Monthly Archives: December 2013

jesus is for losers

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everyone seems to be talking about jesus and his followers right now. it might just be that it’s christmas time, but i think there is a bit more going on here. the culture wars are ramping up, and it seems to me that there is a tsunami of change on the horizon. 

once upon a time, in order to be recognized as a full-fledged american christian, you had to look, speak and act in very defined ways. whereas now, depending on what you’re looking for, you can find any and every way to make jesus appealing to each niche people group. jesus for hipsters, yuppies, protestants, catholics, emergents, baby boomers, even duck callers (too soon?). 

while jesus spent the last century in a suit and tie, unable to dance, cuss, drink or go to the movies, jesus is now best utilized as a stamp of approval for whatever makes us feel most comfortable and fulfilled. everyone from john stewart to rush limbaugh quote him, making it nearly impossible for outsiders to discern which group jesus really stands with and for. 

i must admit, i’m a little confused myself. 

was jesus the cool guy who made trendy folks feel at home, confidently knowing that the previous generation screwed up royally or was he the religious zealot who made sure all the sinners knew they were outcasts?

or was he neither of these polarizing options?

the first breath sucked in by the jesus we read about in the gospels was most likely saturated with cow manure. he was surrounded by farm animals, born to a peasant family, in a city that folks believed nothing good could come from. when he grew up, he was an itinerant preacher, healer, friend to large amounts of shady undesirables, who often got in trouble for breaking sabbath and other jewish ordinances. he touched lepers (you just didn’t do that), allowed prostitutes to wash his feet with their tears and hair, spoke to adulterous women (setting them free from the law code that condemned them) and invited fledgeling fishermen and swindling tax collectors to follow him. 

he spent the majority of his time putting religious authorities in their place, all the while showering love on society’s losers, thereby giving them the dignity inherent to the image of God they were born with.

it is also believed that jesus was homeless, since he has been quoted as saying, “foxes have holes, birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” he would say these sorts of things indicating to folks that were eager to follow him that if they weren’t also willing to wander about without a place to call home, they were not fit for his kingdom. he probably didn’t smell very good, and he certainly didn’t wear skinny jeans or a three piece suit.

i think we need to remember this rugged, uncool, irreligious prophet, not so that we can simply understand christianity better, but so that we can once again learn what it means to walk in his steps. 

this christmas, remember the loser who showed us how to love. not the costless sort of love that pats folks on the back, encouraging them to stay warm and be well fed, but the love that calls us to lay down our own hopes and dreams for people who have no hope whatsoever. remember his call to never forget the people he spent his life around. remember that not one of us is better than the other and that religion will never fulfill the deep longings you have inside you. remember the losers, because they’re the ones jesus is  still standing with and for. 

 

***i mean loser in the most affectionate, least judgmental way imaginable***

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capitalism = evolution = the way we’re wired = not the jesus way

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For many Evangelical Christians, the idea of a god that would create via evolution is distasteful, even heretical.

Many of these folks (evangelicals) also subscribe wholesale to the economic system known as capitalism, even labeling it the most “christian” of economic systems.

I see a pretty glaring problem with this. Let me explain.

The theory of evolution (which, truth be told, I embrace) is based on the idea that the most fit creatures survive. If you can’t hack it, one way or another, you’re bound for extinction. The system of capitalism is based on the very same premise; only the “strong” survive.

We are wired to adapt to our surroundings, which enables us to survive in the context in which we’ve come to dwell. This article recently posted on CNN describes our economic situation better than I can, but it basically echoes the idea that those who have risen to the top afford their offspring a far greater chance to thrive than those who find themselves on the bottom of the economic ladder.

Capitalism make sense to us because it is that which comes most natural to us. If you don’t take it, someone else will. It is even seen as virtuous, since folks who reside at the top of our economic ladder are often assumed to be living more responsible, moral lifestyles.

Truth is, some of us are just more “fit” than others. This has been the situation now, it was before and will be forever true about the way this world functions. While some have found themselves in a favorable place to grow, learn and thrive overall, others have been systematically marginalized into a vast economic ghetto.

Problem is, those of us who have heard of and bought into Jesus of Nazareth have been directed to live in a way that not only looks radically different from this mode of operation (survival of the fittest, capitalism), but to name and subvert it in a way that makes it look foolish. This is a complete transformation in the way we, as humans, have always lived. In the same way Jesus brought shame to the powers, we have taken up the task to expose the systems that continually lift those in power to greater heights while pushing those on the margins further into oblivion. Instead of constantly seeking our own good, we are instructed to pay close attention to the needs of the folks who are falling around us. Whether it be due to their “fitness” or something else, we’ve got a directive that flies in the face of the old world’s order.

Jesus and John the Baptist describe this shift in thinking as repentance. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” is not about saying sorry for lying, swearing or getting drunk last night, but a call to recognize the reign of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Therefore, when we “repent” we begin to see attainment of wealth and power while leaving the weak and poor in our wake for what it is: the way of the world. It is the way we have been wired to live, and it is unquestionably the opposite of how we are called to live as followers of the earth’s true King.

Which leads me to my favorite way our scriptures describe this shift. It is an expression we have come to know quite well in evangelicalism: the new creation. Whereas the old creation’s order is to dominate and subdue the weak, the rule of the new creation brings peace to those who were once poor, meek and abused. We talk so often about being made into a new creation, but we seem to prefer the old way of doing things. I prefer the new creation.

What I find most interesting is how often I have been accused of not taking the scriptures seriously. I would like to take this opportunity to redirect the question to those who believe capitalism to be biblical, even christian. Where in the teachings of Jesus and his followers do we find any approval of a system that allows the few to rise, while the many fall without any hope or support? Where does Jesus ever direct us to seek our own prosperity, especially at the expense of those who are suffering around us? I don’t see it, but if you can show me the scriptures to back it up, I’ll see capitalism as the biblical way too.

 

-dave-