Dissent as a Spiritual Discipline If the Church Sells Out to Power and Glory

[A Review of Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, by Charles Marsh, 2014] Marsh introduces us to Bonhoeffer’s ancestry and walks us clear through to the last imprisoned years of uncertainty that ended in his execution just days before the end of WWII. It is not written to coddle nor to discomfort whatever our self-image is as American Christians today, but tries to show reality. This is what biography should be – excellent credentials, extensive research, sensitive awareness, sympathetic objectivity, thorough treatment, and clear organization and writing. Two eras of his life seem particularly important to our current experience … Continue reading

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 … 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 … Continue reading

When the Government – or Society – Is Against You: What Should Christians Do?

Some American Christians worry that we are being “persecuted” and that our “freedom of religion” is being infringed. That’s always true to some extent – and the idea is scary. How did Jesus deal with it? Jesus practiced non-violent non-cooperation toward evil persons. The results of his courage were both short-term and long-term, mostly good, some brutally bad. Jesus’ immediate followers – the Christians of the first century, also faced lots of suffering. They suffered government harassment, even arrest and execution. They suffered from neighbors and fellow-citizens – the insulting or aggressive behavior of others around them in society. They … Continue reading

America’s Problem & Blessing: People Who Take the Bible Seriously (with 2 Rules of Interpretation)

Frankie Schaeffer grew up in a modern, politically radical, Americanized “Christianity”. He is not pleased with what it teaches or how it operates. In a recent article he gives a fairly thorough explanation of his concerns and how they relate to current political personalities – e.g. Michelle Bachmann. I have to agree with much of what Schaeffer says. Here’s an example: America has a problem: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously. America has a blessing: It’s filled with people who take the Bible seriously. … Continue reading

1)  INTRODUCTION:  Jesus was Respected but Also Suspected. Why?  (from “The Moral Priorities of Jesus”)

Early in his career Jesus was often invited to speak in synagogue (comparable to church today). But it was not long before a person could be expelled from synagogue for being loyal to that same Jesus. What happened? He obviously offended or frightened powerful people in both politics and religion. They, after all, are the ones who teamed up to get him first excluded, then executed. The Bible indicates that his positions on good versus evil (what is moral and what is immoral) were a large part of the problem. It makes you wonder. What did he teach that was … Continue reading

3)  INVERSIONS:  Jesus Sometimes Inverted Common Morals  (from “The Moral Priorities of Jesus”)

There was a problem. Jesus’ moral doctrines seemed to many people to be way out of line – to the point of being dangerous. A. In the Gospels Jesus does not mention homosexuality, and that was a time when it was more common in society than at many other times in history. There is a strong tradition associating the city name of Sodom with homosexual behavior, holding that their homosexuality was so offensive to God that he destroyed that city. Imagine how the good citizens of Capernaum felt when Jesus placed them below Sodom on the scale of moral goodness! … Continue reading