Thursday, December 24, 2009

the religion of America

The United States is a very unique place to live. Like other countries we feel that our country is the best. Like other countries we see things from our point of view - what's best for us is a common thought process. Like other countries we exert our opinions and sometimes our will on other countries. And like other countries we want God to Bless America (insert your country here).


Do we have exclusive rights to his blessing? Are we godlier or somehow holier than other peoples of the world? Well, our country was founded on Christian ideals. Was it?

We hold these truths to be self-evident. . .life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Do you recognize this? A little blurb from one of our founding documents. Out of these values grows our national religion. Let me explain.

It is clear to me that Americans believe that we have "inalienable rights" that are to be protected at all costs. We are willing to suspend other values for the protection of these rights.

The vision of the current war was that once "they" get a taste of freedom "they" will want it as badly as we do. Unfortunately, we have taken a lot of lives as payment toward this hope (which unfortunately is not materializing).

We get angry and protest when the ACLU tries to "un-Christianize" something, like school prayer, Christmas or the ten commandments in court houses. We protect our rights at all costs.

We foam at the mouth when laws are advanced to give homosexuals the right to marriage. We have a right to keep marriage amongst us heterosexuals (because that's the way Jesus wants it, now honey please sign this pre-nup).

I've come up with a doctrinal statement for the religion of America. Here goes:

1. We believe that God has a law that we must obey and help others to obey by passing laws denoting what is good and what is bad moral behavior.

2. We have rights that we must protect, as giving them up would give Satan free reign to take our country away from us.

3. If we work hard, make wise decisions and obey God we have the right to a safe and comfortable lifestyle.

4. Our government's job is to preserve our way of life, recognizing that the religion of other countries is inferior to ours, thus making it acceptable (although sadly) to take foreign lives to preserve ours.

Let's compare. Jesus did not come as a law-giver. Jesus asks us to give up our rights for the good of others (even those we find distasteful). Jesus asks us to follow him in a lifestyle of serving, sacrificing and even suffering so those around us would know that they are loved.

No, the religion of America is not Christianity. It is nothing like Christianity. It is self-based. It is self-serving. It is self-help.

"Let's take America back for God" - don't bother. He doesn't want it, at least not on these terms.

Just some things we should talk about

The Other Christmas Story

Here in the physical world in the 21st century we have come to love our traditions and our spiritual concepts of Christmas. These concepts are developed from our line of sight into the spirit realm. We see as it were from one side of the picture. There is another side.

In the book of John's revelation, chapter 12, we have a record of the Nativity from a different perspective. I think this might be heaven's line of sight.

A woman who was very pregnant is seen in the spiritual realm (in the heavens). She is clothed with the sun and the moon, that is, she is beautiful and has much glory. At the birth of her son a dragon is present who wishes to destroy the child. The dragon is Satan; he hates the woman and he hates the child. With this perspective in mind it makes me wonder why Herod's massacre of the babies in Bethlehem is not part of our Christmas tradition. Who do you think was behind that atrocity? Joseph took his young family to Egypt and then came up out of Egypt just like the people of Israel leaving the oppresion of slavery fifteen hundred years before. This baby somehow is to be a second Moses, breaking the power of a violent Pharaoh who also massacred babies.

My point is that the Christmas story is a story set in violence. It is a comparison between this baby king and King Herod. It is a comparison between "peace on earth" and the Roman peace of the day. It is a comparison of power used to control and power used to serve. It is a conflict between the dragon (prime mover behind the power structures of this world) and the baby born in the heavens (the spiritual realm, which is unseen but more real than the seen realm).

I love my American culture (Elf with Will Ferrel is my peronal favorite). I just don't think that this American holiday of Merry Christmas has anything to do with the Nativity story.

Just some stuff we should talk about.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Are we a Christian Nation?

For quite some time now I have wondered what all the hating is about in the political discourse.

Why was George Bush hated so much when he was in office. Yeah, he had some folksy ways of expressing himself and he could not pronounce the word nuclear correctly. And for this he was ridiculed even though he is undeniably a very intelligent man. To this day those who hate him say he lied about weapons of mass destruction to get us into a war. The problem is that many other world leaders including President Clinton and foreign heads of state also were convinced that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Never mind that weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq and that Iraq had already used some of them on their own people. Those who hated Mr. Bush kept right on hating. Facts were not influential in the discourse.

President Obama is equally hated. There are those who are actively rooting for his failure and our subsequent failure as a nation because they hate what he stands for. It's as if new ideas only have merit if the right person comes up with the idea. When the wrong guy comes up with an idea it is dismissed immediately as dangerous for our country. Who knows if a national health care system will ultimately help the less priviledged in the long run. What I do know is that the present system is helping fewer and fewer people and costing more and more. So why not let a guy who talks a lot about hope and finding a better way have a shot at it? He can't do any worse than the last three or four guys. Oh, I forgot, he's gonna destroy our country - he's a liberal.

I think it is obvious that two major power blocks are vying for control of our country. And I think you would be hard pressed to proove that either one is "Christian".
This blog "Stuffweshouldtalkabout" has been running for a month now and I have a clearer focus on why I started it and what it is for.

1. This is a forum for truth seekers to exchange ideas in the interest of learning from each other the truth about how our world works.

2. How we hold discussions, how we sort through ideas to find the truth - these are as important as our conclusions. For instance, do we know the difference between what we know to be fact and what we have an opinion on? Do we have the honesty in our personal convictions to allow Scripture to say what it says without importing our ideas about what we want it to say? Are we aware of how history has shaped our understanding of Christian theology and even our approach to what truth is?

3. And ultimately this blog exists to ask the question: Are we interested in following Jesus or just talking about following Jesus?

You see, I believe the world is built on power strutures that invite us to join them. Are you conservative or liberal? Are you a capitalist or a communist? Are you heterosexual or homosexual? Are you Christian or Muslim? Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you American or anti-American?

Jesus explicitly presents to us a different kingdom, a different set of values, a different power structure. In fact, you might just want to think of him as mister opposite. He constantly refused to join the conversation at a point given him by the power brokers of his day. Instead, choosing to introduce a distinctly unique and often radical other-worldly option.

Do we embrace or destroy sexual behavior we don't agree with? Jesus does neither. He protects the women caught in adultery. He loves her.

Do we ignore and avoid those who mistreat us or do we use our strength to exert some form of violence to stop those who are mistreating us? Jesus does neither. He asks the one who does injury to him if he would like to do it again, mocking the antagonists bad behavior and not allowing it to dictate to him his options for a response.

So I ask you, do the power structures mentioned above (conservative, liberal, captitalist, communist. . .) look like Jesus? If not, why are we so eager to join our support to their causes? Why do we settle for the choices that people who are not in love with Jesus give us? Can you name for me one power structure that existed in Jesus' day that he did not oppose? I see Jesus as a radical subordinate revolutionary. That is, he submitted to the authorities in the world he lived; at the same time offering a better way characterized by love, forgiveness, inclusion, service and sacrifice.

I don't think we are a Christian nation, but I think we could become a nation of Christians.

Just some stuff we should talk about.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I don't think that means what you think it means: part 2

Jesus' entire recorded life displays a value on peace and non-violence in such a way that it has grabbed my attention and arrested my theological development. He says, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves." (Luke 22:25-26)

Greg Boyd (a pastor from the St. Paul, Minn. area) refers to this teaching from Jesus as the conflict between "power over" and "power under". It is Boyd's assertion that there is nothing in the life of Jesus which would allow one of his followers to employ violence as a representative of the kingdom of heaven. Obviously, worldly powers like police forces and national armies would by their very existence demand the use of violence to accomplish their goals. Should I as a follower of Jesus participate in these vocations? Would I as a follower of Jesus have the same value system or goals as other soldiers or officers? Can I use violence even in a "good" cause and still claim solidarity with Jesus?

I am not sure that I can. Furthermore, I think the readiness with which we as Christians have aligned ourselves with political positions that the powers of our world have declared, weakens the church and draw us away from the "power under" model that Jesus lived. It's as if we settle for the choices that the world presents to us as the only viable positions on a subject.

Are you pro-life or pro-choice? I suspect the answer to that question is meaningless if the follower of Jesus is not ready to help a young pregnant woman in her time of need. As James says, "You can tell me what your faith is, but I will show you my faith by my deeds." Would I give of my time, energy, money, and family to support a confused teen through her decision to give birth or not, to keep the baby or not? What am I willing to do if I decide to love unwed mothers. Certainly, "power over" displays of picketing and harassing do not look like Jesus. "Power under" asks the question are you prepared to serve and sacrifice for young single moms.

Just something we should talk about.