Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Failed Christianity.

Christianity is very large tent of ideas, but it's not unlimited.

There are boundaries, foundations, core ideas, values, that define the faith and keep it centered in Christ, his life and his teachings, and the central ideas of going to Jerusalem, and there confronting both religious and secular powers, dying there at their hands, and then the resurrection, the ascension and the promise of a return when time has run its course, as determined by God, the LORD of history.

With that, I have spent a good deal of my life trying to be a Christian, and I think it means basing my life on the essentials, noted in the preceding paragraph.

Having gone to a Calvinist based Christian High School, then to Calvin College, and then to Western Theological Seminary, all in Western Michigan, before much of the Reformed Church in that area was deformed by evangelicalism, Moody Bible Institute, Jerry Falwell and "inspirational TV" and its shallow praise music, which slowly but inexorably turned covenant-oriented churches into conversion-oriented churches, and shifted the focus from God to self, from humility to pride, now with a curious fixation on wealth and power and the condemnation of the poor for their moral failures and defective judgment. A Christianity that loves its walls and fears the bridges.

With that, I simply say: this is a failed Christianity.

Now, immediately, some will jump in and say, "You're judging."

My response: "Damn right I am."

And I stand with the likes of Jeremiah, Jesus himself, the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Luther and Calvin, Bonhoeffer and Barth, Niebuhr and Martin Luther King, Jr., to name just a few luminaries who have consistently inspired me to think biblically, critically, carefully and to make judgments.

And I'm not without some credentials ... yes, yes, yes, I know that's the first refuge of the arrogant (look at all the medals on my chest) and all of that, but Jesus made it clear that he had his credentials, Paul had his, and so did Luther and Calvin (both well-credentialed).

Anyway, the point is this: large segments of American Christianity is a failed Christianity, with
1) it's baptism of wealth and power,
2) it's readiness to identify with Trump's condemnation of others,
3) his bluster and buffoonery,
4) his windbaggery and wantonness,
5) his wall-fixation and wild lies.

It's the "other gospel" that Paul addresses ... it's the anabaptist movement of self which Calvin condemns, it's the lack of justice so clearly identified by King ... they all looked at various versions of the faith, and while making room for variants, they also said "No!" to other versions.

Part of this was prompted by someone talking about the "legal" and "the illegal" immigrant, to which I replied: these kinds of distinctions have no legitimacy in Christianity, smacking more of the Jew/Samaritan distinction which Jesus patently ignored. Jesus was clearly someone who paid no attention to boundaries and social rules about children and women, gentiles and Samaritans.

To deal with people by legal or illegal distinctions, and yet claim to be Christian, reveals what I determine to be, "a failed Christianity."

So, for me, I'd rather stand with Jeremiah rather than with the false prophets of king and cult who preached peace when there was none. I'd rather stand with Paul and not those who preached the gospel and grew rich because of it. I'll stand with Calvin and his covenant theology rather than the Anabaptists and their focus on conversion and its clever back-patting. I'll walk with King along the road of Justice worked out on the Edmund Pettus Bridge rather than those who wanted the church to only preach "spiritual values" even as the church ignored the sins of racism, promoted school segregation, with private schools, and maintained voter suppression, "through law."

That's how I see it.

And I have a lot of weight behind that judgment, and for that, I'm grateful.

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