We must all learn to live together as brothers. Or we will all perish together as fools – MLK

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There seems to be a problem with interpreting Jesus as a religious line in the sand, in which one side gets flights and accommodation to paradise, and the other side…well, you get the drift.

Re-reading John 14:6 in the context of the whole account of John, which in turn is situated within the context of the Bible, which in turn is situated within the context of the existential metanarrative of divine love; Jesus’ so-called assertion as ‘the way to the Father’ looks a lot different than the norm of dominant church culture.

Indeed, Jesus is in the middle of a long conversation with his followers, they’re concerned that Jesus (after 3 years of telling his disciples to follow him) is now telling them that he’s going somewhere and they can’t come. Here are 4 exegetical points that end up portraying John 14 as a call to love others not a call for religious exclusion.

‘Where I am going you cannot come’ – Here Jesus is talking about his suffering and death, in which he will destroy ‘the temple’ and raise it up again in 3 days (remembering that the temple has moved from being a structure to being people-in-loving-communion-with-God-and-others through the leading character of Christ). Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, EVERYONE can commune with God (not just a select few worshipping in an exclusive building);

‘My Father’s house has many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you’ – Jesus isn’t talking about gaping it to heaven and building mansions for the elect few (remembering back to John 2 when Jesus went berserk in the temple because the religious authorities had turned the building into a shrine of exclusion and exploitation of ‘the other’). Here Jesus is ‘preparing’ himself for his death and resurrection (namely the destroying of the old temple of exclusion and the re-building of the re-newed temple in which it shall be a house of prayer for all nations). Through the passion of Christ, Jesus prepared a community (not just for ‘Christians’) in which everyone is invited to join and build a society of loving ‘the other’.

‘I will come back and take you to be with me…’ – This isn’t a reference to Jesus’ second coming and that he’s going to ‘rapture’ the elect and take them to their heavenly mansions, meanwhile destroying everyone that ‘doesn’t know the way.’ Jesus is talking about his resurrection, in which after three days he will reunite with his disciples before his ascension.

‘You know the way…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ – this has nothing to do with post-mortem travel arrangements or religious supremacy, rather it is a reflection back to Moses and the Levitical law (in which the Israelites used the Torah as the way to interpret life as a Jewish person living in the post-exodus era). Jesus’ giving of the great commandment to love others is a parallel to Moses giving the Israelites the 10 commandments. Basically Jesus is saying that without love and acceptance of ‘the other’, one ends up with the opposite of God (which could be termed ‘exclusive selfishness’ – I must stress that non-adherence to ‘the way of love’ doesn’t condemn people to hell, rather I believe that God is forever chasing people with his love, patiently waiting for them to embrace the embrace).

Jesus quite pointedly IS the way, the truth and the life because he is the perfect expression and character of the greatest commandment: love others. In the character of Jesus, we find the embodiment of what it means to love God and love people. Over his 3 year ministry, whether it was by his deeds, his words or through his character – over and over again, Jesus reminds us that God (‘the way’) is inclusive love and the will to embrace ‘the other’ in all their diversity. “When you are kind and respectful to followers of other religions, you are not being unfaithful to Jesus; you are being faithful to him” (McLaren, 2010, p. 285).

With this in mind, I dare propose that ‘the kingdom of God’ isn’t exclusive to the Christian saved, rather it is a global house with many rooms, inhabited by differing people, all unified through the mission of transforming the world into a society of ‘loving the other’.

“We must all learn to live together as brothers. Or we will all perish together as fools.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Works Cited

McLaren, B. (2010). A new kind of Christianity. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

 

 

Bob McKoskrie and hetero-phobia: The fear of people different from yourself

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It is incredibly sad that even though today is a historic moment in New Zealand’s social history, there are still trolls trolling about ready to pounce on the fun and dampen the party. ‘Hetero-phobia’ can be described as the fear of something or someone different, and as Bob McKoskrie has shown yet again – trolls be trolling (http://bobmccoskrie.com/?p=9066).

McKoskrie’s creativity seems to be limited to stale boundaries of hyper-fundamentalism, in which apparently he holds the universal truth of the definition of marriage, in which he has and still does vehemently defend. The use of the Bible as an authoritative weapon of mass distraction obviously does more harm than good. Why, why, why do fundamental evangelicals continue to paint a violent, judgemental, racist, condemning and bigot of a Jesus? As the popular maxim goes, ‘what would Jesus do?’ It is obvious that the actions of the fundamental right differ extremely from the ethos of Jesus the liberator of the oppressed and healer of the broken. This reminds me of the passage in scripture when Jesus gave up his last breath and cried out “it is finished!” In which the curtain in the temple was torn in two, and the division that kept people from encountering God freely was done away with.

It seems to me that whether it has been slavery, colonization, segregation, apartheid, and now same-sex marriage – the Church has always been the one justifying the dehumanizing of ‘the other.’ One could say that throughout history, the Church has metaphorically taken the torn curtain and repaired it to once again separate people from fully encountering their humanity.

I beg of the so-called ‘defenders of THE definition of marriage’ – everyone is entitled to their opinion, but when it is discriminating against others then serious analysis needs to be considered. I’m no pastor or theologian but I think it’s pretty straight forward that Jesus’ message hung on two paradigms in which it seems dominant Church culture has neglected: LOVE God, and LOVE people. Difference is wonderful and should be celebrated.

Doubt saved my faith

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Last week I was ready to give up on the story of Jesus, a story that is dominated by an individualist, environmentally negligent, hell evasive, and dualistic worldview. I began doubting and questioning my faith and whether the good news was actually ‘good’ let alone relevant to society. So I started reading this book – ‘a new kind of Christianity’ – and it pretty much ‘saved’ me from the contempt I had for the gospel according to mainstream evangelicalism, replacing it with a realization that the good news of Jesus’ kingdom is far more authentic and holistic than the lines that Church norms conform it to reside within. This existential epiphany was then solidified twice today in both a morning and night service at an emergent Church aptly named ‘the edge’. Indeed tonight I feel renewed and hungry to live out my love for the Jesus of the kingdom of God; a kingdom in which social justice, the environment, economic equity,  and a faith of doubting (wondering) is intimately important to the God of all creation.

The reason why the Church doesn’t give two hoots about social responsibility

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Mainstream evangelicalism (dominant church culture) is embedded with a dualistic philosophy that denies the relevance of social justice now. This platonic theology relegates the earth to a sinking ship in which the only solution is to rush every individual onto the life raft of Jesus. As the world/matter and heaven/spirit are platonically opposing, ‘saving souls’ takes precedence over social responsibility. In a way one could term conversion as the only ‘social responsibility’ of the Church. Indeed if what really “matters is the soul, then thinking about the way socio-economic, material structures and institutions shape people is hardly important” (Sider, 2012, p. 3).

Socio-political concerns are labelled as irrelevant in a dying world, in which the only thing that matters is escaping “this world and its problems by going to heaven after death” (McLaren, 2007, p. 21). This dualism cements the Church’s main goal; which is the salvation of every soul through personal conversion (being born-again). Sider (2012) indicates how this perspective encourages personal conversion over social transformation – accordingly social problems would apparently disappear “if everyone were converted to personal faith in Christ” (Sider, 2012, p. 2).

Social responsibility should be crucially important to mainstream evangelicalism as it was a key message of Jesus’ ministry. The individualistic philosophy of dualism has silhouetted the socially inept gospel of evangelical culture. The gospel has ceased to create transformation and liberation, and has instead become a spiritual message of societal distraction (p. 29), in which the only things that matter is individual souls going to heaven and the accumulation of personal blessings in the meantime. Mainstream evangelicalism denies the relevance of social responsibility, even though societal concern and transformation is at the heart of the kingdom of God.

Works Cited

McLaren, B. (2007). Everything must change: When the world’s biggest problems and Jesus’ good news collide. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Sider, R. (2012). Evangelical advocacy: a response to global poverty. Evangelicals and structural injustice, 1-5.