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: Mysticism (Richard Rohr, Daniel Clendenin, Thomas Merton)

“The Franciscan priest Richard Rohr has written some thirty books, many of which are variations on the same theme. Not long into this book [Eager to Love] he says as much in a footnote. The idea that ‘our deepest identity is hidden from us,’ and that the purpose of authentic religion is to help us recover our true identity in God, is ‘the core message of this entire book, and really my only message in all of my books’ (pp. 66, 276).  In this version of that theme, Rohr returns to his Franciscan roots to help us recapture the ‘experiential heart of the gospel,’ … which stands in stark contrast to spirituality that’s little more than theological concepts, religious ritual, and institutional conformity. Authentic spirituality [requires] …  ‘mysticism’ … – experiential knowledge of spiritual things, as opposed to book knowledge, secondhand knowledge, or even church knowledge.’” Daniel Clendenin

“If they [Christians] are to live as true members of Christ and radiate the divine influence among the men with whom they are in contact, they will be obliged to develop rich interior lives of union with God…. To be a Christian then, is to be committed to a deeply mystical life. … By faith one not only consents to propositions revealed by God, one not only attains to truth in a way that intelligence and reason alone cannot do, but one assents to God Himself. One receives God. One says ‘yes’ not merely to a statement about God, but to the Invisible, Infinite God Himself….” Thomas Merton

“And all of us, with our unveiled faces like mirrors
reflecting the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the image that we reflect
in brighter and brighter glory;
this is the working of the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18

Moving From the Head to the Heart

It’s possible master knowledge about God (“book knowledge”) and still not have “experiential knowledge” of God. If we’re not careful, we can be “experts” on God who have no radical relationship with him – no transforming “assent” to his Invisible, Infinite person.

  • Do you talk more about God than with him?
  • Is your experience of God “secondhand?”
  • What are you doing to “develop a rich interior life of union with God?”

Abba, protect me, and all of us who love you, from settling for less than you have for us.

For More: New Seeds 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)

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

Daily Riches: Contemplatives In the World (Mother Teresa and Richard Rohr) *

“We are called to be contemplatives in the heart of the world –

by seeking the face of God in everything,
everyone, everywhere, all the time,
and his hand in every happening;
seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus,
especially in the lowly appearance of bread,
and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
Mother Teresa

“Contemplation is an exercise in keeping your heart and mind spaces open long enough for the mind to see other hidden material. It is content with the naked now and waits for futures given by God and grace. As such, a certain amount of love for an object and for myself most precede any full knowing of it.” Richard Rohr

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”    Matthew 25:37-40

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • I love the phrase “contemplatives in the heart of the world.” Does this seem possible for you? What would it mean for you to be a contemplative in the world today?
  • Mother Teresa said, “If we were not in constant union with God, it would be impossible for us to endure the sacrifices that are required to live [in Calcutta] among the destitute.” Think about that phrase “constant union with God.” Is that concept on your radar?
  • Do you think to look for Jesus in the “distressing disguise of the poor?” If not, why not? How can you practice doing that?

Abba, help me to see and adore you “in the distressing disguise of the poor” – and in so many of your other disguises – the elderly, the child, the disfigured, the dirty, the widow, the orphan, the prisoner, the immigrant, the otherwise marginalized. I’m often so much more likely to judge or ignore than to adore.

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For More: “An Urban Epiphany” – the article by Edwina Gateley in Daniel Clendenin’s blog Journey With Jesus.

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Thanks for reading and sharing Richer By Far! I appreciate it.  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)