Sunday, January 27, 2008

Does it have to be either or?

I had a few minutes this morning before I had to get off to church and so I wandered by some of the blogs to see what was "up" in the neighborhood.
Titusonenine was leading this story: "The head of the Episcopal Church gives social justice top billing" -- an article in the Roanoke VA paper about +Katharine Jefferts Schori's visit there yesterday. The comments were predictable ... here's one, for example:

AAAaaarrrrrgggg! The first task of a Christian should not be economic evangelism” but “Christ Evangelism.” By focusing on “social justice” or “economic justice” we lose focus on Jesus Christ. Rather than trying to turn clergy and lay church politicians (those who attend the various conventions) into economists and politicians, lets be sure they first understand the Christian faith and then get them to turn politicians and economists into Christians.

Which got me thinking about the either/or thing. And got me posting my own comment (not a thing to be done unadvisedly or lightly on Titusonenine!), which read:

It’s the “two world view” thing again. Here’s how Ed Bacon put it in his speech last week on the IRS:

The focus of this Christianity is not the salvation of individual souls but seeking the salvation of the entire human community through radically inclusive love, justice and peace – for all – particularly for the marginalized and vulnerable both in our neighborhoods and in the world.

So what I’m wondering this morning is if we’ve really gotten beyond the place where there isn’t room in Christianity for both ... if we couldn’t yet find a way to be a people of God who believe in individual salvation not for individual salvation’s sake and who are committed to social justice not for social justice’s sake, but see it all as part and parcel of belonging to the God who called us to walk in love as Christ loved us and love our neighbors as ourselves.

It’d never work if my litmus test for your welcome at the table is how you vote on social issues and your litmus test for mine is if we agree on the same theological explanation for the salvific power of the cross.

But what if we could agree that good people of deep faith WILL come to different conclusions on how God calls us to walk in love with each other—and what if we could regain that historic gift of Anglican comprehensiveness that leaves room for different theological understandings of the same God and Creator of all?

Not saying it will happen. Just wondering if it isn’t worth thinking about. Happy Sunday, T19ers!

And I'm still wondering. And now I'm off to church. Happy Sunday, Everybody!


Jim said...

Good Sunday Morning,

I did not make it to church. As we were dressing the phone rang. My wife is now with our elder son as he goes through the inevitable CT scan and we all offer grateful prayers that while the car is a mess, he is walking and not bleeding. Tentative DX is whiplash spinal trauma, mild.

I am so glad he was wearing his seatbelt. We are experiencing black ice formation and he found a patch as he drove to work. He manages a bakery and the hours pre-dawn are when Illinois roads are at their most slipery.

I have been thinking and bloging a bit about the same topic -- why do we need the litmus tests, the total agreement. The missuse of the quote about walking together is not a reason. After all, we could walk together and argue!

I wish it was possible for us to form the sort of community you suggest, but as the actions in S. J. show it is difficult when some think they know God's mind.


pax58 said...

I agree with you on this one. I grew up just west of Roanoke in southern WV, I think I know where the person is coming from. I think God that not everyone is on the same path I am would be crowded and boring. I pray a Celtic prayer each day which ask God to help me see Christ in all a meet. Some days and some people put this one to the test...but usually I am confronted with something in me as well as a person's rude behavior that keeps me growing. Thanks Susan

Tucson, AZ

Linda in VT said...

Last week at Clergy Day I learned more about Camp Agape, for children who are experiencing the incarceration of a parent, and got some chilling statistics: 70 percent of such children will end up incarcerated themselves; if both parents are incarcerated, the rate approaches 100 percent. Also, state authorities estimate the number of prisons they will need in the future based on third-grade reading scores.
And then I picked up the Gospel for today, and it began: "When Jesus heard that John had been arrested . . ." -- he did what? He went around Galilee preaching "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." and he "went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people."
Sounds like a plan. And I don't see an either/or in there anywhere.
I admit, in preaching I zeroed in on what happens when people get arrested, and on our reactions and responses when we hear about these events. And I admit, too, that I was at a meeting of the State Democrtic Committee meeting yesterday (I'm a member, sort of, as alternate to the county committeewoman). And we heard about the question of decriminalizing marijuana possession, and there seemed to be some kind of link there . . . only in my mind, though, I guess, hm?

Ann said...

Prayers jimB -- just drove home on those kind of roads - puts priorities in place -- thanks that he is okay.

Jim Costich said...

If we are indeed followers of Jesus and not just worshippers of Christ I think we already have our answer to this question. Jesus did not seek a salvation committment from people before he fed them, comforted them, healed them, cast out their demons, or told them that God loved them. Jesus sent his followers to do the same and never once said, "Make sure they're born again before you give them the piece of bread." Jesus, was not an either/or thinker and he did not demand that people somehow prove their acceptance of him as their salvation BEFORE he cared for their creature needs. He did come close to it once when he called a gentile woman who asked for a blessing a dog, but she shamed him by telling him that the master throws crumbs for the dogs even if they don't get to sit at his table. After that Jesus had a change of heart and practice. So should we.

In the 1980's an ecumenical association in my neighborhood that included Protestants and Catholics wanted to started a food cupboard and soup kitchen next door to a bakery being run by men just coming out of prison. We thought we should invite all the local Pentacostal and Evangelical churches to join in this great community project. They came to a meeting but said they would not join in unless we required the hungry to commit to reading religious tracts and come to worship services. We felt like this would be spiritual blackmail for bread and that it was immoral to tempt people to perform religious things they don't believe in order to get a meal. To this day ecumenical efforts in my city go without the participation of the megachurches that outnumber and out-wealth us for the same reason. They are only concerned with the condition of people's souls. You must be one of their approved members to receive charity. They only take care of "their own". I do not see this as an emulation of Jesus at all. I don't feel God's spirit in that mindset. I don't see Jesus' mercy or the peace that passeth all understanding. I see the "in crowd" and the "outcasts". The very thing Jesus preached deliverence from.

I think that God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and all we become when we embrace and embody them makes us an "And" people, rather than an "either or" people.

Barbi Click said...

The term "Social Justice" to me means that we help those who are not able to help themselves. Is this not something that can be taken as "Christ Evangelism"???
I am not able not capable of understanding this convoluted god that they follow. Do we stand in a place of that much difference?? I am astounded. Truly and probably naively so...

Jack Sprat said...


In my view, the cult of the individual is an American secular thing that has been incorporated into the extreme conservatism of certain parts of our society, including religious ones. Jesus' mission on Earth was directed towards human beings universally, offering salvation to all.

It seems to me that when these right-wing elements preach that we have to "get back to Jesus" they are ignoring that he existed in human society as we exist in human society. Being "saved" is not like putting on a space suit and living on the moon. Being saved means entering into community with all of humanity.


uffda51 said...

I wandered over to conservative blog-land again yesterday, swathed in Kevlar. A very strange place with a high percentage of very angry people.

First, the PB's Christmas card, and then, an interfaith gathering of Episcopalians and Hindus, pushed them right over the edge. Now it appears that Christians should not concern ourselves with social justice.

As someone with several family members (none of whom could be described as anything approaching "liberal") who have devoted their lives to social justice issues through the UN and Head Start . . . well, I'm speechless.

Since our conservative friends are assured of a place in heaven, while all of us heretics are clearly headed straight to hell, I have to wonder why this never seems to be enough for them.

Fred said...

While I am most often in agreement with you, on this topic I believe it is EITHER/OR. Jesus did not ask us to worship him, he asked us to follow him.... "pick up your cross and follow me." So, practicing Christians have to ask themselves....what does that mean? To 21st century Christians, the answer is do waht Jesus did....go out into the world and tear apart the structures that repress and oppress and work for social and economic justice. Jesus was action. Jesus wasn't taxing the poor, favoring the rich, hanging out with only those who looked like him, stealing churches and property. That's not what Jesus was about....and it's not what those who call themselves Christians should be about either.

Ethan said...

If we look at the Gospels without suspicion, Susan, but simply as the passed down memoirs of a few people whose lifes were forever changed by encounters with Jesus, then don't we see Jesus talking to big crowds, small groups, and sometimes one person at a time? Overall, he seemed to know that a lecture to a group was less likely to produce the desired effect than a straight talk one-on-one. I don't either the private spirituality people or the social change activists have any reason to congratulate themselves for not being on the other side.

Doorman-Priest said...

Well, I read you on Sunday and I'm still thinking on Tuesday. In the end I'm with pax58 and going with my byline: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" Phillipians 2.12

RonF said...

lilbearsings said:

They came to a meeting but said they would not join in unless we required the hungry to commit to reading religious tracts and come to worship services. We felt like this would be spiritual blackmail for bread and that it was immoral to tempt people to perform religious things they don't believe in order to get a meal.

Not only that, but it's ineffective. People know when they are being blackmailed or bribed, and such efforts rarely create openmindedness and receptivness on the part of the subject of such efforts.

We feed people because they are hungry. We clothe people because they are naked or cold. Do it enough, and people start asking "Who are these people who feed the hungry and clothe the naked and ask for nothing? What do they have that we do not? What makes them that way?" That's the teaching moment. That's when they open up and are ready to hear the Word. Trying to cram it down their throat won't work.