Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Search Will Not Be Easy

The White House insist that president Obama and his family are still searching for a church home. Politico states that a "magazine report" inferred that the First family had stop looking for a church home is "erroneous." Politico reports that white house deputy press secretary Jen Psaki said by e-mail: "The president and first family continue to look for a church home. They have enjoyed worshiping at Camp David and several other congregations over the months, and will choose a church at the time that is best for their family." To all of this I say, "good luck!"

I suggest that it will be almost impossible for the Obamas to find a church home simply because of the nature and rhetoric of the gospel. The gospel, when preached correctly, is at its core, counter cultural. What we think is sane, logical, prudent, pragmatic and the like is totally opposite of the gospel. Any pastor preaching the gospel of the Jesus of the Bible will invariably have to stand against much of culture and at times, adopt a prophetic persona. This will not play well and cause the Obamas all kinds of trouble. While not all pastors are as radically prophetic as Dr. Jeremiah Wright, just a cursory reading of the gospel will lead one to understand why Jesus was executed; I mean crucified.

Obama of course can find a less threatening church; one in which the pastor does not speak on social issues; one that does not speak on problems plaguing society; one that does not challenge, charge, and rebuke society and our appetite for position, power, prestige, and plaudits. God knows that there are many out there preaching a safe and acceptable form of religion. However, I suspect that is not where the Obamas would like to attend. I believe they would like to attend a church where the pastor and the church would challenge each other to be better and do better. They would love to attend a church where they may feel uncomfortable at times, yet understand that it is a sign of spiritual maturity when you know "the message is for you." They would love to attend a church active in the community doing the things the faithful people do; helping the poor and needy, but yet also asking the question, "why are there so many poor and needy. They would love to attend a church that every now and then critiques the country we love when the country is acting out of character to the truths it espouses. They most of all would love to attend a church where they could be a part and yet disagree with the pastor at times and it would be seen as alright in the eyes of the public.

In short, they would love to attend a church where they could worship and not be scrutinize about what the pastor said or what the church represents. However, that is not the case with the Obamas and this is why I suggest that the church search will not be easy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

But Are They Ready?

A friend and fellow blogger at http://makeadifferenceforlife.blogspot.com/ wrote an insightful article on the Southern Baptist Convention's declining membership. Many at the convention believe the reason for the downturn in membership is the convention's political stance on "divisive political issues." About the Convention's dilemma, Doug Walker writes, "The suggestion seems to be that the convention not be quite so vocal. I would like to suggest a different approach to the issue. I would like to suggest to the convention, not that it be any less vocal, but that it would just as vocally promote a different Jesus."

Further Walker writes:

Whereas the Jesus of the convention has traditionally been exclusionary, condemnatory, and complicit with the culture of domination, oppression, and injustice; I suggest the Jesus of the Gospels. I suggest the Jesus who Himself says, "God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent him to save them!" (John 3:16-17, CEV) I suggest a Jesus who is just that inclusive! EVERYONE inclusive! I suggest a Jesus whose very purpose is salvation and NOT condemnation.

What Walker suggest for the Southern Baptists is a re imaging of Jesus. However, this re imaging will not produced the desired effect without the language (rhetoric) to promote this vision. This is something that I do not believe that Southern Baptists or the majority of orthodox Christians are ready to engage. While Walker's suggestion is a good one and worthy of practice, I further suggest that this sort of re branding and relabeling Jesus would be so problematic for the Southern Baptists and other Christians, that many more would leave the denomination than would join. In short, what this re imaging and reconstruction of Jesus calls for is a new vision supported by language and actions.

As I write this, I just came across a story of Ralph Reed, former leader of the Christian Coalition http://pewforum.org/news/display.php?NewsID=18283. In the article, Reed says that he and others are "quietly launching a group aimed at using the Web to mobilize a new generation of values voters." Called the "Faith and Freedom Coalition," the group will "reach out to Democratic-leaning constituencies, including Hispanics, blacks, young people, and women."

"This is not your daddy's Christian Coalition," Reed said in an interview Monday. "It's got to be more brown, more black, more female, and younger. It's critical that we open the door wide and let them know if they share our values and believe in the principles of faith and marriage and family, they're welcome."

Again, there is one problem with this--what are they going to say to people who are brown, black, female, and younger? What can they offer this demographic? As people concerned about "value voters" they could offer a faith that is more inclusive, more in touch with contextual realities, and for Christians, as Walker suggests, more focused on the biblical Jesus. However, as I suggest with many Christians, I suggest with the Faith and Freedom Coalition; they just are not ready to do such a thing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When Religion Attacks

It has been a while since my last post, but I have been reflecting over the death of Dr. George Tiller at the hands of Scott Roeder. While many see this as a political issue that will be politicize in the upcoming mid-tern elections, I see it as another example of why how we talk about and see God and religion is paramount in constructing our worldview. There is no doubt that Roeder's actions had much to do with (some would argue all) his construction of God and what he believed his faith demanded from him. In short, Roeder, while believing God frowned upon abortions, his God apparently did not frowned upon him killing the person who he rationed was killing babies. While he and others who pathetically tried to come to his defense with a "chicken coming home to roost argument," would argue that he was justified in his actions, his performance also demonstrates something else. The God that Roeder serves is not against murder as he and many others would claim, God is against abortion.

In addition, the God that Roeder serves also allows him to make judgments about who is in and who is out; or to put it into religious terms; who is righteous and who is not. Therefore, Roeder and those of his ilk are commanded; indeed called to act (perform) as judge, jury, and as we saw this week, executioner against the unrighteous.

This is important to understand because this type of religious thinking has lead to slavery, subjugation of women and children, unjust and unfair criticism against GLBT people and as we now know, started wars. While many in the United States associate this type of religion with the Muslim faith, in actuality, it is found in all religions. Commonly called fundamentalism, it is the belief in narrow set of abstract principles and ideas that govern all of life. People who practice a fundamentalist religious ideology are grounded in the belief that God only speaks with and through them and that if one does not follow the ways prescribed, then they are labeled as unrighteous and deserve what ever happens to them.

What is inherently flawed in fundamentalism is that it adherents always have the puzzle solved. In other words, there is no need for discerning; no needed to ask the "why" questions, no needed for reflection; no needed to listen to the Spirit or see the signs of the times, everything is always worked out; context and situations are not important. I suggest that this is not a authentic way to view, speak, or to practice religion. There is always room for the Spirit and always room for growth. Grounded in fundamentalism, adherents stifled their own growth, unable to understand what the Spirit is saying and blind to the signs of the times.