The conversation isn’t just about guns, although that’s certainly a huge part of it. We need to look at the bigger picture of how we’ve made violence our norm, how we endorse and encourage it in so many ways.
The first element that gets blown up by the parable is the motive of the landowner. Sometimes preachers, trying to fill in the gaps in the story, will surmise something like, “So the landowner, needing more laborers to work the vineyard, went back to the marketplace,” but this distorts the parable.
Everyone deserves our love, especially those whom the “religious” people deem unworthy — tax collectors, Samaritans, lepers, the homeless, the beggars, the sick, the mentally ill, the despairing.
Art and Christianity give our lives import and meaning, irrespective of power, race, gender or class. Jesus did this when he overturned the Greek and Roman way of viewing the world, in which one’s social status was everything, and introduced the notion of the equal worth and dignity of all human beings. “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all (Col. 3:11),” wrote Paul. All people made in the image and likeness of God, “lovely in limbs."
One of the defining marks over time between denominations in the Christian world is how we interpret the Bible — the words and teachings of Jesus — and how we decipher his stories and actions. Today we’re examining Jesus’ life with a megaphone, and it seems like everyone has joined the conversation, not over a cup of a hot coffee or a meal, but at our keyboards and in our pulpits and Bible studies. We’ve gone from a faithful religion to a political and social religion, in which the teachings of Jesus are used by us to prop up whatever we are claiming in our latest argument.
Though they gave respectable answers, I was amazed no one directly quoted the Christian Gospels on the subject.
The Gospel of Mark provides one saying of Jesus directly applicable to this situation. But when we examine subsequent uses of that saying in the other Gospels, we can see why none of the 60 Minutes interviewees dared quote that particular verse.
In essence, we have struggled to understand the work and responsibility of Christian compassion in issues of healthcare and policy. Should this responsibility be shared by all and secured by the government, or should it primarily be the domain of people of faith and those moved by a higher calling to mercy and healing? With the new GOP Health Care Bill, and the ongoing debates about healthcare in America, Christians across the aisle struggle to evaluate how well we are doing at caring for the disenfranchised and the sick.
Power can be transformative, but only if power is suffused with love. As Andy Crouch has written, “Power at its worst is the unmaker of humanity—breeding inhumanity in the hearts of those who wield power, denying and denouncing the humanity of the ones who suffer under power.… Power, the truest servant of love, can also be its most implacable enemy.”
But the strong affirmation of Christ’s absence kept the early church from centralizing around Jerusalem. Without the body of Jesus to create a memorial, no land or language could monopolize claim to sacredness. Ascension, in one sense, is an abdication of worldly authority. It is the empowerment of everyone, no matter their land and language.
This past year, the depression I had suffered twenty years ago returned with a vengeance. I made plans to end my life. Friends begged me to seek help. And I did – eventually. But one of the primary reasons I delayed getting help was because I am a pastor. I agonized over the contradiction of my life. As a pastor, I was expected to have all the answers. As a person with untreated depression, I felt like I had nothing but questions. And I worried that acknowledging I have a mental illness would irreparably damage my relationship with the church
The American Church’s division in our understandings of Jesus neatly follow the fault lines of American society. We hunker in our social groups, worshiping isolated from each other, hearing from preachers who talk like us, and so we natural come to assume Jesus is like us, in talk and in thought.
I’m not here to argue about whether Paul’s point is a good one — by all accounts, he does a fine job telling the biblical story in a way his gentile listeners can understand. I, like Paul, am a Christ-follower. I’ve already bought what he’s selling. I’m asking about the way he makes his point — I’m pushing back against the notion that Christianity is an idea that can and should be argued in the public square.
Until the past year, I’d never seen a religious demographic — in this case, white evangelicals — so shamelessly coupled with a partisan identity. I thought Christians were citizens of heaven, whose faith transcends political divisions with the love of Jesus. Instead, it seems we have collectively placed ourselves, or been placed, on one side of a culture war in which no one seems to be winning, but all sides are becoming increasingly suspicious, cynical, and self-protective.
Paschal pardon here exemplifies a miscarriage of justice for one of the prisoners. The custom condemns Jesus, whose guilt is dubious. Ultimately, Jesus divinely conquers the unjust system at hand when he walks freely among his disciples in the flesh, three days after he is crucified as a criminal. But the possibility of a triumphant erasure of crime in the U.S. is limited. Constitutionally, the president can offer clemency — or “leniency” — for any federal offense, aside from cases involved with impeachment, by two methods: commute, which lessens the sentence but retains civil restrictions like the loss of the right to vote, or pardon, which eliminates the sentence entirely.
In the midst of so much death, how can we Christians celebrate Easter?
These questions can be paired with questions regarding our own sense of worship on that day. How much have we Christians replaced justice with worship, not taking one into serious relation with the other? Are we accustomed to worship in the total absence of justice?
With the blessing of Pope Francis, Cardinal Blase Cupich on April 4 unveiled an anti-violence initiative for this beleaguered city that will be underscored by a Good Friday procession, using the traditional stations of Jesus’ way to the cross to commemorate those who have lost their lives in street violence.
Cupich said he was inviting civic, education, and religious leaders, and “all people of good will,” to take part in the April 14 “Peace Walk” through the heart of the violence-scarred Englewood neighborhood.
It is the tragedy of Christianity that the first hate crime in our constellation of texts is Matthew’s, in his telling the story of the passion. Jesus was a great teacher, an inspiring healer, and a man whose radical compassion touched everyone — women without honor, under-employed fisher folk, Roman soldiers, gentiles, Samaritans, scholarly Pharisees. The hearts of Palestinian Jews flocked to him, and this terrified the Romans. They tried to abort his movement by making his death a spectacle of cruelty and unutterable degradation.
A recent Washington Post profile of Karen Pence mentioned that her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, never eats alone with another woman or goes without her to events where alcohol is being served.
Twitter erupted with outrage and ridicule.
But the Indiana Republican’s practice is not unusual in many conservative Christian circles. As Emma Green pointed out in The Atlantic, it likely stems from something called “the Billy Graham Rule,” named for the 98-year-old international evangelist. Nor is it that much different in intention from the practices of conservative Jews and Muslims.
It would be much easier to let the face of the tomb be a scriptural story, so we could talk about terror and grief at arm’s length. But if we strip the story of humanity, we have no recourse but to fall into Christian platitudes that have no resilience in the face of real pain and grief.
Since it was unveiled last week, President Trump’s proposed budget has been widely denounced as “immoral” and downright “evil” for boosting defense spending by billions while demanding drastic cuts to vital aid programs.
Yet if liberals and some conservatives are upset about cuts to programs that help ensure clean drinking water, give financial aid to low-income college students, and even help support Meals on Wheels — which delivers nearly a million meals a day to the sick and elderly — would Jesus have a problem with slashing assistance to the needy?