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 in fact 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 even, unfortunately, think those are one and the same thing. “Caesar’s” powerful way is powerfully seductive, … 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

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

Dobson Resigns. A Sign of More Hopeful Times?

James Dobson has resigned as board chair at Focus on the Family. I’m sure he can find legitimate reasons to do so – even though it represents a real loss in terms of the enthusiastic labor of most of his life. But I have to wonder also if it’s just another step in the fulfillment of what Jesus predicted so long ago – about false prophets.

Private Prayer and the Stupidities of Public Life

Connie and I recently watched Karol: A Man Who Became Pope. It portrays Karol Wojtyla’s life from his late teens, when the Nazi’s invaded his city and nation, through WWII, then through decades of Communist rule (as a satellite of the Soviet Union), up to the day he became Pope John Paul II (1978). I. A Real-life Example: The Future Pope Working Under Nazi and Communist Oppression in Poland Karol Wojtyla, (pronounced something like “VoyTEEya”) was known as a man of prayer, and it seems to me that his life-long habits (and style) of prayer – developed in his late teens – were a key factor in his effectiveness in the real world and in his continuing rise to greater and greater worldly power. He was introduced to “mystical prayer” early in WWII by an older man (Jan Tyranowsky) who became a spiritual mentor to several young adults. I was familiar with the story from previous study, and though this version is a movie, not a documentary, it still rings pretty true. One poignant scene shows him discovering a poster announcing the murder (“execution”) of a good friend, a young priest, by the Nazis. Wojtyla sinks to the ground … Continue reading

What Do We Want in 2009?

Here’s the article I wrote for our church’s monthy newsletter for January. We need, want, and should want lots of good things. But I was looking for a list specific to a local church’s situation. This is derived from the first of the two letters we have from Paul to the church of the Thessalonians. While it is local-church specific, it seems to me to have profound applications and implications far beyond that scope. What Does God Want To Do Here in 2009? That question – What does God want to do here in 2009? – no doubt has some answers we cannot figure out here in January. But I think God has made a lot of it pretty apparent. Here’s a short Bible study from I Thessalonians – looking for what had been seen, or would be seen, as desirable developments in the believers in Thessalonica. God wants to see more people doing / experiencing these things, and these things being done better and more consistently. What do you think of this list? Does any part of it particularly stand out to you? PEOPLE WITH FAITH AND LOVE. … Continue reading

Dobson: “House Republicans Stand on Principles”

“Good News: House Republicans Stand on Principles” That’s the headline on today’s newsletter from the political voice of Dobson’s Focus on the Family. It’s also on their website.   My reactions:   1. Ha ha ha ha ha ha HA! Really. I smile and I chuckle. “House Republicans” and “Principles” in one sentence, without a “no” or “not”? Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Oh, that’s hilarious. They say the essence of humor is irony, or the unexpected. Wow, Dobson has the gift!   2. But when you think a moment and realize they have shown remarkable consistency for some years, maybe Dobson’s Citizen-Link has a point. … Continue reading

The Prophet Who Loves His People in a Bad Time – Like Jeremiah

Here are two very important words of advice we are not allowed to follow: 1. Pick your parents very carefully. 2. Pick the century and year of your birth carefully. Jeremiah, often called “the Weeping Prophet,” perhaps did ok in picking his parents, but he picked a horrible time-frame in which to work! Below is a list I found of short descriptions of this prophet.* 1. He was at once gentle and tenacious, affectionate and inflexible. … Continue reading

Thoughts About the Future of Religious Right Extremism (w/ Update Nov 14)

I. Pessimistic Here’s a sad quote from a good Catholic philosopher, going from his own knowledge of history: In nearly every historical case we can think of, the bias of a group lasts the lifetime of the group… Truly moral communities hardly ever result from the reformation of a previously selfish community. They nearly always spring from prophetic leaders who gather members from among the disenfranchised in other communities. That is, the institutions of the religious right are unlikely to reform themselves, and are likely to continue losing people to more carefully Biblical fellowships. … Continue reading

Shallow and Insulting Reactions from Christians About the Election …

Did you see the recent comment from “Donna”? It stirred me up! Come on people! Christian integrity and humility should compel you to allow that those who voted for Obama are NOT thereby proven to be ignorant or reprobate! I know that my response refers to the behavior and attitudes of the “religious right” as if they could be sterotyped. But in fact, in my experience, these problems VERY consistently show up in people who get their input from those sources – they are stereotypical responses. On the other hand my experience with Christian Democrats shows them almost always to be much more welcoming and open to information and to real discussion. Here’s my response (The numbered headlines are quotes from Donna’s comment.): … Continue reading