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Taking Light To the Shadows: A Word On WHY

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Taking Light To the Shadows: A Word On WHY

I have found that it's kind of impossible to deeply and genuinely comfort the afflicted without (at least somewhat) afflicting many of the comforted. The reality of things is that many of us have been comforted falsely. Many have taken comfort and refuge in things which prove to be ugly and abusive. To share in the Light, then, means exposing the Darkness which has masqueraded or postured itself as light. You can't turn a light on without seeing things you couldn't see before, and the same sun that melts wax can harden clay. The response depends on the material. So it becomes fairly impossible to share true beauty, or to authentically nurture without rattling the cages of those who claim to be free.

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WHAT CHRISTIANS FEAR MOST ABOUT THE BIBLE...

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WHAT CHRISTIANS FEAR MOST ABOUT THE BIBLE...

And so we find that what many people do not want to see in the Bible is anything which directs them beyond the Bible itself. This means that, ultimately, what many of us are terrified of is that the Bible might serve its own purpose. It's almost a paradoxical thing, and it's certainly a mystical and beautiful truth to consider: We cannot see the Bible for what it is until we are willing to look beyond it, and to view it through the lens of Jesus... The scriptures guide us to Christ so that Christ can guide us through the scriptures. And we do not honor them if we refuse to allow them to accomplish that purpose.  

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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 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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Jesus, Zacchaeus & The Great Inclusion...

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Jesus, Zacchaeus & The Great Inclusion...

We have no record of Jesus requesting anything of Zacchaeus, but his loving inclusion did pave the way for radical change to happen. There is power in that sort of love. The kind of love that is not conditional. It doesn't offer relational embrace only if the one receiving it promises to change. It's not a love that burdens others with obligations and more reasons to feel guilty. Real love isn't loaded with that sort of empty, forced reciprocation. it's reckless and wild and free. Jesus extends embrace without condition, without pretense, without contingency. This is the sort of love that can reverse years and decades of ugliness and brokenness and hurt and pain. 

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

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"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... 

 

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

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"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.

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"THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING AND POWERFUL..."

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"THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING AND POWERFUL..."

I'm going to show you something that might blow your mind.

It concerns a very popular verse in the Bible, and it certainly blew my mind - even after years of knowing (and quoting) the verse, having been raised in Christian culture. It's a simple and yet very pervasive error of interpretation. A wrong understanding which has become the dominant understanding.

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"KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS!"

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"KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS!"

"Keep Christ in Christmas!" they say. We hear it all the time. But is Jesus even allowed in our "Christmas?" There was no room in the Bethlehem inn for his birth... Is there even room for this guy in mainstream Christianity? 

How can we say we care about keeping the Christ in Christmas when we make it so obvious that that we don't care about keeping Christ in Christianity?

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