Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jesus for President: Section @, Part 2

The Mustard Seed Revolution!

This section was so awesome, it completely changed the way I think about this parable and the way I expect the world to change, but first, the parable:

"He told them another parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.'" Matthew 13:31-32

"What Jesus had in Mind was not a frontal attack on the empires of this world. His revolution is a subtle contagion - one little life, one little hospitality house at a time. Isn't it interesting that Saul of Tarsus went door-to-door (Acts 8:3) trying to tear up the contagion, like it was a weed? But the harder people tried to eradicate it, the faster it spread. When mustard is crushed, its potency is released. As we say, 'In the blood of the martyrs lies the seed of the church.' Paul caught it - the mustard weed grabbed him. Another convert we love is Minucius Felix, who, as a persecutor of the early Christians, had this to say about the followers of the Way: 'They form a profane conspiracy' infecting the Roman Empire, 'and just like a rank growth of weeds... it should at all costs be exterminated, root and branch...'

So there goes Jesus spinning power on its head again. His power was not in crushing but in being crushed, triumphing over the empire's sword with his cross. Mustard must be crushed, ground, broken for its power to be released. John's gospel describes Jesus' death and resurrection as a seed that is broken; 'Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds' (John 12:24). This is the crazy mystery that we celebrate, a Christ whose body is torn apart and whose blood is spilled like the grains and grapes of the Eucharist that gives us life... Mustard, a wild contagion of a weed, a healing balm, a sign of upside-down power -- official sponsor of the Jesus Revolution."
(Jesus for President, 104-105)
Are we to push and force and prod our ways so arrogantly into people's lives as if we knew what was better for them, or are we to live the life of a weed? The first way doesn't portray a real Jesus, but it might make for a nice moral environment (probably not).

What does it look like to live like a weed? (1) I think that we become undesirable and therefore relate more to (a) Christ, his heart and ways as He was the undesirable, and (b) our true neighbors (Luke 10:36-37). When we find the heart, way, teachings, Grace and Love of Christ, we can't help but see His burden for the "... the poor... the prisoners... the blind... the oppressed" (Luke 4:18).

When we live this quality of Jesus, we become more like Him, which is more like those 'undesirables' around us. As we become weak and crushed, we move from sympathy (some have to come all the way from apathy) to empathy. When we reach empathy, we can show true mercy talked about in Luke 10. The parable of the good Samaritan is a parable about an undesirable (a Samaritan) showing true neighborly love (which ranks very high, right next to and like, our love for God as mentioned in Matthew 22) to a Jew in need. How disgraceful was it that the Jewish authorities would pass up one of their own and God would commend the gentile. But that is what is going on. A lowly person helping someone in a similar position, not because it is necessary, not because the Samaritan wanted to feel morally superior to the Jew, but because our common suffering and triumphing together is much more a unifier than any nationality or gender roles.

As far as this views the Empire (earthly states and gov't), a violent revolution would never be an option. Nonviolence rules the day, at least on our hand. Modern exemplars are Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. We, becoming weeds, sprout up unassuming and become nests for birds, places for people to experience the true kingdom. If we are crushed, we become more potent than ever before.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jesus for President (JFP): Section @

Jesus' unique calling for a unique people!

The language mentioned earlier comes a couple pages before. Mentioned earlier are: Kingdom, Gospel, Messiah, Son of God, Ekklesia, Savior, Faith, Lord, Emmanuel, and Worship. All these words had duel meaning in that they were used by the existing, non-Christian States and then Jesus politically and spiritually hijacked them for the Kingdom he was going to build. The numbers are the points I want to highlight.

"But it wasn't as if Jesus, in using such language, wanted Rome's power or wanted to gain a foothold in the culture war's of his time. He didn't want to climb Caesar's throne [1]. This political language doesn't harmonize with the contemporary church project of 'reclaiming America for God [2].' Precisely the opposite: Jesus was urging his followers to be the unique, peculiar, and set-apart people that began with Abraham. He didn't pray for the world in order to make the governments more religious: he called Israel to be the light of the world [3] - to abandon the way of the world and cultivate an alternate society in the shell of the old[4], not merely to be a better version of the kingdom of this world [5]."
  1. This seems to me to be the meaning of "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" as revealed in Matthew 22. It isn't a call to pay taxes (as the democrat in me wants it to be) and it isn't a call to obey government (as the republican wants me to think). It is, in affect, a separation of church a state. It is Jesus refusing the thrones and crowns that he could have had in Matthew 4. He is calling us to be separate. To be in the world, but not of it.
  2. I wanted to see why the authors quoted "Reclaiming America for God." There is literally a website titled this correlating to a literal book for this idea. The site is actually mild compared to what I expected.
  3. He actually used these words when he started his most blessed Sermon on the Mount (this is my heart song). Right after "The Beatitudes" he says, "You are the light of the world." It is no accident that he sets up his own upside down Kingdom in the beatitudes and the rest of the sermon on the mount and then says that those who live by this kingdom are the light of the world, set apart (holy) from the world, empire, state, and for Him.
  4. " abandon the way of the world and cultivate an alternate society in the shell of the old" is exactly what "holiness" is. It is more than just set apart for sitting there and looking pretty. It is being alternative to everything else to let our light shine. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
  5. "...not merely to be a better version of the kingdom of this world." This part reminds of when Jesus says, "Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.' He came to make something new, not renovate man's failed attempt. This was the problem of the apostles. They wanted an earthly kingdom. They saw their wrong thinking and repented but many didn't. It is ridiculously obvious when one reads the context of this passage. Jesus is handed over to the Roman state by the Jewish state. The Roman state is questioning Jesus and He says the quote above and earns the title, King of the Jews (which is put on his cross and is a contributing factor for his punishment). The Roman state pleads with the people that He sees no guilt in Jesus and will release him if the Jewish people want. They get to choose some prisoner to release. "They shouted back, 'No, not him! Give us Barabbas!' Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion." They chose the guy that had been apart of a rebellion. The one who has actively tried to overturn an earthly kingdom over the One who brought forth a Kingdom of peace and love and unity between: man and man, and man and God.
This is all making so sense. I love and fear where it is going. This book is painting broad strokes in showing that the people of God have stayed away from state and followed Christ's Kingdom. I am worried that is will jump to us and America in such a real way, in such a scriptural way, that I will be without excuse to what it means to be a Christian in Oroville, California, America, the World.

I pray Christ takes it slow with me. I like being different, but not in ways that really hurt. It reminds me of C. S. Lewis quote in "Mere Christianity," "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself."

Blessings and Peace!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Jesus for President (JFP): Section ! Part 2

The idea of the Jubilee is something that has always blown my mind. This gift of God that the Israelites never opened is quite possibly the most radical idea ever commanded of human beings on a societal level. I love it on so many levels. This book, being about the church and empire, has an empire focus, but still awesome nonetheless.

It says:
"One of the most exciting of the Sabbath laws was applied every seven years. Just like the Hebrew people were supposed to refrain from working every seventh day so that their land, animals, and servants could rest (a marked contrast to their overworked life in Egypt), every seventh year, the Hebrew people had a celebration called the Jubilee (named after the jovel, a ram's horn that sounded to herald the remission), during which during which they would take the whole year off of work. During this one-year break, all the food that continued to grow in their fields was free for the taking for families who were struggling to get by (Exodus 23:10). And any debt that folks incurred during the last six years was erased. These laws ensured that those in society who were intent on getting ahead had to take a break so that the gap between the rich and the poor would be kept to a minimum. It is almost impossible for us to grasp how wildly countercultural (and difficult) this economic practice really was. God's idea for this peculiar people was that there be "no poor people among you" (Deut. 15:4) which was a very different way of life for these former slaves.

And if that weren't enough to keep a society from going off-kilter, God threw in one more practice - one giant celebration to be celebrated every 49th/50th year (seven times seven). It was called the Jubilee of Jubilee - God's comprehensive unilateral restructuring of the community's assets to remind Israel that all property and land belonged to God, and that they must never return to a system of slavery (Lev. 25:42). The Jubilee of Jubilee aimed to dismantle structures of social-economic inequality by releasing each community member from debt (Lev. 25:35-42), returning encumbered or forfeited land to its original owners (25:13, 25-28), and freeing slaves (25:47-55). Some might call it a regularly scheduled revolution." (Jesus for President, p. 59).
This idea excites me beyond belief. No one owns really anything longer than 50 years. No debts, no hunger, no work on every 7th year. No poor and minimal inequality. God is so good and we are so awful. If only we could see His way and not be so selfish.

You can read about the Jubilee in the original scripture: Leviticus 25: 8-55!

Blessings and Peace!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jesus for President (JFP): Section !

"Jesus for President" isn't the latest fundamentalist cliche' to get people to hate Obama. This book is a paradigm shaker... and one of the first for our generation. JFP is about questioning our love triangle which has forced Jesus/Church, the State and Us into unholy matrimony. I am a bit skeptical at this point because our state is literally made up of us. "We the people" are the federal government and so it would be hard to see us apart from ourselves. But I love the idea and know a bit about the author to know that his view about being set apart has not kept him from some Holy mischief and protesting injustice, voting and counseling presidents. The point of this book is very clearly laid out, "This book is a project in renewing the imagination of the church in the United States and of those who seek to know Jesus" (p. 17).

Section 1
"We hear people talk about 'the man' or 'the system,' but the prophets talked about 'the beast.' The images of the beasts remind us that these creatures have mutated far from what God intended, even compared with the most savage of the wild animals. These aren't snakes or scary grizzlies; these are demonic monsters of terror. The beasts are the manifestations of those systems of imperial power that had become so corrupt that they were only mutations of things made by God. The beasts of the prophets were not animals but fantastic, horned, flying, fire-breathing monsters, as if to say that these powers and empires had grown so far from God's original creation that they had ceased to be human, natural, or a part of the divine order. They no longer reflected God's image or goodness. They were dehumanized systems that no longer had life or love or beauty in them and no longer did anything that humans were created to do, like love and be loved" (pp. 42-43, images of "the beasts" can be found in: Daniel 7:7 & Revelation 12:3).

This idea of the prophets railing is not something new to me. I knew that they were often the first to fight injustice and spread the peace of God. But the idea of them railing against the empire is very exciting. To rail against hunger is simply getting mad at the symptom. To rail at the empire, the system that justifies, promulgates, and promotes injustices with it's systems they call just is the problem. We even uphold capitalism (competition for privatized resources) as if were the gift of God, as just as it can be. We qualify it with meritocracy (equal opportunity) but it all falls so very short. We can say things like, "How dare the government take my hard earned money." This is wrong on so many levels. First, we are the government, the people have spoken no matter who you voted for, we are giving our money through self-taxation to relieve suffering and make sure there is no poor which are both goals of Christ. But then we have the audacity to believe the lie of meritocracy, that we have equal opportunity. We will say, "I shouldn't be penalized because: I went to school or I worked hard and made may way to the top. They could've done the samething, they just choose not too because they are: lazy, apathetic, just want a handout, have a mindset that they deserve it, etc."

This is the most dangerous type of thinking. It, first, separates and create division between Christ's creation. This is the exact purpose of Capitalism. If we have to compete for resources and jobs, then we forget that we are one and we remian disunified. Why do you think business pays so much money to fight unions, to keep union legislation to be passed, to keep us competing and selfish? Secondly, it is a lie. We don't have the same opportunities. Our schools, from the earliest grades, are different, segregated, and class based. In my own home town, everyone knows that Ophir is where the smart, rich kids go. I went to the poor schools, in a poor part of town, in an already poverty stricken town. My wife has even had comments made to her about the school of her youth and how awful it was and how surpirsed they were for her to have come out of it so succesfully. Almost to insinuate that they have written 'those kids' off and expect very little from them. This is just a microcosm of the disadvantages faced by many. Poverty, gender, sexual orientation, race, age, who we know (networks), institutional affiliation all play a huge factor. Why do people want into Harvard? Why are there only men at the top of everything? Why is this our first multi-racial president?

God would give the Israelites all kinds of things to help them remember that they were once slaves in the empire and that they should stay away from it by following Him. He reminds them before the 10 Commandments. He gives them the year of the jubilee. He tells them in Deuteronomy 24:19-22, "When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this."

Yes, there are those who make it through. I am one. But I am an anomoly. I am an exception. Not because of anything I did, but because, I believe, that because I made the right friends in highschool, I have changed my social network and with the right clothes, I can blend in. Sometimes my tongue slips and this uneducated southern twang shows up, being raised by my uneducated mid-west and southern grandparents. This is a gift I will keep, for it will always keep me humbled and be a sign to me, from my Grandparents and God, to remember that I am not of the empire that tread so deeply in. That I am rescued at a high price and walk as an alien in this land.

May you see that you do not belong to the empire, that you have to live in the world but not be of it. May you not make the foolish mistake and say, "this is mine, how dare they," for God asked the farmer of his field to sacrifice much for those who had none because we too once had none and now have plenty. May you always remember that The Kingdom is much more important than our kingdoms as one produces love and peace and the other produces pride and violence. And may we always remember to distinguish and uphold the values of Christ's Kingdom, even though ours rarely does.

Blessings and Peace!

I thought this was hilarious

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Let America Be America Again!!!

In rediscovering the national qualities that I can honor and value, one of my favorite bloggers (bikehiker) posted this poem from Langston Hughes. I don't want to marked by negativity and disdain. So I will find those things to praise and love it to the way I want. This poem is a critique, a prophecy, a vow, an ideal and a hope. A hope in things unseen but to be revealed:

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.

O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's,
ME--Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Statue of Liberty is my Kind of Gal!

The Statue of Liberty is a great and noble piece of America. It is the America that I love. It is part of the country that I think most resonates with Jesus. It is the America that we have most deserted and betrayed.

The inscription reads like scripture itself:
"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This is more than liberty from enemies. This is diplomacy and friendship (with the French) in trying times and a monument to friendship, unity, and peace. This is an invitation to the world for people who, wanting to come, to come. But not just anybody, the worst, the lowest class of people, poor wanderers, without a home, without anything but hope, and even that isn't necessary. They are "tired," they are the "refuse," and they are "homeless." It is this that I love.

Jesus said:
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3-10)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

This is the America that I like being a part of, the one that matches up with Jesus. It values the thing He does and its heart bleeds for the things of His. Jesus changed the world with uneducated fisherman, simpletons, corrupt IRS agents and America is built on the backs of homeless refuse.

This is it, the upside down kingdom where "the least are desired." The kingdom where "you can keep your wealthy, famous, and talented because we are going to build the revolution with nobodies." "Anybody is welcome, no matter their lot and how much they contribute."

May we see the Statue of Liberty with all the symbolism we can muster but may we, even more, see it with the eyes of those who saw it for the first time after only dreaming of it first. May we truly understand its real significance, instead of our distorted perceptions we bring to it. May we see Jesus in it, the upside kingdom He loves and promulgates, and let them be our highest ideals. Though they be unpopular, unfair and illogical, May we let them wash us over us making us as beautiful as He.

Blessings and Peace!

Look at the picture again, it is all people!