“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.”
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? . . . . . . . marginalized/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
I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it I appreciate your interest! – Bill
“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:
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.
“The political terms right and left came from the Estates General in France. It’s interesting that now we use them as our basic political categories. On the left sat the ordinary people, and on the right sat the nobility and the clergy! (What were the clergy doing over there?!) I think you see the pattern. The right normally protects the community and the status quo. The left predictably looks for change and reform, and there is a certain need for both or we have chaos. In history you will invariably have these two movements in some form, because we didn’t have the phenomenon of the middle class until very recently. The vast majority of people in all of history have been poor, as in Jesus’ time, and would have read history as a need for change. The people who wrote the books and controlled the social institutions, however, have almost always been the comfortable people on the right. And much of history has been read and interpreted from the side of the ‘winners,’ or the right, except for the unique revelation called the Bible, which is an alternative history from the side of the enslaved, the dominated, the oppressed, and the poor, leading up to the totally scapegoated Jesus himself. …He tries to put inside and outside together, but is killed by those entrapped and privileged on the inside.” Richard Rohr
“the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate.
‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said,
‘After three days I will rise again.’
Moving From Head to Heart
- According to your social and economic status today, would you typically be on the left or right? …with the privileged or powerless?
- Accordingly, if you were to insert yourself into the Biblical story, would you be more likely with the religious and political authorities (preserving tradition and order), or with Jesus (dissenting and challenging authority)?
- The Bible is clearly “an alternative history” from the perspective of the bottom. Have you read it that way? Does thinking about it that way change the way you see our world now?
- Can you imagine the reception Jesus would receive if he came today as he did back then? …who would be for him and who against him? …what you would do?
Jesus, may I be found, like you, siding with the weak and poor.
For More: Yes, And... by Richard Rohr
These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after 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)
Besides the Holocaust, our world has experienced many other genocides – “a million or more Armenians under the Turks … two million Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot; Kurds under Saddam Hussein; Muslims, Croats, and ethnic Albanians under the Serbs; thirty million Chinese under Mao; tens of millions under Soviet atheism; nearly a million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extremist Hutus in Rwanda; and in Darfur the Fur, Zaghawa, and Massaleit peoples by Sudan’s government. The deadliest war of our generation has also been the most under-reported conflict – the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since the start of conflicts there in 1996, five million people have perished out of a population of fifty million – a staggering 10% of the population. Over half of those deaths occurred since the war ended in July 2003. …In his book Worse Than War; Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity (2009), Daniel Goldhagen describes how 127–175 million people have been ‘eliminated’ in the last century. These people came from all regions of the world, and from all social, economic and political groups. The vast majority of them were killed in their own countries, by their fellow citizens, by willing and non-coerced murderers, and almost never with any substantial dissent. By Goldhagen’s count, ‘mass murder has deeply scarred countries home to 4.4 billion people, two-thirds of the world’s population.’ Civilian deaths and injuries outnumber military ones by a factor of nine to one. …[In Acts 3] Peter says that God is the ‘author’ of all life. He concludes his sermon by proclaiming that in Jesus ‘all peoples on earth will be blessed’ by God. This echoes the global promise first made to Abraham four thousand years ago in Genesis 12:3. This story of Jesus, says Peter, anticipates the ‘restoration of all things.’ We can say with unqualified confidence that God knows and loves every name of every person in every nation. Christians are thus geographic, cultural, national and ethnic egalitarians; for us there’s no geo-political center of the world, only a constellation of peoples equidistant from the heart of God. Proclaiming that God lavishly loves all the world, each person, and every place, the gospel doesn’t privilege any nation as exceptional. No one should think they are forgotten, and no one can claim special favor. …from a specifically Christian point of view, America is no more ‘exceptional’ in God’s eyes than any other country. While allowing for a natural and wholesome love, even pride, in your own country (‘there’s no place like home’), this geo-political egalitarianism subverts the claim of absolute allegiance to any one nation. The claims of the gospel are absolute and unconditional; the claims of the nation and state are relative and conditional. This Christian global vision requires me to care as much about every country and its people as I do my own. Christians grieve the deaths of Iraqis and Congolese as much as Americans. That implies that our politics become reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons.” Daniel Clendenin
“[God] said to Abraham,
‘Through your offspring
all peoples on earth
will be blessed.'”
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- Do you think of your nation as being especially “favored” by God? If so, what would that imply? What wouldn’t that imply?
- Has nationalism prevented you from seeing all other people as “equidistant from the heart of God?”
- Has you faith caused your politics be “reoriented, non-aligned, and unpredictable by normal canons?”
Abba, lead us out of illusion and into reality.
For More: Worse Than War by Daniel Goldhagen
Thanks for following and sharing “Daily Riches.” – Bill (Psalm 90:14