Category Archives: christlike love

God fulfills the sermon on the mount? (E. Stanley Jones)


I wanted to share a piece of E. Stanley Jones (1884-1974), who was an important figure in Indian Christianity in the 20th century. I’m currently reading in e-version of ‘the Christ of the mount’,  a commentary on the sermon on the mount that is really interesting. I wanted to share this part, which coincidentally seems to fit perfectly with ‘virtue reborn’ by N.T. Wright in describing what Wright would call ‘Christian Character, but here he also turns it around, to apply it to God Himself. Which gives us quite the opposite of what some fundamentalists and new-reformed christians want us to believe, who have a godview that would make me an atheist! (And which looks more like the Capitol from the hunger games, as Sarah Moon points out here)

The reward of this kind of living which Jesus has been setting before us in the Sermon is in the quality of being : “Ye shall be sons of your Father,” or as Luke puts It “sons of the Most High.” Being willing to be the sons of the most low, you turn out to be sons of the Most High The reward is in the very make-up of your character.
It is not in being given a harp in heaven, but in winning a heart that has learned its song ;not in being allowed to walk on streets of fine gold, but in having the refined gold of character.
Your greatest reward will be that you will be like your Father. And that is heaven, whatever the future may bring. Every man will reflect himself in his environment, he will draw around Him in his environment qualities like his own. Any man that takes heaven with him is bound to have heaven. But the basis of that heaven and the degree of that heaven is character. As I have already said, in these twenty-seven marks of perfection there is not one that is irrelevant, and not one that will not be utterly necessary in the make-up of the perfect character for God and man. In the Father too ? Yes.
For these twenty-seven marks are in the Father himself:

He is surrendered in spirit in Christ he surrenders himself to the limitations, the trials, the buffetings and the cross of an earthly life; he mourns1 the cross is the symbol of that deep vicarious mourning ; he is the serving meek, if Jesus is the image of his person; he hungers and thirsts after righteousness not in himself, but in others, in his children the God of moral indifference has faded out and a God intensely ethical Is here. But in all Ms holiness he is the merciful toward imperfections in others; he is the pure in heart in him is no darkness at all ; the peacemaker an active intervener in love. He is persecuted and falsely spoken against, yet he rejoices and is exceedingly glad. He is the salt of the earth the silent power that keeps it from corruption and that pnts taste and worth and meaning into life. The light of the world take him out and the world turns to night. He keeps the least commandment that he lays on others. He is not indifferent to the painful struggle upward. He does not destroy it, he fulfills it. He is not angry with his children in the sense of revenge, but only in the sense of redemptive, moral indignation. He is quick to agree with his adversaries, going more than half way. He is above all impurity, even in thought. His word is simple and Yea, yea, and Nay, nay not subject to whimsicalities. He resists evil on the high level of turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and giving the cloak also. He gives to them that ask and from those that would borrow he turns not away. He loves Ms enemies and does good to them that despitefully use him. He sends the rain on the just and on the unjust, makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good.He loves them that do not love him and salutes those who pass him by he is the Perfect!
This kind of a God can have my heart. For as Jesus has been sketching for us the likeness of the Father I see in it his own likeness. God is Christlike; and if he is, then he is a good God and trustable.

The christ of the road, p 199-201

Shalom

Bram

How not to defend unborn human life…


The following picture seems to be viral on facebook now. And despite all the good intentions of people sharing it, it makes no sense at all, and will not in a million years convince anyone except those who are already convinced and want to see their message spread no matter how… But I also am afraid that the unconvinced will be more convinced that the ‘pro-life’ stance (more on that word soon) just makes no sense at all.

Again: This is completely NOT the way to defend unborn human life, the reasoning is just bogus! Does anyone realise how bad an idea looks when it’s brought to you in a way that only makes it look ridicule? (That’s what happens to the Christian gospel too all the time, btw)
But let’s imagine the situation described: If a single cell would be found on a remote planet, what would happen to this cell? The cell  being ‘life’ will not prevent it from all the tests science and the NASA would do on it; and releasing one cell back is not something that happens much either… That one cell, and it’s offspring (mono-cellular life on earth pr0creates really fast by cell division, the chance of finding and keeping only one cell is too small) would in the best case be imprisoned in a lab and investigated by a lot of scientists. But treating it like a human being will never come into consideration by anyone…There are different levels of ‘life’ in earthly life, like human, animal and plant life. Yes, every single cell on earth is considered ‘life’, including the micro-organisms you kill when you boil water or ash your hands with something disinfecting. Mono-cellular life is all around and in us, but it still is a lower form of ‘life’ even than plant-life. A single cell, whether it is a bacterium on your hands, a non-terran cell on a planet orbiting sirius , or in the womb of a woman (and let’s not forget here that there are plenty of human and non-human living cells in the womb, and that non-fertilised egg cells and sperm cells are also living cells and ‘life’)
So the text of the image makes no sense at all in the defence of unborn human life, no matter how  a single-cell zygote is viewed, it being considered ‘life’ will not be of any use. We kill ‘life’ every time we wash our hands, or boil water. If you don’t come up with a reason for the zygote being human life we’re not even in a debate. Please, if the subject is that important to you, don’t treat it like this and ridicule it with nonsense reasoning and bogus arguments. You’re killing your own position!
Oh, and now that I have your attention: let’s add that the word ‘pro-life’ as used by American Christians is of little meaning if you care even a little bit about the actual meaning of word: Life is something that includes born people (and all of non-human life too) so claiming you’re pro-life and being pro-war, anti-helping the poor, pro-death sentence, pro-violence and not anti destruction of nature you’ve made the word ‘pro-life’ worthless The same could be said about ‘pro-choice though, which is also a completely bogus term, both are a very interesting use of language to vilify the other at the expense of the meaning of the term!
(oh, and you can’t go further from being ‘pro-life’ than killing abortionists or bombing abortion clinics, just saying!)
I do believe that human life is to be protected. Born and unborn. I do know that when I saw the first echography of my daughter that I was amazed about how much life and energy that little human larvae had, and did something in her moves that we recognised later after birth… So the human being was there already at that age.But I know the debate about when you can speak of human life is more complicated than this, much more. A third-trimester abortion is just barbaric, but the discussion about a single-cell zygote is something completely different from that. And let’s not forget that the bible is NOT clear about human life beginning at conception, sorry… Let’s not sweep all of that under the carpet either with dumb slogans that make no sense and only make us look dumb, please…
If we really want to be able to call ourselves ‘pro-life’, we should think about these words from Shane Claiborne in the irresistible revolution:
I must say that I am still passionately pro-life, I just have a much more holistic sense of what it means to be for life, knowing that life does not just begin at conception and end at birth, and that if I am going to discourage abortion, I had better be ready to adopt some babies and care for some mothers.
Yes, we Christians should not attack those with ‘unwanted pregnancies’, but help them. We should be known for caring for teenage mothers and making sure that they can make it instead of condemning them. We should win people over with love! Even at the expense of our own western middle-class comfortable life, I think I should add. And I realise I’m nowhere in that…
shalom
Bram

On beggars and followers of Jesus


The next quote comes from the very informative book ‘living on hope while living in Babylon‘, a book on Christian anarchism in the 20th century by Tripp York. The chapter is about Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day of the catholic worker movement, and it was quite an eye-opener about something which I’ve been trying  to figure out when studying Francis of Assisi.

Peter imagined that a recovery of the Christian vocation of voluntary poverty, accompanied by begging, was necessary for Christians to be able to see the God of the poor. Voluntary poverty has a rich history in the church and has mostly been associated with the religious (e.g., monks, nuns or priests). The giving away of all goods in an effort to follow Jesus in ones concern for the “least of these” has carried with it high esteem from the church hierarchy even though it s rarely practiced. What attracted both Peter and Dorothy to Francis was his ability to locate Christian virtue within the act of begging. Begging strips the beggar of the pride that accompanies self-sufficiency. Today one of our greatest concerns is that we will become a burden on our family, so we place our parents and our handicapped in homes in order to free us from their claims and to free l hem from having to claim us. Francis could not have imagined a greater sin. The longing for complete autonomy, from freedom of dependency, is contrary to the very image of which we are created. Being created in the image of the triune God requires that we participate in the sociality of our created natures. For Francis, begging reminds us how intertwined and interdependent we are on one another. But it does more than this. It becomes part of the story of salvation because it not only rescues us from pride, but affords others the opportunity to care one another. Begging is a form of gift-exchange that turns our eyes and our bodies back to the gift given by Jesus. As Jesus emptied himself for the sake of the world, we too empty ourselves. We become completely dispossessed so that we may become possessed by only God. Though we may not all be called to begging, we are called to gift-giving, and the witness of a Francis of Assisi or a Peter Maurin demands that we call into question our initial reactions to beggars.

I don’t know what to add, because this is very powerful stuff that I need to meditate on more, since it goes completely against the ways of our society. But it indeed is true that we are all interconnected, and that every ‘self-made-man’ relies on others… Hypermodern neoliberal individualism is just an illusion, we cannot live without each other, and we should not pretend that we make our own world.

Begging is something that is looked down upon, while stock market speculating and similar ways of making money out of money without doing anything constructive for others isn’t. For us as followers of Christ the inverse should be true!

I’ll close with the words of Jesus in Luke 6, that should be the very core of our Christian ethics, but most of the time they aren’t:

6:27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 6:29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. 6:30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. 6:31 Treat others101 in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 6:33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 6:34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High,because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 6:36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

what do you people think?

shalom

Bram

Some interesting things elsewhere


Travelling missiologist Andrew Jones, the blogger also known as Tallskinnykiwi, wants to write a book (that I want to read!!!) and needs some help with money to be able to do the stuff he’s doing, which is travelling around with his family to meet with all of gods children on planet Terra, and helping all kinds of Christians and Christian communities around the world.  There’s only one Andrew Jones on the whole planet Terra who does what he does, so consider helping him! Or at least read what he’s up to on the blogpost I’ve linked to…

Matt stone on glocal Christianity has started a very interesting series, which starts with six different Christian approaches to war and peace, something we need in times when it seems like a false dichotomy between ‘just war’ and ‘pacifism’ (which sometimes is explained really poorly) is dominating the discussion, while there are much forms of Christian pacifism on one hand, and ‘just war theory’ isn’t really followed by much people on the other hand actually.  His position is ‘apocalyptic pacifism’, and the other posts are OT bible verses that he sees as pacifist prophecies (part 1, part 2, part 3) to back his position up.

Apocalyptic pacifism starts from an ‘already and not yet’ framework, in which the ‘coming age’ (the Kingdom of God)  is breaking in into this age, and in which we as Christians are already living in the reality of that new age. Living as radical peacemakers is one dimension of the Kingdom, but if we read the gospels there is another one that can’t be denied: the supernatural signs of the kingdom are as clear and confronting in the gospels as the radical love for our fellow humans that includes enemy-love… And Ray Hollenbach has a very interesting meditation on this aspect of the Kingdom of God on Students of Jesus. The anabaptist peace tradition and vineyard Kingdom charismatics can learn a  lot from each other and make the Kingdom vision more complete together!

He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9: 1 – 2)

[The perfect soundtrack here would be this gungor song, that we've sung last sunday in Vineyard Antwerpen. I love me some bluesfunk from time to time, and Michael is a very good musician!!]

And then for something else: Laura Ziesel has an interesting series on Christianity, intersex people and eunuchs in the bible. Thanks to Sarah Moon for  making me aware of them and posting an orderly list of them! We should stop seeing this kind of things as ‘issues’ and start looking at it as people who are loved by Christ and should be loved by us all the same!

shalom

Bram

My beheaded martyr Valentine…


Happy day of St. Valentine to ya all!

Let’s not forget why the church calendar has this day. We do not know much about this Valentine guy, but if the vague legends are true he has been tortured to death and beheaded on februari 14 for his faith in Jesus Christ.

Let’s reflect on that!

In all the stuff about lovers, Chocolate and fluffy cupid angels, and weird sexy stuff we are celebrating the nameday of a martyr who was tortured and killed for his Christian fait:

He was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner – until Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor – whereupon this priest was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. (wikipedia, paraphrasing the Nurenberg Chronicle)

Sure there is a lot to say about a day to celebrate love, if done in the right way (what’s up with all that weird eroticism and over-commercialised nonsense on this day?) But as a follower of Christ every day should be a day to celebrate love.

So let’s not be fooled by the worship of money, stuff and postmodern sexiness. It is not worth our time and effort…

So let’s love.Let’s be love. And let’s not forget those who died out of love for Christ, like Valentine whom is celebrated today! Let’s not forget all who die under an oppressive system that doesn’t want deviants to have their opinion. These things happen today as well as in the days of Cladius the Goth. And not just Christians, all sorts of peope are being killed because they don’t agree with the ruling system…

shalom

Bram

(othrodox icon of Saint Valentine via Micha Jazz on facebook)

the love of money vs. the way of Christ…


Thee ebible.com verse of the day, reminded me again how different the Way of Christ is compared to the assumed ways of life of this modern world:

5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. ” 6 So we can confidently say,”The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

Hebrews 13:5 – 6

In a world where our current economic systems are based on greed, ‘more more more’, and ‘I’m cooler than my neighbour coz I have X’, and where people think that greed is a good driving force behind an economy, the Way of Christ is actually quite subversive…

If  only all of us Christians would effectively live according to the last of the 10 commandments about not coveting what belongs to our neigbor, there would be a big problem for our contemporary Marketing and Advertisement industry, which tries to create new needs every day, and tries to sell us everything we don’t need… (And then I’m not even talking about the commandment before that one, about not bearing a false witness!) If one would try to set up a system that is opposed to the words of Jesus and the OT laws, our late modern consumer capitalism would be a pretty good candidate of what would emerge…

But instead of keeping our focus on what shouldn’t be but is, let’s look at what should be and how it’s meant to be, and let’s for a moment meditate on the following words of Paul in 1 Tim 6:

:6 Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit. :7 For we have brought nothing into this world and so1 we cannot take a single thing out either. 6:8 But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that.6:9 Those who long to be rich, however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains. 6:11 But you, as a person dedicated to God, keep away from all that. Instead pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.

The way of Christ is not to follow money, which becomes an idol called Mammon in the bible, but to use money or the unrighteous Mammon (if we have it) to make friends. Yes, people are put before money here.  And people who hoard riches, which are living out our neoliberal dreams in other words, are even used in the gospels as an example of human wickedness… Kingdoms are clashing here. Which one do we choose?

The way of Christ is to love, first and foremost. Mammon should desacralised and instead of turned into an idol that guides our lives, and riches and money are to be used to help other people, and not to build our own empire. Jesus even said to the rich young rules that he had to sell everything and give to the poor if he wanted eternal life, and before we are too quick to dismiss that, let’s remember the first church in the book of acts effectively lived like that, as did the first Christians in the first centuries, a lot of monastic orders throughout the ages and even New Monastic today…  So it’s not impossible…

Imagine how the world would be different if we really followed Jesus, settled for enough and shared the rest with all those in need. It has been done before. The Roman emperor Julian the apostate, who didn’t like the Christians very much, said that ‘the Christians fed their (Roman) poor in addition to their own. So why do we think of these things as so otherworldy?

And I am part of the problem here!

I know I’m preaching to myself now, and I still have a long way to go in this.God help me, Spirit lead me, Jesus teach me!

Any additions, examples, whatever?

shalom

Bram

biblical manhood or the fruits of the Spirit?


There’s a certain kind of rhetoric in some corners of contemporary Christianity (mostly in the US I think) about how the church is effeminate and men need to save the church by taking the lead again and being more manly and violent and dangerous and all that jazz…

The story, which has been sold in many books and preached by good solid manly preachers, goes a bit like this: Men are created to be men and should therefore be,-unlike women who want safety and security-, wild and dangerous and violent and take risks and wrestle and strangle adult dragons with their bare hands and other everyday stuff like that… And it also seems like the biggest enemy here is men becoming like women. And oh, sometimes it’s also very important that God is a man. (Really?)

If you don’t know what I’m speaking about, just ignore me and consider yourself lucky… You’re not missing anything and reading me getting defensive about something that isn’t a problem in your world might be counterproductive, so you better read something else then. I recommend this NT Wright interview done by Frank Viola for example, or this transcript of an interview with a man who learnt a lot from Mother Theresa

I’m an alien?
So what’s the problem? The problem for me is when people tell me what a man is, and they paint a picture that excludes me. Like those books about Mars and Venus, where I felt like I was from Jupiter, or maybe Nibiru. But it’s even more irritating when it’s Christians who use the bible, through the lens of their own culture and with a lot of conclusions that I’d never find in the verses they quote, to say that a man is created to be something that might be some (sub)cultural idea of manhood, but that will never be remotely me.

I’m sorry, I might be a straight white married male, I don’t care about fancy cars, or about machines that make noise, I don’t care about competitive sports, I don’t even care about porn, or things all men should struggle with (I have other struggles though) and I think killing things or people is just a sign of evil, not of manhood. I like beer, but not to get drunk, and we just have good tasty beers brewed by monks in Belgium… I like wine and self-made elderflower lemonade too anyway, or gunpowder tea… Playing brave-heart (like a famous evangelical writer wrote about in a book about manliness that I won’t name but which I’ve written about earlier) doesn’t look manly to me, just childish and immature….

I’m sorry, I’m 100% man, and I suppose the puppy-smashing, binge-drinking, porn-watching machos are men too, just as the book reading, coffee-slurping intellectuals… There are different kinds of people, different kinds of personalities, who all have their strong and weak sides, and their struggles and gifts. But to elevate one certain type of man above the others (mostly by people who either are or otherwise want to be that kind of man) is not constructive. And in this case it can be quite misandric in a bullying kind of way, excluding all who don’t reach your holy standard of manliness. And if this kind of thing happens with bible-verses to back it up harm may be done to the body of Christ. (Others have said enough about how the roles that are pushed unto women, or even the word effeminate itself are quite misogynist, so I won’t go into that now)

I don’t care if you are a man and like to lead, but don’t make it a rule. I don’t care if your wife likes you to lead, fine, but not every woman is like that. Me and my wife both are mutualist/democratic people, who get irritated by both having to serve as a slave or to lead alone… Hierarchy is impossible in our marriage. And I’m not a person who likes to be leading everything, the responsibility gets heavy when I contemplate it, and I like to share it with other people…  I hate to be counted on to be ‘in control’ in most situations and I want to be together with people when things are hard… All people are different, but there are other lines to be drawn than between men and women…

not just men, but people are alienated
But, some say, the church is effeminate, and we need to man up. We need to be dangerous and violent and whatever otherwise we are not like God created man, look at **insert person from the bible killing bears or insulting kings or doing whatever kind of crazy things** Look, I don’t care what kind of examples you find in the bible. If they inspire you and you want to be like them. Fine, except when they lead you astray from the teachings of Christ and the fruits of the Spirit (we’ll get to that later) but there are also examples of men who liked to stay at home with their mother in the kitchen, like Jacob… And there are strong women, like Deborah who lead whole nations. Gender does not say much, in both genders there are a lot of different people, and 2 men can be more different in character than a man and a woman sometimes. (I’m much more like my wife in character than I am like people like Mark Driscoll… It’s just a difference, not a judgement of value…)

The rhetoric would say that we men have been tamed, and need to be wild again and take risks and stop being safe and blah blah blah. Now, I completely agree that we are alienated of our nature in this modern safe society in which we are like canaries in a golden cage. We are trapped in jobs that make no sense at all to make sure we can provide for our families. We have to follow a lot of petty rules and conform to a lot of nonsense.

But there’s no need at all to make this a gendered thing. All human beings in our current societies are alienated and cut off from their roots, and robbed of their connection with their selves, with nature, and with people in a community. And playing brave-heart, of having fantasies about being a biblical man who kills a lot of philistines, insults a dangerous king or slays wild animals with his bare hands is not at all helpful. Nor is it manly… It’s more immature, and the whole ‘be a biblical caveman’ approach is just an adventure in missing the point, a distraction. We see that there is a problem, but we come with a solution that isn’t relevant at all. Being more violent, making more noise, and watching fight club with a cheap beer will not bring you closer to God, nor will it make you more man…

The problem runs deeper, and is connected to the core problem of humanity, which is not at all gendered, even though different personalities (and men and women often have different personalities) might experience it differently. We are separated from God, from ourselves, from each other. And modern society has even alienated us even more from creation, which is part of the problem. We are all tamed by our own systems, which are in the end leading to suicide (as Jacques Ellul writes somewhere) and out of which we are called to live a new life, a new story… This is what the gospel is all about, and the gospel should not be watered-down with self-help ‘be a good American male’ therapy’!

Jesus said ‘follow me’, and gave us an example. He, who was God incarnate, followed the path of love until its final consequence at the cross, where the powers of the world killed Him. But those powers could not hold Him, and He defeated death, sin, bondage, evil and Satan in the resurrection! And we can share in that new life, the Way, which shatters the suicidal powers of the world, which brings life and renewal, and is a foreshadowing of the New earth and Heaven, when all evil will be erased, and we will be exactly what we were created to be, in everlasting union with the tri-une God and each other without any trace of darkness… This is what we men and women who feel caged are yearning for. And trying to fill that void with playing William Wallace the killer is just irrelevant as best, and harmful to the gospel at worst…

the spirit of the flesh…
I once almost threw a book across the room (if it would’ve been mine I would’ve really done it!) by the guy whom I already paraphrased who seemed to thing William Wallace from the brave-heart movie the best example of biblical manhood. The reason was that (after writing a lot of stuff about ‘biblical’ manhood according to him, which to me looked liked baptised American machismo and which quite bored me) he made a condescending remark about men who had learned to be nice and take mother Theresa as an example. And then it was enough… You can do what you want, but some things are going to far, like being so ignorant about Mother Theresa….

I don’t see why men, and women could not learn a lot from Mommy T (like Shane Claiborne calls her) She is one of the best examples there is of an untamed soul. She was an example of a person changed by the Way of Christ, and someone who exhibits the fruits of the Spirit. No, she wasn’t noisy, and not even drawing attention to herself, but that’s the whole point… Giving up yourself in love for others is more manly in the Kingdom than all warriors with shiny swords of all the videogames and movies together…

Let’s go to Galations 5, where the fruits of the Spirit are summed up:

5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.

This is the character of a Christian, and living in these characteristics as the Spirit enables them to grow in us will make us do things that go against the grain, things that are wild and untamed. But in a very different way than the ‘men are violent’ proponent preach. Violence and being rude and cultivating our ego aren’t fruits of the Spirit, but fruits of the flesh, and thinking that they’ll solve anything in our problems as Christians is misguided. As misguided as some other stereotypes that are pushed upon women too… If we live in the Spirit, the fruits will grow, and where the Spirit is, there is freedom, or liberation as Kurt just tweeted might be a better translation. Freedom from worldly expectations, cultural standards of manhood and womanhood, and liberation from the suicidal tendencies of the World and the Flesh…

Let’s not push ourselves and each other under a new slave-yoke

Let’s change our ways, for the Kingdom is here.

Let’s follow the Way, the Truth and the Light, into Life eternal,

Let’s shine a light so people might see who God is

let’s bring liberation in this dark world,

and let’s shine light where darkness reigns

Veni, Spiritus!

shalom

Bram

Christianity, economy and neoliberalism…


This is from a facebook discussion (slightly rewritten for literary aesthetic reasons), where someone asked me what the Christian views on Ron Paul and Austrian economics would be. I am not an economist myself, but I believe that economical theories that are built on the idea of ‘constant growth’ are unrealistic and dangerous for various reasons, and I believe that we should cultivate an economic of enough, not too much, for ourselves, and generosity for all who need it. I know I’m not living up to that the way I should, but there’s not other way to live the way of Christ, the way of love, the life of good news and reconciliation…

I know this is a messy text, but I just wanted to keep it for myself, and maybe one of my readers may be interested…

Me: I would say that the teachings of christ and the NT, and almost all of Christian traditions are completely incompatible with hyperindividualism or any systems where economics are elevated over people, or any jungle law system including economic neodarwinism. Instead taking care of the poor, the downtrodden and those left behind should be prioritised over any system of economics or ideology…
The conservative christian right would say otherwise probably…
Okay, I understand. But Ithink they all want the same outcome for the poor, they just differ in their means. I think liberal see the means mostly in assets as responsability. Socialist thinkers and christians more in charity. I think that last one gives us a good feeling about ourselves, but I just isn’t that effective but more culturalimperialistic and bougeoisstyle.
Me: Whatever you see as superficial outcome for the poor, I don’t think the outcome for the person itself and for the world is even remotely the same. Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus can not live for themselves only, like the idea of the american dream and similar ideas would, nor for the hoarding of stuff and posessions. Btw, Charity originally did not mean the ‘give and stay on a distance’ but it comes from the latin word ‘caritas’ or ‘universal love for fellow humans, like loving and being friend and giving. From the church in the book of acts in the bible to St-Francis to Shane Claiborne in this time, the Christian tradition that cares most for the poor is the one that is content with ‘enough’ and shares the rest -not just stuff, but time and life- with those who need it.
The neoliberal underlying dogma seems to me that everyone is equal in chances of making it, and therefor blames those who didn’t. which is completely unfair and utterly unrealistic, but for those who did make it it’s easy to blame the ones who didn’t… Jesus would care most about them, and we Christians need to relearn this.

Like Paul writes in the bible:

1 Tim 6:7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. 8 But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11 But you, man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.
so what do you think? (except for that I could’ve used a lot of Jesus’ words instead of this quote from Paul)
shalom
Bram

nonviolence: 2 quotes…


… And I happen to agree strongly with both of them!

Nonviolent resistance is not directed against people but against forces of evil. Those who happen to be doing evil are as victimized by the evil they do as those who are the object of their oppression. Therefore, I will not go to war. I will not support war against other nations. I will resist recruitment into the military. I will encourage others to do the same. – Shane Crash

Nonviolent action on behalf of justice is no automatic formula with promise of success: but neither is war. After all, at least half of the people who go to war for some cause deemed worthy of it are defeated. ― John Howard Yoder

(thanks to Brandt russo, Jason Coker and Jamie Arpin-Ricci for the fb-shares)

What do you people think?

shalom

Bram

The worst of all sins, the Jesus creed and an orthodox hell…


Let’s start with a quote that could come from some classic book about Christianity of the sort that should be read by everyone, but in fact just is stolen from a blogcomment by the ever incredible Scott Morizot, on Sarah Moons blog. (The context is a discussion about premarital sex, but I’m not going into that now)

The modern church has largely lost sight of the deeper understanding of the ancient church. The physical passions, lust, gluttony, and the rest can be very destructive, but they are the lesser passions. Greed, anger, hatred, bitterness. Those passions form us into subhuman beings and are more dangerous for most people in the long run.

- Scott Morizot

I think this is really important stuff. We shouldn’t put our main focus on outward sins like a lot of Christian moralists do, but on the structural sins that reside in our heart. We should not fight symtoms, but cut to the core of the problem. And the problem of sin is much deeper than breaking a law and doing what we shouldn’t do:

Sin” in the Christian sense does not mean breaking a law or violating ritual cleanliness. The closest meaning would be ‘missing the mark’ and the ‘mark’ for Christians, as I understand it, is always Christ. Communion with Christ. Forming Christ in ourselves. Being Christ to others.

- Scott Morizot

This is something I’ve been thinking about, since I’ve reread Scot McKnight’s ‘the Jesus creed‘, I’ve very clumsily started to at random times recite to myself the “Jesus Creed”, or Jesus adaptation of the Shema that we mostly know as ‘the great commandment’, and wondering if I do indeed in any way even try to live up to that. Which can be a really confronting exercise!

The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Christ, From Mark 12

First comment here is that loving God is something strange, but I do believe that it means to know God, a personal relationship with God. If we believe that in the afterlife we’re going to be with Him without end, then it’s worth trying to get to know Him in this life too, isn’t it?

Another comment: If the law is summed up in “love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your fellow human as yourself”, then this must be the first thing to which we turn to see whether something is sin, even if we take the definition of sin as law-breaking. Everything that hinders us in growing this double love of God and neigbor in any way is ‘sin’. And the most dangerous sins here would be indeed things like greed, anger, hatred and bitterness. Which is scary sometimes to realise, for example if we consider that our economy does run on greed, when, like Paul says, love of money is the root of all evil…

If we allow those things to grow in our lives, they will hinder love, and in the end make it impossible. And if love is really impossible, we indeed become ‘sub-human’, we become a child of darkness that will never be able to endure the light. Which is a very scary definition of hell which I did encounter in orthodox thought: for the lost soul eternity with God IS hell, an all-consuming fire…

those are just thoughts that are incomplete; so all comments are welcome!

Shalom

Bram