This is the true purpose of satire: to mock power. It is, truly, the language of the powerless. From the biblical prophets, to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, to Swift, to Twain, to Orwell to our beloved Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, satire works best when the targets are the powerful and elite—be they institutions or people.
Jesus’ sharpest comments were always directed toward the politically or religiously powerful. Always. Indeed, you could argue that Jesus’ entire life—from being born in a barn in the midst of a genocide, to hanging out with prostitutes and drunks, to healing on the Sabbath and touching the untouchables, to riding into Jerusalem on donkey rather than a war horse, to healing the ear of a Roman soldier after it had been cut off by Jesus’ allies—was a stinging indictment of religious and political power.
Source: Christians and Humor: Thoughts on Making It Work.
The above quote is from a post on Rachel Held Evans blog. I am a regular reader. I have never seen such a clear picture of Jesus as a satirist. I announce it frequently on my other blog over at RJsCorner that I am a huge fan of Will Rogers so am kind of disappointed that Rachel didn’t mention his name in her list. 🙂
As Rachel says Jesus’ sharpest comments were always directed toward the politically and religiously powerful. He was by his very nature the ultimate spokesman for the marginal, down-trodden and on the edges of our society. He spoke for those who had not voice of their own. So, shouldn’t we expect Jesus’ church to carry on that task? To me the answer is a very emphatic “YES”, but sadly that just doesn’t seem to be the case.
It greatly saddens me to see the radical right political agenda so often espoused by many evangelical fundamentalists is being perceived to be the voice of the church. It total dumbfounds me how that came to be! Why were so many in this group so adamantly against providing healthcare to those who cannot afford it on their own? Why are so many in this group so enthusiastic toward the Ryan/Republican budget that balances the budget on the backs of the poor instead of taking it out of our bloated war-machine budgets?
I have a very strong belief that if Jesus were to return to us today he would have even stronger comments directed towards the politically and religiously powerful of today. Why aren’t they carrying the mantel for those on the margins of our society?
Another thing the church of today seems to almost totally lack is a sense of humor. I think Jesus was a pretty fun-loving guy who could give and take a joke. He means for us to joyfully live out our lives as he taught us. He would be disappointed that his church is more in the mode of hunkering down against the big bad world than engaging it full-on as he did. Even if it does poke fun at him once in a while.
The two groups mentioned in the title of this post are indeed on the very opposite ends of world views. But I also believe that they have much more in common than either group would like to imagine. Let’s discuss some of their commonalities.
Both groups are very rigid in their beliefs; some would say closed-minded to any other possibilities.
Both groups will totally discount any possibility that they may be wrong about anything.
- The atheist scientist believes lock, stock, and barrel in the theory of evolution. To them it is not a theory at all but a well established fact. Although they admit that they haven’t found the so-called missing link, they say that is only because we have not looked hard enough yet. They often say that if they can’t personally observe something then it is not true.
The puritan Evangelical believes lock, stock, and barrel that everything in their version of the bible, is totally 100% true and factual. They will not accept that some of the Bible was probably exaggerated as it was verbally passed down from generation to generation during the many centuries before it was put to paper. They totally discount the possibility that some of it was meant just for the times it was written. They stubbornly stick to the belief that every word of it is meant to apply to all the ages. They say that if it is not in the Bible then it is not true.
Are all scientists in the first group and all Christians in the second? Absolutely not!! As is typical of many things in the world the two groups cited above are at the very edges of their respected populations. Yes, there are even people, including me, who are actually in both broad categories but are not in either of these groups. I spent thirty years in the corporate world immersed in science. I have spent a like period of time immersed in the Christian world. To me the two worlds are not as diametrically opposite as indicated above.
I do believe in carbon dating and dinosaurs. The physical evidence is just too overwhelming to deny that this is indeed information that God has allowed us to gather at this point in human history. I believe that the Bible is doctrinally inerrant but I also believe that much of it is just an historical account of the times and is not meant for the ages. If we take the absolute literal view of the Bible and the absolute truth of the “Theory” of Evolution off the table then I have little trouble reconciling most of scientific fact with biblical text. The two are at least in my mind beautifully intertwined. God gives us science so that we can have an increasing insight into the world he created for us. He gave us much of the Bible, and particularly the words of Jesus, to spiritually guide us through that world. I am not alone in the cross category or in the beliefs that science and theology can co-exist. Francis Collins, who was the leader of the Human Genome Project that decoded DNA, has written a book about this entitled The Language of God. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the topic. While I don’t agree with everything Mr. Collins says the book it does a good job of interweaving science and Christianity into one coherent reality.
It s amazing to me the number of Christians who cling to the concept of the “Slippery Slope”. This mentality is similar to NRA not willing to even allow assault weapons or bullets known as “Cop Killers” to be banned for sale to the general public. They are afraid that once one weapon is banned it will lead to all the others being banned. I.E. the slippery slope. This is a very tenuous position as most reasonable people understand the need to restrict at least some weapons.
The slippery slope for many Christians I believe is similarly tenuous. Some Christians refuse to admit that some words in the Bible have a greater significance in our lives than others. They are just afraid that if they admit that some parts of the Bible are more meaningful than others it will open the door to some saying some parts of the Bible is not meaningful at all! And then sliding to making the whole Bible meaningless!!
I recently went through a round of blog comments with a person fairly high in level from a large American Christian denomination about this topic. Out of courtesy I will not mention him or his blog by name. He was concerned about me concentrating mainly on the words of Jesus. He kept coming back to the argument that ALL the words in the Bible are the words of Jesus. When I asked him if Paul’s words that “I do not allow women to be teachers or to have authority over men” were as important to Christian living as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. He refused to accept that premise or at the least he completely dodged the question! After half a dozen exchanges he informed me that he was deleting our discussions from his blog as “they were not related to the post they are attached to.” I think maybe the old saying “out of sight out of mind” might actually apply here. Since these exchanges I am apparently banned from further comments on his blog! It is indeed sad to see that some Christians are so unwilling to listen to differing opinions no matter how biblically based they might be. My personal view of Christ is not that fragile. I am sorry that theirs appears to be.
I will repeat the words of Phyllis Tickle in her book the Words of Jesus that I reviewed about a month or so ago:
What I am suggesting here—and with some trepidation—is that the time may have come in popular Christian conversation for us to speak of the differences in authority between the words of Jesus and those of even His most inspired followers. All of Christian Scripture depends from the Gospels, and whatever comes after must be received through them and in terms of them. We Protestants in particular, with our historic preoccupation with Pauline theology, would do well to remind ourselves of that obvious truth several times a day.
Phyllis said ” with some trepidation”; I have no trepidations about this whatsoever. I absolutely believe that we should look at Jesus’ word first and filter all the others through what he says and as Phyllis says even those of his most inspired followers. After all Jesus is God incarnate. The Gospels are the absolute center of the Bible and Jesus’ words are the absolute center of the Gospels. When someone refuses to give primacy to Jesus’ words I believe they are actually weakening the significance of the Bible not protecting it from sliding down an imaginary deadly slope. I think, but am not sure, that the “slippery slope” thing is primarily Protestant in nature. Since the Catholic church does not hang their whole canon on the Bible alone (Sola Scripture) they are more willing to admit that some parts of the Bible are only historical in nature or are just not very significant in today’s world.
I have been reading several new theologians lately and it suddenly struck me that none of them are female! Or for that matter I don’t think I have ever read anything by a female theologian? So as usual I did some digging and discovered that among the theologians who are espoused to have made significant contributions to the field no females made the list until the mid 20th century. That is to say that the first nineteen centuries were without much female influence. Anyone interested in the source of this info visit <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_theologians#20th_century> . Given the fact that women were not even allow to vote in the U.S. or much of the world until about the middle of the 1900s I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but I am. I truly believe that men and women each have unique perspectives on much of life so to be without female input has robbed the Christianity and the church of a valuable insight.
Of course as expected in some sects there are no female theologians; some there are more but almost never more than five or ten percent. But, thank the Lord, that seems to be changing. For example the Presbyterian theological seminary now has 35% female attendance. This has mushroomed greatly in the past decade. Hopefully some of them will come into prominence in the coming decades. Of course one of the major hindrances is the prevention of women from the ministry in my Christian sects. I know there are words in the Bible about how women cannot be over men and those sort of things. But, to me I wonder if that was not more of a historical context than a forever dictate? As Phyllis Tickle in her book review a few posts ago pointed out we Protestants seem almost fixated on the words of St. Paul and the he is primary source for much of this dogma. Of course during his time it was almost, but not completely, unheard of for women to be considered anything but property.
I have to admit that I have not done as much studying on this topic as I would have liked to. So, if there is anyone out that can show me the female influence on modern Christianity I would welcome your comments.
I recently read an article in the June issue of Sojourners magazine ( http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0906&article=christ-and-i-whose-i-culture ) about Christ and Culture. It was related to past evangelism focused on stripping native culture in order to bring Christ to an aboriginal people. In my mind this has always seemed wrong and I can’t understand how it could not have seemed so to those doing it then. I just don’t understand why there was no voiced dissent about it. But maybe there was and it is just not well known. But then again in those days Christians bought into the worldview that Indians and Negroes were less than human.
Imagine if we were doing the same thing today and were witnessing to a modern day American. What if we told them that they must give up everything they now deem normal and go back to living as Middle Easterners did in Jesus’ time. Give up your suits and designer dresses for a sack cloth robe and sandals. Give up your modern homes with granite countertops and oak floor for a dirt floored 10 x 10 shack. And of course you would have to from this day forth quit speaking in English and instead learn Aramaic as Jesus spoke. I don’t think we would have many takers to our invitation to follow Christ. But, this was what was actually done to the original people who inhabited North America. They were totally stripped of their native American identity! At least that is what they tried to do. I am one eighth Native American so I am somewhat sensitive about this issue I guess. But shouldn’t we all be.
Shame on us for doing that. Thank heavens as the above Sojourners article show we are, for the most part, not doing that any more.
Recently the Catholic church, and in particular Pope Benedict, came out with their own list of what they consider the seven social sins of the current times. It is interesting to see how this list is different from Gandhi’s of my last post.
The seven social sins are:
- 1. “Bioethical’ violations such as birth control
- 2. “Morally dubious” experiments such as stem cell research
- 3. Drug abuse
- 4. Polluting the environment
- 5. Contributing to widening divide between rich and poor
- 6. Excessive wealth
- 7. Creating poverty
Pope Benedict has spoken out on several social issues throughout his three-year papacy. He encouraged Catholics to abstain from a referendum on easing restrictive laws on fertility treatments. Of course the Catholic church, unlike almost all Protestant churches, does not believe in birth control as they see that as hampering creation by God. It is interesting to see the diversity of topics covered by this list. I’m sure that most of the items can find some references in the bible to back them up. One of the things I admire about the Catholic leadership through at least my life, they are not afraid to take on some difficult topics where they see them going against God’s word. I sometimes often wish Protestants were as bold.
I know the above is not from a Christian person but it is certainly Christian in nature and principle. I found it under a pile on my desk. I wish it had remained on top but that was not the case. Anyway, it will now reside in a reserved section of my bulletin board above my desk. Of course this is a play off of “The Seven Deadly Sins” that played out in the Christian church in the middle ages. Here is what Wikipedia says about that:
The Seven Deadly Sins, also known as the Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins, is a classification of the most objectionable vices which has been used since early Christian times to educate and instruct followers concerning (immoral) fallen man’s tendency to sin. It consists of “Lust“, “Gluttony“, “Greed“, “Sloth“, “Wrath”, “Envy“, and “Pride“.
Most of us know that Martin Luther King patterned his civil rights movement based on Gandhi’s non-violence protests. His list was at the foundation of that protest.
Gandhi was born a Hindu and practised it all his life, deriving most of his principles from Hinduism. As a common Hindu, he believed all religions to be equal, and rejected all efforts to convert him to a different faith. He was an avid theologian and read extensively about all major religions. With so much of history about different religions going to war with each other over their personal view of God it is kind of refreshing to find a religion that is not like that. I guess I will need to put the study of Hinduism on my post seeds list too 🙂 . I remember watching the movie (Gandhi) about him that came out about 25 years ago. It was very inspiring and helped shape much of my initial beliefs about nonviolence. Gandhi was indeed a very inspiring person.
Let’s always remember that other religions may have insights into God that Christianity doesn’t. We should learn what we can from them. Next time I am going to show you a list that the Catholic church recently released related to their, or at least Pope Benedict’s, list of social sins in the 21st century.
The term Cheap Grace was originally found in a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer entitled The Cost of Discipleship. Bonheoffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. He was hung by the SS as a traitor in 1945 as he rejected Hitler’s rule.
To get started let’s look at the following excerpt is from Wikipedia:
In Bonhoeffer’s words: “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.” Or, to put it even more clearly, it is to hear the gospel preached as follows: “Of course you have sinned, but now everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are and enjoy the consolations of forgiveness.” The main defect of such a proclamation is that it contains no demand for discipleship.
Bonhoeffer made these claims about the church two generations ago because they were settling for what he called “cheap grace”. He said that they were practicing a brand of Christianity without the cross. This was easy believism. In many circles it would seem all that was necessary is to voice creedal tenets, such as justification by faith alone. The ability to affirm right doctrine signifies that we are in the club. Dallas Willard has dubbed this as “bar code” Christianity. If we can be rung up by the great scanner in the sky, then eternal life is assured. With this understanding of Christian life, what is the need to have a transformed life?
Is this cheap grace more prevalent today than it was when Bonhoeffer pointed it out almost 80 years ago? I tend to believe it is. Of course our lives are more hectic than they were eighty years ago. It seems obvious that we just don’t spend as much time praising God as our grandparents used to. Many of the 35,000 versions of Christianity that are around today put almost all emphasis on God’s grace and none of our response to that grace. All we need to do is spend a few hours each week in our country club type facilities and everything is taken care of. Even if we miss a few, or even most Sundays that is OK. Discipleship has almost all but disappeared from our local congregations. We usually do something around the end of the year holidays to make us feel better about ourselves as Christians. Maybe it is putting in a few extra dollars for some poor relief efforts. But those efforts quickly dissappear along with our well intended New Years resolutions.
Call it what you want; cheap grace, McChurch, Church Lite, Bar Code Christianity. It all is pretty much the same. I am just afraid that when it comes to our eternity cheap grace might be very expensive indeed! As I said in the last post we need to live in the Lord moment by moment and not just those times it is convenient for us to do so.
Is it possible for the Christian Religion itself to be an idol? I believe it can be and here is why.
- Yes, if it’s point is to show our superiority over others. Many of us Christians sit in our churches and seem to snub our nose at those who are not like us. We are convinced that we have all the answers to life and everyone else just needs to come to us to get it right. When we have this kind of mindset we have turned our religion into an idol. We must realize that we are all in the same boat when it comes to our salvation and eternal life. None of us earned out way into the Kingdom of God so therefore none of us is any better off than those we sometimes snub our noses at.
- Yes, if used to pass judgment on others. The church in past history tortured and killed others who they call heretics. If this practice had continued into today there would be thousands of inquisitions going on right now! After all we currently have more than 35,000 versions of our Christian religion in the world today. Judging others is something that almost seems to be inherit in any religion and ours’ is not exempt. Although Jesus told us that that should not be the case.
Yes, when you pick out something in the Bible that contradicts everything else and then use that as our prime reason for being a church. The prime example of this seems to be the version of Christianity around today that says that Jesus expects all Christians to be millionaires! They use one or two verses in the Bible to validate their position and ignore the other 99% of the text. It takes a very narrow mindset to fall into this type of church but there are indeed thousands who have evidently done so.
- Yes, when churches are used at the defenders of tradition they are not following Christ’s lead. Many churches today say “we can’t possibly change our worship service; after all we have been doing it this way for years!” We, like the Pharisees in the past, confuse our traditions with our dogma and doctrine. Jesus chastised the Pharisees and I’m sure he will do the same thing to us if we fixate on our traditions over his demand for love and non-judgmental behavior.
Churches throughout history have done things that are directly against Kingdom issues. Jesus made it clear that one of the primary foundations of being Kingdom people was to love one another. As pointed out by Greg Boyd in his book The Myth of a Christian Religion
Church history is full of people being tortured and put to death for such heresies as not acknowledging the authority of the Church, baptizing wrongly, and denying the Trinity. Yet we don’t have any record of anyone so much as having their hand slapped for embracing the worst heresy imaginable—namely, failing to love and do good to one’s enemies, as Jesus commanded. That leaves me speechless! Defenders of the tradition sometimes argue that we can’t hold ancient Christians to modern humanitarian standards. Life in the ancient world was just more violent, they claim. This argument, however, is not very compelling. Jesus and the early church lived in eras that were at least as violent as any in Church history, yet they managed to love their enemies rather than engage in violence against them. The same could be said of a number of individuals and groups throughout Church history. For example, when Calvinists, Lutherans, and Anglicans tortured and killed Anabaptists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the victims followed the example of Jesus and refused to fight back. Their faithfulness to the Kingdom bears witness against the faithlessness of those professing Christians who persecuted them. This is not to suggest that we can pass judgment on Calvin or anyone else in Church history. We are ourselves sinners who have planks sticking out of our eyes, so we must leave all judgment up to the One who alone knows the innermost hearts of people. But this doesn’t mean we can’t discern what is and is not the Kingdom. We can’t place ourselves above others—not even those who murdered “in Jesus’ name.” But we can and must clearly separate torturing and killing in Jesus’ name (or for any other reason) from the beautiful, Christlike Kingdom. Insofar as the Church engaged in activities like this, it was involved in the most heinous form of heresy imaginable—its orthodox beliefs notwithstanding.
The established church is oftentimes a stumbling block to many in learning to love and follow Jesus. What many non-religious people see when they look at churches are expensive tax exempt buildings filled with hypocrites. They see people who show a marked sense of superiority over others. This behavior often masks out any Christ like love they may intend to be displaying. When churches fail to live in love for their fellow human beings they are indeed serving idols, not Jesus Christ.
Lets, each one of us, be constantly on the guard at our churches to make sure we follow Kingdom principles of unbiased love for one another. Yes, even for those sinners who are not yet members!
This post is more or less a follow up of the previous post discussing the differences between Christian sects. I have been thinking lately about why there are so many versions of God and in particular Jesus’ Church. The more I study theology the more versions of Jesus I seem to come across. There are more than 35,000 different Christian sects out there now and each one thinks their version of Jesus is the “real” one and all the others have it to varying degrees wrong. I think that almost everyone wants a version of Jesus that they feel the most comfortable with. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, Jesus did not come to the earth to make us comfortable. He said as much when he told us that we must all bear our crosses. I don’t know how to discern who the real Jesus is? Everyone says their Jesus is the Jesus of the Bible but they can’t all be right. How can we tell if our version of God is the real one? -We really can’t for sure. Some say “study the Bible” but that is what they all say they do? I believe almost all versions of God are man made and it has become too difficult for the average person to discern which one is real. I am currently perplexed by this issue.
Here are some tabbed thoughts on how I think we might pick our personal version of God:
We migrate to the version of God that we need to validate our individual worldview.
We migrate to a version of God who we need to mentor us in this life. Some say they need no mentors; some need very strong mentors.
We migrate to a version of God given to us by our ancestry. We don’t often change our version of God except when our current worldview is seriously disrupted.
There are some people who need to have a close friendship with their God and there are others who want a God that is less details and more of a high level God.
We seem to constantly re-invent our God to fit our changing worldview.
This problem of different versions of God exploded exponentially after Luther and the Reformation. But maybe I have also fallen into this trap with my belief that we should all seek to know God on a personal level. Maybe I am inventing a God to fit my own worldview? Sometimes I think we should just go back to the original version and forget the rest. They had disagreements in the early church, for instance the Corinth church, but they worked them out instead of splitting. But then again, who is the original version of the church?