Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's Wrong?

Jesus’ praxis, stories, and symbols thus indicate his answers, implicit and sometimes explicit, to the five major worldview questions. Who are we? Jesus and his followers form the real return-from-exile people, the remnant, the seed, the little flock. Where are we? We are in the land, though still slave, but our God will make us inherit the earth. What time is it? The hour of crisis, the great tribulation through which the kingdom will come, the long-awaited moment when the Exodus will be re-enacted, when exile will end, evil will be defeated, and YHWH will return to Zion. What is wrong? Evil is rampant not merely within paganism but within Israel: from the oppressive regime of the chief priests to the populist revolutionary movements, the world’s evil has radically infected Israel also. What is the solution? Everything we know about Jesus suggests that in his heart of hearts he gave the answer: “I am.”
N.T. Wright

The Anglican theologian and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright works from these 5 different worldview questions to deepen our deepen our participation in the story of 1st century Palestine as we read the text today. Wright's five worldview questions are useful as we engage with various Christian options in North America today. The manner in which we answer these questions will determine how we read Scripture and how we engage the world socially, economically and politically. Wright's worldview analysis gives us a grander vision of what God is doing in the world and what it means to join God in this adventure.

So, what's wrong in our world? We hear a lot of different chattering voices on TV and throughout the blogosphere concerning this crucial worldview question. Most Christian answers center on the individualistic nature of sin or sins. Because we all have been stained with sin since birth, we are indicted and incapable of having relationship with the God who created the world. We are full of evil thoughts and intentions and this is exacerbated by Satan and his demons, spiritual agents who inflict each and every person with particular sins. Of course, this has eternal ramifications as well. Unless we are cleansed by the blood of Jesus we cannot experience life today or after we die. 'No Jesus, no peace...Know Jesus, know peace' as the bumper sticker from the 80s read. For Evangelicals, this sin must be dealt with in a very specific way. This is the hinge of which the door of evangelism swings in most Christian American communities.

EasyYolk is compelled by a deeper vision of what is wrong with our world. As Wright points out in the days of the New Testament, evil was not only 'out there,' governing the bad guys, the evil regimes and sinister con men, but that it had distorted and counterfeited the very people of God: Israel. Jesus was the solution, embodying who Israel was supposed to be and he called the outcasts and sinners and left-behinds of the world to gather around him and be that people. Evil was ousted on the cross and unmasked for what it really was: a deceptive, powerful force that could not handle the Truth...embodied in that '1st century prophetic Jew named Jesus' [as Cornel West so poetically reminds us]. Jesus' mission was to expose the systemic nature of evil. The powerful institutions of Jewish Temple religion and Roman political leadership, as well as various Jewish brands like the Herodians, Pharisees, Essenes and Zealots. Even God's people were chained to evil and could not be liberated to live freely as God's agents for the world.

Today, EasyYolk calls on Christians to reject oversimplified and overindividualized notions of evil. We are all viciously shaped by family, cultural, political and economic policies that keep us in bondage in various ways. We internalize these systems and digest their inherent evil. We have hope in the transforming power of God's Spirit, working through loving and honest communities and the training of pastors and therapists. As we work for individual healing in and around our communities, we must advocate for systemic justice, peace and equality in the wider world as well. Consider the words of 20th century prophet Martin Luther King in his legendary Vietnam sermon:

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway.

We follow the legacy of MLK who called us to a faith that embraces 'a true revolution of values' right now. This brand of Christian faith acknowledges that it is our duty, as God's people, to work for the eradication of evil in our midst. Satan, is personified evil that manifests itself in the systems and institutions that order and shape our lives. It is evil that Reagan-Bush policies have rapidly increased both wealth inequality and the national debt [taking away even more $ that could be used for social uplift] in the US. It is evil that leadership within the American Body of Christ want to continue these economic policies. It is evil that Americans seek salvation by consuming more and more goods and services they do not really need. It is evil that Americans of color continue to be discriminated against in regards to loans and jobs. It is evil that the US continues to lead the world in energy consumption and is mostly indifferent to changing that statistic. It is evil that US agricultural policies directly cripple 3rd World farmers. These are just a few examples of the whole Jericho road that needs to be transformed by the Jesus people, reflecting their Lord who was the ultimate Lobbyist for the least of these.

Christians spend their time and energy, creatively and consistently, working for the healing of the nations [Revelation 22:2], from the Good Samaritan to the whole Jericho road. But we must recall that the Jericho road that we courageously travel and transform led to our Savior's cross. We, too, through a variety of subversive practices, must bear that cross as our vocation.

--Theological Autopilot

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