Daily Riches: How Government and Religion Can Endanger a People (Eric Gritsch)

“By 1543, Luther was … utterly frustrated by the Jews’ refusal to convert to Christianity: ‘A Jewish heart is as hard as a stick, a stone, as iron, as a devil.’ Luther did not, however, hold Jews responsible for the death of Christ. As he wrote in a hymn, ‘We dare not blame … the band of Jews; ours is the shame.’ And he felt that at least a few Jews might be won for Christ. Yet rabbinic teaching was madness and blindness that blasphemed Christ, Mary, and the Holy Trinity. Luther could not ‘have any fellowship or patience with obstinate [Jewish] blasphemers and those who defame this dear Savior.’ Blasphemy was a civil crime. To allow it to continue, Luther feared, meant Christians would share in the guilt for it. Thus, Luther now proposed seven measures of ‘sharp mercy’ that German princes could take against Jews: (1) burn their schools and synagogues; (2) transfer Jews to community settlements; (3) confiscate all Jewish literature, which was blasphemous; (4) prohibit rabbis to teach, on pain of death; (5) deny Jews safe-conduct, so as to prevent the spread of Judaism; (6) appropriate their wealth and use it to support converts and to prevent the lewd practice of usury; (7) assign Jews to manual labor as a form of penance. Luther advised clergy, their congregations, and all government officials to help carry out these measures. Since most Jews had been expelled from Germany before 1536, Luther’s counsel was implemented by few officials. Yet a harsh anti-Jewish measure in 1543 mentioned Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies. Both Luther’s friends and his foes criticized him for proposing these measures. His best friends begged him to stop his anti-Jewish raving, but Luther continued his attacks in other treatises. He repeated as true the worst anti-Semitic charges from medieval literature. Jews killed Christian babies; they murdered Christ over and over again by stabbing Eucharistic hosts; they poisoned wells. Luther now thought what he had accused Catholics of thinking in 1523: Jews were dogs. ‘We are at fault for not slaying them,’ he fumed shortly before his death. … Luther was not an anti-Semite in the racist sense. His arguments against Jews were theological, not biological. Not until a French cultural anthropologist in the nineteenth century held that humankind consisted of ‘Semites’ and ‘Aryans,’ were Semites considered inferior. Alfonse de Gobineau’s views were quickly adopted by European intellectuals and politicians, and Jews became the scapegoats of a snobbish colonialist society in England, France, and Germany. The rest is history—including the Jewish holocaust perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and his regime. National Socialists used Luther to support their racist anti-Semitism, calling him a genuine German who had hated non-Nordic races.” Eric Gritsch

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Galatians 3:28

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Can you imagine something like this happening today, as it did then? Here is the U.S., as it did in Germany?
  • Would people in your church or religious tradition know how to correct these racist views from a Biblical point of view? Would you?
  • Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller and many others stood up against the Nazi’s in their day–risking their citizenship, income, career, family and lives. Will you have the courage to do that if a similar test occurs in your day?

Abba, strengthen me, not only as I clasp my hands in prayer against the disorder of the world, but as I speak unpopular truth and stand with hated victims.

For More: Preaching In Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of Resistance in the Third Reich by Dean Stroud

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Thanks for reading and sharing my blog. I appreciate it! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

Daily Riches: A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Robert Morgan)

“On December 21, 1511 Antonio des Montesinos stood before his church in Hispaniola with fire on his lips:

I have climbed to this pulpit to let you know of your sins, for I am the voice of Christ crying in the desert of this island, and you must not listen to me indifferently. You are in mortal sin; you not only are in it, but live in it and die in it because of the cruelty and tyranny you bring to bear on these innocent people. By what right do you wage your odious wars on people who dwelt in quiet and peace on their own islands? Why do you oppress and exploit them, without even giving them enough to eat? They die, or rather, you kill them, so that you may extract more and more gold every day. Are they not human? Have they no souls? Are you not required to love them as you love yourselves? How can you remain in such profound lethargy? I assure you, in your present state you can no more be saved than Moors or Turks who reject the faith of Jesus Christ.

His audience was stunned, and his words leaped the oceans. In Spain a furious King Ferdinand told Christopher Columbus, ‘I have seen the sermon … and although he was always a scandalous preacher, I am much surprised by what he said, which has no basis in theology or law.’ Montesinos refused orders to retract his statements, and increasing numbers joined him in reminding the world that not everything done in the name of Christianity is of Christ.” Robert J. Morgan

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no commandment greater than these.”
Jesus in Mark 12:30,31

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Nations, just like individuals, can be blind to injustice–”in profound lethargy” towards God–commiting atrocities while believing they’re serving God. Are you aware of times like that in your nation’s story?
  • Where are the wilderness (non-establishment) voices calling out in the wilderness today? Are you listening?
  • What is happening in your world “in the name of Christianity” that is not “of Christ?” Are you dissenting?

Abba, help me to hear your voice in the often overlooked voices that cry out for justice in my day.

For More: On This Day by Robert J. Morgan

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. My goal is to give you something of real value in 400 words or less. Thanks for reading /sharing my blog. I appreciate your interest! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Love Expands to Overcome Evil (Alan Watts and Preston Sprinkle)

“Evil is the attempt to pick a quarrel with God, and because it cannot, it wears itself out with exasperation. Although evil struggles to exclude and oppose God, it never succeeds because he always embraces it in His all-inclusive love. …Not only is evil unable to oppose and exclude God, but it also achieves the very contrary of its aim. In spite of itself, it achieves greater and greater demonstrations of the divine love, just as in trying to destroy Christ, Judas achieved unwittingly the salvation of the world. This was because Christ accepted the injury done to Him with all-inclusive love of God. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ The greater the evil, the greater it proves the love of God to be, because that love simply ‘enlarges’ itself to include and embrace it.” Alan Watts

“Jesus grounds enemy-love in the character of God. We are to love our enemy so that we might be ‘sons of the Most High’ who is ‘kind to the ungrateful and the evil’ and is merciful to the undeserving (Luke 6: 35– 36). We renounce power and become servants because ‘even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve’ (Mark. 10: 45). We love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, extend kindness to the ungrateful, and flood evil people with mercy not because such behavior will always work at confronting injustice, but because such behavior showcases God’s stubborn delight in undelightful people. Faithfulness rather than perceived effectiveness motivates our response to evil. We are faithful conduits of God’s undeserved love when we do good to those who hate us. In a world swimming in violence, in a land where ‘messiah’ meant militancy, Jesus never acts violently. Whenever violence is addressed, Jesus condemns it. Whenever His followers try to act violently, they are confronted. Whenever Jesus encounters people who deserve a violent punishment, Jesus loves them. And in doing so, He leaves His followers with a nonviolent example to follow. When people around the globe think that American Christians are pro-war, enamored with violence, and fascinated with military might, something is terribly wrong. No one in the first century would have made the same conclusion regarding Jesus and His followers.” Preston Sprinkle

“but where sin increased,
grace abounded all the more”
Romans 5:20

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Is the God you worship one who overcomes evil with love?
  • Do you sincerely believe that love is more powerful than hate? …forgiveness, than judgment?
  • What would first century Christians think of your version of the faith?

Abba, daily teach teach me the way of peace.

For more: Behold the Spirit by Alan Watts

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Thanks for reading and sharing my blog! – Bill

 

Daily Riches: Religion and Violence (Jonathan Sacks and Dan Clendenin)

“Sibling rivalry is ‘the most primal form of violence,’ and ‘the dominant theme of the book of Genesis.’  We desire what others have, become rivals for it, and then fight to get it in what we wrongly think is a zero sum game. And so Jews, Christians and Muslims all claim to be the one, true heir of Abraham. We fight to be the sole inheritor of the divine promise. The stories are familiar to those who know their Bibles, but in Sacks’s ‘close reading’ of them, he offers new interpretations in which sibling rivalry is revealed and then subverted. With Isaac and Ishmael, God chooses Isaac, but he doesn’t reject Ishmael. The story of Jacob and Esau is ‘the refutation of sibling rivalry in the Bible.’ Recall how Jacob returned the blessing that he stole from his blind father Isaac. The story of Joseph and his brothers who tried to kill him takes up a third of the book of Genesis—in the end, the victim forgives and the perpetrators repent. Rachel and Leah exemplify the ‘rejection of rejection.’ Sibling rivalry is natural, says Sacks, but these stories remind us that it’s not inevitable. Human beings cannot live without a group identity, and religion might be the most powerful of them all. By definition, groups require an Us and a Them. …There’s no middle ground, no subtlety or nuance, only black and white, in and out. By nature, we extend altruism toward my In group, and hostility toward my Out group. Here again the Hebrew revelation subverts our natural inclinations by commending a radical role reversal. Do not oppress the stranger, the people outside your group. Why? Because you know what it’s like to be oppressed as a stranger in a strange land (Exodus 22.21).  …have mercy on them, remember that you too were once aliens. …Protect the weak, care for widows and orphans, help the poor, speak up for those who have no voice. Do justice, love kindness. Don’t long for power, for you can’t impose faith or truth by force. Religion, argues Sacks, is an anti-politics that lives without power. Instead, it persuades by example.” Dan Clendenin

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite,
but love your neighbor as yourself.
Leviticus 19:18

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Does your religion subvert the tendency to create “insiders” and “outsiders?”
  • Does your religion persuade by power … or example?
  • Is there any good reason why Jews, Christians and Muslims must fight with each other? Can you imagine ways we might be able to learn from each other?

Abba, help me see others as insiders, included with me in your love.

For More: Not in God’s Name by Jonathan Sacks

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Thanks for reading/following my blog! –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

 

 

 

Daily Riches: Religion, Violence … and Hope (Dan Clendenin and Jonathan Sacks)

“Human beings cannot live without a group identity, and religion might be the most powerful of them all.  By definition, groups require an Us and a Them. …’You’re either for us or against us.’ There’s no middle ground, no subtlety or nuance, only black and white, in and out. By nature, we extend altruism toward my In group, and hostility toward my Out group. Here again the Hebrew revelation subverts our natural inclinations by commending a radical role reversal. Do not oppress the stranger, the people outside your group. Why? Because you know what it’s like to be oppressed as a stranger in a strange land (Exodus 22.21). The Hebrew word ger (alien, immigrant) occurs 92 times in the Jewish Scriptures, along with similar words like toshav (migrant), zar (stranger or outsider), and nocri (foreigner). Don’t oppress the stranger, have mercy on them, remember that you too were once aliens. ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people,’ says Leviticus 19:18, ‘but love your neighbor as yourself.’ Protect the weak, care for widows and orphans, help the poor, speak up for those who have no voice. Do justice, love kindness. Don’t long for power, for you can’t impose faith or truth by force. Religion … is an anti-politics that lives without power. Instead, it persuades by example. Demographers tell us that people of religion will increase in the coming decades, whereas secular populations will decrease. Problems of religiously motivated violence are here to stay, at least in some form. We must reclaim our common humanity that takes precedence over our religious differences. …Ironically, whereas the roots of human violence are found in religion, so too is its subversion, for the original Abrahamic promise was that ‘through you all the families of the earth will be blessed.’  To bless the Other, not to curse him, is the sign and spirit of true faith.” Dan Clendenin

 “In that day Egypt and Assyria … will move freely between their lands, and they will both worship God. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth. For the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will say, ‘Blessed be Egypt, my people. Blessed be Assyria, the land I have made. Blessed be Israel, my special possession!’” Isaiah 19:23-25

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you think in terms of “us” and “them?”
  • Does your political or religious group encourage hate for outsiders?
  • Isaiah reminds us God loves and will bless not only Israelis, but Egyptians and Assyrians. Are you determined to love without borders?

Abba, make my faith subversive to the kingdom of violence.

For More: Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence by Jonathan Sacks

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Thanks for following and sharing my blog. – Bill

Daily Riches: The Worship of Might and the Bitter Irony of History (Abraham Heschel and J. Mullenburg)

“Why were so few voices raised in the ancient world to protest against the ruthlessness of man? Why are human beings so obsequious, ready to kill and ready to die at the call of kings and chieftains? Perhaps it is because they worship might, venerate those who command might, and are convinced that it is by force that man prevails. The splendor and pride of kings blind the people. The Mesopotamian, for example, felt convinced that authorities were always right. . . . The prophets repudiated the work as well as the power of man as an object of supreme adoration. They denounced ‘arrogant boasting’ and ‘haughty pride’ (Isa. 10:12), the kings who ruled the nations in anger, the oppressors (Isa. 14:4-6), the destroyers of nations, who went forth to inflict waste, ruin, and death (Jer. 4:7), the ‘guilty men, whose own might is their god’ (Hab. 1:11) … The end of public authority is to realize the moral law, a task for which both knowledge and understanding as well as the possession of power are indispensable means. Yet inherent in power is the tendency to breed conceit.’ . . . one of the most striking and one of the most pervasive features of the prophetic polemic [is] the denunciation and distrust of power in all its forms and guises. The hunger of the powerful knows no satiety; the appetite grows on what it feeds. Power exalts itself and is incapable of yielding to any transcendent judgment; it “listens to no voice” (Zeph. 3:2) .'[2] It is the bitter irony of history that the common people, who are devoid of power and are the prospective victims of its abuse, are the first to become the ally of him who accumulates power.” Abraham Heschel

My power works best in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Moving From Head to Heart

  • How much of what Heschel describes from the ancient world do you see today? (e.g., the worship of power? the “bitter irony” of the manipulation of the powerless?)
  • Do you agree with the Hebrew prophets “denunciation and distrust of power in all its forms and guises?” How does this affect your reading of the news? … your politics? …your life of faith?
  • God spoke through the prophets, and those prophets often focused on governments and what we might consider “political” issues. Do you think of God as being concerned with the politics of human history? Does it matter?

Abba, may we always speak up for the powerless – never contribute to the exploitation of the weak.

For More: The Prophets by Abraham Heschel

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. By goal is to share something of value you with in 400 words or less. Thanks for following and sharing my blog. – Bill

[2] J. Mullenburg, The Way of Israel

Daily Riches: National Exceptionalism and Divine Providence (Charles Marsh)

“I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” Adolf Hitler

“…the weight of German exceptionalism and the spiritual veneration of military valor were not easy inheritances to disown. In nineteenth-century Protestant Prussia, no less a philosopher-patriot than Hegel resolved that his beloved Machtstaat (the ‘power state’ that was the German imperium) had been chosen by God to rule the nations by example, fiat, or force. It was God’s nature to manifest his will in superior and powerful nations, which demonstrated their providential purpose by imposing their will on their neighbors, as the ancient Hebrews had done. By the end of the nineteenth century, the idea of Germany as such a ‘world-historical nation’ had become as hallowed as the historicity of the biblical narratives. …Seeberg believed he was fulfilling his spiritual vocation by helping the German people discern the powerful hand of God in the new forces gathering to propel Germany to greatness. Among the professoriate there were precious few willing dissenters from this conviction. German Protestant theology from Schleiermacher to Harnack and Seeberg presumed the providential blessings of the warrior God. …In Protestant faculties and congregations, churchmen of fixed and iron-hard purpose who called themselves the Deutsche Christen, the ‘German Christians,’ were pedaling their loyalty to the fatherland. They claimed that God had chosen a new Israel, the German Volk; that the Christian doctrine of revelation had brought about the disinheritance of the Jews and that Jesus Christ had abrogated Israel’s ancient covenant. They wanted a strong church of muscular virtues–a manly church, eine mannliche Kirche–unified by German ideals. They even convinced themselves that Jesus was not a Jew. They boasted of their mission in the most inspiring terms imaginable: as the completion of Martin Luther’s work.” Charles Marsh

“What are nations without justice but large bands of thieves?” Pope John XXIII


“give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,
and give to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus in Mark 12:17

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • National “exceptionalism”, God’s “new Israel”, “muscular values”– even “the providential blessings of the warrior God”–we’re hearing these kinds of themes again. What is your response?
  • Do you believe it’s “God’s nature to manifest his will in superior and powerful nations which [demonstrate] their providential purpose by imposing their will on their neighbors?” What’s the danger is such a view?
  • Hitler claimed to serve God, and most of the church supported him. What can we learn from this sad story?

Abba, help us discern your hand in power and in weakness. Ground us in reality, truth and courage.

For More: Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Charles Marsh 

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I hope you’ll follow my blog and share it with others.  I really appreciate your interest! – Bill

Daily Riches: Theological Bias and Hindrances to Hearing From God (Soong-Chan Rah)

“What is considered good, sound, orthodox theology is a Western theology that emphasizes a personal relationship with Jesus with its natural and expected antecedent of an individual sanctification…. The critical issues and discussion in theology lean toward understanding issues relevant to individuals and Western sensibilities. …Theologies that speak of a corporate responsibility or call for a social responsibility are given special names like: liberation theology, black theology, minjung theology, feminist theology, etc. In other words, Western theology with its individual focus is considered normative theology, while non-Western theology is theology on the fringes and must be explained as being a theology applicable only in a particular context and to a particular people group. Orthodoxy is determined by the Western value of individualism and an individualized soteriology rather than a broader understanding of the corporate themes that emerge out of scripture. Because theology emerging from a Western, white context is considered normative, it places non-Western theology in an inferior position and elevates Western theology as the standard by which all other theological frameworks and points of view are measured. This bias stifles the theological dialogue between the various cultures. …We end up with a Western, white captivity of theology. Western theology becomes the form that is closest to God.” Soong-Chan Rah

Then a voice told him, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
‘Surely not, Lord!’ Peter replied.
I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.’”
Acts 10:13,14

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Christianity began in the East and was entirely Jewish. Much of today’s church is Western and Gentile. Imagine the difference in perspective. Has your theology ever been challenged like Peter’s was?
  • Many churches in the U.S. are mostly white, suburban, middle-class and led by men. Imagine how unreflected the concerns and problems of people of color, urban and/or poor people might be in such churches. Have you tried listening in your church with the ears of a poor person, a minority or a woman?
  • Considering “non-Western theology” as theology “on the fringes” only feeds our tendency as Westerners towards ego-centricity as individuals and a culture. Do you try to learn from those parts of the world, or from cultures, that are different from yours?

Abba, make me aware of my biases and prejudices, and help me transcend them. Help me know you better as my horizons expand and I think in new ways.

For More: The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Cutting Through Political and Religious Illusions (Vernon Howard, Thomas Merton and Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

“Every day that you attempt to see things as they are in truth is a supremely successful day.” Vernon Howard

“It seems to me that the most basic problem is not political, it is apolitical and human. One of the most important things to do is to keep cutting deliberately through political lines and barriers and emphasizing the fact that these are largely fabrications and that there is another dimension, a genuine reality, totally opposed to the fictions of politics…. My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In those depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. …It is not complicated to lead the spiritual life. But it is difficult. We are blind, and subject to a thousand illusions. We must expect to be making mistakes almost all the time. We must be content to fall repeatedly and to begin again to try to deny ourselves, for the love of God.” Thomas Merton

“The believer is neither a pessimist nor an optimist. To be either is illusory. The believer sees reality not in a certain light but as it is….” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus, in John 8:32

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Whether in understanding politics, your religion or the people in your life, do realize that you are “blind, and subject to a thousand illusions?” Do you attempt every day “to see things as they are in truth?”
  • With the passing of time, have you recognized “conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith?” Stop and really think about it.
  • Is there anyone (friend, author, opponent) that can help you in this regard?

Abba, break down my cocky certainty and keep me from succumbing to the many fabrications of my day.

For More: Faith and Violence by Thomas Merton

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: Summer Vacation Break

Hi everyone. I will be on vacation this week, so I won’t be sending out any Daily Riches from richerbyfar.com. As always, I really appreciate your interest in and support of the blog. Thanks for reading and sharing, and for your prayers!

While I’m away, don’t forget there are about 450 daily posts from the last 18 months. I’m sure there is something there you haven’t seen and that may encourage you as you seek after God and God seeks after you. (see below)

Bill

Daily Riches: Killing Jesus (Hans Küng)

“What is it really that stands here between God and man? Paradoxically, it is man’s own morality and piety: his ingeniously devised moralism and his selective technique of piety. It is not – as people [in Jesus’ day] thought – the tax swindlers who find it most difficult to repent, not being able to remember all those whom they have cheated or how much they would have to restore. No: it is the devout who find it most difficult, being so sure of
themselves that they have no need of conversion. They became Jesus’ worst enemies. Most of the sayings on judgment in the Gospels apply to these, not to the great sinners. Those who finally sealed his fate were not murderers, cheats, swindlers and adulterers, but the highly moral people. They thought that in this way they were doing a service to God.” Hans Küng

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!
You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.
And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors,
we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants
of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then,
and complete what your ancestors started!'”
Jesus in Matthew 23:29-32

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • In Jesus’ day the most religious and orthodox people thought they were “doing a service to God” by killing Jesus. And eventually, many in the crowd apparently accepted that interpretation. Imagine.
  • When you imagine great sinners who do you think of? …rulers who commit genocide? …heartless souls entrapping young girls in sexual slavery? …doctors who perform late-term abortions? …racist pigs? …homosexuals or homophobes? or the usual: murderers, thieves and adulterers? What if the greatest sinners in our day were self-assured religious leaders, speaking for God, thumping their Bibles – revered by many – but actually fighting God, just like in Jesus’ day. Could that happen?
  • Do you trust religious teachers uncritically? How do you recognize orthodoxy today? Could your “service to God” actually be fighting against God?

Abba, show me my blindness, my biases, my wrong assumptions and conclusions. I want to honor your son, not be disloyal to his cause or lead others to reject him.

For More: On Being a Christian by Hans Küng

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

Daily Riches: Pimping Religion, Confronting Empire – Part II (Dan Clendenin)

“The church has a checkered history in its relationship to the state. Some have followed Amaziah [see Amos 7] and traded religious legitimation for security, power and privilege – the German Christian movement that supported Nazi ideology, the Dutch Reformed church that supported apartheid in South Africa, and Russian Orthodox priests who collaborated with the Soviet KGB. But there are also many inspirational examples. The Archbishop and martyr of San Salvador, Óscar Romero (d. 1980), wrote a letter to President Jimmy Carter that he could have sent to any number of our military or political leaders: ‘You say that you are Christian. If you are really Christian, please stop sending military aid to the military here, because they use it only to kill my people.’ Romero is only one of many brave saints who chose Amos over Amaziah. Consider the Confessing Church in Germany that opposed Hitler, nationalism, and anti-Semitism; the black pentecostal pastor Frank Chikane who in 1985 gathered more than 150 clergy from 20 denominations to draft the Kairos Document that protested South African apartheid; father Gleb Yakunin who insisted that the Russian Orthodox Church publicly repent of its ties to the Soviet regime; the culturally marginal and politically powerless Quakers who helped to abolish the British slave trade in the 19th century; and Morgan Tsvangirai who sought ‘divine intervention’ to end Robert Mugabe’s three decades of thugocracy in Zimbabwe. There’s the Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan (b. 1921), who did time in prison for his civil disobedience against American policies on racism, nuclear proliferation, and Vietnam…. When asked by Nora Gallagher how many times he had been jailed for subverting caesar because of Jesus, Berrigan responded, “Not enough.” Dan Clendenin

“Righteousness and justice
are the foundation of your throne.”
Psalm 89:14

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • In the moment, it can be hard to know who is “on the right side of history.” God often uses outsiders – unexpected and despised voices – and we often embrace the biases and accept the rationalizations of our culture. Are you striving to know who speaks for God today?  …and who is being sinfully silent?
  • The Biblical pattern is for God to be against Empire since the absolute power of empires predictably leads to profound corruption. Do we need prophetic voices to speak against Empire today? If so, against what “Empire” and for what reasons?
  • Who is speaking out for God today? From where would you expect to find such voices – conservatives/liberals? …insiders/outsiders? …admired/despised? …obscure/prominent?

Abba, give us your eyes to see our world, and your loving heart to care for it.

For More: “Journey With Jesus” by Dan Clendenin

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I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill

Daily Riches: Pimping Religion, Confronting Empire – Part I (Dan Clendenin)

“Amos wrote 2,800 years ago, but his prophecy reads like today’s newspaper. He lived under king Jeroboam [whose] kingdom was characterized by territorial expansion, aggressive militarism, and unprecedented economic prosperity. Times were good. Or so people thought. The people of the day interpreted their good fortune as God’s favor. Amos says that the people were intensely and sincerely religious. But theirs was a privatized religion of personal benefit. They ignored the poor, the widow, the alien, and the orphan. …Making things worse, Israel’s religious leaders sanctioned the political and economic status quo. They pimped their religion for Jeroboam’s empire. Enter Amos. Amos preached from the pessimistic and unpatriotic fringe. He was blue collar … neither a prophet nor even the son of a prophet in the professional sense of the term. Amos was a shepherd, a farmer, and a tender of fig trees. He was a small town boy who grew up in Tekoa…. The cultured elites despised him as a redneck [and]… an unwelcome outsider. Born in the southern kingdom of Judah, God called him to thunder a prophetic word to the northern kingdom of Israel. And that’s what this rough hewn prophet did. He opposed the political powers of his day and the religious stooges who supported them. With graphic details that make you wince, Amos describes how the rich crushed the poor; the affluent with their expensive lotions, elaborate music, and vacation homes with beds of inlaid ivory; sexual debauchery in which a man and his son abused the same woman; a corrupt legal system that sold justice to the highest bidder; predatory lenders who exploited vulnerable families; and religious leaders who sanctioned it all. …To the priests who defended, legitimized, and justified Jeroboam’s corrupt kingdom, Amos delivered an uncompromising word of warning. After Amaziah the priest informed Jeroboam that Amos’s preaching was unpatriotic and seditious, he tried to run him out of town. …Then Amaziah said something that reveals how completely he had identified religious faith with political power and economic gain. It ought to send a chill up the spine of every religious leader who ever thought about sucking up to political power: ‘Don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.’ (7:13). With those words, the religious justification of political empire is complete, and faith is reduced to patriotic cheer-leading. But Amos wouldn’t be bullied. He had a word of his own for every priest who pimped religion for empire:

Amos 7:17

Moving From Head to Heart

  • Is your vision blurred by “good times?”
  • Do you hear a “religious justification of political empire” in your nation?
  • Is yours a “privatized religion of personal benefit?” Benefits upheld by injustice?

Abba, help us recognize those who speak for you in our day.


Daily Riches: Outside the Dominant Consciousness (Richard Rohr and Walter Brueggemann)

“Authentic God experience gives you another place to stand, another identity, a spacious and gracious place, which invites you to stand outside of the dominant consciousness that surrounds you and that everybody accepts as reality. Authentic God experience liberates you from the usual domination systems, liberates you from needing everything to be perfect or right, and liberates you to be who you really are – ordinary  and poor – just like everybody else. Until you can be at home in the alternative Kingdom of God, you will almost always be completely conformed to the superficial systems of this world, while calling it freedom and independence. Some do it by conforming to styles and fashions of their particular groupthink, while others do it by various conformities to the political correctness of either left or right. Some even do it by conforming to the rebellious group, but that is not freedom either. Gospel freedom allows you to act from deep within, where the Holy Spirit dwells, and not for or against any outside group whatsoever…. Jesus’ announcement of the reign of God was telling us that culture as we’ve created it is on a track toward self-destruction and emptiness. All we have to give up is the utterly false understanding that we have of ourselves from civil society. For some reason that liberation seems to be the most difficult thing in the world!” Richard Rohr

“The task of prophetic ministry is to nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us. …Such utterance staggers and offends among the listeners. But it also opens vistas of possibility where we had not thought to go and where in fact, we are most reluctant to go.”  Walter Brueggemann

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Romans 12:2

 Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Does your religion determine your politics or do your politics determine your religion?
  • Is the religious instruction you receive making you more of an individual, or more a conforming member of a group?
  • Acting from “deep within, where the Holy Spirit dwells” is difficult but keeps us from bondage to “what everybody accepts as reality.”  Are you learning to do that?

Abba, help me to hear your prophets today and not be offended by them or stagger at their voice. Lead me where I have not thought to go and been reluctant to go.

For More:  The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek God and he seeks you. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

Daily Riches: The Christian as a Citizen of the World (Judith Valente, Robert McAfee Brown, Cornell West, and Marilynne Robinson)

“Sister Janelle plays ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ on the organ, but no one belts out the words. I do not think this is because the sisters are unpatriotic, nor do I think they don’t love and bless this country. But to be a monastic is to live as a citizen of the world. It requires love for every country on the planet.” Judith Valente

“The nation is the most pervasive of all the gods, in any time, in any culture. True patriotism is not worship of our nation but rather, in the light of our worship of the God of justice, to conform our nation’s ways to justice. …We can insist on a distinction between our country and our government. …Let it be clear: it is because we say Yes to what our country ought to represent (“liberty and justice for all”), that we must say No to what our government has come to represent (“truth… on the scaffold, wrong … on the throne”). When a government traduces the ideals of a country, it is an act of loyalty to oppose the government. Let us never concede that because people have been elected to public office they are exempt from challenge and critique; on the contrary they are more than ever subject to challenge, and critique, because they now speak and act not just for themselves but for all of us….”  Robert McAfee Brown (1986)

“My understanding of Jesus Christ went like this: Everything comes beneath the cross – nationalism, tribalism, patriotism, networks, even kinships. The cross is that critical juncture where catastrophe defines our condition and offers salvation, not in the name of a specific ideology or theology, but in the simple name of love. It is love that saves us from the tyranny of chauvinism and its many manifestations.” Cornell West

“I am the sort of Christian whose patriotism might be called into question by some on the grounds that I do not take the United States to be more beloved of God than France, let us say, or Russia, or Argentina, or Iran. I experience religious dread whenever I find myself thinking that I know the limits of God’s grace, since I am utterly certain it exceeds any imagination a human being might have of it. God does, after all, so love the world. …Making God a tribal deity, our local Baal, is embarrassing and disgraceful.” Marilynne Robinson

  “Render … to God the things that are God’s.”
Mark 12:17

 Moving From Head to Heart

  • Is your patriotism ever questioned?
  • Does your faith save you from “the tyranny of chauvinism and its many manifestations?”
  • Is your God a “tribal deity?”

Abba, guide our allegiances.

For More: Unexpected News by Robert McAfee Brown

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Thanks for following and sharing “Daily Riches!”  – Bill