Christ Asks Us to Choose His Way, Not Caesar’s.

. . . switch sides from Caesar’s way to Jesus’ way – before it is too late.* – Brian McLaren “Caesar’s way” stands for secular, temporal government or authority. The usage derives from Jesus’ saying, when asked about paying taxes: So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s. (Mt 22:21) Jesus does not promote treason – even against the brutal tyranny of Rome. He does not even promote the idea of protesting against the government by refusing to pay taxes. But Jesus clearly draws a line between God’s interests and Caesar’s. It’s obvious to us that 2000 years ago Jesus’ way and Caesar’s way were quite opposed to each other. It’s funny how today some tend to assume that Jesus’ way just offers support of Caesar’s way – as long as the Caesar in question is American. Is that too blunt? It seems to me that being good Christians is often assumed to mean being good Americans first, at least as energetically as we are Christ-followers. Some folks, unfortunately, even think those are one and the same thing. “Caesar’s” powerful way is powerfully seductive, … Continue reading

Freedom – From Fear

No government can ever guarantee that you or I will have nothing to be afraid of. And as the American Founding Fathers well knew, no government, not even ours, can be trusted with freedom to do just as it wants. The Founders built “checks and balances” into the US Constitution for very good reasons. Political parties, political movements – your neighbors – even your friends and family – can harm you in a variety of ways. It might be accidental; sometimes it is deliberate. Most of us have experienced it at some level or other. There is no law we can pass, no person we can elect, no agreement we can make that will guarantee that any particular person or group will never turn against us or persecute us or hurt us. So what is a Christian to do in this unpredictable and sometimes very dangerous world? It is precisely this problem that prompted Jesus’ disciple Peter … Continue reading

God Doing Improv, In OUR Towns!

I. OUTSIDER PERSPECTIVE. Resurrection City is substantial and consistently stimulating. Heltzel is an associate professor of theology at New York Theological Seminary, with a strong grounding in Biblical values, Christian theology, Black theology, American history, and current justice concerns in American and world life. And he has a strong interest in jazz music. Nice mix! A white boy from Mississippi, he manages fairly well to achieve the perspective of an outsider to the American mainstream – primarily an African American perspective. This is always of value when done responsibly; the Biblical prophets to whom he appeals were often in comparable situations. II. HIS BURDEN “Meanwhile, outside the prayer closet, it’s another day of extortion in the marketplace, bribery in the courts, and intentional ignorance of the orphans, widows, immigrants, and prisoners.” p126 Heltzel applies that … Continue reading

9)  CONCLUSION:  An Impressive Person!  (from “The Moral Priorities of Jesus”)

Here was a man of integrity – a man who said it as he saw it, and looked carefully, honestly and with profound moral insight in order to see it right. Here was a man thoroughly committed to know and justly interpret God and the Scriptures. Here was a man who truly loved God with all his being. Here was a man not corrupted by the natural human hungers for pleasure, or for status or wealth, or for the approval of those who have the status and wealth. Here was a man who loved people, all the time, everywhere, and in the concrete, not only as abstractions. A major issue in his teaching, especially in terms of its impact on his ministry and his life, is the problem of the complex intersection between money, power, and religion. The Pharisees were in some ways very conservative socially, but “the Pharisees loved money.” The Sadducees were traditional in their religious emphases, but were very much in love with political and governmental power. Essenes and other fringe “holiness” groups were largely irrelevant to the real lives of ordinary people, and to true holiness as well. Zealots were concerned about justice and mistreatment of … Continue reading

A Covenant for Civility (Sojourners)

[You can sign this covenant online at the Sojourners site. I have added underlines and bolds to the version below.] How good and pleasant it is when the people of God live together in unity. -Psalm 133:1 As Christian pastors and leaders with diverse theological and political beliefs, we have come together to make this covenant with each other, and to commend it to the church, faith-based organizations, and individuals, so that together we can contribute to a more civil national discourse. The church in the United States can offer a message of hope and reconciliation to a nation that is deeply divided by political and cultural differences. Too often, however, we have reflected the political divisions of our culture rather than the unity we have in the body of Christ. We come together to urge those who claim the name of Christ to “put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:31-32). … Continue reading

Security – and Moral Bankruptcy

there is no way in which a country can satisfy the craving for absolute security “No way.” No way. As in not possible in this world. but it can easily bankrupt itself, morally and economically, in attempting to reach that illusory goal through arms alone. – President (& General) Dwight D. Eisenhower In other words, you can’t buy enough guns (etc) to make yourself safe. But you can go completely nuts trying. Eisenhower quoted by Brian McLaren in Everything Must Change, p 167.   … Continue reading

Obama at Ebenezer Baptist – Crucial Moral Values for America (as in: Love Your Neighbor)

In January of 2008 Barack Obama gave a powerful speech (sermon) on the meaning of Martin Luther King Jr. for America today. This was at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where King was raised and his father was the pastor. Obama directly confronts fundamental moral problems rampant in American society and politics. (I’ve added some emphases to the print version.) I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; And he brings the issue home to each of us. … Continue reading