Christianity 201

June 14, 2020

Racism: When You Lose Your Privilege

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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Years ago a popular Christian magazine, The Wittenburg Door (deliberately misspelled with a ‘u’ instead of an ‘e’) decided to conduct an experiment involving the magazine itself.

The entire issue was reproduced from hastily photocopied draft copies. As readers opened their mail, they saw a note saying they could have printed more ‘good’ copies from the completed magazine, but the full print run they had done had already been sent out to other subscribers.

Of course, there were no ‘good’ copies. Everyone received the same issue with the same note, and people were irate. A 1986 article in the South Florida Sun Sentinel explains:

An avalanche of outraged mail followed that issue, [Mike] Yaconelli chortles. “They took the bait. A lot of them ranted about how they didn’t want second best. They found out what it means to be discriminated against.”

Oh yes, I forgot to mention: It was a special themed issue on racism.

We can say that we’re wanting to see a world with a level playing field, but where inequities exist, we are often comfortable with that, provided we’re the ones on the upper tier.

This 6-minute video from The Bible Project shows how humans care so much about equality and justice:

This is part of the crisis in the Book of Jonah. The prophet is fairly certain his message will be rejected, since the Ninevites are described mostly in terms of their depravity. When fishy circumstances result in him having to deliver his prophetic word, he realizes his worst case when they actually accept.

In terms of Justice, their deliverance from destruction puts them and himself on a level playing field, but he’s not happy with that outcome because he doesn’t view them as worthy, or as equal, and would have been happier with their destruction.

It’s interesting to see the description of the Ninevites:

NIV.Jonah.4v11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left…

That’s quite a description. Most translations follow that pattern. But we also see:

  • innocent children (GNT)
  • people in spiritual darkness (LB/NLT)
  • childlike (Message)
  • do not know right from wrong (NET/Message)

Given that description, the texts from The Bible Project video tell us to:

NIV.Prov 31v8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

NIV.Jer.22v3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

NIV.Ps.146v7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
    the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

We do this out of our response to what God has done for us. The video notes that

God’s response to humanity’s legacy of injustice is to give us a gift, the life of Jesus. He did righteousness and justice and yet he died on behalf of the guilty. But then God declared Jesus to be the righteous one when he rose from the dead. And so now Jesus offer his life to the guilty so they too can be declared righteous before God, not because of anything they’ve done but because of what Jesus did for them.




For more on the subject of racism as it applies to the U.S. in particular, you might want to check out this 17-minute video history lesson by Phil Vischer which is introduced at this link.

July 27, 2018

When the Religious Outsider Gets it Right

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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NIV Luke 10.25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead…

I’ve been a longtime reader of Ed Cyzewski but this is only his second time here at C201. Click the title to read at source.

An “Outsider” Can Show Us How to Love Our Neighbors

There is a significant benefit to explaining the Bible to our preschool age children: they ask a mountain of questions that help me see the stories with fresh eyes.

For instance, have you ever considered whether the robbers who attacked the man in the good Samaritan story also stole his lunch? What did he eat while he was stuck on the side of the road? Did he have more food at home? Would someone bring his lunch back to him if the robbers stole it?

No doubt the illustrations in our children’s Bible fueled this line of food-related questions, but as I’ve thought of this story over the past few week’s in light of the American government’s increasingly aggressive and cruel immigration policies on the southern border, my children continued to prompt me to look at this story. Outside of their concerns over the man’s lunch, it truly hit home how this story reveals the Samaritan as the hero.

At a time of manufactured crisis and unnecessary cruelty that has been condoned by far too many Christians or simply explained away with “law and order” arguments, many of us have spoken about loving our neighbors.

Are we loving our neighbors if we send asylum seekers back to their violent countries?

Are we loving our neighbors if we separate asylum-seeking parents from their children?

Are we loving our neighbors if our government shrugs its shoulders about reuniting parents and children?

These are all necessary and important discussions about loving our neighbors. There is no doubt that loving our neighbors will have political dimensions because government policies impact real people. Laws and policies aren’t just static givens that must be accepted with resignation.

Immoral or unjust laws and policies that deface the image of God in others should be countered by those who believe that “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” It shouldn’t be a stretch to believe that God cares for the well-being of his creation. However, the Good Samaritan story doesn’t approach love of neighbor from such an angle of advocacy or helping those in need from a majority culture position, let alone privilege.

In this story, the foreign man whose views of the Torah surely offended the listeners in Jesus’ audience was the hero. Jesus brought this outsider front and center, showing that despite his national and religious “barriers”, he had grasped what it meant to love a neighbor well. Love of neighbor extended beyond national and religious boundaries. You could even say that this love eradicates such boundaries.

The man going on the journey in this story is nondescript. His lack of defining features helps us identify with him. He could be all of us.

Any one of us could set out on a journey with certain plans and goals in mind. Any one of us could suffer an unexpected tragedy.

In a moment of need, perhaps I’ll turn to a pastor for help, but he may be on his way to a meeting about electing more conservative political leaders and leave me behind.

Perhaps I’ll turn to the leader of a ministry group, but she has big plans for a revival that she can’t neglect.

Finally, help arrives. It’s not the help I asked for. It’s not the help I expected. The help isn’t from the country or religion that I would have chosen. This is the person who meets me in my moment of crisis and cares for my wounds.

As Jesus sought to pull his listeners out of their national and religious prejudices, he challenged them to consider that the people they tried to avoid at all costs could be the ones who grasped the message of the Gospel best. It could even happen that one day their well-being would depend on the help of one such person.

Politicians seek to inflame hatred and suspicion of immigrants and asylum seekers to ignite the racist, nativist passions of their base for an election.

Jesus asks us to consider that our policies against asylum seekers could keep out the very people who may stop along their journey to help us in our moment of need one day. There’s a good chance that many have already done so on their journey north.