Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Sunday, May 15, 2016

J'Protest!

Pastor Dan (Bless him!) points me to this, from which I want to take a few responses that aren't quite his (not that there's anything wrong with that!).  Although I have to start by agreeing that this:

For Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the key question is "whether or not there is a binding morality to which everyone is accountable."

Simply means Albert Mohler wishes for a time when everyone agreed with him, a time that occurred sometime just before he realized there was a world full of other people who are NOT Albert Mohler.  Mohler thinks of that as the encounter with nothingness, but the more correct French phenomenological label is simply the "other."

And yes, that is harsher than Pastor Dan, but then I never claimed to be as nice a person as PD.  And then you have to put this kind of stuff in the context of the article, so:

Mohler is a co-founder of the biannual Together for the Gospel conference, which brought together thousands of evangelicals last month at a sports center in Louisville, a few miles from the Southern Baptist campus. Electronic signs around the top of the arena carried such messages as "We Were Born Out of Protest" and "We Stand on Scripture Alone, Not Man's Wisdom."

"Our theme for this year is, 'We Protest,' " Mohler tells NPR. "You might say [it's] putting the 'protest' back in Protestantism." He and his fellow conservative leaders urge Christians to take a "biblical" stand against such things as no-fault divorce, extramarital sex, "transgenderism" and gay marriage. His new book is We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, & the Very Meaning of Right & Wrong.
Protestantism was a protest against the prevailing church structure and orthodoxy (no communion every Sunday!), not a protest against the prevailing sectarian culture.  If anything, Protestantism was an expression of the prevailing culture (starting with Luther in the principalities of what is now Germany, and Calvin running Geneva, and the Scots asserting their independence of culture from England; etc., etc,. etc.)  To put the "Protest" back in "Protestantism" you'd have to be objecting to the prevailing religious orthodoxy which, ironically, claims itself in the words of Albert Mohler and the SBC.

Me thinks he doth protest too much.  But then, as that parable of the beam and the splinter puts it, isn't that always the way?

Isn't it ironic?  Don't you think?

So Mohler wants to be in the world but not of the world; or maybe not even in the world at all:

"Conservative Christians in America are undergoing a huge shift in the way we see ourselves in the world," Mohler says. "We are on the losing side of a massive change that's not going to be reversed, in all likelihood, in our lifetimes." In his view, Christians must adapt to the changed cultural circumstance by finding a way "to live faithfully in a world in which we're going to be a moral exception." (It is this goal, Mohler says, that explains the passage of "religious liberty" laws to protect people who want to express their opposition to same-sex marriage or "transgenderism.")

Check out the picture of Mohler at the link; dude makes me look like a youngster.  Which is not a comment on his age (ageism!) so much as a comment on the undeniable fact he is being left behind by an ever-changing world.   And I gotta agree with Pastor Dan:  what the hell is "transgenderism"?  Another made up word that means "scary change I don't like!"?  The people who are scared of such changes have my sympathies; that doesn't mean they have my agreement.  The tough part about loving your enemies is that it isn't a recipe for transforming enemies into friends.  It's meant to transform you.  Whether people are your enemies or not is something you cannot change; how you treat them is what you are in control of.  Loving them doesn't change them; it changes you.  Which is what makes loving your enemies so hard; and so necessary.

It's that or turn into a dragon yourself.

But is Christianity going to be a moral exception in the world because it preaches that gays should not marry and transgendered person should not pee in public?  Or is it going to be a moral exception because it continues, after 2000 years, to still tell you to love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you?  Which moral position, after all, calls for a true effort at "living faithfully"?

And since when do Christians need "religious liberty" laws to protect them from their own desire to be bigots?

"The Bible makes claims about what is right and wrong, and those claims are often at odds with what everyday people believe," says Southern Baptist seminary student Joshua Van der Merwe, 24, of Louisville, during a break between conference sessions. "Christians are called to protest and to witness to what the Bible claims to be right and wrong."

Or it calls you to:  "Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God."  It calls you to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoner, because in doing so you show compassion to Christ himself.  It teaches you to love your neighbor as you love yourself.  It teaches you to not judge, so you won't be judged.  It teaches you that your neighbor is whoever needs your help, and that even a prodigal son is still a son, no matter what.  It teaches you to wake up the house when you find the lost coin and spend it in a celebration; to sell all you have and buy the pearl of great price; to bury your treasure in the ground when you find it; to leave 99 sheep alone and search for the one lost sheep.  It teaches you to love your enemies; because God loves them, and only then can you be in right relationship to God, and so live right and comfortably in the world.

Christianity teaches all manner of absurdities and impossibilities and contradictions.  Christianity challenges you; not the world.   Right and wrong?  Take that up with Job.  Or Jonah.  But don't take it to the world, because the first thing Christianity says to you is:  Who are you to judge?

And when you are allowed to judge, Matthew tells you to take it to your brother in private; and then to some friends, if need be; and finally to the whole community, if you have to.  You don't get to judge; the others do, and only as members of the same community; which, in any version of Christianity, is never the world.  There is nothing in all the letters and words and thoughts of the New Testament, or of the Hebrew Scriptures, that calls upon a Christian to stand in judgment of the world.

Christianity doesn't call me to judge the world; it calls me to be transformed in who I am in the world.  And that is a protest I can get behind; a protest against the world as it is in favor of the basiliea tou theou as explained by Scripture and scripture as explained by Walter Brueggemann.

2 Comments:

Blogger rick allen said...

There are of course voices saying that there is no God, no standard of right and wrong, no justice outside of preference, no grace, no sin, no free will, no human purpose, and I think it acceptable to oppose that kind of nihilism.

And there are those who take Satan for God, evil for good, death for life, and surely it is right to raise a voice against such assertions.

But whenever we are called on to decide what is the will of God, what is the temptation of Satan, what is right and what is wrong, and what is just and what is unjust and where love and hatred lie, those things take judgment.

The word judgment has two senses that it seems to me are constantly confused in these discussions, the judgment that pertains to the condemnation or approval of another person, and the judgment that a thought, word or deed is or is not a sin, a wrong, an act of hatred.

The first sense we are strongly cautioned about. "Judge not, lest ye be judged, for by that measure by which you judge, you shall be judged." Even Jesus could refrain from this: "Who has made me a judge between you and your brother?."

But surely we are called to judge what is right and wrong, what is blessing and curse, what is the way of life and what is the way of death, and not simply for myself. It is not love for another to let him destroy himself, to ruin himself, to be indifferent to one's neighbors' fall. Of course our judgment is fallible, and thus we become insufferable, if not hypocritical. I don't agree with the Baptists on a lot of things, and I find their style irritating to the max, but the slings and arrows thrown their way are equally applicable to the scripture and tradition I look to for guidance, and which I think have much to say to the loneliness and despair of the contemporary world.

I have no office to preach or prophesy. No one would listen if I called down anathemas. But I think the world needs preaching and prophesying and the occasional anathema. In so many ways, to love is to be critical, and the critical spirit rests in nothing other than judgment

10:16 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

And still I disagree with you, and take as my text Luke 7:36-50. The strongest judgment I hear from Jesus' lips is: "Go, and sin no more."

6:12 AM  

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