Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Morality is certainly an issue in Christianity. For some, it is the prime issue. It is the decision to either live a moral life or to live an immoral life. So the question becomes one of defining what is moral behavior. This is why in recent history there was an emphasis on what Christians do not do. Christians do not:
1. Smoke cigarettes
2. Drink alcohol
3. Do drugs
5. Give praise to people (applaud)
6. Go to the movies
7. Listen to secular music
8. Get Divorced
Above are the less obvious sins and debated between denominations. Below are the more obvious and generally accepted by Christianity at large:
2. Commit adultery
6. Worship other gods
7. Practice homosexuality
8. Practice or support abortion
No doubt all of these have their place. Yet is this truly the emphasis behind Jesus’ morality? While I agree that many of the above practices should either not be practiced or at the very least should be given careful consideration as to appropriateness and healthy boundaries, I do not believe they represent the core of Jesus’ morality emphasis.
All of the above would be practices that the religious leaders of Jesus’ time would likely agree are to be avoided and perhaps rooted out. Yet Jesus seems to have found the above to be lacking and even off target.
While Jesus’ emphasis on righteousness and purity does not overlook the above, it goes beyond outward practices to the state of one’s heart and intent.
The cardinal sins for Jesus involve harboring resentment and bitterness, unforgiveness, condemning judgment, debasing, self-exaltation, inequality, lacking compassion, injustice, elitism, inaction on behalf of another, insincerity, callousness, and generally a failure to love. These are the traits that are “anti-Christ”.
This is why Jesus can confidently say, “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, heart, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself. If you do these two things you will fulfill all the requirements of the Law and the Prophets.”
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Here is a link to today's message, which can be downloaded or listened to online. It is a study of the death of John the Baptist and the Feeding of the 5,000.
Today is my mom's birthday!
Happy Birthday Mom!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous., compassionate. If the world had more ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God's dream.
from God Has a Dream
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
October 9th, 2009
Hello blogging friends,
Some of you probably have encountered the recent painting, “One Nation Under God.” Artistically speaking, it’s an excellent work. Theologically speaking, it incarnates, in the most graphic form imaginable, the sin of nationalistic idolatry. It’s sort of an artist’s rendition of The Patriot’s Bible which I reviewed on this blog some time ago. You can see the painting here. As you scroll over each character in the painting a commentary by the artist on why they were included pops up. I’d like to offer a few comments on several characters in this painting.
At the center of the painting, of course, is a very European looking Jesus holding the American Constitution. This document, the author claims is “[I]nspired of God and created by God fearing, patriotic Americans.” One might think that this outrageous modification of the traditional view that the Bible alone is the inspired Word of God would be enough for Christians to lose interest in this work, but I suspect it won’t. It’s not clear why this artist believes the Constitution is divinely inspired, though I suspect it’s the same reason other patriotic people throughout history have thought their foundational documents and causes were divinely inspired. This is simply the way nationalistic idolatry works. People just know that God (or the gods) is on our side and against our enemies. It’s obvious, right? Nothing in history has caused more bloodshed than this arrogant and unfounded assumption. Nor, I submit, is anything more contrary to the Kingdom Jesus brought than this assumption.
Moving on, an F-16 pilot is honored to be in the presence of Jesus. The artist comments that this fighter represents all those pilots who have given their lives to preserve freedom. The people these pilots have slaughtered with their bombs and bullets are unfortunately not present. This too is typical of idolatrous nationalism: it gives divine sanction to our spilling of blood while ignoring, if not demonizing, those whose blood we have spilled.
Thomas Jefferson stands close to Jesus, of course, which is a little odd since he is famous for insisting on the separation of church and state and for cutting out all of the miraculous elements of the New Testament. He found the doctrine of the Incarnation to be especially revolting. Something similar must be said of the inclusion of Thomas Payne. He is honored to be in the presence of the pro-American Jesus because he was a Founding Father, wrote pamphlets fueling the American Revolution, and was an Abolitionist. The artist does not mention that Payne also wrote pamphlets and books vigorously attacking Christianity and all religion. As an Enlightenment Deist, he and other Founding Fathers objected to any belief in supernatural occurrences, such as the virgin birth or the resurrection. I can’t imagine Payne or Jefferson being too happy about being co-opted as cheerleaders for the pro-American Jesus.
The former slave Fredrick Douglas is also present, which is a bit ironic, especially in light of the thoroughly European Jesus he’s revering. Douglas famously proclaimed that the Christianity of white America has nothing in common with the Christianity of Jesus. I think he would vigorously join Jefferson and Payne in protesting their inclusion in this idolatrous painting. Also ironic is the inclusion of John Adams, since it was he who wrote in the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” It’s hard to imagine him applauding the intense fusion of church and state in this painting.
Another famous Founding Father who is given the honor of being present with the Constitution-holding Jesus is James Madison. He seems to have been a decent enough fellow, unless you happened to be one of his slaves who tried to get free (many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves). He is reported to have nailed one rebellious slave to a barn yard door by his ear, despite signing a Constitution that declared all men to be created equal!
I was a little surprised to find the folk hero Davy Crockett included in this painting. But it must suggest that Jesus was highly invested in keeping Texas part of the Union rather than going to Mexico, to the point of affirming Crockett’s valiant killing of Mexicans to keep this from happening.
A particular interesting character surrounding Jesus is a civil war soldier who is crying. The artist explains that his tears are because the civil war was the only war in which “American fought against American, and brother against brother.” Apparently the many other wars we have fought were not between “brothers,” which is why no tears need be shed over them — even if those we are fighting are fellow Christians. Close by we find an American Revolution Soldier who is said to represent those “brave men who fought against all odds in defeating Britain in the Revolutionary War.” The British, of course, were Christians. In fact, they felt a divine obligation to keep Americans under the authority of the King because the Bible says all authority is given by God and Christians are to submit to the authorities they are under (Rom. 13:1-7). But we killed more of them than they us, and since this artist apparently is happy about this, our Revolutionary soldier gets honored next to Jesus while British soldiers are excluded. One of the most demonic aspects of idolatrous nationalism is that it tends to give people within one’s nation more value than those outside it, especially if those outside are in conflict with one’s own nation. Jesus died to tear down just these sorts of stupid, violence-tending walls (Eph. 2:13-14).
There are many other loathsome aspects of this idolatrous work that could be mentioned, especially regarding the people present in “Satan’s corner” (on the lower right corner), but enough has been said. The bottom line is that someday, people from every tribe and every nation will gather around Jesus (Rev. 7:9-10) and I assure you he won’t be holding a particular nation’s Constitution! The chief business of the church is to model this beautiful unity-amidst-diversity in the present. We are to manifest a Kingdom in which there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, rich or poor, American or British, and in which there is no violence.
This painting is a perfect illustration of the sort of primitive tribalism and diabolic nationalism that keeps Christians from doing this. It must, I believe, be renounced in the strongest possible terms.
If you’re interested in viewing an inspiring painting of the true Jesus and the true Kingdom, go here
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
N.T. Wright in Evil and the Justice of God
How many times do we submit to the idea that it is necessary to use one form of evil to defeat another? Is it really possible to defeat evil with evil?
This is why Jesus says, "Do not repay evil for evil, but bless those who curse you".