Slacktivist Says “Burn It Down”

Today I give you this post from Slacktivist.  This speaks for itself; I don’t need to say too much about it.

Slacktivist cites this item from the Pew Research Center as evidence that something has gone horrifically wrong in evangelical discipleship.  While I would say it is a bit of an exaggeration on his part to say that that alone is sufficient reason to declare white evangelicalism an unmitigated failure–there are enough other issues out there that when one looks at the big picture, his judgment holds.  It is becoming increasingly and abundantly clear, in this age of Donald Trump, that the Christian movement which Jesus founded, or at least the white American version thereof, has become the very thing that Jesus came to earth to replace.  Especially when this is a thing:

Amen.  Come Lord Jesus.  Burn it down.  Burn it all down to the ground.  Sweep away whatever is left, and start over again from scratch.

Morgan Guyton: Has Patriotism Secularized White Christianity?

Answer:  It has.

Morgan Guyton is a Methodist college pastor in New Orleans, Louisiana.  He blogs at Mercy Not Sacrifice.

In this piece, Guyton looks at the obsession white evangelicals have with respect for the flag, so much so that it has, for many, become a quintessential part of a Christian value system.  He says that this is very nearly the equivalent of offering the obligatory pinch of incense to Caesar, a thing which many early Christians died horrific deaths to be able to refrain from doing.  If you are going to argue that an essential part of your Christianity is doing something which the early Christians died for not doing, then your Christianity has become secularized.

Read:  Has Patriotism Secularized White Christianity?  by Morgan Guyton

Shane Claiborne Is A Menace to Your Children

This is real, people.  This is happening.

Shane Claiborne and other evangelicals like him are a menace to your children because they are not wholehearted, unmitigated supporters of Donald Trump.

ICYMI:  Shane Claiborne and a group known as “Red Letter Christians”, so called because they attempt to follow as closely as possible the words of Jesus, which appear in red in many Bibles, held a revival service this week in Lynchburg, VA, home of Liberty University and a bastion of unmitigated support for Donald Trump.  The university and its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., one of Donald Trump’s most vociferous evangelical supporters, banned Claiborne and the Red Letter Christians from campus, threatening them with a $2,500 fine if any of them dared to set foot on Liberty University property.  They forbade the student newspaper from covering the event.  Falwell refused to answer any correspondence from Claiborne.

Why?  “An organization has a duty to the parents to protect their kids”, said Rev. Jonathan Falwell, Jerry Falwell’s brother.

Only about 350 people attended the event, including a dozen or so Liberty students.  (Some of you might be curious about that.)

From the New York Times writeup (“FAKE NEWS!!!!!!!!!” cried all the Donald Trump supporters who have long since left the room):

Mr. Claiborne still wanted to lead a group onto the Liberty campus and hold a prayer vigil — or at least leave a gift for Mr. Falwell, who had just opened a new $3.2 million gun range on campus. Mr. Claiborne had ready a hand plow that he made from a melted-down handgun, a literal following of the Bible’s instruction to “beat swords into plowshares.”

They decided instead that the Liberty police would not dare arrest an 83-year-old. So that afternoon, the Rev. Tony Campolo, co-founder of the Red Letter Christians, entered the front door of Thomas Road Baptist Church, and left a red box with the bewildered receptionist.

Inside the box, tied with a ribbon, was a stack of prayers, written on index cards, from the participants of the revival.

“Dear Liberty, I am praying for your campus,” said one. “The Jesus in the Bible speaks of love and acceptance. I hope you learn to speak of this too.”

Michael Spencer: What You Can’t Say Around Other Christians

Today I direct your attention to a Michael Spencer post from several years back.

There are some places in evangelicalism where it is safe to think independently and speak one’s mind.  Yet, as Michael says, “There are still doors in Christendom where the truth needs to be nailed, and some of them aren’t far away from where you are.”  In an age where it is becoming increasingly dangerous to say that Golden Showers, Stormy Daniels, shithole countries, grab ’em by the %&*@#!!, “they are animals”, and all the rest is not the heart of Jesus Christ for our nation and for the world–this post is just as timely and relevant as ever.

Read:  What You Can’t Say Around Other Christians by Michael Spencer

Evangelical Trump Supporters: You Have a Choice to Make

Today I give you an instance of the Church being taken to task–hard–and very much deservedly so–by the world.

By this point all of the Donald Trump supporters have long since left the room, so I feel reasonably safe in sharing this.

Evangelical Trump supporters:  You had a difficult choice this past election.  I will grant you that.  I wish there was some way both those jokers could have lost.  Some of you may have had legitimate concerns–economic concerns stemming from the loss of American manufacturing jobs and the devastation this has wrought upon certain areas of the country, national security concerns stemming from the Paris terror attacks of 2015 and other similar incidents and a fear that lax immigration policies like those typically favored by Democrats could lead to similar incidents here on American soil.  I could go on.

But an alarming number of you are still with Donald Trump, still hanging on his every word, still very much in his corner.  I will be honest:  If you are still with Donald Trump after Golden Showers, Stormy Daniels, shithole countries, grab ’em by the %@#!!* and all the rest, then you have completely and totally forfeited every last shred of moral authority you may have once possessed to tell me I can’t cuss, have a beer, or kiss a girl before I’m married to her, or that I am a godless liberal atheist who is bound for hell if I do not believe in a literal six-day creation.

This MSNBC video (all the Donald Trump supporters who have long since left the room would scream “FAKE NEWS!!!!!!!!!!”) lays it out there plainly:  You can continue to hang on every word of Donald Trump, or you can believe the words of Jesus Christ.  The choice is yours.

 

Dan Brennan on Friendship-Based Egalitarianism

Today I direct your attention to a post by Dan J. Brennan on cross-sexual friendships in the world of egalitarian evangelicalism.  The Bill Hybels scandal brought to light a huge anxiety in the world of egalitarian evangelicalism:  Men are just not willing to practice one-on-one friendships with women that involve genuine openness, vulnerability, and sharing of power.  Evangelicals generally have no conception of any such cross-sexual relationships unless sex and/or romance is involved, thus fueling the anxiety:  There is no possible way to have that sort of relationship with the opposite sex outside the bounds of marriage without it ending the way it did for Bill Hybels.  In this post and in others in the series, part 2 and part 3, Brennan critiques this anxiety, which he goes so far as to call “benevolent sexism”, and lays out a case for deep, intimate, one-on-one friendship with the opposite sex.

Read:  Friendship as a Foundation: Moving Beyond Bill Hybels and Anxious Egalitarianism by Dan J. Brennan

“Biblical” Christianity vs. Basic Humanity

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.

–Luke 14:1-6

Jesus and the Pharisees were frequently at odds with each other.  The Pharisees were a renewal movement that emerged sometime between the return from Babylon and the first century AD.  They believed that strict observance of the Law would bring about the national salvation of Israel:  God would send the Messiah to deliver Israel from her foreign oppressors and establish His kingdom for eternity.

In this interaction, and in many others as well, the Pharisees’ primary concern was the sanctity of the Sabbath.  Failure to keep the Sabbath was one of the primary reasons why Israel was exiled to Babylon; the biblical writers refer to the exile as a time during which the land had rest from all those missed Sabbaths.  When the Israelites returned from exile, they basically said, “Never again!!!!!  By God, we are going to buckle down and get this Torah thing right even if it kills us!!!!!”  Somewhere along the line, the Pharisees emerged as the vanguard of this effort.

Keeping the Sabbath was a big deal to the Pharisees.  At some point they went through and spelled out in painstaking detail all the specific types of “work” you could and could not do on the Sabbath.

It is commonplace to criticize the Pharisees for being hypocritical, for elevating their own man-made traditions above the Word of God, or for adding a multitude of man-made rules in their attempts to interpret Scripture.  All of these criticisms are legitimate, yet they miss the point.

You see, the Pharisees were the most “biblical” people in all of Israel.  They made their living by studying and interpreting Scripture (their Scripture would be our Old Testament).  The expectation was that their superior knowledge of Scripture would help them recognize the Messiah when he came, and under their guidance Israel would welcome him.

In this instance (and in many others) they were “biblically” correct, yet completely and totally bankrupt when it came to real life.  They had a real, live human being in desperate need of healing standing before them, but their concern for the sanctity of the Sabbath blinded them to his need and made them unable to celebrate his healing when Jesus did heal him.  It made them unable to answer simple questions of basic human care and concern.

Jesus asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?”  The answer is as obvious as the nose in front of your face.  Of course you would.  If you are a decent human being–or a human being at all–you don’t even have to think about this.  You already know.

Yet the Pharisees were speechless.

Some things, you don’t need chapter and verse for.

Some things, you already know.

If you are a decent human being–or a human being at all–you already know.

And now we come to a post which appeared on Mere Orthodoxy this past week.  It is an article about how the #metoo movement is coming to the SBC.  The jumping-off point is Paige Patterson and some excruciatingly wrong-headed counsel he gave to a woman in a troubled marriage.  Thankfully, the author recognizes it as such and takes Patterson to task for it, as he–and any other decent human being–rightly should.

But the whole thing goes south from there.  Faced with Patterson’s excruciatingly wrong-headed counsel, the burning question then becomes, “And yet can he be proved wrong using Scripture?”  What follows is a lengthy theological analysis of the biblical grounds for divorce.  Does physical/emotional abuse qualify as “abandonment” according to the relevant texts?  What if one spouse is a believer and the other not?  How does that change things?  What if we saw the abuse as unrepented sin requiring church discipline?  If the abuser persists, does he now, in this sense, become an unbeliever, thereby allowing the relevant texts on divorce to come into play?

Some things, you don’t need chapter and verse for.

Some things, you already know.

If the child or ox falls into a well, get them out and get them the medical attention they need.

And if a woman shows up at your church with black eyes and says that her husband has been beating her, tell her to get the hell out of there.  Find her a safe place to stay.  Advocate for her.  Get law enforcement involved.  Get her medical help if she needs it.  Help her get a divorce if she needs it to keep herself and/or her children safe.  Be with her and be there for her over the long haul, however long it takes.  Help her heal and put her life back together, to whatever extent that is possible.

You don’t need chapter and verse for this.  You already know.

If you’re a decent human being–or a human being at all–you already know.

Michael Spencer: Grace Is As Dangerous As Ever

Today I direct your attention to another Michael Spencer post.

In the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8), criticism of the Pharisees tends to center around the hypocrisy of their accusing the woman without the man present, or the double standard inherent in their holding the woman more accountable for sexual sin.  Both are valid criticisms, yet they miss the point.  The point of this story is Jesus’ understanding of God and his purposes, which stands in stark contrast to that of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were a renewal movement seeking to achieve the national salvation of Israel via zealous keeping of the Law.  Jesus directs their focus away from the behavior of one particular woman to a much wider view of the universal sinfulness of all humanity and the fact–which ought to be mind-blowing to them and to anyone else–that God is in covenant with a sinful people who is in constant dependence upon his mercy, that God has been in the business of authoring redemption for sinful people since long before there ever was a Law.

When the quality of God’s mercy in the Gospel no longer amazes you, you will begin to justify the dilution of amazing grace into religious grace, or moral grace, or grace in response to something.

Real grace is simply inexplicable, inappropriate, out of the box, out of bounds, offensive, excessive, too much, given to the wrong people and all those things.

When God’s grace meets us, Jesus has to order away the accusers of our conscience. Satan. Religion. Parents. Church members. Culture. Morality. Legalism. Civility. The oughts. The shoulds. The of course we know thats. The I’d like to but I just can’ts.

Jesus orders them away so he can tell us that grace is doing what only grace can do, and we must go and live in the reverberation of forgiveness. We must live with the reality of grace when it makes no sense at all, can’t be explained and won’t be commodified or turned into some form of medicine.

You may not know that this story is a bit of a homeless story, banging around various manuscripts of the New Testament with no real home. It comes to rest in John 8, but it’s not part of the original. It’s a story that the Jewish leaders of early Christianity wouldn’t have liked, and recovering Pharisees would probably have been happy to lose it.

But it persisted, and is in our New Testament, I believe, because at the heart of true Christian experience is this inexplicable, annoyingly inappropriate, wondrously superlative experience of Jesus saying, “I don’t condemn you. Go and live your life.”

He says it to the divorced. To the expelled. To the unemployed. He says it to criminals. To perverts. To the damaged and the worthless. He says it to cutters, to whores, to greedy businessmen, to unfaithful husbands, to porn addicts and thieves. He says it to the lazy, the unholy, the confused and even the religious. He says it to you and to me.

It’s how he changes lives, and it’s as dangerous as ever.

Read:  Grace Is As Dangerous As Ever by Michael Spencer

Michael Spencer: You Need to Get Rid of Some of Your Theology

Today I direct your attention to a Michael Spencer post from a few years back.  Many of us have, without realizing it, taken on board a lot of bad theology in the course of our Christian journey.  When things don’t work out the way we believe they ought, we have a choice:  We can deny what is happening in and around us and just keep going, or we can throw out some theology.

Read:  You Need to Get Rid of Some of Your Theology by Michael Spencer