Shane Duran - Guest Blogger
You know the type. Always out there campaigning for "peace not war," for refugees, for human rights and the list goes on. Do Gooders! Usually those left wing, chardonnay sipping types who have adopted John Lennon's “Imagine” as their manifesto.
Do Gooders! Defined by the Free Online Dictionary as “naive idealists who support philanthropic or humanitarian causes or reforms.”
The term "do gooder" is often used disparagingly by conservative voters to criticize those of us who actually believe that people can and should live together in peace, that people deserve to be treated with dignity - "to do to others as we would have them do to us." Oh, isn't that a quote from the bible? Yes, actually. Jesus said it in Matthew 7:12.
Could it be that Jesus was a Do Gooder? After all, he saved that adulteress from being stoned by an angry mob, even though stoning is what the law called for. Could it be that Jesus wasn't too hung up on punishment, but on delivering mercy, compassion, justice and love?
Man, what a Do Gooder!
But then He was the Son of God! Perhaps that excuses his mild and meek, do gooder attitude! Although mild and meek doesn't explain Jesus at all. It was He who threw the money changers out of the temple for perverting the place of God.
Jesus came to save us from damnation, from Hell, from condemnation. The world is in balance. Physically and Spiritually. Physical balance was described by Isaac Newton with his three laws of motion; you know, equal and opposite forces etc., etc.
Spiritually the world is in balance too: God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, sin and payment for sin. The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. Spiritual death. Spiritual death being eternal separation from God. You sin, you go to Hell. One way to pay for sin was a blood sacrifice, usually a lamb, but that is so Old Testament. Jesus became the Lamb of God and paid the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, even going to Hell and rising 3 days later from death. This is why we say that Christians are saved. We are saved from Hell because Jesus went there in our place. We deserved to go Hell, but God through his love for us showed us grace that we did not deserve by sending Jesus to pay for our sins. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17).
What has this to do with Do Gooders?
Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us exactly what this has to do with Do Gooders:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
What are these good works that God has prepared for us?
These are just some of the good works that we have been called to do:
* Spread the good news. Gospel literally means "good news". What better way to do good than to spread good news. Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you ...". One of those things we should be teaching, is to do good!
* Caring for the poor, the oppressed, the widow, the stranger. There are over 2,000 scriptures which refer to caring for the poor. When the bible refers to the stranger, it means strangers in the land: travelers, immigrants, refugees! The parable of the sheep and the goats, described in Matthew 25:31-46 which is summarized in verse 34-35 "inherit the kingdom prepared for you ... for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to Me."
* Making peace, not war. In the beatitudes which Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-11), He says "blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
* Love everyone. In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus explains that the law is summed up in two great commandments: "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind ... and ... you shall love your neighbour as yourself ". It doesn't say to love your neighbor if they are the same color and religion as you. Love your neighbor!
Just to clarify. We are not saved by good works, but to do good works!
Why has the role of Do Gooder been left to the left wing? Why are conservatives and the religious right so opposed to Do Gooders? This isn't to say that the left is perfect and the right is going to hell. The right wing certainly have their virtues as do the left wing. The issue is with using Do Gooder as an insult, when it should be a compliment.
Christians are by commandment of God, called to be Do Gooders and we should be leading the way in doing good works, we should be teaching the world how to do good.
I like progressive Christians. They're a fun bunch: witty, conversational, tending toward expressive body language. And they always have lots of wine they purchased at a reasonable price. What's not to like?
One thing it's pretty easy for progressive Christians not to like, though, is, sadly, me.
I know! I can't believe it either! It still shocks me every time one of them yanks a wine glass from my hand and asks me to leave.
"But why?" I respond with wide-eyed incredulity. "I thought we were having such a great conversation."
"Yeah, we were," they say. "Until you joined it. You're to a normal conversation what a backhoe is to a spoon."
But cruel. Witty and cruel. Tough combo. Then again, if Witty & Cruel was a law firm, you'd hire it. But you wouldn't respect yourself in the morning.
Anyway, the reason I tend to in fairly short order utterly fail at blending with progressive Christians is because ... because ... .
I feel a rant coming on.
I knew I shouldn't have had that extra venti latte.
But it's on now. I could no sooner stop this upcoming rant than Willy the whale could have stopped wanting to be free. (I didn't see the movie, but I assume freedom was Willy's goal. Willy was also a killer whale, right? So the reason he wanted to be free can't be good. Willy's kid owners must have been, like, "Free Willy!" And all the dolphins and fish outside of Willy's pen must have been like, "No, don't!" But did we hear their side of the story? No. Freakin' Hollywood. )
But on to my rave. (Though first please allow me to apologize to my truly good friends at The Progressive Christian Alliance [hi, Roger! sorry I was ... born this way!], and also right here at The Christian Left -- whose board of directors I recently joined and you can stop giggling right now.)
So if there's one thing to recommend discussing theology, it's that doing so allows you to remain firmly within the warm and fuzzy confines of The Waffle Zone -- where the food isn't particularly inoffensive, and there's not enough of it.
And nobody more enjoys seeing if they can cram one more angel onto the head of the proverbial pin than does your typical progressive Christian. Progressive "followers of Christ" (and can we please drop that faux-modest nicety, and just call ourselves Christian: why does the right get to keep that word?) are fairly enamored of discussing theology, in the main because doing so affords them two irresistible opportunities: the chance to assume the airs of an intelligent person, and the chance to justify avoiding any thought that actually matters.
Pontification fodder and elaborate waffle dressing! Why, it's like ordering the breakfast platter at the International House of Spinelessness!
(Again: Sorry, friends! I think maybe I'm allergic to caffeine! Don't get up! I'll let myself out!]
A simple-minded person such as myself prefers simple thoughts. Here are two simple thoughts that I think should be fully morphed into the brain (and spine) of anyone with the cajones to call himself a progressive Christian. (Though at all employing the term "progressive Christian" automatically slides you into a booth at IHOS, since it denotes anything from socially progressive, to theologically progressive, to socially progressive but theologically centrist, to theologically progressive but socially centrist, to socially theological but progressively boring, to would you like a little half-flat seltzer water with that half-empty glass of white zinfandel?)
If you're going to call yourself a Christian progressive, I would like to suggest that you step out of the sugary-sweet Waffle Zone, and instead unapologetically claim as your own these two readily comprehensible beliefs:
1. Being gay is no more an indicator of a person's moral status than is the color of their eyes.
2. There is no such thing as hell.
There. Those are two things that all progressive Christians should believe. If you are a Christian who doesn't firmly and comfortably believe these two things, then stop calling yourself a progressive Christian.
Either that, or Christians who believe those things need to adapt for themselves a different name.
Progressive does, after all, imply progress -- which implies Not Done Yet.
So how about finished Christians? Made It Christians? Done Christians?
Well, maybe not done Christians, since that implies a certain je ne sais just got laid. And I, for one, haven't mixed religion and sex since my confounding attraction to Sally Fields as The Flying Nun. And I'm not going back there, man. No way.
Besides, I don't think we Christians should divide ourselves into yet another group. I think existing progressive Christians should just bite the bullet, claim the above two truths, and get on with it.
Maybe one of the reasons progressive Christians are resistant to this is because they find these two beliefs difficult to remember. They are, after all, a brainy bunch -- and those are two extremely simple concepts.
If it is a memory issue, you know what might help with that? Putting those two ideas into the form of a simple rhyming song. That little trick always helps me remember stuff. P-Diddies is what we need -- where the "P" stands for progressive.
So let's try one for the gay belief first:
God's okay with you being gay / 'Cause he knows he made you that way.
Sweet! Catchy! Who could forget that?
Now let's do one about hell.
If you say "You're going to hell!" / then shut the fuck up.
Whoa. Much less catchy. Sorry.
The first big step to creating hell / is telling other people they're going there.
Hey. It's a start.
Next time, I will share all the Biblical, theological, and moral reasoning that any Christian could possibly need to finally and forever get comfortable asserting that there is no hell, and that gay is okay.
(Post submitted by guest blogger John Shore, who also blogs on JohnShore.com. He invites you to "like" his Facebook fan page.)
Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethesda, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids — blind, lame and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a very long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”
The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” (John 5:2-7)
The poor man had been ill for 38 years. He obviously had some kind of paralysis. Hebrew tradition has it that every once in awhile an angel would descend from heaven and stir up the waters. The first person to make it into the waters before they stopped churning would be healed.
From time to time this man would have someone bring him on a mat to lie by the Sheep Gate, and maybe because he was leprous or possibly had a contagious disease, there was nobody who wanted to be around to help him be the first one in the water. Or maybe the temple authorities were just too busy with their religious duties to help him. Then Jesus came along, and well, he healed the man and the rest of the story is there for you to read.
When I think about this passage I’m immediately reminded of the Conservative Christian attitude towards universal heath care. Millions of people are finding that their insurance won’t cover certain illnesses. Millions more can’t afford insurance at all. Children and the elderly are hit the hardest, two particular stages of life when lack of adequate and quality health care can be a traumatic blow.
Yet Republicans and conservative Christians believe that we should not bother helping the poor man get into the pool before everyone else so that he can be healed. As a matter of fact, don’t help any of them in because they all don’t deserve it. “How did they end up there in the first place?” Like Pharaoh said of the Israeli slaves, “They must be idle. Give them more work to do.”
Aside from important church state issues, I don’t understand how the Right can refer to our country as “Christian.” We spent trillions of dollars on two wars that were initiated on lies. After being bailed out, CEOs from our largest mega corporations continue to make 300 times more than their average employees. The rich still get richer, the middle class is disappearing, and the poor get poorer.
Yet television evangelists continue to ask people to send money in to their “ministries,” and while we have the greatest medical technology on the face of the earth the Right complains about who will foot the bill for universal health care.
When their Savior loved them so much he died on a cross for them, and while he was here on earth with no strings attached healed and fed hurting and hungry people, I am continually amazed that people of a “Christian” nation would so tenaciously cling to the Social Darwinist “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” philosophy.
I sincerely don’t believe that the Christian Right’s fear of government is so deeply entrenched that they won’t even consider that same government providing health care for its citizens. I think it boils down to fear and greed masquerading as a pseudo morality. Why else could the late Jerry Falwell confide to his congregation that he likes what Rush Limbaugh has to say, when Limbaugh is a man who constantly maligns the homeless as people who deserve what they get. Why else would a rich politician named Michele Bachmann call herself a Christian and have town hall meetings advocating the denial of universal health care to our poorest because she thinks it will lead to “socialism?” And how else could the “Reverend” Pat Robertson call natural disasters punishment for those who are sick, have lost family members, or have lost their homes?
These are the religious people of Jesus’ day here on earth who would not have helped the lame man get into the pool as the waters churned. Their civil self-help religion would tell them to pass the man by because chances are that he did something evil to deserve his condition, and besides, he can get a job and work so that he can afford insurance.
We have an opportunity through our government to stop and help and not pass by the lame man; To help one another carry him in to the waters when the angel descends to stir them up; To get him back on his feet and praise the Lord, because god can do miracles through government too.
So if conservatives really believe they are followers of Christ, if we ourselves really believe that we are so, then we should all keep protesting and pushing for universal health care. I’m not talking about reform. Chances are that today’s insurance industry would have denied coverage to the lame man at the Sheep gate because of the preexisting condition of “invalidism,” and despite Obama’s reform, they would hire the best lawyers to locate loopholes for denial of coverage. We need to bypass the insurance industry altogether. It is rich enough for it’s employees to be well remunerated until they find other jobs to do.
Shout it from the house tops that free universal health care is a God given right for every man woman and child. That God is not so lacking in omniscience that he can’t use government to help us. If he used the state of the art highway system and government structure of the Roman occupation to advance the gospel and spread civilization in the first century, then today he can use our modern “secular” government to help us with our health care and provide us with coverage. After all, this is a big part of the good news, or gospel. The lame man at the Sheep gate shouldn’t have had to wait 38 years for someone to come along and help him. Neither should we.
(Post submitted by Keith Goss who is a member of The Christian Left and a Guest Blogger).
Doing the right thing can be very lonely. Think of all the prophets throughout history. They had their backs up against the wall. To say that they were between a rock and a hard place would be an understatement. Often their own families were against them. Their own religious and societal institutions were sometimes rejecting them. They were called crazy. Jesus’ own mother persuaded him to come home and get some rest because the townsfolk thought he was going nuts. It’s there in the Bible.
Martin Luther King’s fellow clergymen often said, “Calm down Martin. You’re going to ruin the cause. Don’t speak out against the war (Vietnam). That’s crossing the line. You will lose a lot of people.” The very President he was negotiating with in the White House had his brother Bobby, the Attorney general, wire tap a lot of the hotels and motels Martin stayed in during the struggle. Martin knew it. This stalwart practitioner of nonviolence would be beside himself when sometimes his followers broke out in violence and hatred. Malcolm X severely criticized him. So did Stokely Carmichael. Many said he was not aggressive enough. Others countered that he was too incendiary. But despite that he was a fragile person like the rest of us, he had a strong faith in God and the nonviolence of Jesus which kept him going.
I often think of what Progressive Christians are up against these days. Right wing pastors foisting a Gospel of merit and rugged individualism on the public, and that being virtually the only version of Christianity covered by the media. Charismatic health and wealth gospelers incessantly asking for people to send them money, and then claiming that they are so wealthy because they are blessed by God.
Stories like Jerry Falwell spewing that 911 was punishment from God for homosexuality, feminism and the actions of other groups of human beings that he hated. The Westboro Baptist family protesting at funerals with hellish signs and abject hatred dripping from their words. Pat Robertson telling us that natural catastrophes are punishment from God and Sarah Palin wrapping the cross in the flag by promoting her own brand of xenophobia. These distortions seem to be all that is appearing in the press.
It’s enough to make a Christian want to cry out: “This is not what it’s supposed to be all about! Where is the love in this?” Indeed, where is the Christlike love? It is a very lonely time for us. We need to get together in spirit and encourage one another that the love and sacrificial motives of Christianity are still alive. That cheap grace will not reign. That Christ still wants us to reconcile and work for social justice. That sometimes, a lot of times, we can use government and social institutions to help those who are hurting precisely because the love of Christ overcomes the cold bureaucracy that Conservatives seem to be so paranoid about.
At this time in history, being a progressive Christian, emphasizing the good things that the left can do, seems like an insurmountable obstacle to overcome. But we have the grace of Jesus. We have one another, and that is why it is so comforting to have a place like The Christian Left to come and visit in spirit once in awhile. To know that there are other people out there who conclude like us that there is something terribly wrong with what is advertised as Christianity today. People who want to be assured that they are not wrong about taking up the cross. About discipleship. About not being self righteous and condemning everyone. About accepting everyone unconditionally with love no matter what.
We are broken people and we fail a lot. And that is why we can let go and put our trust in Christ and let him show his love through us, whether it be through a person to person encounter or government legislation. Whether it be through a charity or a chance encounter with a fellow human being (and yes, animals too). That is a message that many who are hurting want to hear. And that is a message that Progressive Christians can exhibit: Progress is helping others who hurt because we genuinely care and we hurt ourselves. It’s not offering someone a formula for salvation and then advising them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps come what may. We speak by our actions. Let’s all be broken together, love one another and search to help others who are broken and look to the one who was broken for us on the cross. And we don’t need to search far because they will be those who we come across everyday of our lives. As The Apostle Paul said: love conquers all.
(Post submitted byKeith Goss who is a member of The Christian Left and a Guest Blogger).
Look, let’s get to the bottom line here. It’s completely asinine for Christians to continuously vote for a political party just because they’re defined by the word “conservative,” and they live and die by the two red herring wedge issues of abortion and gay marriage.
First of all they aren’t “conservative” at all. Every time Republicans have had power in recent history, they've EXPANDED government. It’s an easy historical fact to verify.
There’s far more to life than abortion and gay marriage, regardless of where you fall on the ideological spectrum related to these two issues. We’ve made our stance on these issues clear, and we don’t think it makes us any less “Christian.”
What is astounding to us is that any Christian would vote for Republicans when they want to reduce taxes on the wealthy to the point where their social contract to help “insure domestic tranquility,” and “promote the general welfare” of society is completely nullified! Especially when it comes to the least of these (which is quickly becoming a larger group thanks to “conservative” policy)!
Let's look at the current budget battle as an example. Does anyone remember when Dick Cheney famously said "Deficits don't matter." The ideologues we have in congress right now don't care about the debt ceiling. What they hate is anything "Public." That's why we pay our teachers almost nothing, people can't afford Health Care (because a public option is "off the table"), and families can't even afford public universities any more.
This insanity must stop. It must stop now. It’s time for Christians to wake up and smell the decay of real Christian values, the most important of which, as stated by Jesus himself, is to care for your fellow brothers and sisters.
(Post submitted by Charles Toy who is a founding member of The Christian Left and a Featured Blogger).
“Life can be circus
They underpay and overwork us
Though we seldom get our due
And when each day is through
I bring my tired body home
And look around for you
You and me against the world
It feels like you and me against the world
And for all the times we've cried
I've always felt that God was on our side”
-- “You and Me Against the World,” By Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams
Many of you have heard the popular saying, “I’m not of this world, I’m just passing through.” I can relate. I’ve felt that way my entire life. As a child I was shocked and appalled by the way I saw human beings treat one another. I never got over it. I guess I just got used to some of it. Then I met Jesus. He showed me by example what his view of the world was. I’m able to walk through this world each day by focusing on him.
When the world says: Are you sick? Do you have medical insurance? Do you have any pre-existing conditions? Sorry, we can’t help you out.
Jesus says: Do you want to be made well? I will make you well.
When the world says: Let's get revenge.
Jesus says: Turn the other cheek. Love your enemies.
When the world says: Offend me once, shame on you. Offend me twice, shame on me.
Jesus says: Forgive seventy times seven.
When the world says: Lock him up and throw away the key. Let him rot in prison.
Jesus says: I was in prison and you came to visit me.
When the world says: You’re a loser and you can’t do it.
Jesus says: Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
When the world says: Maximize your profits above all other considerations.
Jesus says: Sell all that you own and give it to the poor.
When the world says: Spend all your time wishing you were rich and keeping up on celebrity gossip.
Jesus says: Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
When the world says: Judge.
Jesus says: Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
When the world says: They are evil.
Jesus says: Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
When the world says: Let's command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elisha did!
Jesus says: Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.
When the world says: Hate those who are not like you.
Jesus says: Love one another as I have loved you. By this they will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.
When the world says: It’s every man/woman for himself/herself. Now go read “Atlas Shrugged!”
Jesus says: If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.
When the world says: Be afraid.
Jesus says: Fear not, for I am with you always even until the end of time.
When the world says: Why do you believe in the magic man in the sky? It’s all a big made-up fairy tale.
Jesus says: Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
The World says: An eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.
Jesus says: Do not resist an evil person.
When the world says: You’re not welcome here in this country.
Jesus says: I was a stranger and you invited me in.
When the world says: You're a worthless whore and we're going to kill you.
Jesus says: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Where are your accusers? Neither do I accuse you. Go and sin no more.
When the world, the Taliban, al-Qaida, the GOP, the media, Homeland Security, your cash flow, and hundreds of friends and neighbors say: "Be Afraid."
Jesus says: Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
When the world says: Give CEOs exuberant salaries and profits while not rehiring the unemployed.
Jesus says: What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.
When the world says: We won't let homosexuals have equal rights
Jesus says: Whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
When the world says: If you feed homeless people we will arrest you.
Jesus says: I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.
When the world says: What? You're unemployed? What a loser! There must be something wrong with you. Quit leaching off of society!
Jesus says: Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
When the world says: Look out for number one. It's a dog eat dog world.
Jesus says: Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
When the world says: Take care of your own business.
Jesus says: Buster, your business is taking care of others in need. (Paraphrased)
When the world says: You're beaten. Go ahead, give up, and die.
Jesus says: Lazarus, come forth!
When the world says: You are worthless.
Jesus says: I love you so much that I will lay down my life for you.
When the world says: The sky is falling.
Jesus says: Only when you least expect it. (Paraphrased)
When the world says: You're broke and you can't pay your bills
Jesus says: Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
When the world says: Perhaps you should seek satisfaction in the ways of the world.
Jesus says: The Kingdom of God is within.
When the world says: God helps those who help themselves.
Jesus says: I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
When the world says: WAR!...
Jesus says: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
When the world says: Who is my neighbor?
Jesus says: Which of these men was a neighbor to the wounded man?
When the world says: God told me to run for office.
Jesus says: Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
The world says: I’m better than you. You are unworthy.
Jesus says: The last will be first, and the first will be last.
When the world says: Love only those who are worthy of love.
Jesus says: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
When the world says: Look at what a good Christian I am!
Jesus says: When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.
When the world says: Love money.
Jesus says: Love God and your neighbor, even your enemy.
When the world says: It's MY money!
Jesus says: Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.
When the world says: Greed is good; altruism is bad and all people need to take care of themselves.
Jesus says: If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
When the world says: Keep walking. He just wants to buy drugs or liquor.
Jesus says: Give to everyone who asks of you.
When the world says: Follow me.
Jesus says: Follow Me.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 10 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. … Do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”
Romans 8:36-39 assures us “Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In Numbers 21:8-9 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. In John 3:14 Jesus said, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up."
When we stay focused on Jesus, we won’t be harmed by the poisonous snakes of this world. I’m not going to agree with what the world says anymore. I’m going to agree with what Jesus says. What about you?
(Post submitted by Charles Toy who is a founding member of The Christian Left and a Featured Blogger).
So a couple of days ago was Father’s Day, but instead of any of a number of worthwhile meditations on fatherhood that I could offer (there are a lot of them out there, and well worth reading), what struck me was our longstanding, virtually timeless, concept of God as Father. In Christianity, and perhaps in American society in particular, the idea of fatherhood has such strong emotional appeal that the instant draw many people feel for God as Father can sometimes (as I’ve noticed, anyway) seem to leave God’s fatherhood almost taken for granted: a beloved, comforting, and comfortable assumption — as it should be (except for the assumption part) — but still, like any assumption, not thought about.
“What’s to think about?” some people might interject. “God as our Father — that’s wonderful, a blessing, and speaks volumes in and of itself. What else do you need to ask about it?” Well, I think it’s interesting that people have ever looked to God as Father in the first place, that’s what. I mean, it’s not as if that idea originated in the Bible; that Book grew up in ancient Semitic cultures (that is, centered around the Middle East), yet in other equally ancient cultures, God was often seen the same way, as Father. If you will now, buckle in for a little excursion with me into some language history. It’s not too bumpy of a ride.
Most of Europe’s tongues descend from what is called the Proto-Indo-European language (conveniently abbreviated PIE; if that makes you think of dessert, I’d say that’s a perfectly appropriate response), whose homeland around 6000 years ago was probably found around the north sides of the Black and Caspian Seas, a good way north of the Middle East. Yet languages traceable to there saw God (or a god) as Father: the chief Roman god, Jupiter, got his name ultimately from a PIE term dyaus-pater, “god father” (or father god).
So why “father” god? The PIE word for god, dyaus (which also led to Latin deus and Greek Zeus), itself comes from a root meaning “to shine”, and was even a root of the words for “sky” and “day” — so in other words, you’d think it might be natural to suppose that the word for “god” may have started as some kind of reference to the sun as a god. But hold on: there was a different word for the actual sun itself, so even if the literal sun was an inspiration for seeing deity in the heavens, the thought behind dyaus, god, seems to have been something more abstract — that is, perhaps aiming to express a sense of deity beyond the mere physical sun we see in the sky: recognizing the sun, and the daylight it gives in its course through the sky, as perhaps some sort of reflection or expression of a greater power beyond. In later philosophical or spiritual terms, we might put it as a Light greater than the sun in the sky.
So still, why “father”? Since the sky, with its sunlight and rain, as it were embraces Earth and helps give life which Earth produces, it’s not hard to see how that pairing would inevitably suggest the metaphor of “Father Sky” and “Mother Earth” to many peoples. If that sounds maybe a little silly, or even embarrassing, to you, please don’t write it off so quickly; our culture makes it easy for us to do that. Western cultures have historically tended to sniff at ancient, “pagan” religion as just some sort of ignorant stumbling in the dark — but in fact, any belief system starts from an honest best attempt, the most intelligent reasoning, to make sense of the world around you. (It’s not as if ancient peoples sat around a campfire when they were bored, going, “Hey, let’s make up some laughably ignorant stuff, and get people to believe it!”) All religion, in fact, seems to derive from a basic sense that there is something, some force, at work in the universe beyond ourselves, and beyond what we can see. (It’s mainly in what we call more “sophisticated” cultures that we sit around our modern campfires going, “Hey, let’s pretend there’s nothing beyond ourselves or beyond what we can see!”)
So, then what — God only as some cosmic bed partner to Mother Earth? Well, not exactly. It’s true that, as time went on, various cultures (though not all of them) elaborated on their understanding of deity to ascribe all sorts of colorful humanlike traits to God (or the gods), so that for example by the time of classical Greece you had a whole subculture and literature devoted to describing how Zeus, or another deity, engaged in wild, frat-boy-like escapades involving some hapless human or other, or could get peeved over practically nothing and cause all kinds of misery here on Earth. (So maybe it’s no wonder, then, that Greece is one of the places where we first read of philosophies that mostly rolled their eyes at the very concept of the gods: it’s not like most notions of deity, in that culture, were anything that thinking people could take seriously. More recently, religious misrepresentations of God have led to things like Monty Python’s spot-on skewering of the Anglican church.) If you peel back the layers of colorful later additions, though, like coats of paint on a house, you get back to the earlier sense of the divine as watching over, caring for, providing for all life on Earth.
Much as a father does for loved ones in his care. That’s why God as Father. Now, at the same time, I know most readers will realize that a lot of the male-oriented expressions in the Bible come from the male-oriented (and male-dominated) cultures that it was written in — and I’m sure you are also aware that, male language used for God notwithstanding, the Bible regularly pierces through those cultural assumptions to depict God as having distinctly female, motherlike attributes as well. So from a biblical perspective, the concept presented of God as Father really is meant very much to convey, at the same time, God as Mother. When Genesis describes humankind as being created “in God’s image”, the direct context is male and female together (Gen 1.26-27) — so the direct implication, from that almost earliest scene in Scripture, is that it is both female and male characteristics that reflect something of the person of God; the Divine has the protective, nurturing care of both Mother and Father.
God isn’t sexist. When the Bible refers to him as “he”, it’s understood that it also includes “she”, because the Divine transcends all our notions of gender. (In fact, if the biblical languages had a personal pronoun that transcended gender, it’s likely they would have tended to refer to God that way, even though it’s inevitable that their male-dominated societies would have colored those references as well; likewise for English or any other modern language — we just don’t have a personal pronoun that gets beyond gender, and “it” is impersonal. So we often settle for just one of the two available, even though “she” often loses out in our still male-dominated society. I tend to use “he” only for lack of another suitable pronoun for God, and because many readers will be familiar with that; though if I refer to her as “she”, don’t be surprised.) When Scripture refers to God as Father, it really is understood that it also means Mother.
Really, what that imagery is getting at — as we saw earlier anyway — is God the divine as watching over, caring for, providing for. Mostly it’s parents who do that, in the human world; but if you were raised and cared for by someone other than your natural parents, then that is also the image and sense that God wants to convey. God may be Aunt, or Uncle; or Big Sister or Brother who took you in when there was no one else; or anyone else who genuinely provided the care to watch over you. And if there was no one really like that in your life — then God longs to be the first. In countless ways we often don’t suspect, he has been caring for us anyway — with life and breath, giving heartbeats and hope, sometimes against the odds. But one thing God always wants us to grow sure of — Mother, Father, Brother, Aunt, whoever, has always loved you and wants you to know that heart of love beats for you day and night.
Ancient peoples saw the heavens provide warming sunlight, refreshing rain, and the breath of wind to give life to Earth; probably from the time that subtle evolutionary change shaped anatomically modern humans into the human souls that we would recognize today if we spoke with them — from the time we could be spoken of as made “in God’s image” — people sensed there was Someone caring for them, for Earth, far beyond what they could see in the skies. They understood the love of mother and father; they may have sensed that something similar, far greater, nurtured and cared for all life.
That’s why God as Father. As Mother. As endless love for you, as endless as the night heavens spreading to infinity, as the warm earth beneath holding you in her bosom. May they wrap you in that love every night, with that love as a lullaby in your heart as you go to sleep. Sleep well, child, you are forever cared for.
(Post submitted by Featured Blogger, Roger Smith, who also blogs at Roger’s Shrubbery)
Today (Sunday, 12 June 2011) is what the Christian church calls Pentecost, a name which no doubt brings up "holy roller" images for some, but really (without going into the whole history of it: it derives from the culminating day of a holy season described in the Hebrew scriptures) refers to a foundational event in Christianity, which as it happened took place on that day. The scene (see the New Testament book of Acts, 2nd chapter) describes God pouring out his Spirit, his very presence, on a group of Christians.
And then they became holy rollers! Not really. Actually, again without going into all the details, the main point was to show that the presence of God is as close and available as a best friend, wanting to give the strength and encouragement that only a best friend or life partner can give, to bring some daylight on a gloomy morning, to be the veritable breath of fresh air or wind under our wings as only someone that close can do. It's worth noting, by the way, that the words rendered "spirit" (in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures) also mean "wind" and "breath": God as a breath like the wind fresh off the sea, like an updraft that sets birds soaring over the heights.
And that close encounter with the Divine is really what is behind the expression, "if the spirit [or Spirit] moves you". Of course, today we can take that as casually as getting a sudden hankering for a hot fudge sundae (though, personally, I don't see how that is not probably God moving you), but originally it had to do with that encounter with God's presence. And that was never meant as some sort of spiritual elitism, or as if only some "ascended" person could encounter that! The whole point was God dumping himself out on anyone and everyone who would let him, maybe if you picture something like Mom or Dad jumping on the kids and all of them rolling gleefully in a pile of leaves, or making a big happy splashy thrash in the pool. A peristent theme through the scriptures is that, even though there may be those whose special calling is to help others understand and encounter the Divine for themselves, really there was never meant to be any spiritual "elite"; in a very real sense, all people were always meant to jump into that gleeful romp with God, everyone is meant (and able) to have) that personal encounter.
So when the Spirit moves, what does he do with all our boxes and baggage? And do we end up like the impoverished Dust Bowl people in the photo above, trying to bundle our ramshackle lives together and scramble toward the promised west? Some religious expressions or traditions seem to give the impression that God is sort of like a train conductor, maybe rather impatiently checking his watch ("Come on, people, we have to keep this Glory Train to Heaven on schedule!"), while we fumble and stagger around on the platform with all our luggage. "Aha", some people might nod knowingly, "the key to life is to discard all our unwanted baggage." Yeah, well, what if you accidentally dump the wrong bag, that has all your clean underwear in it? Or should the poor people in the photo have just dumped even the shabby remnants of their lives and made a run for it? What I mean is, it's one thing to think, "How wonderful! A personal encounter with God is avaiable to anyone [which it is]!"; but it's quite another to ask, "But what about my actual life? The one I have to live in, every day. And the one which, even if it's only tattered remnants, is all I have to remember loved ones or places now lost. The one that has love and heartache and blessing and burdens all piled together, and barely held together with twine as I try to make it beyond that far horizon. My life is all of me. What about that?"
That is where, if you hadn't noticed, the God who loves you enough to stay by your side is also working gently to sort through the things that are actually important to you, the things that are really a part of you, and other things that really are stuff you could stand to leave aside (like "the heartache that gets in the way of sweet memories", or "the weight on your heart that keeps you from lifting your head to see the sunrise"). (If you're like me, sometimes without realizing it you can be putting those things back on the luggage rack, not realizing they were slipping off because I really would be happier without them, let alone that it was God who was trying to help unburden me a bit. There is such a thing as being too efficient of a packer.)
The God who is with us. Actually, that's also one of Jesus' various names: Immanu-el, God with us, the God who is really there. Most faiths or belief systems do a lot of serious thinking to try to grasp the concept of the Divine; but in one way or another, at the heart of it all that thinking reflects some sort of innate draw to actually encounter the Divine, no matter by what name people think of that. And God as best friend, as life partner, as confidant, as strength and encourager and wind under our wings and fresh breath filling our lungs and heart: this is at the very heart of what Jesus wanted us to know, of what the whole Bible is about really (if you look between all the episodes of chaos and violence, that is really the consistent theme that is trying to be heard over the din), of what I see as the voice and heart of God to all peoples through all time is always trying to say. Like the sunrise that can enable everyone to see which way to go (or what baggage to pack!), this is the God who is with us, as near as breath.
And the Spirit moving us? He wants to move us closer to him, closer to one another, closer to the fulfillment of all the potential that is designed into us, like a tree growing to full height or a field in full blossom. He moves us closer to the promise of all we were intended to be, because he himself moves close to us. Breathe deep: that fresh wind in your face is him drawing close enough to kiss you.
Both the Old and New Testaments stress the importance of government for protection and for maintaining order.
In the Bible, kings or other rulers were expected to rule with wisdom and justice. The Old Testament contains story after story of wicked, greedy and oppressive rulers who brought disaster on themselves and their people. Many of the Old Testament prophets, such as Elijah, Elisha and Daniel, delivered their messages of reform to Israel's kings.
Those of us who live under democracy elect our own "rulers." Our votes decide whether our government will be benevolent and just or harsh and oppressive. The Bible's advice and reproaches to the ancient rulers provide us wisdom to help us make wise choices in our own times.
A recurring theme in the Bible is that we should provide equal justice for all, not favoring the rich or powerful. Also, because all the peoples of the world are God's creation, we should not discriminate against foreigners:
He who oppresses the poor reproaches his maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honors Him. (NAS, Proverbs 14:31)
Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (TNIV, Exodus 23:6-9)
Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, So as to deprive the needy of justice, and rob the poor of My people of their rights, in order that widows may be their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans. Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help? And where will you leave your wealth? (NAS, Isaiah 10:1-3)
The Bible often speaks of charity as an individual-to-individual act of generosity. The law of Moses and the Hebrews, though, provided an institutional way of providing for the poor that did not depend on the good will of any individual. Not only was individual generosity encouraged, but, as a matter of law, part of everyone's produce or income was to be set aside to aid the poor:
"And you shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. (NAS, Exodus 23:10-11)
"When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied. (NAS, Deuteronomy 26:12)
Let's also recall the celebrated story of Joseph, son of Jacob:
Genesis 41:25-42: And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, "The dreams of Pharaoh are one. God hath shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years: the dreams are one. And the seven thin and illfavored cows that came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine. This is the thing which I have spoken unto Pharaoh: what God is about to do He showeth unto Pharaoh. Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. And there shall arise after them seven years of famine; and all the plenty shall be forgotten in the land of Egypt, and the famine shall consume the land. And the plenty shall not be known in the land by reason of that famine following, for it shall be very grievous. And for that the dream was repeated unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God, and God will shortly bring it to pass. Now therefore let Pharaoh seek out a man discreet and wise, and set him over the land of Egypt. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint overseers over the land, and take up a fifth part of the land of Egypt in the seven plenteous years. And let them gather all the food of those good years that come, and lay up corn under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities. And that food shall be for store for the land against the seven years of famine which shall be in the land of Egypt, that the land perish not through the famine." And the counsel was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said unto his servants, "Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?" And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, "Inasmuch as God hath shown thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art. Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled. Only in the throne will I be greater than thou." And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, "See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt." And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck.
In above story of Joseph, "The Government" set aside the bounties of 7 years of plenty to be "redistributed" during 7 years of famine. Enough said?
One doesn't have to dig very deep to learn the spoken sentiments of Jesus related to these matters:
Matthew 25:31-46: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
The ancient Hebrews lived in extended families or clans and could generally take care of their own. In modern industrial societies, though, families are often fragmented and many have nowhere to turn except to "The Government," which is really We The People. In Jeremiah 22, when the prophet delivers a scorching sermon about the treatment of workers, aliens and the poor, he specifically addresses both rulers (government) AND individuals.?
Judgment Against Evil Kings
1 This is what the LORD says: "Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 2 'Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, you who sit on David's throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. 3 This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David's throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. 5 But if you do not obey these commands, declares the LORD, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.' " ?
13 "Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.
14 He says, 'I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.' So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red.
15 "Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.
16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD.
17 "But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion."
Everyone, both rich and poor, benefits when a government respects the rights of all and provides for the needy. Crime and drug abuse breed in areas of poverty and unemployment, where people may feel they have nothing to lose. Likewise, apathy and violence breed where people perceive injustice and feel excluded from the benefits of society. To the extent every individual feels empowered as a valuable, productive member of society, then society becomes healthier and more secure for everyone.
Amos 5: 11-12 You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Courts? That would be "Government."
(Post submitted by Charles Toy who is a founding member of The Christian Left and a Featured Blogger).
Copyright © by Cliff Leitch
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We’re not about Dogma here. We’re just Christians who think the political and Christian right-wing have their priorities wrong.
Charles Toy is the founding member of The Christian Left. We're sure you will enjoy his passion as well as his wit. Guest bloggers featured often.