I wrote one article as answer to Agent X’s „Prophets of Consumerist Doom„, I wrote another one in which I tried to describe my approach towards the bible and now I shall write a third (and hopefully not last) one in which I try to bring the debate a bit further, addressing Agent X’s challenges to my answer. So here we go:
In my experience, by far, most of my Christian brothers and sisters hardly bother with a Bible. They seem to have their own agendas baptized, and just believe whatever they feel – which often is guided with a measure of morality, and sense of heritage, and sometimes seasoned with a few proof texts.
I pledge guilty. Honestly this is why I emphasise on taking the bible as a corrective among others. This is before all a challenge to myself, as I know I am doing this nearly all the time. And it is understandable, isn’t it? I mean we all *know* the bible, we know what it’s about and what spoke to you in the first place. Of course we want to pass on what touched us, and we tend to loose track, because our own agendas mix in as we go. We can’t hinder this, as the point where the bible touched us must have something to do with our agenda, otherwise it would not have touched us. It’s a basic flaw we can’t get rid of. So we need correctives, like the bible, the Holy Ghost (or what we consider it to be) or the community of Christian Brothers and Sisters. If we didn’t have that flaw, there’d be no need for community. Wouldn’t this be an even greater flaw?
But I hope to challenge them to open their Bible and really look and listen.
Challenge accepted. Though you won’t see me tossing bible verses proof-texting what I wrote. As I wrote, I consider the bible a work of men, men who were moved by God, but still men. I want to take this into account, too.
But I appreciate Scripture at a very high level. I am not one of those who runs around in some nervous need to claim inerrancy and all that, but I believe it is the Word of God and as such the stuff of life.
I believe the bible contains the word of God, but there is no identity. You can’t carry God’s word around in your pocket. And we won’t get the word of God out of the bible without the Holy Ghost, who is not at our disposal either.
So my first question would be: Does the Bible teach us to sidestep the “Us vs. Them” thing? And if so, where?, how?, to what extent?, and perhaps a few related things such as that. I can certainly imaging running straight to some of the great UNITY passages in St Paul or St. John etc. And I find St. Paul telling the Philippians to have one mind, one spirit, striving together and in so doing they are a sign of destruction to their opponents and of their own salvation. Destroying your opponents with your unity sounds incredible to me!
But it speaks of destroying opponents. And this is an “Us vs Them” thing at that bigger level then.
Most unity passages that come to my mind are reduced to Christians, so looking at this, there’d still be an us Christians vs them Non-Christians. And you find us vs them throughout the bible when speaking about enemy nations such as Amalekites, Philistines and what not in the OT or Jews and Gentiles in the NT, also there are sinners and saints, Pharisees and prostitutes… That’s like people always try to put up some kind of own order, categorising others. And thus we get this us vs them all the time when people are involved.
And I think you can find a development in the bible. While the „us vs them“ is in the OT more or less along national boundaries: Us Israelites vs them Gentiles, it changes more and more throughout the times. The prophets tell Israel to not be too sure of themselves just for being God’s chosen people. So already in the OT the lines are changed from national categories to moral categories, when walking in the way of God becomes more important than being of God’s people. The NT takes this to extreme, when it has Jesus proclaiming God could turn mere stones into children of Abraham. Thus gentiles come into focus more and more. With the declaration of everybody being a sinner, the newer moral categorisation starts tumbling, too. All you now have to draw lines is faith (and along this line the stakes were burning in the middle ages).
This also lead to terrible wars between Christians of different denominations, most prominent maybe the 30 years war from 1618-1648, which literally destroyed most of central Europe, but we got past this – for the most part.
Actually, looking at the development I wonder whether God really intends to make any distinguishment between people.
After all, we are all sinners and in need of mercy. We as Christians know, that we have it – glory be to God! Yes there is „us vs them“ in the bible, but most seem to be nothing but humane category building. I mean isn’t it normal to wish the worst to those who are out to harm you? I think this is what we find in texts that deal with Amalekites and the like. I for my part see not the Spirit of God in this (and yes, I know here I run the risk of putting my own agenda into it). I just wonder what would „qualify“ me to be in the „them“ group from God’s perspective. After all He’s all our father.
St Paul also says our war is not with flesh and blood but with authorities, with principalities – the stoichea. We might begin debating what those powers are and how to go about fighting them. I think the state of the argument, as I present it is open to that. But I am clear that there is an Us vs Them going on there that mere sociology does not address.
Right. As sociology does not care about the powers, does not even presume their existence, it doesn’t address all that. For that you’d need some kind of demonology or such, but these are mostly speculations.
Still I tend to lean towards an own brand of speculation in this field: I think of them less like own personalities or such, no other beings with horns and what not, but rather emotions, structures of thought and feeling – I still need a word.
These powers keep us captive. They control our lives, not actively like a person would, but passively, they bind us like a cord would bind us. The cord does nothing active, it doesn’t intend to harm us in any way. It is just there. This is the reality of the fallen world.
God through Jesus on the cross unbound us, by revelation of the vanity involved in our binding. In faith we are unbound. Once we know God controls everything and not the powers that keep us captive, our captivity is over. We just walk away from the powers towards God.
I can see no „them“ in all this as I do not consider the powers „someone“.
You ask how to fight the powers. I think best would be in testifying the liberating God, and showing it in our lives. Like Agent X does with his work for and with the homeless.
What does self-sacrificial LOVE look like in that photo? Where is worship of YHWH, God, or the cross of Jesus??? in that photo?
Not at all, it’s men vs men, so it’s evil vs evil. As long as there’s no self-sacrificial love, there’s no God, maybe one god or more, but not God.
I doubt it’s possible to do anything when two parts are up for a fight. Neither the police nor the protesters intend to go into the scene with self-sacrificial love. I’m afraid all you can do is stand besides and bandage their wounds. If one side is intending to do the self-sacrificial love thing: Well, look at Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Something along these lines would be good, I think. I wonder if such tactics would also work for law enforcement. But you cannot take a policeman to be beaten up in order to calm things…
I don’t know. I need to pray on this. But when I look at that photo and grieve it so, I want to find out. I want to go there and play the Jesus card. I want my church to do this too.
Maybe put in a Jesus perspective. That would be to call to repentance for the protesters: You criticise greed, now how greedy are you yourself? Are you not only in envy for the 1% having more opportunities? WOuldn’t you do the same thing if you were in their place? Things like this. This would take a prophet I think.
On the other side you can take up their good criticism and bring a Christian answer to it: Start in your field. Become a better person yourself, become the change you want from others – if you give a good example, more people might follow you.
Someone – a famous preacher, but I forget who – said many years ago that if the church of America is serious and REALLY wants to end abortion, then rather than pressuring congress to change the laws, what we really need to do is all get together (One mind, one spirit???) and take out a full-page ad in ever major newspaper across the country stating that we, the church, will take ANY unwanted baby in ANY condition no matter what, no questions asked.
Personally I always wondered why pro life people only focus on what they think the mother should do but do not waste the tiniest thought on what they could do to save lives. Us vs them. We the Holy tell the sinners how to become better people like we are. Reminds me of the Pharisee and the publican in the temple.
We have yet to do that. But I don’t think most of my brothers and sisters even begin to consider it, or think of it at all, much less count the cost. We cant even get the idea out.
I like the idea. I wonder where one would start to get this actually going.
What if we took prayer and communion right to the breach between the 1% and the 99%? What would happen? Shouldn’t we try it? I am interested. Let’s at least talk about it.
God works miraculous ways, so you can never know what happens, we can only use our earthly minds to address this. My first thought is: Once there is communion, there is community, and you’ll have problems distinguishing the 1% from the 99%, at least for the moment. Like you can hardly differ between the slave Onesimus and the slave-owner Philemon once they see they are brothers in Christ and behave accordingly. The role of their respective status decreases. I just wonder if any in the Occupy protest would come to the cup of the Lord and break their bread jointly…
I seriously love your passion here. While you can bring prayer and communion there, I am not sure if anybody would listen. I wonder if they would be able to even understand what you are doing there. Still, God works wonderful ways, so it might also turn out to be an extreme success. I just wonder if anybody would come and join the communion. But the idea to find a common ground for both groups is something. This might be communion, but it could well be another thing. Blessed are the peacemakers.
In this final analysis, at the Spiritual height of all this, I think we do want to topple Saddam, but not with Democracy and not by means of military might. I think LOVE is more powerful, and Jesus, when he is KING there, really beats the system.
The thing is not to topple Saddam, he is just one figure that could easily be replaced by anybody else. The thing is to end oppression, and I think oppression is based in fear. Saddam’s (or any dictator’s) fear of being replaced and then be hung. Think Saddam, think Gaddahfi, think Ceaucescu, think Louis XIV, think Hitler…
When leaders are exchanged, the old leaders most often are disposed, i.e. killed. If your choice is to be killed or to oppress any opposition, guess what you’d do, except you were so full of love that you didn’t fear death…Then the powers wouldn’t bind you. But most dictators are bound. I wonder if you can be liberated by God and still be a dictator…