Check out my new post by clicking on my name when the picture comes up or on the link below. Thanks for reading. Jane
Do We Really?
By Jane Tawel
February 3, 2019
All the assumptions we make. And we just take it all for granted that because we call ourselves something, label ourselves something, that these things are true. And we like them to be true because that is what gives us personal meaning and usually a paycheck or two. One of my favorite sayings of the current younger generation is when someone says something, and they sing-song with a bit of Socratic sass: “But is it? Is it really?” “Was he? Was he really?” “But did you? Did you really?” With the emphasis on really, this seemingly silly question has all the power of Pilate’s “What is truth?” I imagine if Pilate and Jesus were talking today, as they did in John 18, their conversation would go something more like this.
Jesus :“I have come into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, hears my voice.”
Pilate: “But do they? Do they really?”
Here are some assumptions I hear people making, and being the stickler for the needed role of an antagonist in any good story, I will present how one might wonder about the “truth” of things people base their lives, livelihood, and even salvation on. This of course is a partial list of just my own particular meditations today. We can add on to these and ponder them for eternity; or rather until God’s Kingdom comes. Then the fat angel sings and it’s game over.
People say a lot of stuff about what “Christians” believe. Here is some of my personal “Socratic” dialect about some ideas that I have been struggling with lately. As is my bent, I will open my stream-of-conscious rather bent and banged up thinking here. I will use the second person “you” as a more colloquial version of the more proper third person “one”, meaning of course this is at heart, a first person reflection in the final analysis.
- We should lead like Jesus. Jesus was a good leader. But Jesus proclaims himself not a leader at all but a servant and follower. In fact, Jesus flees the leadership role that could make Him a king of nations. Jesus flatly states that he can do nothing in His own power but only what His Father, Jehovah, does through him. To put the final “nail in this coffin”, It is very clear that when we are judged, if we have been a leader, we will have gotten our reward while on earth. Only those who serve as and with the least of the least will be chosen to lead with The Christ. We may all be created as equal, but we do not go through life as equals which brings us to false idea #2.
- All human life is sacred. There is, I am afraid, nothing at all in the Bible that implies this. The metaphor found in Psalm 139 is merely that, a personal poetic reflection on the part of the servant of God and chosen Jewish king, David. This current Western idea that each human life is special and sacred is purely a religion born out of Humanism and wealth and the warping of “Christian” thought. This humanistic, individualistic religion that we erroneously call worship of God is nothing more than worship of self, and is not a Judeo-Christian worldview at all. I could go on and on with proofs from God’s Word about this but read it for yourself from beginning to end and you will wonder how we got to believe that each human is sacred. To give you only one indication, read the story of God and Sodom and Gomorrah and of Abraham’s plea for God to save just ten people worth saving. This idea that a human life is sacred is blasphemy in fact. There is none sacred but God, the Bible says. We can choose covenant with God and be chosen in that way and only in that way to have a life that is more than dust. But it is by our keeping covenant with God and living as The Son of God lived, that we become holy, sacred, eternal soul. I am afraid it is an incredibly important thing to think through in this day and age of the rather (sometimes literally) “Micky Mouse” -Americanized- Christianity-ese. It is critically important because people use this idea of all life as sacred to be “pro-life” about the abortion of unborn fetuses, but not “pro-life” about the born lives of illegal immigrants or not pro-life about people who do not vote or worship as they do. People support this idea of each human as sacred, in the ridiculous worldview that you can “ask Jesus to be your Savior” and then he is because “God loves you no matter what”. There are so many “Christian” songs that flat out say this over and over and it makes me tremble because if you read the actual tome that we call God’s Inspired Word”. You will realize that:
- God does not love you no matter what you do. There is absolutely no indication in God’s Word that this is true. Let me just give you one example: Moses. Yeah, that star among God-followers. God was going to kill Moses and then – well, read the story for yourself of Moses’ wife, that wonderful pagan woman called Zipporah. Which brings me to this.
- God is not my friend. God is not that friend Who comes whenever I call Him to help my team win the game. God is God. Again, read God’s Word. Actually read it; don’t show up to have the experts tell you on Sunday how much they love you because Jesus loves you and died for you. He didn’t. Jesus, a Jew, died for a Holy God, his Father, Adonai. Jesus completed the whole cycle of being human in perfect covenant with a Holy God. Jesus died to show us that we could be reborn through our own deaths (both literal and figurative, as He did) if we lived in covenant with Yahweh, as Jesus did. Jesus is very, very clear that He did not come to throw out the Bible, what we blithely call to our peril, the “Old” Testament, but to fulfill and live it as it was meant. Not as the religious leaders had interpreted it but as The Christ lived it. We are meant to live it too. But it is not this wide road that is easy to stroll down because your own particular life is so sacred. Nope. It is a narrow road that you choose, but as Robert Frost said, that choice will “make all the difference”. I should be different because God loves me enough to make me different enough to be with Him. Which bring us to #5.
- God loves me. Well, yes and no. God loves me but not because I’m me. The Bible tells us that God loves “the World”. God made the world perfect and He made humans perfect. And then we messed ourselves up and messed up the world and continue to do both of those things. Read the bits in the Bible about how God “chastises and disciplines those He loves” and then decide if you want A Holy God to love you. Because frankly most of us live like animals. This is where those who don’t believe in God have it partially right. We are like animals and we can choose to live like animals if we want; “eating, drinking, and being merry” for tomorrow we die. And that’s it. Scripture implies that if we live long enough, we get three choices in this world: 1. To live for self and get as much as I can for me and my family, just like the doggie families, and ape families do. When my days are over enjoying this wonderful life, I will either lay down with gratitude or regrets or a mix of both, and then return to dust and cease to exist. The place of buried animal bodies, or the ground from which no man returns, is what the Bible calls Gehenna. 2. If on the other hand, you lead your life and choose to be cruel, wicked, to abuse God’s name, to abuse power, to abuse others, to enjoy evil in word and deed, and perhaps even if you just commit those things we call the sins of omission, ie not doing the things you were meant to do for Good; then God is pretty clear you will be punished even after you think you escape judgement through death. Those people will go to hell, complete with the demonic gods they have enjoyed while alive on earth. 3. You can spend your life living on the planet as best you can in relationship to a God we can no longer see. We can no longer see God as Adam and Eve could, because we have chosen sin instead. But God provides a way “back to The Garden” so to speak; and that is by following the rules, worshiping only Jehovah, and loving others as we love our own selves. This is the option we have to live in a covenant with The One True God, Yahweh. These people live to glorify the name of Jehovah, live for the least of the least in this world, study Truth, learn how to love and trust and hope again after The Fall, and resist the temptations that The Christ did: those temptations of power, greed, and self-worship. These people will rise from death to a new earth and to even something new and unknown – a “Heaven”, the place where at last we can be in the same space as God is and not die. These people will see God and live.
- Everyone wants to go to heaven. No, they don’t. You may have been taught that you will go to hell if you don’t listen to Christians. Well, ironically the only people Jesus, the founder of the little Christs sect, says will go to hell, are the leaders of the religion he practiced. Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” This is sobering to say the least for any of us who have taught any thing about Jesus. And while, I have always loved the practices and people of today’s churches, the incremental off -course steering that The Church has done for the past centuries, has us so far off course as to frighten me. Which brings us to something we might call semantics in #7, but semantics are crucial to explore when you are thinking about Jesus who is called The Word.
- Jesus loves his church. He doesn’t. He couldn’t because he never used the word and there was no such idea as we now know “the church” in any of Christ’s teachings. In fact, in what we call the “New” Testament, another scary thing we’ve come to believe, there is not a single time the word “church” is used. Church is a misinterpretation of several Greek words. Again, you can read and google this for yourself. There is, of course, much proof that to follow God, we must live in communities, caring for each other and worshiping together. There is much proof that we are to live as followers of Christ with others who want to follow Him, like his disciples did. But the point is, we have turned the religion of Christ (and by extension of His early followers, including the people who wrote the Gospels and Paul) into something they would neither recognize nor I would venture to boldly say, would they approve of. So let’s just say this for now. Jesus was a Jew. Jesus believed that He was the Messiah of The Chosen People who were the Jews, the Hebrews. Jesus believed that it was through the Jewish Scriptures and lives of the Hebrew covenant keepers that God, The Father is best revealed. He also believed though that the Jews had abused their status and that “there would come a day when God will be worshiped neither on the Jewish Mount nor in the chosen confined temples of any other peoples, but by all peoples in “spirit and in truth”. Then He claimed that the day had in fact arrived with His way – The Way – of worship of God. Jesus did not come at all to form a new “organized religion” and we have programmed and capitalized on Jesus’ beliefs out of all recognition and wisdom. The main word that Jesus used that should make all the difference in our understanding of who He was / is was not “church”, congregation or synagogue. The word Jesus used was “Kingdom”. And He did not preach His own earthly kingdom, but The Kingdom of Yahweh. Which brings us back to the “really”, “is it really” of #1, in #8.
- The Gospel / Good News is that Jesus is the only way to heaven. No, He isn’t. Jesus is the only way to The Father. And Jesus came to bring The Kingdom of The Father back to our understanding and to make available the germination in us of how The Father’s Kingdom can be restored to our world / planet/ Eden. What Jesus taught is that: “I am The Way (to God), The Truth (about God), and the Life (with God). No one comes to Jehovah except by means of my way.” In fact, this is why early followers of Jesus who were Jews or converted Jews would never have called their religion “Christianity” because it wasn’t. It was Judaism. They called what they believed what Jesus called what He believed: The Way. If you don’t want to truly know a Holy God and become holy, you won’t go to “hell” (necessarily). You will merely have enjoyed a good or an awful life depending on your status, personality, and circumstances and you will return to the dust of this planet like all animals and plants will. Nothing wrong with that choice. If however, you think that you want to live forever in the presence of God as we were intended to do in Eden when humans were created in the image of Divinity, then it is best to try to figure out how we are really meant to live now.
Because claiming to be something, doesn’t make it so. I would love to claim that I am a gorgeous twenty-three -year -old with a million dollars in the bank and five houses in various parts of the world and a private plane and that every one who meets me loves me and that I could rule the country, maybe even the world in the way it should be run, and that I get do-overs on every minute I’ve messed up and that God loves me no matter what. And you would have to ask me with all the Socratic sass you could muster, “ But–Are you? Are you really?”
If you think Jesus did all the work for you, or that because you were born into some cultural religion or other, or that just because you are alive, that those facts– which the Bible says, fall randomly like rain, on the good and the evil — that those facts make you something you want to be; and that God loves you no matter what; well then, you may want to look around at what we are doing to God’s world, to God’s other children, to our own bodies and souls, to God’s planet, and what we do in blasphemy of God’s Holy Name, and you may want to humble yourself; and ask yourself when you think you have it all figured out:
Do you? Do you really?
By Jane Tawel
September 11, 2018
Who Are You?
Are You Nobody too?
Then there’s a pair of us – Don’t tell
They’ll banish you know.
How dreary to be Somebody
How public, like a frog
To Tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog.
**Written in 1891 by Emily Dickinson
I have recently observed people in power from my outsider’s view as a Dickinson -ian “Nobody”. I have of course, worked for people in power. Many of the people I have worked for or with are professing Christians, and many of them have achieved a power that has sadly become so masked by “feel good” philosophically excused uses of power that they have no remaining understanding of the dangers of human or national power. There have in my experience, been several of these powerful leaders who adhere to a particularly odd rule that they will not even read anonymous notes addressed to them, let alone take them seriously unless the anonymous person “reveals” herself or himself. They claim that there is something subversive, something unethical, about not being willing to put your name on a message. These powerful men, (and they are most often men but not exclusively so), can take that line in the sand stand because they have enough power in their particular sphere of influence to say and do what they want to and let the chips fall where they may –because of course they assume that like always the chips will never fall –because they have power. And so it goes round and round. But frankly from the peanut stands here, the anonymous collective opinion is that the very notes leaders should be reading are the anonymous ones. The notes we should be reading as Americans today are the anonymous ones – not just the current famous one, but all the anonymous “notes” of anonymous people without power trying to speak truth to power throughout our long and checkered history.
It is true that one reason people speak anonymously is because they are afraid; but they also speak anonymously because what they have to say is so true that it should brook no argument and yet, because we have gotten to a point in our history as humans where we seem unable to even admit we are wrong or mistaken, or uninformed, let alone, that we are sinful or evil; people will not admit they are ever wrong and will even argue outrageous lies and not be held accountable. If we cannot accept we are wrong then we definitely can not change course and stop being wrong. And because of this widespread disease of self-justification and self-righteousness and just plain pig-headedness –anonymous speakers know that the argument for and revelation of Truth will be used by the people in power to silence or muddy the truth. These necessary truths can include correctable truths like pointing out that what a leader said showed prejudicial views and should be corrected to revealing larger and larger truths like money is being spent in wrong ways by our leaders or our leaders are using their power to abuse children. If I received an anonymous note, would I be obsessed by wanting to know who it is from – yes, that is natural –but would I discount that there may be some truth in the message that I need to listen to – I pray not. I pray I would want to know the truth if it is meant to change something, to better something, to create something good, and not a truth meant just to punish or shame. I hope I want to learn and grow from truth, no matter how much it might hurt me.
Especially anyone who wants to claim a Judeo-Christian worldview should take these unsigned notes coming anonymously as spiritually serious. You see, if there is fear created in people who work for or with us, then that is quite plainly not “of God” as much of Holy Scripture advises us. (2 Timothy 1:7; Matthew 10:26-28; etc.). The second reason is that if someone writes to me anonymously then I must understand that my natural inclination is to protect self-interest, to defend myself, to not admit wrong or sin, so that I am actually, by the very anonymity of the writer, being lovingly – yes – lovingly! – honored by this person writing without name to me because they care enough – yes care! – about my changing for the better for my own soul’s sake. Do I put the anonymous writer on too high a pedestal? I hope so because of course the writer is in this situation, the “least of these” that the Bible tells me I will need to treat justly lest I be judged lacking someday by the God-man Messiah who came to be the least of these among us. Jesus didn’t even write to us anonymously – He didn’t write to us at all. He was so certain of His mission and His understanding of God’s True truth, as revealed in The Hebrew Scriptures and as revealed in His close relationship with His Father, that He didn’t write to us at all. He didn’t need to because it was already written in God’s Word, in God’s World, and in God’s Nature. Jesus simply lived powerlessly amongst us and because of His radical choice, He now lives in absolute power at the right hand of God –because of that choice of laying down all the power in the world to the glory of God and the salvation of His people. My dying to my own sense of power is the only way to ever live eternally in the power of the resurrection. I can’t be made whole, new, perfect, if I am clinging to the imperfect powers of self and of this place and time in which I temporarily live.
The reason people write anonymous notes is because they don’t have power and think that speaking their truth to a person in power is critical and important enough that they must do so . They of course also may not want to risk losing their jobs. They may not have a golden parachute or a non-disclosure clause or a helpfully rich relative. There are times of course when people must risk their jobs to do and say the right truth. There are times people risk not just their livelihoods, but even their lives to speak truth to Power. But as a little person who has many times felt compelled to speak truth and who has also supported anonymous note writers in their choice of anonymity, I will tell you that I think the real subversive actions are from those people who have power and will not use that power to look within themselves and figure out why someone is so afraid or so sure –that they must remain anonymous. The times I have felt compelled to speak truth to power, whether boss, relative or sojourner in Christ, still in remembrance, hurt my heart. The times however, that I did not listen to True Truth spoken to me, hurt my soul and that is more painful and harder to course correct by far.
Especially people who claim to follow Jesus as The Christ, should be humble enough to understand how their own power has perhaps blinded them to truth or to the different needs and inferior power structures of “The Other – the Biblical “lesser than’s”. Anonymity reveals needs just as much as signing one’s name to needs, and what anyone with the power to address someone else’s needs should do with that power is to follow Biblical injunctions to “die to self” and give to the least of these. We modern day Pharisees and Sadducees are the truly blind guides, the truly subversive abusers of the Good News, the truly unethical, and when we judge the anonymous writer we are leaving the planks in our eyes and judging the speck in theirs.
Jesus often told those He healed to stay anonymous and allow Him to remain anonymous from the powers of Rome and the powers of Religion – at least a little longer so that He might heal more, bring Good News to more of those with ears to hear and eyes to see. Several of the writers of the remembered actions and stories about The Christ were anonymous amalgamations of people who chose a name to put on the Gospel. – decades after The Christ died and rose again. These Gospel writers weren’t of course anonymous during all the years when the Gospel was orally spoken throughout the world, and so the religious and national powers of the time could kill them for speaking non-anonymously. Paul, who probably often wishes today from His heavenly view, that he had written his letters anonymously so people couldn’t abuse now what he said then, often used his eloquent words to speak to the idea of power. But those aren’t the popular bits that Christians in power today are fond of. We are too contently busy protecting our power and not busy enough taking a knee.
I started to write in my first paragraph that I have never wanted to be one of the powerful ones, but that would be a lie. As a parent, I can cringingly, with deep remorse, remember abuses of my power over my children. As a woman, I can remember abuses of my power. As a wife. As a teacher. As a friend. As a white person. As an American. As a brother or sister in Christ. Because you see, we are all sinners and all choose, sometimes daily, to eat from the apple of power to use good and evil for gain.
As a parent, it took me forever to realize that parents have necessary power for so long over our children that we have a hard time seeing when we are abusing it or when we are wrong. And we can see this played out on our national scene and in our churches today – this inability to give up one’s power and admit that you – or the horse you backed – or your pastor, pope, priest, or president is wrong; and then to realize that even powerful people should be informed, chastised, held accountable, and helped to do something differently than he / she has been. Frankly, sometimes for our good and their own eternal good, these people need to be removed from that position of power before the consequences multiply – for all involved souls, large and small. You see, we are all sinners, all wrong, all mistaken, and all eventually powerless and no matter our name, we end the game the same. Hence, we are in this together. We must all recognize that our nature is to abuse our power, no matter how rich, how poor, how weaponized or nuclearized; how democratic or “Christian” we are – Nations included; churches included; businesses included – I included.
Our human nature is to desire power in one realm or another and that is a gift, as long as that power recognizes first, that it can never remain if it keeps trying to usurp God’s inherent power and that secondly, it can never ultimately succeed if it keeps trying to usurp another human being’s inherent and spiritually equal power. We are created to use our personal or national or religious powers for Good. But of course the mythological telling of The Fall of Human kind is based on the True Truth that all human beings, men and women alike, long for the power that belongs to God and long for the power that belongs to some one next to them, and long to use that power for the knowing use of good AND evil. And in this we sin daily by abusing our natural powers to become un-natural, ie what we were not created to be. We also have tragically misused this power given to us as humans in our sins against the power of nature; this power that was given to us in order to serve the needs of our planet as overseers. We have destroyed not just other humans but the natural goodness of the earth. And we become more and more powerless in that realm because power abused is always power unloosed. Here in lies one revelation of the Christian worldview that “we fight not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers”.
It has been good for my soul to become a little gray -haired nobody. What has been hard for my ego and sometimes hurtful for my pocketbook has been glorious for helping me to walk “further in and further up” as C.S. Lewis might say. Walking in the shoes of people who experience prejudice their whole lives, not just when they are old women has brought me closer to the Messiah who turned our idea of power right side up from the upside down view we prefer as power-hungry sinners. Observing the hypocrisy rampant today has forced me to make different choices myself and to strive harder to act out, not just preach out Good News. I am reading Holy Words and those who illuminate True Truth, whether they write for Christianity Today, The Los Angeles Times, or WordPress with new intent on how to live rightly and fervor in how to look inwardly and outwardly at myself and others with those things that remain: faith, hope and the greatest of all, Love.
I am more cognizant and accepting of the reality, that the days of my life in which I have been the most of a “nobody” have been not only the best days of all, but also the days most like what we are told we will live in a new Heaven and new Earth. Being a nobody is truly the path to freedom, joy, and Jehovah’s Kingdom, where my name doesn’t matter; only the Way, Truth and Light matter – only He matters.
I am reminded of the verse I chose to be a life verse, (while the Angels watched and howled with laughter at the ironic Bible verse choice of this power-hungry but pathetically weak human). I chose this verse oh -so -naively when I was a high schooler and full of pride, ego, self-righteousness, and misguided power. It is from a letter signed by Saul, who changed his name in order to give up His power and lay down his life as His Savior did to the least of these. For Paul he gave up his power to serve not only those in his camp, the Jews, but also the Gentiles who desired to be part of God’s people, Jesus’ Jews. My verse, Galatians 2:20 reminds me that “I am crucified with Christ, yet nevertheless, I live. Yet not, I, but Christ lives in me. And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith, of the Son of God –Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
See, one of the things about being dead -dead is that you eventually, no matter who you were – President, Pharaoh or Pope – become unknown, anonymous, a nobody, dust. But we who believe in the Hebrew God of Revealed Power, and The Holy Scriptures that reveal True Truth, believe there is a way out of eternal death and into eternal life; a way out of the anonymity of human beings who are from dust and to dust will return; a way into being known forever with a new name that will be our identity known forever, seen forever, living in the light of truth forever in Yahweh. But unless I become that which is dead to self before I physically die, then no matter how big the lights of my name today, no matter how much power I yield, I am a nobody. The Way of The People who want to claim to be little Christs is only walked by dying to being a somebody in the service of King Jesus, who became a nobody to live with us –yesterday, today, and forever. We become a part of the Some-Body of Christ only by becoming a Nobody to ourselves. It is through giving up the power of our own flesh and desires to honor and serve in the life of faith in the Lord the giver of Life, Jehovah God.
Sometimes dying to self for the greater good, means leaving a job that is sucking the soul out of you. Sometimes it means going to a third-world country to bring some good news; and sometimes it means letting a third-world country experience living freely in the good news of your own country. Sometimes it means speaking out for black men in America by taking a knee with them. Sometimes it means giving a twenty to a homeless person and foregoing the McDonald’s drive through. Sometimes it means protesting our current Babylon / America’s injustices, one border atrocity at a time. Sometimes it means losing your job or getting suspended because you walk out against gun violence. Sometimes it means speaking truth to people in power, standing shoulder to shoulder with others or all alone, with your own name proclaimed loudly enough that you might even get killed.
But every once in awhile, dying to self, means that you remain anonymous because you know deep inside, that you don’t matter at all and that ultimately, True Truth has a way of fighting its own battles. And that Truth will set you free.
And for some of us in power dying to self means not discarding but in fact, reading the anonymous note written to and perhaps even about us, and then humbly, contritely, giving up the ultimate power of being right and joining the eternal cast of nobodies.
We may choose to be like the multitude of somebodies that this world assures us we all can be. We may choose to use our gifts not for making the world a better place but for making us more powerful, for getting us ever more stuff than we need. We may walk in that wide way of the world and think we are somehow being unique and special. Aren’t we encouraged that we can all be Greatness and Power just by our own desire to “Just Do It”, right?
But some of us in order that someday “we will be like Him”, may choose to be nobodies. Because He became a Nobody. We may choose to walk humbly before God, no matter our title or resources, and to give unto others as we would desire to have given unto us. We may choose to believe that it is true Truth that some day we will only have left what we gave to the least of these and that all our skills and talents and powers will be dross and dust. We may choose to believe that only our Love will remain. We may choose to lay down our lives as if we were nobody just like a Nobody from Nazareth did for us. And only with that choice, which might include choosing to be changed by and live by the words not just of famous but also of anonymous writers, are we assured that one day, we will be Somebody worth being. We will in fact be with Somebody, worth being.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (As recorded as the words of the Nobody from Nazareth in the Book of Matthew)
“It’s the Law, Kid”
World View Check #3
By Jane Tawel
June 20, 2018
Periodically I post what I consider a Worldview Check in words written by authors far more wise, capable, and mind-blowing than I could ever be.
The following from Garry Wills’ What Jesus Meant was written in 2006 but is a newly read ironic, funny and searing look at where we are today. I would also highly recommend a re-reading of Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw (2008) and Andy Crouch’s Playing God (2013).
We live in a nation that needs a serious reality check on what God has actually said to us. We use His name in vain to our peril and use His Word to justify our actions to the peril of other people throughout the world, most recently those seeking asylum at our borders.
As we make enormous paradigm shifts in our misuses of the idea of law versus justice; as we bestow mercy for self but not mercy for the least of these; as we defend one type of religious practice as Christians ( think t-shirts and cakes) but not others (think aliens and prisoners); as we look at certain sins differently in our own lives, while out of the other sides of our mouths claiming that God sees all sins as equal; as we worship with cheaply bought grace when we are not busy brunching; as we live in this way, we are left with a choice. We can either: Re-educate ourselves, re-align ourselves, and restore ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit and the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and the Love of the Creator Parent of us all; Or we can continue as we are. I just recently realized: I don’t want to continue as I am.
Don’t read the Bible or any of the books I have mentioned, if you do not want to: contemplate mystery, confront hypocrisy (both within yourself and others), and sense God’s humorous humbling of us through His word, His very flawed followers, and through a truthful reading of the world’s history.
Do not read further if you do not want today to wrestle with hard truths. I am often pinned to the ground and counted out, but wrestling, nonetheless. Before reading Wills clever deconstruction of our cherished views on God’s word and the law, I found it helpful to meditate on the following ideas from Jesus and the Bible Jesus read.
Jesus: To whom much is given, much is expected. (Luke 12:48)
Jesus: I came not to abolish the laws but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)
And from the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”. (Luke 23:34)
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, “Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein”. (Luke 19:14-15)
Deuteronomy 10: 12 –21
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.
The chief of the Temple police and the high priests were puzzled. “What’s going on here anyway?” Just then someone showed up and said, “Did you know that the men you put in jail are back in the Temple teaching the people?” The chief and his police went and got them, but they handled them gently, fearful that the people would riot and turn on them.
Bringing them back, they stood them before the High Council. The Chief Priest said, “Didn’t we give you strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name? And here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are trying your best to blame us for the death of this man.”
Peter and the apostles answered, “It’s necessary to obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, the One you killed by hanging him on a cross. God set him on high at his side, Prince and Savior, to give Israel the gift of a changed life and sins forgiven. And we are witnesses to these things.”
What Jesus Meant
By Garry Wills
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination—end of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s laws and how to follow them.
- Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
- I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
- I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is: how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
- When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor to the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
- I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
- A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11;10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination?
- Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
- Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?
- I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
- My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton-polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev. 24:10-16)? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?
I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging (34-35 Garry Wills, What Jesus Meant. New York: Penguin, 2006.).
I am continuing in my journey by confronting my own egregious sins and hypocrisies and struggling with how I have lost orientation on The Way. It is not easy, in fact it is extremely difficult, but inch by inch, I feel as if, with a humble nod to C.S. Lewis, that I am walking towards the wardrobe door and there ahead, I am momentarily catching a glimpse of something real and full of light just beyond that door; in a world just as real as the one I woke up to yesterday but even more real; and there Aslan waits –just beyond the lamp post.
Bear Witness in the World of Something better, by being Someone better.
Further up and Further in,
In conclusion, I meditate on some visuals from history and artist’s imagined visuals from God’s His-Story.
Children swinging from a lamp-post in the ruins of their London Street (1940)
“Killing children is fair, says US Military”. The War on Iraq:
Image of a Central American child traveling with migrants sleeping at a shelter.
United States White House: “It is very biblical to enforce the law”.
Artist’s imagined image of Herod ordering by law the slaughter of what could have been Jesus’ pre-school classmates.
Our favorite historical homeless asylum seeking family on their way to a new country with hopes of freedom.
Desperately Needed: Translators
“Do Not Pray for This People: I Will Not Hear You”
By Jane Tawel
February 17, 2018
We the People, who claim some sort of kinship with God, seem to be lost in “non-translation”. “God hear our prayers” becomes impossible if not acted out with our own blood, sweat and tears for others. A quote by the poet, Christian Wiman, was for me today, yet another nail in the coffin of our “go to” – “thoughts and prayers”, “I’ll pray for you”, and so forth. Not that I don’t in fact, ask for prayer often, and pray for people and give much thought to others daily. However, I remain cognizant of the fact that much of my sort of prayer is only possible because I am a first-world rich, “fat-cat”. Being a first-world citizen is also why I can sinfully often remain inactive in actually “working out my salvation”. Wiman writes in his My Bright Abyss:
Silence is the language of faith. Action – be it church or charity, politics or poetry – is the translation. As with any translation, action is a mere echo of its original, inevitably faded and distorted, especially as it moves farther from its source. There the comparison ends, though, for while it is true that action degrades that original silence, and your moments of meditative communion with God can seem a world away from the chaotic human encounters to which those moments compel you, it is also true that without these constant translations into action, that original, sustaining silence begins to be less powerful, and then less accessible, and then finally impossible.
Today is the fourth day of Lent. This year, Ash Wednesday fell ironically on the same day as the Hallmark Holiday, Valentine’s Day, and tragically on another violence by gun day at a school in Florida. Of course, every day in America has become a violence by gun day. When it happens to me or my kids, please don’t give me your thoughts and prayers. Our prayers in this country have become impossible for God to answer, because we think of them like we do all currency – ours—belonging by rights to us because what? We call ourselves “Christians”? We have become a people who admire those who make money without work that benefits others and those who admire prayers that remain silent and not active. Unless we begin to spend the currency of our prayers in action, the Bible says, it will be impossible for God to hear us.
“Give us this day our daily bread” is meaningless for those who have more bread than is good for them. God has no role in our need, and therefore, no need to give us “rolls”. As we continue to pray for protection, we must accept that we have created a nation that doesn’t need God for that any more either. Neither do God’s original people, by the way, the Israelites. Plenty of ammo to go around there, too. God is willing to let us continue to protect ourselves with our weapons of mass destruction. Free will, and all that.
If I want to know how to act in the Babylon I live in, I should read the newspapers, and this doesn’t always make me feel good. If I want to know whose prayers God listens to, I have to read the Bible parts that don’t make me feel all that good either. I must carefully and humbly read my Bible – especially the bits that convict me.
Psalm 69:33 For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.
Psalm 34:17: The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles.
Proverbs 21:13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.
We must stop believing that we can go into our closets and pray and be a “good” church goer and be saved. If this world we have created hasn’t become scary and awful enough for you, look at the next one we claim we want to go to – a new earth and a new heaven lived as God originally planned. If we don’t start living in that world now, God is quite clear that we are having no part of Him and that He will have no part of us. The words of the prophet Jeremiah should propel us out of our “thoughts and prayers” —
Jeremiah: Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah (The Church, America, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa, South Korea, China……) who come through these gates (church doors, democracies) to worship the Lord. 3 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.
9 “‘Will you steal and murder, (shoot up your own children as living sacrifices to your freedom to own something?) commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal (Capitalism, America, Freedom…)and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things? 11 Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the Lord.
12 “‘Go now to the place in Shiloh (oh, Irony – Shiloh is now The West Bank!!!) where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. 13 While you were doing all these things, declares the Lord, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. 14 Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your ancestors. 15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your fellow Israelites, the people of Ephraim.’
16 “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah (Columbine, Newtown, Parkland, Karbala, Najaf, Kandahar, Kabul, Kedrovoye, Bethlehem….) and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. 19 But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?
20 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched. (Cheap grace will be seen as the counterfeit salvation it is!)
21 “‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings (tithes, prayers, sermons, “thoughts for Me”) to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! 22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt (Europe, Africa, Asia) and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you. 24 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. 25 From the time your ancestors left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. 26 But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff -necked and did more evil than their ancestors.’ (Jeremiah as recorded by the Holy Spirit in chapter 7, Book of Jeremiah)
I am taking time away from reading my newspapers this Lent. But I hardly need to do that to understand that American Christians have been swept along in the tides of history like all others who grow out of their need or desire to be with and like a righteous God; who break their covenant with God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We have taken such incremental steps away from Jehovah, Yahweh, that we are unable to see how many degrees off True North we have journeyed. This is what has happened throughout recorded history with God’s people: with the Egyptians who gave God’s people bread, with the Babylonians who let them pray behind closed doors, and of course, with the Romans as they took the money into the coffers of God’s temple. We too, have offered our prayers out of one side of our mouths, while chanting, “Crucify Him” out of the other side.
Jesus did not come to merely die for us. He came to live for us and to live as us. He came to show us The Way – because we keep losing our way. Most importantly, He came to make history. He did not make history when He died – we will all do that since that first Adam chose death over serving Yahweh. Jesus made history as the first human ever to be RESURRECTED from the dead – for eternity. This is what He came to show us that God intended all along — from the beginning to today. God through The Christ, has now offered a way for us too, to be resurrected. IF!! IF!!! IF!!!
THEN!!! THEN!!! THEN!!!! What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (As recorded by the Prophet Paul in his 6th chapter to the Romans –and to us?)
I don’t really need to read the newspapers since History repeats itself again and again –in The Garden of Eden, in Israel, in America – on a Roman cross. The only different news-paper is The Good News of Jesus The Christ. Jesus broke the bonds of history – He broke the bonds of Time – He broke the bonds of Death. The news has always told us the same thing – we will die because we sin. But all of that changed in the life, death and resurrection of the man we call Jesus and who believers call, Messiah, Christos, The Christ. My prayers for Jesus to be my Savior are always a good start, but The Good News is that they cannot be the only thing I do.
I thank my God, My Savior, that He didn’t come to earth to offer me His “thoughts and prayers”.
Choose the Losing Side to Win the Game
By Jane Tawel
January 27, 2018
I am not a team person. I used to be – cheerleader, Celtics fan, Baptist, etc. My children and husband will tell you, that today, even when it seems I should pick a side, the obvious side of Team Tawel; It often seems to them that I start kicking the ball toward the other Team’s goal. If anyone playing for Team Tawel is playing the Discussion / Argument / Making Choices Game with other family teams or friend teams, life styles, or life choices; I will often go rogue and start playing offense and defense for the other side. It is my own belief, i.e. world view, that even though there seem to be many teams, there are really only two Coaches. There is God, the Life Coach and Satan / Evil, the Death Coach. So, with fear and trepidation and daily red cards on my humility, I try to determine which Coach is training and leading the team, and try my best to be playing on that side. It may seem I switch sides, but in fact, to my mind, there is only one Real Team – The Jesus-Team.
I have found that sometimes, Teams will claim a God- Team name, like Christianity, or Islam, but the self-proclaimed players don’t seem to know the rules or The Way God wants the Life-Game played. Dallas Willard uses the metaphor of an airplane pilot not realizing that she is flying upside down to describe this idea of mine — players thinking they are playing for the Christ-team, when in fact they are shooting into Satan’s hoops, scoring points for his deathly kingdom team.
I have also found that some people wouldn’t dream of putting God’s Team name on their playing abilities and yet seem to live and play the Life Game more closely to how Jesus played the Life-Game than many who claim to be “little-Christs”. I have struggled mightily to find a balance in this current game between the rules of Truth and the rules of Love. Neither of Life’s Coaches is able to reveal the whole game plan and win, but there are enough clues in the Rule Book, in the “videos” of past player’s winning games, in the clues on the playing field, we call Earth, and in what the Bible calls the “fruits” of one’s life, or the moves of one’s game, — to help me figure out if I went out today on Life’s Playing Field, and scored points for God’s Team or Satan’s Team. We need to stop listening to those who claim to be playing for Coach God but don’t want to repent of scoring points for Satan’s team. If we read the Book of Rules, it is really very clear how God and others should and will judge our Life Game.
At the end of each day I live, comes the reckoning. I talk to God Coach, Who, even though I am the most benched player of all time, always has time to listen and coach me individually. I ask God Coach, “Please forgive me for all the points I scored today for Satan’s team. I know I ended up running in the wrong direction because I just wanted so badly to win, I didn’t care that the points were scored for the Other Team. I thank you, that even though it cost me an MVP on Your Team, God, I will never cost You, The Game. You have already won it.” I thank God Coach, “Thank You for all the points You scored today with my feet, my hands, my mind, my heart. Thank you that despite all my errors, misses, and boo-boos, You remain For me, on my side, against the powers of the Other Team. Protect me from wanting to be traded to Satan’s team so I can make more money, or get more attention, or play more. Help me be willing to sit on Your Bench, God, for the glory of the Resurrection of Playing for Your Team Forever.” And I beg God Coach, “Please let me have another chance tomorrow, to play a better Life Game in your honor and glory so I can play with You forever. Let the greatest Player of All Time, Your Son, who had Your Voice constantly in His ear, inform my Game. Let me see Jesus daily and follow His moves, on the playing field of My Life.” Amen.
We live in the strangest sort of reality now, where we have come to set ourselves up as fifteen minute Celebrities, and little mini-demagogues. It is perhaps because we have so very much power as individuals that post Humanism-Enlightenment, there is only self to worship or the self of the celebrity of our current team. We often don’t even realize we are doing it, because either we simply find people who agree with our opinions and shore up the sinking sands of self-centered built belief systems; Or we make God a personal pocket genie – a god who more than any thing wants our team to win. Win at any cost. Win as a good in itself. It is all a game for us, a competitive television show to watch, a test to score well on — and we seek that constant high of winning and watching the other “team” lose. So we must keep winning to feel happy, right, powerful, fulfilled, secure. And in this way, we have truly lost sight of what it means to be fully human and we have lost sight of what it means for god to be fully God. We tend currently to associate this team mentality with politics and sports, but it is rampant in our society and in others around the world. I remember when Verity, my daughter, was on Team Jacob rather than Team Edward – all based on a puerile book and movie series. I sometimes think that if the world continues for a while longer, this will go down in history as the Age of Team Worship. Anyone who claims the name of Jehovah, needs to be very careful of this worldview as in Christ, there is no team, “neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, Celtic nor Laker”. There is only His Body, crucified and resurrected.
The reality is, that unless we are playing for the losing team, we will lose all. Coach Jesus, says what does it profit you if you win every competition, but in the process lose your soul to Satan’s Team? In The Real Kingdom of God, we must lose to win, and crucify self to be personally resurrected. We must follow the Coach who took one for the team, and we must bench ourselves to be chosen MVP. God’s chosen people are always the ones the rest of the world considers The Losers.
Matthew’s Gospel translated by Jane Tawel: When the MVP of All Eternity comes in his glory, as The Final Coach of All Teams, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before Jesus the Coach, will be gathered all the nations’ teams, and he will separate people one from another as a Good Coach separates the valuable players from the players for The Other Side. And he will place His Team on his right, the home team, but Satan’s Team on the left, the away with you team. Then the Kingly Coach will say to those on his right The Home Team, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom’s Playing Field prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For you played on My Team. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we play for Your Team? ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, you played for Team Jesus, whenever you played the game for one of the least of these my brothers, you played the Life Game for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, the Get Away Team, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his team players. For you put My Team Name on your jersey while your actions on the field showed you for a player for the Other Side. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we play for Satan’s Team; when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘You scored many points for Satan’s Team, thinking that by putting my Father’s name on it, you would win the Game. Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into the eternal life of Team God.” Matthew 25
Choose the right Team. It doesn’t just cost you the game; it costs you your life.
* * * * * * * * *
Once again, I defer to writing by “People who say things better than I ever could”: As promised, I will try to hold the newspaper in one hand, and the Word of God in the other. I submit to you two editorials and some news from a current newspaper, the words of the prophets in the New Testament, and A.W. Tozer.
Romans 12:2: And do not be conformed to this world’s deathly Game Plan, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of Coach God is, that Life Game which is good and acceptable and perfect.
I was taught as a little girl that being a Christian meant having Jesus in my heart. I was taught that my daily choices added up to my eternal choice. I would submit to you, that no matter how the world seems to change to our eyes, it has not changed since Adam and Eve in God’s. So in some writers’ words about America, that might have been written by Romans at the time Jesus lived:
First: Some editorials from writers commenting on the strangest thing of all, to my old eyes – People who claim to be pastors and evangelists in the name of my Savior, Jesus the Christ, telling powerful people they can do whatever they want and still “go to heaven” as long as they are playing for the right team. This is most tragic of all for those very powerful people who are led to believe they are “winning”, when in fact they are playing for Satan’s Team. It is most sad for those very rich and powerful rulers of the New Rome, America, that “Pharisees” continue to live in sin, so that their religious and political agenda will be furthered – just like the mistaken Pharisees did at the time of Jesus played Our Life Game. It is horrible though for those of us to whom “much has been given, since much will be required” when The Coach calls us to that Final Locker Room post-game talk in His Heaven.
“The triumph of partisanship over morality starts at the top.
Politicians have always behaved badly. What’s new is the willingness of so many not just to look the other way but to call bad behavior good.” – “Republicans Redefine Morality as Whatever Trump Does” Dana Milbank, WP
The level of cynicism here is startling. Some Christian leaders are surrendering the idea that character matters in public life in direct exchange for political benefits to Christians themselves. It is a political maneuver indistinguishable from those performed by business or union lobbyists every day. Only seedier. You scratch my back, I’ll wink at dehumanization and Stormy Daniels. The gag reflex is entirely gone.
The problem, however, runs deeper. Trump’s court evangelicals have become active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life. Never mind whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is of good repute. Some evangelicals are busy erasing bright lines and destroying moral landmarks. In the process, they are associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.
Not long after Watergate broke, a chastened Billy Graham addressed a conference in Switzerland, warning that an evangelist should be careful not “to identify the Gospel with any one particular political program or culture,” and adding, “this has been my own danger.”
The danger endures.
–“The Trump Evangelicals Have lost their gag reflex” – by Michael Gerson
And then there is the news about the young lady who “forgives” the abusive doctor of so many “team players” in the USA Gymnastics Olympic team. Forgiveness is a very important Christ -like thing to do for this young lady and it will be a treasure to her own soul. However, we do wrong as Christians to forgive sinners, perhaps especially sinners with a lot of worldly power because by doing so, we are becoming god. Only God can forgive, as Jesus is clear to point out to the Pharisees of His own time. And God only forgives, if I repent and sin no more, as Jesus also points out to the woman caught in adultery. But time and place truly don’t change reality, since the Pharisees and Sadduccees, the men caught in adultery, didn’t stick around for God’s words either. They go off and forgive each other to sin another day in perhaps another way. Jesus went on to show all that have ears to ear and eyes to see, that forgiveness is not free, has never been free, will never be free. Sin comes with a price – death. We will all pay it. Forgiveness comes with a price and Jesus paid it on the cross even though He and He alone didn’t need it. But we have done much wrong to the Good News by thinking that Jesus paid that price to leave sinners in their sins. We must die as He did, not just wear the t-shirts of cheap grace that claims Jesus paid it all. “IF any woman or man wants to follow me”, says Jesus, “she and he must take up the cross.” “You must be completely changed,” says God, “You must be born all over again into spiritual life with Me.”
Once, again I must give you the brilliant words of A.W. Tozer on the reality that we should, as Christ followers bring daily “to earth as it is in Everywhere that Isn’t Earth = Heavens.
From The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer:
Perhaps a homely illustration might help us to understand. An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool. Its destination has been determined by proper authorities. Nothing can change it. This is at least a faint picture of God’s sovereignty.
On board the liner are several scores of passengers. These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree. They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.
Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other. So it is, I believe, with man’s freedom and the sovereignty of God. The mighty liner of God’s sovereign design keeps its steady course over the sea of history. God moves undisturbed and unhindered toward the fulfillment of those eternal purposes which He purposed in Christ Jesus before the world began We do not know all that is included in those purposes, but enough has been disclosed to furnish us with a broad outline of things to come and to give us good hope and firm assurance of future well-being.
We know that God will fulfill every promise made to the prophets; we know that sinners will some day be cleansed out of the earth; we know that a ransomed company will enter into the joy of God and that the righteous will shine forth in the kingdom of their Father… and a new heaven and a new earth be established forever.
In the meanwhile things are not as smooth as this quick outline might suggest. The mystery of iniquity doth already work. Within the broad filed of God’s sovereign, permissive will the deadly conflict of good with evil continues with increasing fury. God will yet have His way in the whirlwind and the storm, but the storm and the whirlwind are here, and as responsible beings we must make our choice in the present moral situation.
Certain things have been decreed by the free determination of God, and one of these is the law of choice and consequences God has decreed that all who willingly commit themselves to His Son Jesus Christ in the obedience of faith shall receive eternal life and become sons of God. He has also decreed that all who love darkness and continue in rebellion against the high authority of heaven shall remain in a state of spiritual alienation and suffer eternal death at last.
Reducing the whole matter to individual terms, we arrive at some vital and highly personal conclusions. In the moral conflict now raging around us whoever is on God’s side is on the winning side and cannot lose; whoever is on the other side is on the losing side and cannot win. Here there is no chance, no gamble. There is freedom to choose which side we shall be on but no freedom to negotiate the results of the choice once it is made. By the mercy of God we may repent a wrong choice and alter the consequences by making a new and right choice. Beyond that we cannot go.” (111,112 Tozer)
In closing, you can’t be a team player on the bench. Prayer is your team huddle with the Coach but it is not playing the game. We must put actions to God’s words in order to be in the Game. Understanding the game, does not mean that I can rely on the Coach to play it for me. No matter how many injuries I incur today out there, I have to pray for help from the Coach and then get out there and try to lose. My Coach assures me: If you go out there in the fray of the Game and try to win for your own sake, Janie Karen, you will lose your life. But if you go out there and lose all for My sake, you will win.”
Rooting for the Losing Team of Jesus,
Some Musings on a Facebook Conversation between “Believers”
by Jane Tawel
July 13, 2017
I don’t know any of you in this Facebook exchange, except Scotty. Disclaimer: I have claimed a “form of” Christianity as my own Worldview and worked with Scotty at a Christian high school. Second Disclaimer: I struggle with the idea of calling myself a “Christian” in the same way I might struggle with calling myself an “American”. I am both, but the violence done to both of these titles and in the name of both of these identities has led them to be misnomers in my own heart if not elsewhere. As a person who values the integrity of words and truth, I am content to continue to struggle with both.
Pete –your arguments are sound and I find they point to something I have been struggling with for the last several years perhaps especially as I continue to work and “play” in “Christian” circles and assess what we have “done to” the Judeo-Christian worldview in the First – World Orders in which we live. I don’t want to intrude on this conversation but at the same time I don’t like to “snoop” on conversations that I find important and I think this one is.
My own experience throughout my life is that God as a Being will be as relational as I, as a being, want Him to be. At various points in my life, I made different choices in whether I wanted to be a “Christ-follower” and a “God-believer” or did not. There have been lots and lots of days when for my purposes God worked best as an afterthought. I have found that God is perfectly okay with leaving me alone but He also doesn’t just come when I whistle for Him. He is faithful but not on a leash. He has no need at all for me to believe in Him or do anything for Him. He has an Otherness and a love for humanity that people from the very beginning have tried to communicate with varying degrees of success. Those who call themselves “Christians” believe Jesus communicated it best in the flesh.
A person having no need of what we know as god(s) is an historical, rational non-belief life choice, as you rightly say. There is nothing new about it nor can we blame science for it. We also therefore cannot look to science or any other religions as a basis for argument. The very tenant of the Judeo-Christian Worldview is “Shut up for once and Just Know that Yahweh is The God.” (Psalm 46:10) If anyone has forgotten the mystery of this it is probably us yakking, arguing, bullying, world-conforming “Christians”.
Perhaps, Pete, what your friends are trying to argue but choosing what I would say is merely an unhelpful word choice — faith — is more that everyone believes in something. Perhaps what you are correctly pointing out is that it is also true that many think they believe in something like God who is Otherness, when in fact, they believe in god who is a reflection of their own desires and need and self image. It is kind of like people saying they believe in “free market” or don’t believe in everyone having healthcare and yet their actions show what they really believe in for themselves — just not for others. Believing in God has always meant actions over words. And this is what the non-believers rightly shake their heads at as our actions too often show what we really believe. Hence, we try to argue Otherness empirically and temporally and personally and get ourselves all tied up in nonsense. No wonder you keep trying to point that out. I can only apologize for myself not for all of us, but I feel a great sense of guilt in all of this. I’m sorry.
God is a choice, not a fact for everyone’s life. I think what many Christians fear is the admission that they have lived their lives exactly as you surmise is the truth — God as a convenient Santa Claus or God as a convenient excuse and more wrongly — God as personal power and justification– and so we give in to this constant need to convince the rest of the world that we are “right”. (Side note: I keep recommending this but I highly recommend Kathryn Schultz’s Ted Talk on “Being Wrong” or her book if any of you Facebook folk have the time. It has nothing to do with “religion” and everything to do with thinking and believing unscathed in anything at all including the infallibility of science.) Also, with people I love, I feel very sad when they don’t want to believe in God but I have erred so many times on letting that sadness be anger and worry. It is a Mobius Strip paradigm, is it not?
Many of us who claim to be “Christians” — and I put it in quotes time and time again because our idea of Christianity is too often like people who think selfies are art — We too, too often have no more real Need — or real love or conception and pattern of worship of Another Being — than you do. This of course is why much of the world sadly has found no need of us or Our God. I believe we will be “judged” for this as individuals and also as religious institutions and nations. I don’t know exactly what judgment means and I understand that to you, Pete, it has no sense in eternal terms, but perhaps if I might just say that I think that somehow what I have been given as soul-life is mine to develop and will someday either be connected to an Otherness Eternity and a “Lifeforce” that I know and love and that knows and loves me or not.
We too, who call ourselves “believers” have quite often created a god in our own image. And sadly, this is what people see in today’s religion called “Christianity”. I say sadly because –mea culpa. It is why some of us are seeking a new name and new pattern of living spiritually and relationally even as we continue to turn to the Scriptures and other spiritual writings for direction and reality checks.
You are correct of course — there is something inherently irrational about both Otherness as a God and divine souls in humans — and when we keep trying to prove its rationality to atheists we do in fact “spin our wheels” as Scotty said. Spinning one’s wheels in my experience, just throws a lot of dirt on everyone nearby. Those who believe in True Myth — and again you are correct — all religions have some coherent similarities in terms of true myths– know myth to be as divinely inspired as art or communication or sunsets or tornadoes or the inexplicable love at one’s first sight of one’s baby — or anything that we “feel” and thereby “know” to be a Truth truer than “reality”. I know this idea of “True” myth sticks in your craw. If it helps you any, it also bugs a lot of Christians for the opposite reason! 🙂 Throw it around sometime with “Christians” and have some fun.
The two things that I have been dealing with the past few years are: One — God is not a one way street and faith, hope and love are my part of living intentionally in the world daily and living in a covenant with God daily — not once and then arguing with non-believers for the rest of my life that I am right and they are wrong. Just like my marriage, there are days and nights that I want out of this covenant with God because I just don’t love Him any more or He doesn’t love me enough any more. But just like my marriage, a covenant goes beyond “reality” to a different level of living together and that kind of loving relationship is quite different than anything else I know.
As those who claim “Christ” continue to use Him as a weapon or excuse or battering ram or fear tactic or successful hierarchical corporation or “community”, we create resistance, disbelief, anguish, unfaith, anger, disgust, and as you rightly say again, war and more war and more war. This is a team mentality that has made us all so small, I fear, at best. At worst, it has made us “cursed are those who give the name of good to evil, and of evil to what is good: who make light dark, and dark light: who make bitter sweet, and sweet bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).
Secondly, I think a lot about this idea that belief is not about what I do or what God does or what tenets I believe, or what I can prove. If I read and think about what my Worldview clearly says time and time again, the purpose of my journey is about whether I know God and He knows me. Whether I love God and whether He loves me — because the idea of “Know” in the Judeo-Christian parlance is that most intimate of knowledge that marriage partners have.
So — all of this to say — these are the kinds of discussions that we should be having with JOY– with excitement — because respecting and being connected to another human’s “innerness” — albeit unusual and uncomfortable in the age of reality TV — is so much more fulfilling knowledge than knowing about a two fanged snake or whatever you were referencing as a proof. Our need to communicate with each other, our desire to love or direct each other to “truth”, our own inner light — all of these inexplicable but true facts of self and other — are the greatest “proofs” I know of that there is a Something, and I believe, Someone, greater than just “me”. Wrestling with it as you all are doing is mentally and emotionally exhausting work, but as my family says at the end of certain work days — It’s a good kind of tired.
… Thanks for a good start to a thinking working day via Facebook!!! Thanks for letting me go on and on as I think through the important ideas you all raise.