Tag Archives: Jesus

Jesus is Lord and [?] is Not

So what does it mean, in the present, to say – like the early Christians – ‘Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not’?

Certainly, we don’t have a dictatorial leader exploiting the helpless and demanding infinitely more than we can give.

…Or do we?

Perhaps this ‘Caesar’ is not the physical, in-the-flesh dictator we picture him to be 2000 years ago. Perhaps our ‘Caesar’ is more abstract. Ethereal, but all-encompassing. Seeping into our lives with every action, inaction, and reaction.

Does not capitalism fill Caesar’s role, and as a more immediate presence? It infects our decisions almost literally by the minute.

“What will I buy? How will I pay rent? Where will I work?”

In the meantime, the underprivileged, the outcast, the helpless are left to rot in the wake of our (infinite) consumption.

But if Jesus is Lord and [capitalism] is not, then this system we participate in should be resisted, subverted, overthrown.

The gospel is not prosperity and wealth or being financially blessed. The gospel is radical equality under the resurrected Christ. And if we do not live as such post-resurrection, then we follow the false god of capitalism. We chant, with the rest of the privileged, “Capitalism is Lord and Jesus is not.”

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#progGOD – Incarnation Redeems the Mundane

Tony Jones is hosting another #progGod “Open Source Theological Conversation” over the internets.

I didn’t participate in the last one, mostly because of school. The premise of the conversation is simple: Tony has asked Christian bloggers who self-identify as progressive to answer the question, “Why an incarnation?” What is the point, and what are the implications?

Honestly, if I really try to think about the idea that God (whatever, or whoever, that is) became a human –

That God took on human flesh.

That God probably picked his nose.

That God took a dump – several, in fact.

That God had B.O.

That God enjoyed the taste of food and wine (yes, real alcohol).

It doesn’t even make sense to me. Not even a little. I can tell you that my idea of “God” must be horribly wrong most of the time, because the “God” that I normally postulate doesn’t – can’t – do those things. Those things are somehow below the “God” that (I think) I believe in. But, according to the story of Christianity, that’s exactly what countless others within the faith have said they believed.

Further, I don’t typically like to think about the apparent vanity (re: Ecclesiastes) of life in general. Day in, day out, I go to work, do some school work, eat some food, spend some (hopefully meaningful) time with my family, go to sleep, and wake up to do it again. Every. Day. I’m going to do this for the majority of my life. And then I’m going to die. The apparent mediocrity and mundaneness found in life is absolutely overwhelming if I think about it too much.

God, however, decided to do something ridiculous. According to our story, God fully participates in the seemingly mundane and meaninglessness of life. God incarnates the fullness of God’s very essence inside of a measly, fragile, human being.

And by doing so, God does something beautiful. God participates with humanity – experiencing pain, suffering, anxiety, and the feeling of meaninglessness. God even experiences God-forsakenness at the point of death. And by doing so, his experience redeems the mundane that we all experience. It doesn’t make the mundane any less so; it simply reveals God as utterly and irrevocably immanent.

Evangelical Love Songs (or Jesus is NOT Your Boyfriend)

A new blog post! I know, I know, shame on me. Well, sorry I’m super busy all the time – just, you know, spending time with my family, working full time, going to school, etc., etc. – and can’t blog more often. I’ve been thinking about setting up a bit of a blogging schedule once I graduate (December 7th guys! Feel free to send money! Or a MacBook Pro… whatevs.). We’ll see. I’ve got a few ideas, but they’ll have to wait until sometime around December 8th. Then hopefully I’ll get in like two or three posts a week. We shall see.

On to more important matters…

I was browsing through my news feed on Facebook today, and saw a video someone posted of a new(ish) song from Bethel Live. For those of you who don’t know, that’s one of the wildly popular worship bands out today – at least in my circles. Here’s the video:

I’ve never been a huge fan of Bethel Live. I liked Jesus Culture for a while as a teen, but not so much anymore. Musically (i.e., technically), I think they’re pretty solid, for the most part. My issue has always been with the lyrics. Here are the lyrics to the above song, for example:

Verse:
Your love has ravished my heart
And taken me over, taken me over
And all I want is to be
With You forever, with You forever

Chorus 1:
Pull me a little closer
Take me a little deeper
I want to know Your heart
I want to know Your heart
‘Cause Your love is so much sweeter
Than anything I’ve tasted
I want to know Your heart
I want to know Your heart

Bridge:
Whoa, whoa, how great Your love is for me
Whoa, whoa, how great is Your love

Chorus 2:
Pull me a little closer
Take me a little deeper
I want to know Your heart
I want to know Your heart
‘Cause Your love is so much stronger
Than anything I’ve faced and
I want to know Your heart
I want to know Your heart

Now, I’d venture to say that if it weren’t for the fact that you knew this was a Christian worship band, or you didn’t see the video ahead of time, or only saw the lyrics (without the capitalized “You”s, I might add), you would have NO IDEA this was a “worship” song. It sounds like a regular old love song!

The thing is, this type of worship is eaten up by the Evangelical community at large. I’m not saying love for God and God’s love for us isn’t something to be joyous about. But this song doesn’t sound like that. This song sounds like Jesus is my boyfriend. It’s not even that it’s weird for me, as a man, to attempt to relate to Jesus or God in this manner. It’s that it’s weird for all of us.

Creepy, right?

Forgive my bluntness, but senseless crooning about some puppy-love feeling we have for a divine being certainly isn’t warranted in Scripture. When we create this kind of expectation for worship, rather than teaching that worship is no less than living and acting in accordance with our belief in Christ and him crucified, Christianity itself becomes ultimately hollow and self-serving.

A Church Rant, Part 2 (or Why I’m NOT Emergent)

A little over a year ago, I began to identify myself as an emergent Christian. While there are several definitions of emergent Christianity and what it looks like, generally speaking, emergence Christianity is a progressive-leaning form of the faith that typically doesn’t hold to many of the traditional, Evangelical doctrines (the belief in a literal hell, the understanding of the Bible is completely “inerrant” or “infallible,” etc.). Its goal, in general, is to be open to the changes brought about after the rise of post-modernity, and to find a way to follow Christ in the midst of those changes. Peter Rollins, of whom I have written about before, is one of the top philosopher/theologians within the emergent movement.

Recently, Elaine and I went to a church called Church in the Cliff in Oak Cliff, just south of Dallas. The church website identifies the church as “a post modern, emergent, open and affirming, truth seeking community of faith.”

Because I identified myself as “emergent,” but had never actually been to a church that labeled itself as such, I figured it was time to see what a truly emergent church looked like in the real world. I was really excited about this, because I thought that this might be the kind of church that I was looking for. I’ve been so desperate for a church that truly revolves around community, open conversation, and holds Scripture as the epicenter for practice and belief (rather than simply using it as a pedestal for a position or life-principle) – I thought we might have finally found the place.

I was wrong. What I found, instead, is that I am definitely not emergent. Or I’m at least much more moderate than I previously thought.

The week that we went to this church, the whole Chick-fil-A controversy was happening. In case you’ve forgotten (I’m sure you haven’t) the CEO of Chick-fil-A came out in support of traditional marriage (big surprise) in an interview. This sparked outrage amongst Christians and non-Christians alike who stand for marriage equality. Yada, yada, yada, people boycott or support Chick-fil-A based on its CEO’s view of traditional marriage, the country is further divided… you get the picture.

Go figure, Church in the Cliff’s service revolved around the issue of homosexuality and the church. Now, I’m not here to talk about my views one way or the other on marriage equality and the proper biblical view of homosexuality. For me, the focus is how this specific, self-labeled emergent church dealt with the issue.

When we arrived at the church, the people were all extremely friendly and welcoming. This is something I expected, and was actually quite glad to experience. However, I noticed in our introductions to various people in the church, the words “inclusive” and “inclusion” were a major part of the dialogue, even in passing.

The entire service (which was filled with lots of liturgy and Scriptural/apocryphal readings I was kind of uncomfortable with, simply because of my lack of familiarity) revolved around the idea of loving and accepting “the Other.” Basically, the idea is that we are to do our best to understand, empathize with, welcome, and love those who are different (and hold different views) than ourselves.

Here’s the thing: I think that’s all well and good. I think that’s exactly what Jesus did with us. Jesus, as the Son of God (something completely foreign to humanity [see John 1]) saw us in our sin and our brokenness, and came to dwell among us as the light of the world, taking on flesh and blood in complete solidarity with the human race.

The disconnect for this church, however, was that they failed in their attempt to be truly inclusive in the manner that they presented the issue. Rather than framing the question of homosexuality and homosexual marriage in a way that allowed for honest conversation between those who were on both sides of the issue (and those caught somewhere in the middle), the language used was filled with vitriol and malice towards those who disagreed with their viewpoint. The transcript from the main speaker is found here. One can see throughout the speech that the speaker was not interested in any kind of dialogue in the matter. Case in point:

In short, [Evangelical “culture warriors”] oppose homosexuality and all other manner of queerness because it upsets their apple cart.  Their apple cart holds all the power.  They control access to God.  They control access to money.  To justice.  To love.  What the culture warriors are really after is to maintain the status quo.

Really? Nearly all of the Evangelicals I’ve met that oppose homosexuality are not doing so from a place of hatred or malice. Some do, of course. Most, however, simply want to follow in the true way of the Lord, regardless of the consequences. And, I daresay, rhetoric like this doesn’t serve to change people’s minds in the slightest. It only fuels the fire of divisiveness in this country.

If those who are emergent truly desire honest conversation, authentic community, and want to truly follow the way of Jesus, this is not how to do it. A group of people cannot have its epicenter be simply the disillusionment with Evangelicalism or institutionalized Christianity. The hermeneutic cannot simply be about inclusivity. That will only lead to further division.

This is why I’m not emergent. At least, not that kind of emergent. My desire, in rethinking traditional Evangelical doctrines, is not to be further divisive or ostracize myself from a particular group of people simply because I’m offended by a particular stance. My desire is to seek out Truth and follow the way of Jesus in a manner that is both unconditionally loving and truly authentic.