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?
If you don’t need or want insurance, some ask, why should you have to pay for other people’s coverage?
I know people who think this way, and they resent having the government obligate them to pay into the system.
Understanding that many Americans struggle and pay a high cost under the Affordable Care Act, we cannot really blame some for holding this position. But responsible citizenship compels us to take a broader view.
I continue to be surprised and disappointed by ubiquitous interpretations of [the Samaritan woman] as a “whore” or “prostitute.” John is using symbolism — the woman represents Samaria, which, according to Jewish reckoning, worshipped the five foreign gods. Samaria was seen as being partially faithful to the covenant (“the one you have now is not your husband”). John depicts Jesus as the bridegroom. When the Samaritan woman joins Jesus, the symbolized, divided but related ethnic groups will stop fighting …”
While the LGBTQ community, the pro-choice community, the liberal community, the environmentalist community, the science community, the atheist community, the Muslim community, and many other communities have been harshly and relentlessly judged, condemned, and even abused by the American church, this same church will remain silent toward Trump — refusing to condemn this idol it continues to worship.
According to several sources, the number 40 is used almost 150 times in the Old and New Testaments. Some examples: Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. There were 40 years of wilderness-wandering for the Jewish people fleeing bondage in Egypt. Noah and his family were in the ark for 40 days and 40 nights of the flood. There were 40 days and 40 nights of fasting while Moses was on Mount Sinai. Jonah was given 40 days to convert the people of Nineveh. Saul, David, and Solomon reigned 40 years each.
The Rev. Leah Daughtry stood in front of fellow black Christian leaders and told them they will need to work harder for social justice.
“If you’ve been feeding them, now clothe them,” said the Pentecostal pastor and 2016 CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee at a conference last week. “If you’ve been clothing them, now console them. If you’ve been at a march, now lead the march. If you’ve been at a rally, now organize the rally.”
LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY, a prisoner under arrest for treason faced his judge. The judge asked him about his beliefs and his political aspirations. “You can accuse me of wanting to be a ruler,” the prisoner replied, “but all I can say is that I came into this world to testify to the truth.” The judge was deeply scornful. “What is truth?” he said, and turned on his heel and walked away.
If you were working for a great empire, as was this judge and governor, you would be far more concerned about power than about truth. In fact, later in the trial, the judge reminded his prisoner that he had the power to release or execute him. The judge cared more about enhancing his own power and reputation in the empire than about meting out justice. The life of a powerless prisoner, along with the concept of truth, was expendable.
Today, truth itself may be expendable in the United States. A few years ago, comedian Stephen Colbert coined the word “truthiness” to describe that reality. But in the power struggle of our recent presidential election and the resulting shift in leadership, truth is becoming more and more squishy. Thus the Oxford English Dictionary added a stronger word in 2016: “post-truth,” defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” As Oxford’s usage example puts it, “in this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and come to whatever conclusion you desire.” No doubt the fake news we have seen and heard on social media is sure to continue.
The simple standard for Christianity is how well we’re emulating Christ. So how Christ-like are we? Right now, American Christianity isn’t doing so great, which is why non-Christians can be—and often are—even more Christ-like than many self-professed Christians.
We’re in a bombed-out church in the heart of Mosul, where ISIS had painted a giant black flag on the cross out front.
Where thousands of Christian homes were marked with the Arabic letter “N,” their lives threatened with the sword, their possessions looted, families ultimately driven out of their ancestral neighborhoods like cattle.