Monday, December 27, 2004

A New Command

The Christian Right is extremely adept at drawing on the Ten Commandments and the Leviticus codes to explain whom God abhors and detests. Politically, the Right is then able to align the Liberal agenda with all of those things that God hates in order to attract religious voters. Besides distorting Liberal values and the intent of, say, the Leviticus codes, they only tell half of the story of God's character. (I may try to pick up the Leviticus issue much, much later; I'm not sure I'm up for the hate mail just yet...)

One of the major problems is that the Right neglects to paint the picture of an amazing God who is jealously in love with us. I’m not making this up! There are many places in the Bible where the prophets use metaphors of loving human relationships to help us understand how passionately God loves us and how desperately he wants us to love him back. One of the most poignant examples is the book of Hosea.

Hosea is a prophet who was given a very tough job: God commanded him to take for himself an adulterous wife. The first few chapters of Hosea’s story read like a (depressing) romance novel: He loves her; she cheats on him and breaks his heart. He goes after her to win her back; she becomes a prostitute and begins sleeping with more and more men. But Hosea is in love -- even after she goes as far as to sell herself into slavery, Hosea pays her debt and brings her back home to live as his wife. Why does God put Hosea through all of this? God wanted Hosea to be able to explain to his audience exactly how passionately God loves us and to what lengths he will go to win us back, even when we have hurt him. God loves us the same way that young, jealous newlyweds crave the devotion of their spouses. That’s love!

Now let’s turn our attention to a commandment that you may not have heard much about from the Christian Right. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
He commands us to love one another the same way that he loved us. That’s quite a calling! Moreover, Jesus says that it is in trying to emulate this type of love that people will recognize us as Christians. Imagine that: we are called to love others so passionately and desperately that we are willing to endure the pain, heartache, and humiliation that Hosea endured in an attempt to explain God’s love to us. It is clear that knowing that we are recipients of God’s love is no invitation to self-righteousness.

I know that none of us is perfect and that it is very difficult to love our enemies, but I think it is important to remind ourselves occasionally that Jesus didn't call us to hate anyone. He called us to be his disciples, and he asked us to respond immediately; but he did not call us to hate. Our job is to love as best we can and to share Christ's Good News as best we can. My experience is that both are easier when you try them together.

And this is one of the many places where the Christian Left must step up and find its voice: Every time we hear hate-mongering that the Right claims to have taken directly from the lips of God, we must stand up and yell just as loudly about a God who loves us passionately and expects us to love others the same way.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

John 1:17

"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

Wishing you and yours our Savior's peace and grace this Christmas! Amen.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Why not simply require stores owned by Jews to put a gold star in their ads and on their storefronts?

That was the question asked in a letter to the editor by the Reverand Jim Melnyk (associate rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh, North Carolina) in response to an ad taken out by Pastor Patrick Wooden, Sr. of the Upper Room Church of God in Christ, also in Raleigh, North Carolina.

And I couldn't agree more with Melnyk's point! His quote sums up (and much more eloquently, I might add) all of my rambling thoughts from yesterday... The point of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of our Saviour, not to alienate non-Christians!

And just for the sake of argument, let's assume for a second that we Christians will assent to Wooden's call for a boycott. What is the point? That we lead totally insular lives, shopping & interacting only with other Christians? How then are we supposed to share the Good News?

I will continue to assert that alienating non-Christians while simultaneously battering them over the head with our beliefs will not create its intended effect of bringing them into the fold!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Mer... Meh... Merr... Merry...

So now the Christian Right (including the cartoonist I've linked above) would have you believe that Liberals can't wish their fellows a Merry Christmas.

As both a Liberal and a Christian, I will be celebrating the season and swapping season's greeting with my fellow Christians. And if you feel like wishing me a Merry Christmas, please do so! (Trust me, for those who know me, it's no secret that I'm a Christian and that I'll respond in kind.)

I don't understand why this year's battle is fighting to reclaim the season's greeting -- after all, it already belongs to us! There are many in this country who may prefer to offer (and receive) wishes for a Happy Holiday because they celebrate other faiths or none at all. And isn't it better that way? I mean, I'd prefer not to dilute the meaning of Merry Christmas to "Happy Time of the Year in which We Put Trees Indoors and Buy Presents" because we're trying to force those who don't believe to use the phrase.

I'd rather that Christians maintain the "Holy Time of Year We Celebrate the Birth of Our Saviour" meaning of Merry Christmas than batter others over the head with the phrase. After all, if we're not assaulting others with our holy days, people are more likely to ask what we're so happy about!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Not "those" Christians...

Maybe you think that abortion isn’t a decision for a woman and her doctor to make, because your faith tells you it’s wrong. Maybe you don’t think doctors ought to prescribe contraceptives, because your faith says all sex should be procreative.

The argument is that life is precious, and we ought to do everything in our power to preserve, protect, and promote life, even from its very beginning.

Well, what about
Christian Science? One of the tenants of that faith is that you ought to rely on prayer in lieu of treatment from a doctor in the first place. And many members of that church want the right to withhold medical treatment from their children as well. In the 80s and 90s, a handful of high-profile deaths of the children of Christian Science practitioners led to the publicity of dozens and dozens of faith-based exemptions to public policies designed to protect children from preventable diseases and death.

Regardless off what you think about that faith personally, I bet most of you would like to protect your personal right to seek medical care for yourselves and your families. Imagine a world in which the president and a majority in congress were Christian Scientists who wanted to outlaw medical care outright because their faith told them it was wrong…

Seems crazy, right? It’s not those Christians you think should be setting the moral agenda for this country!

Well, that’s how crazy it seems to half of this country that Christians want to outlaw reproductive rights because of what their faith tells them. People are going to fight just as hard for that right as you would fight for the right to obtain any other medical care to which you felt entitled. And we Christians are viewed as the folks that want to deny women reproductive rights and not as the folks who’ve heard the Good News about Christ’s love!

Similar to what I have said before, if you believe that the Bible says abortion and contraception are wrong, it is better (and likely more effective) to have these conversations with fellow believers who disagree with you than it is to use those issues as the starting point to share the Good News with non-believers. When you begin the conversation with issues that are ancillary, you are only going to alienate the very people you’re trying to reach.