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WE ARE NOT WAITING ON REVIVAL. REVIVAL IS WAITING ON US.

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WE ARE NOT WAITING ON REVIVAL. REVIVAL IS WAITING ON US.

People have been pleading with the ceiling for revival for decades. For as long as we've had this American culture of Christianity, they've been attempting to stoke this fire and make something happen. Something lasting and real. They've sung and prayed and wept for it. Hundreds and thousands and millions of them – at altars and in tents and stadiums, in conferences and crusades and every other kind of service imaginable, they've been crying out for revival. And it has never been enough. But they keep telling us to try again, try harder, pray more. And maybe this time our withholding God will answer. Maybe. (Judging by the past, though, probably not.) 

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Of Course You're "Worthy"

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Of Course You're "Worthy"

You hear a lot in Christian circles about how "unworthy" we are. You hear a lot of it in Christian music, too. And this idea of our unworthiness is one that's meant to champion God's goodness and grace... But it's misleading. It's misleading because, while God's love and goodness may not be something we have to earn or deserve, that doesn't mean we aren't "worthy" of it. Here's something important that we often forget when it comes to "worthiness": the one giving the gift is the one who decides whether the one receiving it is worthy.

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"DO CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD?" - And 5 Reasons Why

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"DO CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD?" - And 5 Reasons Why

When I hear Christians rail about the differences between "Allah" and "Yahweh," I have to wonder: When did this become the kind of question you can answer with two columns of verses chosen from different books? And when did it stop being the kind of question that can only be answered in the deepest recesses of a human heart? 

The real thing to realize here is that making Jesus exclusive in the way a lot of us do does not make him greater. It makes him smaller. A tiny God for a privileged few... Essentially, if you ignore the inclusiveness Jesus models - beyond any religious or non-religious affiliation - how can you be honoring him? You are "holding the line" in a battle you were never asked to wage. You are fighting over national borders while claiming to serve the King of the Universe. And when people trumpet John 14:6 to say "no one comes to the Father except through the Son," they are missing a crucial detail... It's Jesus' call. Which means... It's. Not. Yours.

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"TAKE UP YOUR CROSS" - A Glimpse Into The Politics of Jesus

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"TAKE UP YOUR CROSS" - A Glimpse Into The Politics of Jesus

The Imperial Order used the cross to accuse Jesus and many of his people of sedition, treason, insurrection... terrorism. And the early Christians wore that as a badge of honor. They submitted to it without violence or retaliation, and yet found the true victory. A powerful and unstoppable expression of Jesus' church expanded around them. The cross, for them, was a fellowship of sufferings. But for those Christians today moving to assert their power and cause suffering with the cross as their banner? ...My, how far we have come. 

So what happens next? 

That is entirely up to us. 

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#BLESSED: the pure in heart

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#BLESSED: the pure in heart

The following is part of a series of articles.
It is a satire.
The idea behind this series is simple: What if Jesus and his "blessed" statements - his Beatitudes - were being "collaborated" on by a modern Christian Public Relations Consultant?
Enjoy.

<<< (back) THE MERCIFUL

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

I HAVE A SURPRISE FOR YOU, JESUS! AND IT'S SUCH GOOD NEWS! Like, I'm talking gospel-good. 

What is it, you ask? Well, today, you will be super pleased to know that we have something happening here with this statement of yours that we haven't had happen before. And that something... is this: 

With this one, we don't technically need to change anything about
your words in order to keep seeing things the way we already do. 

Isn't that great? Let me just say that again: We don't need to change anything in order for us to see something different in your words than what you're saying... Son of man, I couldn't be more excited. It saves so much time!  

Of course, we can totally keep collaborating with you on what it means, and I can continue to walk you through why we've figured out some ways of doing things we've found to be more convenient... But, unlike the others, there are no automatic red flags for us in the words themselves. I gotta tell you, that's a load off! Some of the others were just so awkward until we fixed them. But this one here? Let's just say I feel reinvigorated. I was starting to think it might be best if we walked away from the Beatitudes entirely (the way we do some of your other stuff), but you made a believer out of me again, Jesus. You did good on this one - it's just general-sounding enough that we can see what we want to see in it without getting too bogged down in anything tricky. And we've done such a good job of redefining a lot of these sorts of simple terms that your meaning is already obscured to the average Christian! That's exactly what we're going for, Jesus. It sure saves us a lot of work!

I guess it's not always the words themselves that are always the problem... So today, I just want to deal with what you meant by them, and then see if we can't work together to find something better. 

So "pure in heart," huh? That sounds so nice. It just feels good, you know? You might even say this is the most foundational statement you made of the bunch, since how can anyone be or do any of the other things without this being the case? ...And I'm sure we agree on that much... But when it comes to the phrase itself, it might be best left alone in our time. Just kept as something kind of nice and flowery - something for people to look at and get a vague sense of that old timey faith of the American variety. When I see "pure in heart," I'd like to think you just mean "saved, but still trying to keep the rules, of course." But then I get to thinking about the way your Jewish people used words like "pure" or "clean," and how that had to do with ceremonial codes, and Moses' laws concerning defilement. And then it strikes me that you were drawing a sharp contrast to the Law when you said this - because the Law concerned outward appearances and rituals and technicalities concerning the body...

...And yet, here you are making it about the heart.

Once again, it's possible we're rocking the boat needlessly with stuff like that. It reminds me of your big, dramatic "woes" you pronounced on the Scribes and Pharisees (we should talk about those sometime as well, probably), and how you tell them their focus on the external is useless unless it stems naturally from a cleansing within... Problem is, that is so much harder for, say, my church leadership team to figure out with people. The religious culture of your day saw God's blessing as being with those who were ceremonially clean or privileged to become so. This of course marginalized and made outcasts of a lot of other people: anyone not Jewish, women in general, the sick and handicapped, lepers, shepherds, etc.

So when you say "the pure in heart are blessed," you're upending that whole system... And you're kind of making it hard for religion to maintain its hierarchy and designations in the process, because you're challenging the in-grouping and out-grouping we love to do towards everyone. Are you sure that's a good idea? Because it doesn't seem like you thought it through. 

I may not agree with all the people marginalized by the Jewish system in your time, but I still think we Christians need some room for that structure! I mean, sure, THEY were a bit weird in who they picked on... but WE have settled into much better ideas of who to pick on! Problem solved! The real thing at issue here is that we need to be realistic! You can't just say "God's solidarity is with those determined by something only God can see (the heart)." And you can't just say "anyone with the heart for it has perfect access to God apart from temples and services." Where would that leave us as Christian authorities? You have to throw us a bone here! 

It's like you told the Samaritan woman at that well (which is also great stuff so long as we keep it vague and don't get too deep into the meaning of it): "Those who worship will will worship in spirit and in truth." You're shutting out the temple as being the most important thing there. Are you not aware that, to this day, we still really love our temples? We still think of church as the place we go to in order to be close to God. We still name our churches as though they were temples. We still refer to our church building as "God's house," for crying out loud... And none of that stuff is something we want to change. So if you're expecting your words to hit us in a way which makes us question those things we hold so dear? ...I wouldn't hold my breath.

The point is, we need to preserve some room for blessing to be on the "pure" in all the typical Christian ways. Things we can see and recognize, Jesus. Like a youth group kid who got rid of all his "secular" music, and only watches mindless movies with easy ratings, and who doesn't swear and always shows up on Sundays, and who feels really horrible all the time whenever he slips and does anything we've deemed wrong... NOW THAT IS SOME PURITY WE CAN GET BEHIND! Or how about "purity rings" worn by Christian girls all over to remind them every day that all that matters about them is their sexuality? How about "purity balls?" Again, that is the kind of purity we're after. The kind we can see. Where your idea of the "pure in heart" sounds nice, our idea of "the pure in external behaviors we deem essential regardless of heart" is certainly better. The sorts of things we're looking for are way easier to evaluate and control than all the stuff you're thinking of when you talk about a pure heart transforming a person anyway. The "reckless love, compassion, generosity, speaking the truth to power and making yourself of no reputation for the sake of those on the margins" stuff? Save it for the missions trips, Jesus! We have some regular life to attend to here. 

Anyway, I think you need to be careful when you veer too much toward making things about the posture of a heart rather than the outward observances and technicalities we've worked so hard to cultivate. That's all.

We have always liked seeing God's blessing with the ritually pure people who do a good job of keeping our rules. I don't see that changing any time soon. 

Speaking of "seeing," we should address your "for they will SEE God" part of this one as well. I had a hunch about what you were thinking... but I also had a hunch that we don't need it to be understood that way. 

You'll never believe this - I actually dusted off the old language study tools and looked up the original Greek word for "see" because I wanted to be sure. I remember from my studying days that a lot of simple English words like "see" can come from a large number of Greek words.

I was a bit disappointed to find that the language materials only confirmed my suspicion: the word you're using means "to gaze with eyes wide open at something remarkable." And you're putting that out there, as something which comes from just a heart posture in the here and now? Yeah... we can't have that. We can't have people expecting to see God like that now... You'd be placing that level of vision outside the control or approval of Christianity and church services, which we already touched on. I'm fine with people catching a glimpse of God during my sermons or during the music or whatever - but never so much so that they don't still believe they need more us to see more of you. For another thing, you don't want people getting too hopeful for the present anyway. As you probably know, we try to hope more in the future only. We see the kingdom less as "at hand" and more as "someday when we're all dead." 

That's why we like to take the promise "they will see God," and kind of just make it about "going to heaven" or something.  

So it's like I said earlier: Your words are fine if we leave them alone and just sort of gloss over them with people. But if you start thinking about them or their implications too much, they are way too inclusive and universal. It boxes us out from what we love doing so much in taking on the role of determining who's in the club and who's not. And when we keep that role to ourselves, well... that's how we get to verify who sees God and who doesn't. You're the VIP in this club, Jesus! You don't want just anyone hanging around your VIP table, right! It's all you, man. All for your glory. 

Well, I didn't think it would come to this, but I guess we should just go ahead and fix the words themselves too, just in case anyone starts poking around, looking for what they mean: 


#BLESSED are the people who are "saved" but still trying really hard in themselves to keep the rules anyway, for they will go to heaven when they die. And #BLESSED are the promise keepers and outwardly pure within and according to religious culture, for they will set the agenda on how everyone else is supposed to see God... and by "see God," once again we mostly mean "go to heaven," and not so much "become radically, jaw-droppingly, eyes-wide aware of the Divine presence all around them." 


...So much for what I said earlier! That was harder than I thought.

It actually ended up being more work than the others! But at least we got through it. Maybe we'll catch a break with the next one... I'll see you then! 

CONTINUE TO 7) THE PEACEMAKERS >>>

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#BLESSED: the merciful

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#BLESSED: the merciful

The following is part of a series of articles.
It is a satire.
The idea behind this series is simple: What if Jesus and his "blessed" statements - his Beatitudes - were being "collaborated" on by a modern Christian Public Relations Consultant?
Enjoy.

<<< (back) THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTICE

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Well, well, well! Mercy is awesome! Seems like this might turn out to be our easiest collaboration of all! We'll see how it goes, but I think we're totally on the same wavelength here... Mostly... Pretty much... Maybe...

...Kinda. 

I would just remind you right from the start that I am always on board with the Let's not get too carried away principle. 

That said, let's start with the good: I'm just a sinner saved by grace, man. I hold that over my head every day. And I need mercy all the time - especially from my smokin' hot wife! It's funny, 'cause often, I'm completely insensitive and unavailable at home, and she gets so frustrated! I tell the stories to my congregation. They think it's hilarious and cute how contentious our marriage is. So yeah, I'd say I'm very familiar with this one, Jesus. A mindset of compassion, a willingness to show pity, a posture of mercy... Not only is this stuff great at home, it can make for great sermon material as well! I know I have used it effectively many times. 

In Evangelical circles, we like to define mercy as "not getting what you deserve." The thing is, while we talk about your mercy for us pretty much all the time, we comparatively never talk about our collective mercy as a people when it comes to how we respond to others. 

If we do talk about our own need to be merciful, we prefer to keep it close to home. Like, literally close to home - as in solely within the home environment, where no one else can really see it or evaluate it. We all go through tough times with our families and friends, Jesus. People get hurt. And I'm with you there: Mercy is a great remedy in these cases. 

At the same time, I know you don't expect us to champion something as anemic as compassion when it comes down to how we behave within our context of Americaland... right? I mean, when you want to say something powerful, doesn't it make the most sense to use power? Plus, at the national level, it's always easy to distance ourselves from the actions of our government any time that becomes the more convenient thing to do. 

But why build a bridge when you can build a wall? We have it pretty good here. We strive to be model citizens in a nation that doesn't just give its enemies what we believe they deserve, but a whole lot more. We pay them back with interest, because that's how they know we mean business! The Jews thought of "an eye for an eye" as a limitation on punishment... We like to think of it more as a demand for escalation and retaliation. A way to one-up the aggressors and show them who's boss! 

I'm just thankful that, amidst all of the institutionalized genocide, slavery and rape, our forefathers had the good sense to found the nation on Christian values! ...Ahh, simpler times. The good ol' days.

Our government may be built of people like us, and people like us might be the driving force behind its most ruthless policies of aggression and retribution (and even preemption and instigation), but come on. What else do you expect? Something markedly different? Do you expect that the one who's been forgiven much should love much? I think you'll understand my hesitation when it comes to being merciful at that level, because mercy is far too dangerous and reckless whenever it actually might cost us something to walk in it.

And for me to suggest that as a pastor? ...Let's just say that it's not something I want to be rocking the boat over, Jesus. I would lose my job.

So we keep it simple: We absolutely love that you're merciful to us... We just don't see what that has to do with how we relate to any other group of people, that's all. Other people can reap what they sow. The alternative is too scary.  

Don't get me wrong, the mercy stuff is beautiful, and - like I said - I get some of my best material from it! But at the same time, it's also just like what you say about loving our enemies… entirely impractical and naive, and we don’t believe in its power to change enemies into friends anyway. So there's that too. I certainly wouldn't be caught dead thinking mercy was a good idea to show to more than one person at a time! And the idea that God is in solidarity with such people, declaring their way of being beautiful? Don't you think that's a bit much? The thing is, it implies a lot about everyone else. People could easily get the wrong idea and think God doesn't equally declare the ruthless and merciless "blessed" too... And then we'd have a lot of people unemployed, since being like that is what a lot of our best-paying jobs require! 

And then you say the merciful will be shown mercy... but I'm not sure about that conclusion. It's a hard sell. I don't know much of anyone who's willing to put that to the test. It's not the sort of thing you want to risk leaving up to chance, you know? So we should definitely pull back on the intensity of what you're saying the result of mercy is. I think we can do better than just "more mercy," don't you?

So to recap - what I would add to what you're saying here is this: mercy is fine in our “individual lives” - to an extent - but I don't think we should be allowing it to inform our behavior as a group, even though that is how you’re saying it here. I'm not being inconsistent, either. In general, we've taken everything you spoke to us collectively and applied it solely to individuals. That's like our whole thing. It's more about consumers than community. It's how you went from being Lord of the nations and inaugurated king of the world to being a "personal lord and savior" and king of heaven and earth (but only once the world ends). 

And I also don't think I would put much hope in our mercy helping to form merciful response from other people, because no one wants to be the first to try that out. 

I saw somewhere else where you were upset with the Jewish scripture experts and religious leaders, and you were telling them how weird it was that they paid so much attention to things like tithing, but neglected the weightier and more important things... like mercy. I wanted to double check on that while we were on this subject, since I know you can't still be thinking that would apply to us... right? I'm so thankful I'm a Christian leader and not a Jewish one, and "It's not religion, it's a relationship," so none of that stuff applies to me. What a load off! Grace is so good! 

For me, the bottom line is what it is. I'm all for mercy defining our human existence, and I know my congregation (and most Christians in general) would agree. We would love to live in a world free of violent escalation and legal retaliation and all the rest. We would love to live in a world where no one repaid evil for evil, and we all responded with mercy... We would love it. But the thing is, we don't really believe you. We don't really believe you that it can or should happen this side of eternity.

And so, we'll just have to wait for heaven, Jesus. And even if it could happen before then, it needs to start with someone else. Not us.  

Anyway, let’s go with this instead: 


#BLESSED are those who are merciful within the safe confines of their own individual lives and toward their own personal connections, for they will remain exempt from showing mercy as a community toward other peoples. And as they attempt to cultivate mercy only in their detached homes and very seldom as a community, they will yet wonder why other people continue to act aggressively toward them as a group when they're so individually decent, and they will continue to claim God is more merciful to them because they believed the right things and said the right prayers.


Alright, so maybe it wasn't as easy or quick a collaboration as I had first thought, but we got some great work done today! I will catch up with you later to help figure out this whole "pure in heart" thing.

CONTINUE TO 6) THE PURE IN HEART >>>

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#BLESSED: those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice

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#BLESSED: those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice

The following is part of a series of articles.
It is a satire.
The idea behind this series is simple: What if Jesus and his "blessed" statements - his Beatitudes - were being "collaborated" on by a modern Christian Public Relations Consultant?
Enjoy. 

<<< (back) THE MEEK

"BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS AND JUSTICE, FOR THEY WILL BE SATISFIED."

Ahh! So sweet. You're making me nostalgic, Jesus. See, when I was a kid, I always loved when the missionaries would visit us at church. They would tell great stories of the people they worked with and served, and we would get all worked up into a frenzy! Between their passionate pleas (and a little well-timed guilt), we would feel so "on fire" for the work being done. How lovely that this is what they did with their lives! We were so glad to receive updates before going back to our American lives outside the mission field. 

As I grew up, I began to see that Americaland was a mission field too! But not in the sense of practically loving and serving and being with people - more in the sense of talking people into agreeing with doctrines about God, or voting a certain way, or being a culture within its own bubble so that people know they can come to us when they're ready. I also realized that it's important to know my apologetics so that I always win an argument. You gotta have an answer for everything! And I tell people the TRUTH whether they want to hear it or not! Ahh... I've grown so much!

I still think it's good to have our missionaries remain concerned with taking care of people in the third world... But to me, it's clear that we have no need of the same here. I just don't think systemic injustices - cycles of violence, inequity, inequality or poverty - could ever apply in the good ol' US of A! If people have a problem here, they're probably just lazy, and they shouldn't be getting any handouts. We need to be more concerned with not enabling people than we are with taking care of their practical needs. When they're ready to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and conform to our standards, the church [bubble] will be waiting for them, and ready to hear that testimony! 

Sure, it's nice to leave all your ideas going on... elsewhere. Across an ocean or something. But we don't need it to define who we are or even be the signpost of who we are becoming. Especially not in our politics... Man, keep the social justice causes away from Christian politics! That is just a non-starter for us Evangelicals. You won't get anywhere. And I'm not so sure you need to. We're just fine doing things our own way! If you want to keep your fans, listen to me and listen to me good on this one, Jesus. You don't want a platform of this social justice stuff. They will crucify you out there! 

That's the way I see it, and I think you'd totally agree: There is simply no need to look over our own context to see how we can best enact righteousness. If I take your meaning biblically, I know "righteousness" implies right relationship - that is, harmonious, intimate connection to all things. In the Bible, that was equated with a covenant faithfulness in both testaments, and its aim was toward social justice and ethics, sometimes called "jubilee" or "the kingdom of God." ...See, I'm already confusing myself, and I'm a pastor! The regular people don't stand a chance to understand these ideas if an expert has no taste for them! It's more than they can handle! I wouldn't even attempt to let them know this stuff and see what they do with it! There's just no point. And that's why I'm bringing you up to speed. Bottom line: I guess we've moved on. The Reformation got all this stuff figured out already, and those guys seemed to think differently than you. When we say "righteousness" now, we're usually just referring to something intangible off somewhere else. It's a detached thing that doesn't have much gravity for us. 

So let's remove the "righteousness" part from the equation. It just confuses things. 

Now, "hungering and thirsting" on its own, I have no problem with. You'll be pleased to know that we are all about that! We're stoking an appetite all the time! Hungry for more of the God we're dispensing! Thirsty for more of our services! People need more of God, and they're going to get that in our programs! If they feel dependent on their leaders to give them a massive emotional response that they can consume each week, we've done our jobs... I'll admit, what we have going is hard to jibe with what you were saying to the Samaritan woman at the well - all that stuff about living waters and not thirsting anymore? Yeah, I don't get it... We'll have to maybe fix THAT later too. 

Which brings me to the "satisfied" part of your statement. I think it's too strong. Filled up entirely? Nah. Gotta leave that door open. Studies have statistically shown that there is a certain way to do faith if you want the people to keep bringing their butts to the seats. What we've found to be most effective is to simultaneously downplay the cause of justice WHILE groveling for “more of God.” Your suggestion is more along the lines that we will find God in the causes of justice and restoration. We can't risk that. 

We must always be kept hungering and thirsting in a way that spiritually keeps us going in circles - addicted to recovery, restoration, recklessness and wreck... Rinse and repeat. 

We come to "the altar." We "pray the prayer" again, hoping it "sticks" this time or we can get more saved. To that end, we can never truly be satisfied, because that might drive us to get outside of ourselves and our religious cycle. It might transform us in ways that are truly contrary to the broken systems of this world… Which would be like your version of righteousne--

--OH... I see what you did there. Tricky! I'll give you points for that. You almost got me. Anyway, I guess we have to nix the "satisfied" part too. Let's just really hammer that hungering and thirsting stuff, cool? 

...THAT WAS QUITE A BIT THAT NEEDED FIXING! WHEW! HERE'S WHERE WE'VE LANDED TODAY:


#BLESSED are those who are well-adjusted to injustice, who hope only in "thy kingdom come" but not "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." May they remain detached from the concerns of this world. And #BLESSED are those who are also always crying out for MORE from (an apparently withholding) God. May they never be satisfied to the point where they stop feeling thirsty and hungry or like they need to get "saved" again. 


Well, we're just about halfway through this collaboration. I can't believe how much we've already gotten done. Are you psyched to tackle "the merciful" next? I know I am! Until next time, Jesus! 

 

CONTINUE TO 5) THE MERCIFUL >>>

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#BLESSED: the meek

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#BLESSED: the meek

The following is part of a series of articles.
It is a satire.
The idea behind this series is simple: What if Jesus and his "blessed" statements - his Beatitudes - were being "collaborated" on by a modern Christian Public Relations Consultant?
Enjoy. 

<<< (back) THOSE WHO MOURN

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

...

...

......Hmm. See, I feel like this may be a recurring theme in our consultations. What you're getting at here reminds me of the whole unfortunate "poor in spirit" thing that we had to flip around for your own good. We don't really use the word "meek" too much in english these days, but Webster had my back, and it was just as I thought: You're saying God stands in solidarity with the patiently humble and gentle. I gotta tell you, Jesus, I'm just glad I came on board to help with these things before it was too late.

This whole, well, obsession I'm seeing in your gospels with weakness (of all things) really leaves me scratching my head. Becoming the least to be the greatest? Voluntarily making yourself the lesser? I mean, that stuff is kind of a huge downer. This idea of having power UNDER the authorities, too - I can tell you right now - it's a big problem for me, and for other Christians all over. Gentleness and mildness are no good way to inherit much of anything, if you think about it, let alone the whole earth! And general passivity? That's just, like, eww. 

To inherit anything requires the kind of power and authority that says, "This is mine. I claim it. It's my birthright." Those are words of conquest! They are not the domain of the docile!

I want you to imagine something with me for just a second:

Imagine if there was an action movie that featured the MEEK coming to take over the earth... 

Ha! Instant flop at the box office! ...It would never work, because the meek don't demand respect and don't inspire fear, and commanding respect and fear is everything in motivating the way of this world. I know that you instruct people to not be afraid more than anything else, and I suppose I can handle that much... But it's the telling people not to cause fear that has me saying, "Slow down, buddy! We have to set some healthy boundaries!" Myself, I always thought serenity was overrated anyway. 

It's a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest world out there. That's just the way of things. And if you encourage people to be fearless in this world while submitting themselves to it with patient humility and gentleness, you will not have any followers left within a generation! Mark my words. I care about you, Jesus, I'm just being real. I love that you're a dreamer (really, it blesses my socks off), but I wouldn't be your friend if I didn't tell you the truth: you're coming across as a bit naive on this one. 

So let's put aside this idea that you can shift our perspective or paradigm on something like this. We don't want to see everything differently. (I know, I know - that's exactly what you mean when you call us to "repentance," but worry not: we've already changed the meaning of that word too, so it just makes us feel all religious and guilty when we hear it.) What I'd like to suggest is that you shift this blessing you've offered to the meek, and shift it onto the people who are ready to face this world on its own terms. Claim blessing instead for those who are not under the silly idea that they need to subvert this world with any sort of revolutionary Way of being. If we don't switch this one up and bless the abrasive and forceful, we won't be taken seriously! How are we supposed to generate a cult of personality around the meek? How are the meek going to run the kind of successful financial organization that it takes to buy up mass quantities of land so that we can put huge megachurches on it? That's what you want us to do with the earth we inherit, right? (Well, that and remind each other that "it's all gonna burn," of course.)

Driscoll have mercy, Jesus! You're making this difficult on me today! ...Ahh. I just love you, brother. You crack me up! 

But anyway... At this point, I think we've gone such a long time thinking gentleness was weakness rather than strength, and that meekness was cowardice rather than courage... It's just not very realistic to expect us to stop seeing everything that way. We have always liked big demonstrations of power and authority. They really cast a spell, don't they? Why change now?

You'll be glad to know... We are down with some "humility," so long as that continues to mean "talking about how bad we are in order to appear spiritual." We'll definitely meet you halfway if that's the sort of humility we're dealing with here. We like the humility that means "thinking less of ourselves," not so much the humility that means "thinking of ourselves less." 

All that said... this one is an easy fix.


#BLESSED are the bold! The brash, the abrasive - those who never back down and who claim what is rightfully theirs when they want it - for they shall build the better institutions! Unyielding and relentless, they shall take the earth all on their own! Who wants to wait humbly and patiently for an inheritance? The strong don’t need handouts! These folks are exceptional. They have initiative. 


Wow, we are really making some great progress here! I'll take a look at what you have for us tomorrow, and then make some of my own notes. See you then! 

CONTINUE TO 4) THOSE WHO HUNGER AND THIRST FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS
>>>

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#BLESSED: those who mourn

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#BLESSED: those who mourn

The following is part of a series of articles.
It is a satire.
The idea behind this series is simple: What if Jesus and his "blessed" statements - his Beatitudes - were being "collaborated" on by a modern Christian Public Relations Consultant?
Enjoy. 

<<< (back) THE POOR IN SPIRIT

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Let me put you at ease with this one, Jesus. You'll be glad to know that we don't need to go in an entirely different direction the way we did last time. I think this one is salvageable! We just have to place enough conditions and contingencies on it to... tame it a bit. The reason, of course, is that I want to ensure people don't abuse what you're saying and take it too far. I love your idealism - I really do - I'm just here to run interference for you, buddy! Part of my job is to let you know, there are a lot of people out there who, it seems, just want to mourn. It's to the point where they tend to get in the way of ministry with their mourniness. So it's not your statement that scares me, but the application of it. 

We definitely want to keep our services safe from these sorts of people. Whether those who have gone through something terrible and just aren't getting over it as quickly as we'd like them too, or those who are simply sad too often, or even just the generally melancholy (maybe they have a hard time normalizing themselves to the tragedies and evils of this world, I don't know, whatever the case may be) - they can't take precedence over the more important stuff we're doing in spiritual community. We have programs to run! And programs are hard to run when they're being disrupted.

So this mourning-being-met-with-comfort-thing... It's okay to an extent, but we can’t get too carried away. It can't disrupt the general flow of our services. It can't get in the way of the kind of musical and sermonizing environment we're shooting for. If we have too much of that, it will upset the show. That's why I'm thinking we probably just need some fine print to what you're saying here. Some stern qualifications to constantly remind people of. That way, when tragedy strikes them, they will feel guilty if they make too much of a scene with their grief and anguish. A little religious anxiety never hurt anyone, and hey, a lot of these people are struggling with anxiety already! At least it's familiar territory for them.

Let’s face it: there are many people who simply refuse to "pray through it" or "count it all joy." I mean, seriously, "clinical depression?" Sounds more like a spiritual warfare problem, am I right?

What we can do to work with your statement here is use other scriptures and religious clichés to diminish what you're saying. We can over-qualify it and water it down to the point where it doesn't have anything too bold or dangerous to say. (This is a particularly effective tool with people who already submit everything you have to say to the rest of scripture, rather than using you as the lens through which they view all the other things. So believe me - they are primed and ready to be fine with what I'm talking about.)

Ultimately, we want Evangelical Christianity to carry the distinct culture of a people who feel like they've done something wrong if they get too "mourny" (or are mourny for too long). 

If they can't "give it to God" in a reasonable amount of time, maybe they should isolate themselves from the group so they're not too much of a distraction. We want people who see themselves as "blessed" when they come through the sadness of their trials and tribulations... Not so much when they're in the midst of them. If they sense the presence and favor and solidarity of God from inside their hurt and pain, that might encourage them to stay in mourning as long as it takes to process their grief and loss! And you never know how long that might be. 

So let’s take what you said and make it a bit safer, like this:


#BLESSED are those who mourn -- a bit, within reason -- who can totally be comforted -- for a time... but who are careful not to mourn like “those who have no hope,” because we expect them to show us their “peace that surpasses understanding” pretty quickly no matter what horrific and devastating thing happens to them. True pain and loss make us uncomfortable, and we can’t have too much of that, or church just gets too awkward. 


And, that said, I'm glad to have collaborated again on one of these! I can't wait to tackle the next one tomorrow! They're turning out great, aren't they? It's so great to make your name famous, Jesus! It's all about you, and your glory... 

CONTINUE TO 3) THE MEEK >>>

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#BLESSED: the poor in spirit

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#BLESSED: the poor in spirit

The following is part of a series of articles.
It is a satire.
The idea behind this series is simple: What if Jesus and his "blessed" statements - his Beatitudes - were being "collaborated" on by a modern Christian Public Relations Consultant?
Enjoy. 

<<< (back) INTRODUCTION

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”

Alright, Jesus. Let me just sort of pinpoint you here. Where you’re saying “the poor in spirit”, I’m going to have to suggest right off the bat that we just go… kind of… completely in the opposite direction with this one. I mean - let’s be real - spiritual poverty is just… awkward. And you’re not exactly inspiring a lot of confidence if you say the kingdom belongs to these people. Look around you! The really successful ministries are based around an entirely different sort of people! They are confident pretty much always! And if you want an institution of religiosity that will stand the test of time, you really want to look to them for direction, don’t you?

We Christians have it down to a science! Our CEO-pastors have all the answers, and they are pretty good at simplifying everything - from theology, to politics, to whatever else... So long as it motivates people to be more sure of themselves and less open to truth from any source they aren't already comfortable with, we've done our job. We can't have honest dialog because it shatters the control we've worked so hard to maintain over the people. And we can’t be celebrating those who are open with their doubts and faults, because that makes it seem like that sort of thing is okay. (I know you would never suggest something like that.) I'd point you again to the titans of our Christian culture, Jesus! If these confident, strapping men are not who the kingdom belongs to, then what hope would any of the droves bowing at their feet have? What I’m saying is, if anything, we need more people beating their chests and dominating the megaphone, not less! Spiritual power is as good as gold in spiritual richness. And pride has proven to be quite effective.

Now I've been looking over your gospels, buddy, and there's some cute stuff there for sure. Great work, really... But I'm also a bit concerned as someone who's been hired to help you frame this message. Believe me, I'm here for you, Jesus, but sometimes - I don't know where to start! I see you being asked 183 questions, and yet you only directly answer THREE of them? I mean, that right there is the start of your problem. And what you need to help with that problem is more reliance on reductive formula. Trust me, it works. It always works. 

To put it another way, poverty of spirit requires real and patient courage... And we've found that fear makes a better fuel for a quicker fix. Just get them being fearfully, unquestioningly, defiantly dogmatic and sure of themselves... and you've got yourself a real church going! 

What the people crave is for the American Dream to be synonymous with GOD'S dream! They want the great stories of overcomers who became financially successful and bought more toys because of their faith. They want to hear about real heroes! We've spent centuries instilling in them the idea that doubt is the opposite of faith, so for you to come along and tell them the opposite of faith is actually certainty... See, we've just worked too long and hard to let you change that definition. We have so much invested in it! 

So, instead of what you said, I’m going to suggest this: 


#BLESSED are the RICH in spirit (and the rich in everything else for that matter)! It is the confident, and charismatic who have the market cornered on the kingdom! And whatever it is that can be attained on this earth and seems valuable... It probably is. In fact, that stuff is what we’re going to refer to as “blessings” most of the time from now on, with the understanding that this is where we see God's favor and fortune with us… I know, I know - that’s what we were doing already before you made this statement, but see, well, we kinda liked it that way. 


That wasn’t so bad, now, was it? Looking forward to collaborating some more tomorrow! 

CONTINUE TO 2) THOSE WHO MOURN >>>

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"#BLESSED ARE THE..."

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"#BLESSED ARE THE..."

The pronouncement of blessings in what we call the "beatitudes" is how Jesus chooses to begin his lengthiest and most life-encompassing statement. 

Providing the introduction to the Sermon on the Mount, they are Jesus redefining what it means to be truly happy or fortunate, and they are the very foundation upon which the upside-downness of his kingdom rests. They are the root of what it means to grow with and towards God - a snapshot of the values of a people who see everything differently. They are what Jesus declares to be beautiful states of being... and it would seem to be... that we hate them.

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"I DID NOT COME TO ABOLISH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS..."

8 Comments

"I DID NOT COME TO ABOLISH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS..."

This is especially for anyone who has ever wondered how you can both honor the Old Testament AND honor the fact that Jesus presented a great challenge to it in how he revealed God.

If God had been perfectly depicted and known through the Old Testament, there would have been no reason for Jesus to come and make God known... So Jesus said he didn't come to abolish the Law and prophets? Yes, he did. But what he was not doing was insulating the Jews from having to approach everything they'd known in a brand new and revolutionary way... 

 

8 Comments

"GOD SAID IT. I BELIEVE IT. THAT SETTLES IT."

4 Comments

"GOD SAID IT. I BELIEVE IT. THAT SETTLES IT."

I do think the attitude many Christians take toward scripture is unhealthy. And this seems especially true of Evangelicals. I believe our assumptions and certainties concerning what we think "the Bible says" are often getting in the way of our actually seeing Jesus in what we read. I think they even get in the way of us reading the Bible honestly, contextually, and holistically - despite the praise and reverence we lavish upon its pages. I am convinced that a lot of us are more interested in our ideas about this holy book than we are the person it's meant to be pointing us to. And I think Christian culture (and Christianese) bears witness to all these things I'm saying.

4 Comments