Sunday, July 05, 2009

Oversoul so has a point

On his blog Root and Source, Oversoul writes:

Will the Rt. Rev. explain to his Maker why he used his position and influence to enforce ancient Semitic prejudices instead of say, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the prisoner, taking care of the “stranger” or visiting the sick?

would love to see a break-away group of radical Anglicans who were fundamentalist about Jesus’ calls to ethical living; imagine if they focused their money and time on imitating the Good Samaritan and not a cross between a school marm and the Pharisees...

Anyway, the full post is here. To be fair, my former Christian church did a great deal for the poor. So it's possible that these folks do too, and I suppose it would make sense that controversies like this one would be the ones to make the news.

But Oversoul's idea of "Jesus' Requirements fundamentalists" really speaks to me.



Bill Baar said...

I think one really doesn't understand Christianity much if you think it's about ethical living.

It's about salvation, it's about what God's going to do for you, and a whole lot less about what we should do other than be open to God.

Bill Baar said...

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:34-39 NASB)

Jesus's call to ethical living is perplexing when the whole Jesus examined. A lot of Anglicans and Protestants have forgetton that Jesus.

Chalicechick said...

Jesus is like the Encyclopedia Brittanica, whatever you are looking for is in there someplace.

Plenty of people have gone looking for the violent and intolerant aspect of Jesus and found it. I don't think their view is any more accurate that those who look in him for the charitable and the good.


LinguistFriend said...

Now, let's not stick to Jesus, or to the NT. The point of view being refuted here does not come from either one, but from Leviticus 20:13. Following this source, the Reverend Dr. in question needs to do no more than to invite the (male) homosexuals into his church (which he does in the cited source) in order to locate the problem, and then kill them, in order to solve the problem consistently with the Bible. The limitation to males is because the OT is not really interested in female homosexuality. In expanding the prohibition to women, Paul (Rom 1:27) is simply following the later development of Jewish thinking, although it did not remotely attribute the same significance to female as to male homosexuality.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

With all due respect to Bill Baar... The message Jesus preached was that being "right with God" and being ethical are not distinct from one another. Hence JC's response to the question of which commandment is the greatest.

By calling for devotion to the Divine and compassion for other people, Jesus continues the prophetic tradition of reminding us that the two are not separate commandments but two sides of the same coin. After all, if we recognize that all people are made in the divine image, then isn't extending compassion to them itself and extension of devotion to the Divine?

Such thinking is in fact a continuation of the message found in the prophets Elijah, Isaiah and Micah - that ritual and rules are merely means to the central value of love for all.

kim said...

Is this controversy what is referred to in Bill Baar's quote? This controversy is setting a man against his father and a daughter against her mother, etc, on the issue of homosexuality and whether homosexuals should be judged by congregants or by God.
This quote is obviously one that was added after Jesus' life was over since he would not have made a reference about the cross before it happened. In many people's opinions Jesus's religion was indeed about ethical living, and only later was the salvation part added. I think many of Jesus' followers did not really understand Jesus' message of divine and universal love. Hardly anyone takes seriously today his message to "turn the other cheek" or not to judge others. It's too difficult for most people to understand.

Bill Baar said...

With all due respect to Bill Baar... The message Jesus preached was that being "right with God" and being ethical are not distinct from one another.

I'm hardly scholar here, but WWJD foks, and "J as Ethical Teacher" UUs, are poplar American Protestant ways of thinking of Jesus.

I think they miss the point though of Christianity: the futility of our getting it right with God. We should hope God gets right with us. We should be open to that offer.

Christianity isn't much on ethics because as someone mentioned we can find what we want in the text. (In Dutch it's Ider ketter heft zijn letter Every heretic has his text).

Christianity bigger than ethics. It's depth explains why Gays and others will pick more conservative Chruches over ours.

People are looking for a God that is for them despite their failures to get right with God.

We respond with ethics that says this-and-that sexual practice is really ok with God (or lack of God, or God as you find God) but that's unsatisfactory for many people. It doesn't answer their question about God's intent for them. It's why despite all of our rainbows, and talk of equality, we can sometimes be a very unsatisfactory Church for Gays.

Like many of us, they're not looking so much for being told what to do, or that what we're doing is ok, but for somethign far deeper.

I wrote once on another blog that I thought often times an Evangelical more respectful of Gays, than the politicized-clergy-in-Chicago politics (Rev Meeks, Farrahkan) that see them as election fodder but deep down despised them (often times not very deep's just coverd up by many), and a commentor wrote back, there are those against us, and those against those against us, but very few for us.

If people find a Chruch where creation is for them despite what they've done, versus a Church that's unclear about creation or whether it's for them, or anyone, but their behavior is ok; well, some people are going to go with the message that is for them inspite of it all.

make sense?

Desmond Ravenstone said...

make sense?

Er,... frankly, no.

If people do not want to be told what behaviors are okay or not, then why do so many go to legalistic churches and parachurch groups?

I would agree that we need to move beyond a shallow "it's okay" message, or the more reactive message of being "against hate". But I would also argue against a shallow "feel-good" spirituality.

Many evangelicals across the spectrum describe Christianity as a relationship more than a religion. Such a relational approach is both spiritual and ethical. I would even argue that it is metaethical, in that it is not merely describing whether given actions A and B are "right" or "wrong" but posing and addressing the deeper question of what we mean by right/good versus wrong/bad actions, attitudes, etc.

This to me is the real challenge of the UU message: that instead of putting forward a set of rules, we demand people look deeper in terms of how our actions affect our relationships with one another, with the world, and with the Divine.

Bill Baar said...

If people do not want to be told what behaviors are okay or not, then why do so many go to legalistic churches and parachurch groups?

Most Religions are legalistic. In fact I'd wager all of them save Christianity are legalistic.

Christians fall into it, but there is always a reformation of some sort working against it.

ogre said...

kim's already made the point that a reference to taking up one's cross to follow him is clearly an after-the-fact-insertion into the story. Which makes the material around it highly questionable, too.

But the larger point is that ethics is a Greek--philosophical--domain that is overlaid onto Christianity (or vice versa). Looking for the ethics of Jesus is a bit like looking for the existentialism of Master Kung's teachings.

You can do it. It may be valuable. It doesn't mean that it's what it was about.

The parts of the gospels that aren't (very) open to the critique of being the creation of those much later for the purpose of depicting the Jesus they wanted to evangelize for seem pretty suggestive; things like the story of the Good Samaritan, or the debate over the meaning of the Law and the critique of the Pharisees--or the ruthless jabs at the rich and comfortable resting on the backs, the labors and the suffering of the poor.

If one looks for a worked out school of ethics, expect to fail. This isn't a Greek work. Jesus' message is--over and over--about the responsibility of the community for its members, collectively and individually. It's about being kind--to members of the community and strangers, and even (especially) the outcast.

Jesus dines with friends, drinks wine, goes to weddings. He jokes. He's not a dour, painfully stiff, ultra-sober fellow.

Sure, it's about salvation. Be kind, do good. Don't be selfish, be generous. Don't be greedy; share. He doesn't argue that the Law doesn't matter; he argues that it's made for people, not as a sort of Procrustes' Bed, for people to be ruthlessly fit to. It's a guide, and one to be taken seriously -- in spirit, in intention, not in frantic scrambling over the backs, hands, feet and faces of one's fellow human beings to meet the letter of the law.

Religion *of* Jesus, not religion *about* Jesus. Do as he showed, act as he acted. Not about his being a scapegoat offering for humanity.

The tomb is empty; you won't find him there.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

ogre: "Jesus' message is--over and over--about the responsibility of the community for its members, collectively and individually. It's about being kind--to members of the community and strangers, and even (especially) the outcast."

Funny, I thought that was ethics; in sum, doing the right thing and relating to people the right way.

Plus, there were discussions of ethical philosophy in the Indian subcontinent centuries before the ancient Greeks.

Besides, whether the Indians or Greeks "invented" ethics, that does not mean they have a monopoly on the subject.