How to be a pharisee in politics: At every moment display righteous indignation over the means(whether good or evil) which your opponent has used to attain the same corrupt end which you are trying to achieve. Point to the means he is using as evidence that you own purposes are righteous- even though they are the same as his. If the means he makes use of are successful, then show that his success itself is proof that he has used corrupt methods. But in your own case, success is proof of righteousness.
-Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor... We may be so made as to be particularly fond of lunatics or specially interested in leprosy. We may love negroes because they are black or German Socialists because they are pedantic. But we have to love our neighbor because he is there-- a much more alarming reason for a much more serious operation. He is the sample of humanity which is actually given us. Precisely because he may be anybody he is everybody. He is a symbol because he is an accident.
G.K. Chesterton, Heretics
One cannot be a missionary church and continue insisting that the world must come to the church on the church's terms. it must become a "go" structure. And it can do that only when its concerns are directed outside itself toward the poor, the abused and the oppressed. The church must recapture its identity as the only organization in the world that exists for the sake of its nonmembers.
-Harvey Conn, Evangelism
Monday, September 15, 2008
In fact, my idea was to blog through the entire book of Matthew, and then the rest of the Gospels. Sort of isolating the person of Jesus as the central figure and principle and theology with which to interpret the rest of Scripture(instead of, say, interpreting Jesus through the theology of Paul). It seems that others are taking the same approach, albeit garnering accusations of reductionism.
Kind of a weird, revolutionary, unexpected idea, huh. That Christ would be at the center of Christianity.
So while I haven't been able to cross the threshold into the SoM, I wanted to dust the blog off after a couple weeks of silence. Maybe think of something to say. Hmmm...
I did hear some rather sad news lately. It was about a church(mega) that is experiencing a split over issues concerning direction. The split is not what I thought was sad, it was the stories of vitriol and attack-moded church members who were part of the struggle and desperate to be in the right. The question I'm unable to escape when I hear stories like these is: Do these people know anything about Jesus Christ?
On that note, there's a story from a few weeks ago about a gentleman who was arrested at Ignited Church in Lakeland, Fl. Apparently he was there to serve the homeless who were gathering outside, and ran afoul of the lead pastor when rumors of a protest surfaced. "Ignited '(does) not know what to do with them[the homeless]. We are not equipped to deal with them. We are not a homeless shelter,'" said Stephen Strader, the man in charge. I'll ask again--amid all their leaping, praising, prophesying, and tongue-speaking, do these people know anything about Jesus Christ? Mr. Strader, have you thought about talking to them? Of course no self-respecting Christian would ever stoop to inviting such lowlifes into the building, but maybe a conversation or two would be a good start.
The problem with the Gospels, is that they're full of Jesus presenting all kinds of expected behaviors before his followers saying "This is what it's like to be my follower. This is what my disciples do. If you don't do this, you can't be my disciple." So far in my perusal of Matthew, the vast majority of the criteria revolve around dying to self, and loving people who are the world's throw-aways. And then in some particularly disturbing passages he goes and begins threatening hell on those who don't do these things. No we're not talking about Jonathan Edwards here, or Jerry Falwell. This is Jesus.
So the most convenient thing to do is become a theologian. We become smart. We are more able to detect subtleties. We learn the deeper meanings of words, and become whizzes at conceptualizing of the simple and concrete, interpreting the concept in outer space somewhere, and then bringing it back to earth as an entirely different life form. Justification By Faith no longer needs anything to do with Love Thy Neighbor. Now that we're much smarter, we dispense with anything concerns itself with works(which is a startling amount of Jesus' words, from a typical protestant's perspective). Or at least begin to use Romans and the Reformers as the big end of a telescope to look at Jesus' frightening condemnation of those who don't feed the hungry and visit the sick.
Digest this mentality through a few hundred years of Church history until all you need to do is pray this prayer and mean it, and presto, no more Jesus needed. Just a sickening caricature of faith that originates from the self and that conveniently justifies without transforming. Welcome to church, America.