Saturday, November 25, 2017

Jesus, Creepy Dudes, and Women

As predicted, the list of rich and famous men accused of sexually harassing women is growing. It’s truly disturbing. Of course, creepy dudes aren’t confined to the upper crust. Nor are they new.

You know what is new? The responses they get.

Nowadays the liberal-leftist-Hollywood crowd eschews them while the “family values” churchy crowd elects them.  

MAKE AMERICA GROPE AGAIN.

It makes my head spin. It really does.

But something—or someone—hasn’t changed and never will: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

So how did the most powerful Person to ever walk the Earth treat women?

He showed them dignity and respect.

He did this in a time and place where women were viewed through a very utilitarian lens. Basically, they were to pleasure men, cook & clean, and have children (preferably boys).

Yet even in this milieu, we find Jesus elevating the status of women from the well-to-do to the well of Jacob. Spurned Samaritans, mourning Marys, prayerful prostitutes…all were totally safe with Jesus. And they knew it. They instinctively knew it.

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man—there never has been another.*

The Gospels are clear: Women in general and each woman in particular had an eminent champion in Jesus.

They still do.

_______________________

Saturday, November 18, 2017

ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTB—uh…?

The main cause of Rome’s persecution of Jesus’ followers came about from the tradition of emperor worship. . . .

Caesar worship was mainly a political loyalty test; a way to register someone as a “good citizen” at least as Rome defined it. But of course, it proved nothing about a person’s real loyalty. Christians, who COULDN’T participate in Caesar-worship were in fact, often better citizens than those who took the oath because their Holy Writings enjoined them to pray for those in authority.1

The above prompts me to think of the current Flag flap in the NFL.

Since 2000 there have been 872 recorded arrests and/or indictments of NFL players: raping, pimping, and beating women; murder, DUI, assault, child abuse, theft, dogfighting…and so on.2

Nobody seems to mind all that much.

But kneeling during the National Anthem? Never!

Something’s a bit wonky with our moral outrage. Don’t you think?

Moral confusion, hypocrisy, and the like are rampant in things as important as sports and as unimportant as politics. Such can be seen even within the church.

This is the fruit of devotion to Caesar. After all, we tend to become like who or what we worship.

Jesus offers a different Way. Will we walk in it?

I am the way, the truth, and the life. . .
~Jesus


__________________________




Thursday, November 9, 2017

What's Wrong With The World?

This world is indescribably beautiful. This world is ugly to the core. This world is full of life, love, and joy. This world is unspeakably sad. . . . Ours is a world where the words child and pornography are used in the same sentence. What is wrong with this world? To some extent, all religion is an attempt to answer that question: what is wrong with this world?1

Similarly, one could argue that “all politics” is also an attempt to answer what’s wrong with the world. Marx (that’s Groucho, not Karl) observes:

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.2

Religion & politics haven’t served us well and I think they never will.

Why?

Because too many religionists and politicians suffer from dim eyes, dull ears, and drippy mouths. Such are the maladies of “us vs. them” mentalities where the problem is always them, never us.

It is said that editors from The Times newspaper asked: “What’s Wrong With The World?” 3

The inimitable G. K. Chesterton replied,

Dear Sirs:

I am.

Sincerely Yours, 
G. K. Chesterton

Has anyone ever said more with two words?

Chesterton echoes Christ. Jesus says,

From within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.4

Jesus doesn’t offer hype or hypotheticals for real-world problems. He cuts right to the heart of things and the heart He’s eyeing is yours. And mine.

__________________________

1Bruxy Cavey, The End of Religion, p. 237



4Mark 7:21-23


Monday, October 30, 2017

Sinners Like Us

Before my Great Divorce, I disliked the term “war on women.”

Basically, my attitude was if you wanna see a war on women go to Saudi Arabia! (Yeah, I know…I used to set the bar like really, really high.)

Now there's Clinton, Trump, O’Reilly, and Weinstein—all accused of sexually harassing women (Trump by his own filthy mouth).  

I fear the already too long list that won’t stop growing is scarcely the tip of the iceberg.

What’s going on in the Land of the Free?

Clearly, I’ve been na├»ve regarding the progress of women in America (just as I was on issues of race). Like a child pestering his parents, “Are we there yet?” I now realize we’ve not journeyed as far as I’d fancied.

While I still don’t like the “war on women” nomenclature, I’m starting to understand it.

But what to do?

Obviously, sexually harassing women is not a “Left vs. Right” or “Democrat vs. Republican” kind of thing. No, mistreating women is totally bipartisan.

And I don’t see how “political correctness” accomplishes anything beyond confusing, angering, and muzzling folks. (Face it: Thought Police do little more than mess with our minds and then gag us.)

Furthermore, I don’t see how one can help women by waging a “war on men.” In other words, the “us vs. them paradigm is as useless as it is natural.

We’re in this together, people.

So…what does Jesus say to sinners like us?

Well, like always, He goes straight to the heart of the matter.

Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

In Jesus’ time and place, there were laws—stipulating death!—against adultery. These laws, written and enforced by men, were selectively applied and enforced against women.

And Jesus was having none of it.

He understood that such laws or rules are always selectively applied and enforced. 

Don’t believe me? Go back and read the aforementioned names of two presidents accused of mistreating women. Then think about how the “Christian Right” responded and continues to respond to each. 


Not only are laws or rules selectively applied and enforced, but also they are impotent when it comes to the root of our problem: the human heart.   

Laws may encourage outward conformity but they can never instill inner transformation.

Jesus knows: rid the heart of sexual lust and then things like adultery and sexual harassment are no longer a problem.

Therefore He offers cleansing, not codes.

Thus, while He may not enjoin the battle of the sexes; He’ll win the war against lust. So let’s join Him in the fray for the heart. 

He'll probably want to start with our own.  

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Doomed

In light of this current difficult and polarized social, spiritual and political climate, we artist types need to open our big mouths and share the light a little louder. ~Maynard James Keenan

Until recently, Maynard James Keenan was one of the many hard-rock & rollers I’d never heard of. Then, through no fault of my own, I was exposed to his band’s new song, “The Doomed.” (Yes, it’s every bit as pleasant as it sounds.)

Though “The Doomed” ain’t exactly my jam, its message is jarring.

Behold a new Christ
Behold the same old horde
Gather at the altering
New beginning, new word
And the word was death
And the word was without light
The new beatitude:
"Good luck, you're on your own"

Blessed are the rich . . .
Blessed are the envious
Blessed the slothful, the wrathful, the vain
Blessed are the gluttonous
May they feast us to famine and war

What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful?
What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful?
All doomed
All doomed

What’s your gut reaction to this?  

If your initial response is “righteous indignation” at such a “blatant attack on Christ,” I urge you to look again.

I don’t think the song assaults Jesus. Rather, it’s a blistering commentary on the church.

I think the artist is screaming: Christians are twisting the words of Jesus! They’re turning His teachings upside down!

I know. It’s more than a little tempting to think that God wouldn’t stoop to speak through rockers or bloggers.

But then again, there was that time when God spoke through a donkey…so…?

At any rate, the song strikes ambivalent chords in me.

I’m saddened that A Perfect Circle sees some things clearer than evangelicals. Yet I’m hopeful that more folks—inside and outside the church—will rediscover the true Christ and walk in His Way; that we will undergo a radical reformation.

Maybe it’s not only the “artist types” who need to “share the light a little louder.” 

Know what I mean? 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Two Masters

He’s an NFL quarterback and Christian who is misunderstood and maligned for his meek* witness on his knees. 

I’m talking about Tim Teb Colin Kaepernick .

One of the most interesting things about Kaepernick is his faith. Yep. Kaepernick is a Christian. He was baptized Methodist, confirmed Lutheran and attended a Baptist church during his college years.

He sounds virtually Tebow-esque when he talks about his faith in God, saying, “I think God guides me through every day and helps me take the right steps and has helped me to get to where I’m at. When I step on the field, I always say a prayer, say I am thankful to be able to wake up that morning and go out there and try to glorify the Lord with what I do on the field.”

Kaepernick has a Bible scroll with Psalm 18:39 tattooed on his right arm. Underneath is written “To God be the Glory.”

Lots of thoughts crowd my mind but I’ll express only two. (You’re welcome.)

First, it disturbs me that so many Christians despise—perhaps even hate—Kaepernick, our brother in the Lord. They’ve never met him; never spoken with him; and know next to nothing about him.

And yet they judge him.

Their harsh judgment of him—based upon nothing but conjecture and soundbites—goes against the clear teachings of Jesus: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24).

That Christians judge Kaepernick is unsettling. Why they judge him is equally so.

Thought two…

Christians are crucifying Kaepernick in the name of Caesar.  

The rage against him and any other heretic who doesn’t respect—in the orthodox way—the sacred songs and symbols of American civil religion is quite troubling.

The early followers of Jesus refused to acknowledge Caesar as Lord. Instead, they humbly but boldly proclaimed, “Jesus is Lord.” Thus they refused to conflate the Kingdom of God with the kingdom of Rome.

And they were hated for it.

Now…

You may be thinking (or yelling at your computer), “Hey Steve, you don’t know him any better than I do! You don’t know his motives…so shut yer word hole!

Of course you’re correct. I don’t know him.

But here's the thing…this writing really isn’t about him. This is about us. Where is our true loyalty, our true passion?

Dear reader, we can’t devote ourselves to two masters.

There may be a time when Christians in America need to choose between Americianity (the unofficial syncretic religion of the American empire) and following Jesus.

I’m thinking maybe it was yesterday.

____________________________ 

*It’s difficult to think of kneeling as anything but meek and nonaggressive. Also, a big THANK YOU to my buddy, Randy Hester, for informing me that Kaepernick kneels during the anthem at the suggestion of an Army veteran.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Sometimes It's Personal (or it should be)

Nearly every Sunday, at Grace Bible Church, we pray for persecuted Christians.

Presently, hundreds of Iraqi Christians are imprisoned with no clue as to when they will be released, where they will live, or if they’ll ever see their families again.

You may be thinking: “Ohhh…hate ISIS!”

I know. Right?

Except I’m not talking about Iraqi Christians in Iraq. I’m talking about Iraqi Christians in America.

What’s that now?

Yeah…I’m talking about Christians in America being persecuted by the US government.

With the Trump administration threatening to deport more than 1,400 Iraqis . . . This summer, hundreds of Iraqis were behind bars in holding centers around the United States, slated for deportation to Iraq. The majority were Christians . . .

“Not only would they be breaking up families that have been here for decades . . . but they would be sending an already targeted minority to a country that no longer welcomes them.”

 . . . Many Chaldeans suspect it was no accident that ICE conducted its largest round-up on a Sunday, when many would be on their way to church. (Christianity Today, October 2017)

At GBC we not only pray for the persecuted, but also for the persecutors. This is exactly what Jesus tells us to do.

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

Now, before your head explodes faster than you can stand for the National Anthem, please understand: I’m not equating ICE to ISIS. (That would be stupid.)

But as I imagine the fear and helplessness that Iraqi Christians are experiencing in the US, at the hands of the Trump administration, I think about something else Jesus said.

I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me. 

Jesus takes it personally. Maybe we should too.