Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Response To A Modernist Christian Diatribe

It is very easy in this Christmas season to lose it in many ways.
The MSM is great in starting up things. One is the rampant consumerism of Christmas that they will decry. The people that wish Christmas would just go away. The people that want to help usher that to happen. The War on Christmas. The inevitable push back.
But today I want to share this from my sister that she shared on her Facebook page.
To be very clear from the get go.
She is not a Christian believer. She has described herself as a spiritual person. I am not using what I am going to write to condemn her but hopefully enlighten her about Christianity.
I don't think that she gets it.
Christianity is far and wide and the are way over 30,000 different denominations, There are very traditionalist views on the faith, very modernist ones and yes, some in between.
As an Anglican Christian, I consider my views to be in the middle of both.
So I want to share this with you. Sorry, I can't upload the photo but I am typing word for word:


The group that has this going around on Facebook is called Kissing Fish: Christianity for people that don't like Christianity.
I have seen variations of this all over the internets over the years. But until now have never felt compared to take it on. 
There is a helluva lot of punctuation errors but that aside, it is more of a political manifesto than a real explanation of what Jesus Christ was all about. 
So let me start with the beginning of this.
If you believe that Jesus Christ was not the Son of God, the Messiah, then you can make him little more than a political figure. 
The fact is that Jesus never came out and said "Yes I am the messiah". He spoke around it and used parables to make almost all of his points in almost all of his encounters. 
Here is the closest he came to outright saying that:

And the High Priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying "Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witnesses have against thee?"
But he (Jesus) held his peace and answered nothing. Again the High Priest asked him, and said unto him "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"
And Jesus said "I am: and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power (God) and coming in the clouds of heaven" 

That is from Mark, 14, 60-62, KJV version.
It only was when he was on trial for his life that he was that direct and that is it. Even after the "I am", he spoke of himself as always in a third-person. 
So as a believer, I do believe that he is not just a garden-variety political revolutionary. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah.
So is it true about Jesus hanging around with the marginalized of the society of his day?
Yes it is. 
One of the reasons that he did that was because they were the most receptive to the overall message he offered.
Baptism for forgiveness of sin. Turning one's life in a new and different direction. Loving God with all one's might and one's neighbor as himself. And spreading the Good News of God in Christ with the Holy Ghost. 
No question that the Jewish religious authorities of the day were, what is the easiest way to put it? Oh yeah. Stuck in their ways and corrupted by the Roman occupiers. They were more interested in observance of the Law than repentance and love. 
Throughout the whole four Gospels, Jesus kept telling the authorities that they were narrow that they missed the point. They felt threatened by the message. And they sure did not like that the people could have a personal, meaningful relationship with God that Jesus was preaching. 
That is why some people then and now look at Jesus Christ politically rather than faithfully. Many of the Jews of the day rejected Jesus because he was not all about ridding the Holy Lands of the heathen, Roman occupiers. 
But the message was one of faith. The one that rejected some of the excesses and misunderstandings of the Jewish religious authorities if the day. 
Which leads to another point.
Of course Jesus Christ was not trying to start his own religion. That evolved when it was clear that the Jewish religious authorities rejected it. Most of the earliest adherents to Jesus' message still considered themselves Jewish. It was not until Paul came around and sought to bring non-Jews, Gentiles, into the faith that it evolved into the religion that we call Christianity today. 
The comment about America and English speaking is clearly a political point. 
Of course that is not the case with Jesus. Well, unless one is Mormon and has that understanding of Jesus coming to the Americas after the resurrection. And that is not to mock Mormons. Just making a point. The left uses Jesus Sermon on Mount in Matthew primarily to point that he spoke of the poor. However, they do conveniently leave out that Jesus also said that there are the poor in materialism and the poor in spirit and that both will always be with us. That is when the whole point of loving your neighbor as yourself comes in. Jesus did not say that the government should be doing it. That it was the individual responsibility of people to help the poor in material and spirit. There is the biblical passage in which when asked, Jesus says to render what is Caesar's unto Caesar. That was what we call now taxes. Nowhere does it say that Jesus advocated the government robbing from people to give to other people. At that time, money was raised for the government to raise armies and allow the monarch and the hangers on to live a life of luxury. And maybe decent enough roads for the same armies to march. 
Which leads to the part of the diatribe that states Jesus was anti-wealth.
No, it was not that Jesus was anti-wealth. He did not like that many of the wealthy were hording their wealth and many were foolishly spending it. Some did both. It is not very easy to box Jesus into against people making money and having material things. It is not very easy to use Jesus' righteous care for the materially and spiritually poor to suggest that he wanted to use the government to confiscate monies and give to those less fortunate. If one studies the Holy Bible and the Gospels, there is plenty for each side to suggest that Jesus is on the fence.
And I can't find any specific saying of Jesus that he was against the death penalty. After all, the Jewish authorities used to the Romans to carry that out against Jesus and he went to his great reward and his Father in heaven.
I suppose that the modern-day opponents of the death penalty will cite straight from the Ten Commandments and this commandment  in the King James Version:

Thou shalt not kill.

However, other translations of the Holy Bible use murder in place of kill. Here is the New Revised Standard Version:

You shall not murder.

And in the New International Version, most popular with Evangelical Christians, it is the same as the NRSV. Here is a version in the New Living Translation that I think adds a twist to it:

You must not murder.

The common thread in newer translations is that they use the word murder in place of kill in the KJV.
In the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, kill is defined as this:

KILL: to cause the death of ( a person, animal or plant ); to end the life of ( someone or something ).

And the definition of murder is as follows:

MURDER: the crime of deliberately killing of a person.

The case that I make for the death penalty is that when one murders another, it is not always premeditated and if it is it surely is deliberate. The state has an interest in not allowing a murderer to be a threat to the society as a whole.
I think as I understand the other side is that it is but an act of vengeance and against the teaching of loving God and your neighbor as yourself.
But God does not suggest that there is no consequence to deliberately killing, or murdering someone.
Here is the most difficult of the points made is that Jesus Christ is not anti-gay.
Well, no, Jesus did not explicitly say much one way or the other on homosexuality. What he did speak of was marriage. And specifically about the meaning of marriage and why the divorce laws were given by God to the Israelites. This is where one assumes the closest Jesus comes to speaking on the subject and suggesting that there is homosexuality and it is acceptable is Matthew 19:12 (KJV):

For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men, and there be eunuchs which have made eunuchs for the Kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is not able to receive it, let him receive it. 

Maybe that is possible Jesus is referring to homosexuals and suggesting that there are some born that way, some made that way and those that choose to be eunuchs for the Kingdom.
But nowhere does Jesus suggest that its cool for homosexuals to marry. Again, read the whole of Matthew 19. Before the passage I cited, Jesus was very much defending the concept of marriage between one man and one woman. Let me throw Matthew 19: 4-6 (KJV) for you:

And he answered and he said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. 
And said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but of one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

It is direct and clear that Jesus is justifying marriage between one man and one woman and for life.
And clearly Jesus does not condone sex outside of marriage. Throughout the New Testament in Jesus own words and the letters from Paul, its kind of there.
That does not mean that we as Christians are not to love those that are gay and or lesbian. What is condemned by many is the sexual act. And I think that those advocating for gay and lesbian inclusion would simply suggest to ignore all that and act on love and love alone.
At some point there could be agreement, but not for the foreseeable future.
And it is true that Jesus never spoke of abortion or birth control but it is clear that Jesus believed in life. The life of the Kingdom for the born and the unborn. Again, we can cite many passages that could justify both sides. But it is clear that the two subjects were never said directly by Jesus.
No Jesus did not call the poor lazy. But he was not suggesting the government come to people and seize their worldly goods and give to the poor. In fact Jesus simply laid it out there for all to consider. Here is a good link to Jesus and the poor.
The point about tax cuts for the "rich" and or "wealthy" and the diatribe about a copay for health care are specious and deserve no response. By that is imposing a 21st century evolution over when the Holy Bible and the New Testament was written is pointless.
And on a point of agreement, yes Jesus Christ was more than likely very long-haired and dark-skinned. Of course he was not was is often projected in the many, many paintings, drawings, etc. That was more than likely to present an angelic image of Jesus to people that were rather uneducated when the disciples were spreading the faith.
And yes, Jesus was Jewish. In fact, Jesus was not trying to start a new religion. He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah's return. The fact that the Jewish authorities and eventually many of his followers eventually rejected his message was not relevant to those that still believed. For they went out spreading the message and fulfilling Jesus' Great Commission in Matthew 26: 19:

Go ye therefore and teach all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

It is not quite the same kind of community organizing that the author of the diatribe means. Yes it is about radical transformation. But not to overthrow the government of the day. It is a personal transformation. And with that a community of fellow people transformed and the formation of the church.
And lastly, Jesus did not slut-shame as the diatribe concludes. That is true. In Luke, there is a story of a prostitute, referred to as a sinner in some translations. She came with alabaster oil and anointed Jesus, eventually brought to tears and she washed his feet with her tears and put the oil on Jesus. The Pharisees were horrified. Jesus used again a parable to explain why she was doing the right thing. He told her that because of the hospitality she showed where the people where they were meeting showed none showed her faith in Jesus to be stronger. He did forgive her sins because of her faith. But he admonished her to go and sin no more.
It has to be assumed that the prostitute did not sin anymore for she is not mentioned any further.
The difference is that somehow we should accept that some women today do use just as poor judgement as men in today's world. When again, Jesus would suggest a change in one's life.
I realize that I did not address private prayer over public prayer.
Yes in Matthew 6: 6, Jesus does address praying in private. But what is not mentioned is that he is telling that so that people are not like hypocrites who pray in public more for show than the meaning of the prayer. That is addressed in Matthew, 6:5. Jesus prayed in public a lot. He prayed before the seven loaves and two fishes were fed to the 5,000. He spoke of the two men who prayed in the Temple and what one had the more meaningful prayer. Paul addressed this in 1 Thessalonians with these three words: Pray without ceasing.
That does not mean to pray in private only.
The point of this post is that I find when both sides try to narrow the whole of the New Testament to some kind of poster board of justifications for certain positions it cheapens the whole meaning of what it is all about.
It is about Jesus Christ coming into the world to save the world. The New Testament is not just some account of his life but a guide, a road map even, to a better life to people that are open and willing to believe. And yes, I know that not all people are willing to believe. That is OK. They may not be ready. They may never be ready in this world. I am one that prays for people to hear the message of the Gospel. All of it. Not just the parts we like or are comfortable with.
And one important thing I leave you with.
I believe that everyone should study the Holy Bible. That is the only way that you can take the whole message whether you are a believer or not and understand it in totality. It does not make me Mr. Bible Answer Man that I have done a lot of bible study. But I understand the message better each time I do so.
There are a lot of people who don't like "organized" religion. Christianity is the least organized religion there is my friends. It is why it requires a real knowledge, not the Cliff Notes. It requires a lot of study and sometimes the same thing over and over again.
Just be open to the whole message, not just what makes us feel good.

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