say God spoke to Balaam through his ass and has been speaking through asses ever since. So if God should choose to use us, then we should be grateful but not think too highly of ourselves. And if upon meeting someone we think God could never use, we should think again.
 
After all, Jesus says to the religious elite who looked down on everybody else: "The tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom ahead of you." ... And we wonder what (or who) got him killed?!?
 
I have a friend in the UK who talks about "dirty theology" — that we have a God who is always using dirt to bring life and healing and redemption, a God who shows up in the most unlikely and scandalous ways. After all, the whole story begins with God reaching down from heaven, picking up some dirt, and breathing life into it. At one point, Jesus takes some mud, spits in it, and wipes it on a blind man's eyes to heal him. (The priests and producers of anointing oil were not happy that day.)
 
In fact, the entire story of Jesus is about a God who did not just want to stay "out there" but who moves into the neighborhood, a neighborhood where folks said, "Nothing good could come." It is this Jesus who was accused of being a glutton and drunkard and rabble-rouser for hanging out with all of society's rejects, and who died on the imperial cross of Rome reserved for bandits and failed messiahs. This is why the triumph over the cross was a triumph over everything ugly we do to ourselves and to others. It is the final promise that love wins.
 
It is this Jesus who was born in a stank manger in the middle of a genocide. That is the God that we are just as likely to find in the streets as in the sanctuary, who can redeem revolutionaries and tax collectors, the oppressed and the oppressors... a God who is saving some of us from the ghettos of poverty, and some of us from the ghettos of wealth.
 
In closing, to those who have closed the door on religion — I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, "I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you."
 
If those of us who believe in God do not believe God's grace is big enough to save the whole world... well, we should at least pray that it is.
 
Your brother,
Shane

 

A Jesus Theology: "To Love God and Neighbor"

A Jesus Theology is one that continually seeks to "love God" and "love your neighbor". It was Jesus' very broad re-interpretation of the Torah that set the Pharisees and Sadducees on a direct path of conflict with Him. Why? The latter group read the Torah as a set of decrees from God that must be practiced in order to maintain holiness and receive God's blessing. Whereas Jesus said, this is impossible (as was reiterated time-and-again in Paul's letters). We cannot find holiness through obeying God's decrees because those same decrees will show our inability to maintain them. Though commendable, true holiness could only be found in Jesus' Himself... (yet another heresy to Pharisaical ears!).
 
Incredulously, it was the radical Jewish sect, the Essenes (John the Baptist was one), that heard Jesus' interpretation of the Torah and found relief from the law of God in Jesus, who become God's atoning sacrifice for our sin. And it is to Jesus that a Christian looks to today for empowerment and witness, mission and a semblance to all that life brings. Knowing that with Jesus comes God's Kingdom built upon love, sacrifice, and service. Not upon rules and regulations that are unattainable to keep.
 
Thus, to subscribe to a Jesus Theology is to subscribe to Jesus' sublime phrase, "Love God, love your neighbour." Which any good theology should hold at its heart, and commit itself through prayer and practice . And it is this theology that forms the heart and mission of today's postmodern Emergent Theology. A theology that preaches the love of God with the responsibility of man to love one another. This is the baseline definition of an Emergent Christian (and for that matter, any Christian knowing Christ as Savior and Lord).
 
May it then be so observed by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit granted all of God's children through Christ.
 
R.E. Slater
February 6, 2013
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
 
Pharisees: Revisiting an Old Problem
So, what they of the charge of hypocrisy?
 
Five observations, leading to a summary definition of what Matthew (Jesus) meant by “hypocrisy.”
 
 
Hypocrisy is…
 
1. Inconsistency between what one teaches and what one does (23:3-4)
 
2. Desire for prestige and power and congratulation (23:5-12)
 
3. Abuse of teaching authority through both false teachings and false practices (23:13, 15, 16-22, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28).
 
4. Overconcern with minutiae and lack of focus on the major issues (23:23-24, 25-26, 27-28): that is, moral myopia [("limited sight, a narrow vision of field, nearly to blindness") - res].
 
5. Inconsistency between appearance and practice (23:27-28).
 
Put together, Jesus accuses the Pharisees for “hypocrisy” because they had abused their teaching authority by teaching false things, not living according to what they taught, and for the desire for power. In addition, their teaching was a focus on minor issues to the neglect of major issues.
 
To be “hypocrite” is to be a false teacher who leads both self and others astray from the will of God. The term should not be limited to “contradiction between appearance and reality.”
 
Should we call anyone “Pharisee”? Be careful, that’s my rule. Think historically, my second rule. If some insist on finding contemporary counterparts to the 1st Century Pharisees, here are more suggestions:
 
First, use it only for those who are committed to the Torah as a comprehensive explanation for the will of God. (In this sense, it is pretty hard to use for any Christian.)
 
Second, use it only for those who through the abuse of their teaching authority are leading people astray. (In this sense, it is fit most for heretics.)
 
Third, never use it as a synonym for “Jews,” “Judaism,” or any other generic Jewish group. It refers only to one group of Jews, and that group eventually morphed into the rabbis but that morphing involved major shifts and moves. [Overall, consider it a highly offensive term - esp. to a Jew. - res]
 
In 1907, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.” There you have a quintessentially view of a Pharisee, someone who both believes in the Torah and who believes its meaning is determined by its interpretive tradition.
 
On the other hand, a Sadducee would simply say, to use Chief Hughes’ terms, “We are under a Constitution.” We don’t need an interpretive tradition for we need only to seek out the original intent.
 
Pharisees were judicial activists; Sadducees were judicial conservationists. Now stick this in your pipe for a puff: Jesus was more critical of the liberals than the conservatives! And I’m willing to bet money that most think Jesus was opposing the conservatives when he took a swat at the Pharisees. Or did Jesus think they weren’t liberal enough or for those who didn’t get their liberalism right? Precisely.
 
Consequently, the Pharisees built up a body of interpretive tradition, which today is called the Mishnah and the Tosefta, with an even larger body of anecdotal reflection in the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud.
 
At the time of Jesus, this interpretive tradition was merely oral tradition, but it carried the day. So, this permits us to see the Pharisees as those who both believed in the Torah but who knew it needed interpretation, applications, and it needed to do so along careful lines of thought and procedure.