This is one of the best short descriptions of Wesleyan theology that I’ve seen. Dr. Witherington III makes the connections between love, grace, and changed lives. A connection that Calvinistic theologies fail to make. I’ve always viewed Wesleyan theology as optimistic and joyful, and Calvinistic theologies as pessimistic and dour. Watch and enjoy!
…are we talking about the same guy?
The Jesus I know was a Jewish carpenter turned itinerant preacher with calloused hands who liked nothing better after a long day than to have dinner and a glass of wine with a large group of friends, acquaintances and anyone else who showed up. He very much enjoyed deep discussions about the meaning of what it meant to be fully human – to live with authenticity and compassion – to bring the “golden rule” to life every single day. He didn’t shy away from discussions about the plight of the poor or the oppressive rule of powerful authorities, whether religious or political.
Despite the fact that his words often cut to the quick of the soul of anyone listening, people were drawn to his authenticity and compassion. The Jesus I know definitely walked his talk, and folks wanted to follow him and be just like him – they craved to embody the same depth of humanity that he exuded.
Of course, those cutting words often cut the religious authorities the wrong way. Jesus never shied away from looking them straight in the eye and telling them they had missed the whole point of life – their rules bound people to misery instead of freeing them to live fully. They hated that he hung out with all the wrong folks, eating and drinking and raising the religious awareness of the lowest members of society. In fact, the hate was so deep they conspired with the political authorities (who were no less concerned about the unsettling impact this itinerant carpenter-rabbi might have on the masses) to kill him.
That is the Jesus I know.
I do not know the Aryan-ized, Pharisee-friendly, corporatist, nationalistic Jesus who laughs at racist jokes, proscribes narrow rules of morality based on sexual ethics, blesses profits while children go without food and water, and wraps himself in flags and endorses one political party over another. I do not know the Jesus who agrees that the lowest members of a society are “takers” or that food, shelter, healthcare, education, or any basic human need is a commodity best trickled down in measured doses via any economic system by the wealthiest to the neediest.
That Jesus I do not know. And don’t want to know.
Which Jesus do you know?
Update: Dad passed away on January 15, 2012; he had gone into the nursing home in December of 2010, just months after this picture was taken. If you have the means, consider making a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association to support research to find a prevention/cure for a disease that takes the mind long before it takes the body.
The old saying that blood is thicker than water means that biological family bonds are stronger than other types of relationships. Marriage, naturally, trumps blood since a new family is created. And sometimes marriage creates ready-made families that develop ties as strong or stronger than the ties found in biological families. On this beautiful Good Friday in Oklahoma, I’ve been reflecting on the strength of the bonds formed between individuals and God via the blood of Jesus on the cross. And I’ve also been thinking of the bonds in my own life that have formed over the years between my stepfather and myself. These are bonds that go far beyond those of casual friendship; these are truly blood bonds born of a shared life, shared love, and shared memories. My stepfather may not remember the names of my sweethearts from years past; but upon seeing a photo of one particular young man, he remembers the guy as the boy who broke my heart. This emotional tie is stronger than any tie birthed in nature. It is true blood and true love.
And so, on Good Friday, I remember all the little things done for me by my stepfather (my “dad”) and all the big things done for me by my Heavenly Father.
I fire up the computer today and discover that in some segments of the blogosphere it is “Seth Godin Day.” If you don’t know who he is, great! You can quit reading. If you do know that Mr. Godin is a blogger, author, marketer, and popular web guru, and you really like what he has to say, you too might want to quit reading.
I’ve read some of his books. I find him less than entertaining, mildly arrogant, and a superb self-promoter. His shtick is to help people make the most of their businesses and their lives in this new online world. Some of what he espouses is great business and marketing advice. Some of it is just so much rah-rah, new age-y, mumbo jumbo (e.g. “How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for your to be remarkable?” gaia.com).
When I looked around at this so-called Seth Godin Day, the first thing that popped into my mind was the term Cult of Personality. I looked it up:
cult of personality –noun– a cult promoting adulation of a living national leader or public figure
I think it fits. People got up in the wee hours of the morning to participate in Seth Godin Day. People blog about him, his books, and his websites with gushing praise. They are enamored of his personality.
Personally, I would not get up at the crack of dawn to hear what any human being had to say (OK, I would answer a call from my Mom, but that’s it). I get up in the morning and show my adoration and respect for One only – the One – God Almighty – Maker of Heaven and Earth – the Alpha and Omega. Mr. Godin simply cannot compete for my already pledged allegiance.
I’m glad I missed Seth Godin Day. Instead, I spent some time reflecting on Saints Timothy and Titus. I read some John Howard Yoder. I corresponded with some other Christians. I tweeted and blogged about my faith. It was God Day here. And it will be God Day again tomorrow and every day thereafter.
Once again I note Christian media outlets, rightest political outlets, and a few Christian friends lamenting that some stores, groups, companies, etc., say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. They think this profanes the Christian celebration and shows a decline in moral values in the United States. Personally, I don’t think it demonstrates anything other than a generally jolly secular approach to a season filled with a number of different cultural and religious celebrations. Some of the better known traditions, in addition to Christmas, include Hanukkah, al-Hiijah, and Kwanzaa. Some lesser known observances include the Zen Buddhist celebration of the Buddha’s enlightenment (Rohatsu) and several different Baha’i feasts and observances. I won’t even get into all the ancient pagan observances that occur at this time of year.
As an Anglican Christian, I follow the liturgical calendar of the Western Christian church. That means that today was the first Sunday of Advent. There are three more Sundays in Advent and then I will celebrate Christmas. There will be 12 days of Christmas and then I will observe Epiphany on January 6. And the church year will continue on to Lent and Easter and Pentecost and right back around to Advent and Christmas. (Read more about the church year at CRI/Voice)
Christmas is a distinctive Christian celebration. You would not know this in the U.S. in the year 2009–not because people greet each other with Happy Holidays while they’re out shopping, but because Christians themselves have replaced shopping for a time of reflection and penance in anticipation of celebrating their Savior’s birth.
I do not care if some retail store says Merry Christmas or Happy Kwanzaa or Happy Holidays or Happy Hanukkah. They are, by their very nature, institutions who serve all customers, regardless of religious affiliation. Why would I expect them to cater only to the Christian and ignore all the others? They are incorporated to do business by a government that guarantees the religious liberty of all who live here, not just Christians. So, it puzzles me that Christians care what a secular institution says or does not say in reference to a religious celebration.
Perhaps Christians would better represent their faith by distancing themselves from the commercialization of the season. Christians, en masse, living out the joy and the hope of the season would say more than a million Merry Christmases from some retailer.
Obama is certainly left-leaning, and I believe he would love to take America in the direction of most of Europe. However, we are quite fortunate in that this is a Republic and he doesn’t get to do anything he wants. He has to contend with a Legislature, a Supreme Court, 50 state governments, and millions of individual citizens. Not to say Americans don’t need to be vigilant. They do. But the “Right” saying Obama and his advisors (the so-called czars) will single-handedly turn the U.S. into a socialist country is as bad as the “Left” when they said Bush and his advisors were usurping power, trampling on our freedoms and ignoring the Constitution. Oh wait, maybe that’s what the Right is now saying about the Left…
Anyway, lest the Right forget, capitalism is not without its flaws — many having reared their ugly, greed-covered heads over the last year. Yes, capitalism is good for generating ideas, innovations, new business, and wealth. It also appeals to greed, selfishness, and elitism:
“You’re poor because you were too lazy or stupid to take advantage of this wonderful capitalist system. I’m rich because I took advantage and I deserve to enjoy all my wealth. You want wealth? Go work for it.”
I’m registered as an Independent. Too bad I can’t register as a “Follower of the Way.” Jesus didn’t expect the government to take care of people and he certainly had little regard for the rich. Jesus called on His people to care for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the downtrodden, to welcome the outcast, to warn the rich, and to look to only one Heavenly Ruler for guidance
For some reason I woke up this morning thinking about Corrie Ten Boom. If you ever read the book or saw the movie The Hiding Place, then you know her story. She and her family were Dutch Christians who helped hide Jews during the Nazi occupation. They were all eventually arrested and Corrie spent time in concentration camps until her release in 1944.
When I look around our American society of incredible wealth and abundance (and, yes, it is still wealthy and abundant even when the economy is slowing), I wonder how we’ve become so spoiled and apathetic. We know nothing of sacrifice or struggle. We may think we know these things when we can’t afford a brand new, over-priced car, but in reality we do not know what it means to give our all, even our lives, in the pursuit of what is right and just.
I don’t know why Corrie Ten Boom was haunting my dreams and on my mind this morning. Perhaps, it’s a reminder that all I think I have is really nothing. The valuable things in life are intangible and can never be taken from me. As a result, the pursuit of all those concrete, material items is a waste of time — the time should be spent pursuing the simple, lasting values of life.
I’ve been working on a personal ministry Web site for a while now and it has gone live today, Good Friday:
Although it’s an outlet for my research and writing on faith topics, I also want it to be a source of inspiration and so it includes a blog with daily devotionals and a weekly audio sermon:
Virtual Hermitary Blog
Drop by and join the discussion on the blog or send me an email with your comments!
As I read the news these days I’m struck by that thought that a whole bunch of us need to quit calling ourselves Christians. This is not an issue of political party or liberal or conservative. This is an issue of plainly and simply not living by the very basics of the ethics and values put forth in the Christian Bible.
It seems to me that the mess reflected in our current economic problems and bloated government is a direct result of failing to adhere to those basic principals. Each citizen and government official is guilty of greed, envy, and disregard for the welfare of his or her neighbors. Anyone who is overextended on credit cards, who has bought more house or car than they can afford, or has felt the need to continually buy “bigger and better” consumer goods is guilty.
This is not an issue of the “haves” versus the “have-nots.” This is an issue of how each person, regardless of social or economic position, chooses to live. The Eco-Christian website poses a series of “Questions for Christians,” including:
- Should Christians replace something that isn’t broken because of new trends?
- Should Christians view materialism in the same light as adultery or gluttony?
Reading through the list of questions has an tendency to make one uncomfortable. We like our stuff, we like our comfy lives, and we like to think all of that makes us special or blessed. Perhaps, it just makes us fat hypocrites.