Thursday, July 31, 2014

Christ-centered faith vs Christless religion/spirituality - Brad Jersak

Lately, I’ve been noticing subtle differences between the popular ‘spirituality vs. religion’ and ‘faith vs. religion'

Some prefer ‘spirituality’ because it only implies one’s own spiritual self or soul (sans any god at all). So hiking the mountains is ‘spiritual’ because it nurtures the soul. True enough. However,  I personally prefer to speak of ‘faith’ because my spiritual self or my soul has been freed and fed by a Love greater than my own … and indeed, faith freed me from religion in a way that spirituality hadn’t. As one Orthodox priest says, ‘Religion is a neurological disease and faith is its cure.’

I’m also conscious that there can be positive takes on ‘religion’ -- as in the encyclical of St James, where it amounts to practices of compassion and empathy). Religion in that passage is more a neutral word for 'faith practices' but only IF one adds the right adjective. And so when we critique 'religion,' we typically attach negative adjectives, such as ‘toxic’ or ‘moralistic’ religion.

Many such adjectives exist, but I’m starting to think that some of them actually hide the real problem of toxic religion in a sneaky way. For example, we often castigate ‘organized religion.’ But is the problem that it’s organized? Some faith communities are simply organized enough to gather and become a safe place from spiritual abuse or religious domination. And being 'disorganized' would be of no advantage to such dangers.

Other times we critique ‘hierarchical’ religion … I must say that hierarchy can be and has been the venue for all types of brutality. But so has anarchy. In fact, at times the ‘hierarchy’ in my faith tradition has been the main instrument protecting me from spiritual abuse, rather than afflicting it. I would say the limited 'hierarchy' of some 'organizations' makes them safe and also efficient. For example, my experience of, which champions 'Christianity without the religion,' is that it has a clear structure with a caring and non-controlling 'chain of command' ... Greg Albrecht is a real leader (no anarchy there) and Laura Urista is a brilliant manager (no disorganization there) BUT they cannot be charged with 'religion.'  So structure or lack of it may or may not be a problem, but fixating on that may also mask the real and deeper insidious side of religion when things have gone awry.

So the trickier question is what real toxins might lurk behind our secondary misplaced adjectives of organization or hierarchy?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Zoeology: the study of the Christian Life - by Jarrod McKenna

Jarrod McKenna's talk on 'Zoeology' was part 7 of a series at the Meeting House entitled 'We Believe: Christian Theology, learned, loved and lived.' Jarrod McKenna the National Advisor for Youth, Faith and Activism for World Vision Australia. He is a peace award winning founder of EPYC and co-founder of the Peace Tree Intentional Community in Perth. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Dusting of Snow During a Bloody Summer - Brian Zahnd

It’s been a bloody summer. In Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Nigeria, and the Ukraine.
Kill the bad guys and there will be peace is the tired refrain.
All sides say it. Ad infinitum.
(I didn’t even mention the bloody streets of America, to which we have grown so numb.)
But I am where I always hope to be this time of year: In the mountains that I love.
When I hike above treeline onto the great expanse of the high tundra my soul finds room for expansion. I’m no longer hemmed in by the din from the reactive ideologues. I find time and space to pray and think.
And as I pray and think, I know this…
Creation is good. Very good. It bears witness to its Creator, who is good too.
In our primitive dread we imagine a god who is petulant and hard to please, vindictive and retributive, capricious and cruel. But these are only petty projections born of our own fear.
The mystics (and maybe the mountaineers) know better.
When I can clear my head, I know better. High on the tundra between Longs Peak and the Never Summer Mountains I know the greatest of all truth: God is Love.
Why did God say, Let there be?
God spoke because he is Love.
Infinite love seeking finite compression.
Eternal love seeking temporal expression.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Love or Justice? - Greg Albrecht

The discussion of eternal torment and the fate of the "unsaved" is often framed, by the law and order crowd, as a matter of God's love or his justice. Those who are intent on relegating those who, to their knowledge and satisfaction, have never heard or accepted their version of Christianity to eternal torture, often characterize those, like myself, who primarily look for answers based on God's love and grace, as soft-headed, soft-hearted and weak. 

So which is it—love or justice? Is God primarily a God of love or a God of justice? Here's what I see as the fundamental flaw in real, he-man, tough-as-nails Christianity:

• Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of God's love—he is God's love personified. When I study his life and teachings I am overwhelmed by his compassion and mercy, and find few examples when he models a heavenly hanging judge who makes tough, by-the-book decisions in favor of religious perceptions and definitions of justice.

• The Bible reveals that God is love. The Bible defines the very heart and core of God as love. Love is what God is, rather than one of his attributes. God has many attributes, with justice being among them. But all of God's attributes flow out of his love—his attributes do not flow out of his justice. God is merciful, sovereign, holy, just, perfect, good, righteous, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient—and all of these attributes are summarized in his divine love. 

• Most of the arguments attempting to place God's justice and wrath as his defining characteristics go something like this: Yes, the death of Jesus Christ was the ultimate expression of divine love. But ...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Overwhelmed? "We are each other's" - Anne Lamott

From Anne Lamott's FB page - July 27, 2014
Artwork - "Overwhelmed" by Elena Oleniuc
Many mornings I check out the news as soon as I wake up, because if it turns out that the world is coming to an end that day, I am going to eat the frosting off an entire carrot cake; just for a start. Then I will move onto vats of clam dip, pots of crime brûlée, nachos, M & M's etc. Then I will max out both my credit cards.
I used to think that if the world--or I--were coming to an end, I'd start smoking again, and maybe have a cool refreshing pitcher of lime Rickeys. But that's going too far, because if the world or I was saved at the last minute, I'd be back in the old familiar nightmare. In 1986, grace swooped down like a mighty mud hen, and fished me out of that canal. I got the big prize. I can't risk losing it.
But creme brûlée, nachos, maybe the random Buche Noel? Now you're talking.
The last two weeks have been about as grim and hopeless as any of us can remember, and yet, I have not gotten out the lobster bib and fork. The drunken Russian separatists in Ukraine with their refrigerated train cars? I mean, come on. Vonnegut could not have thought this up. Dead children children on beaches, and markets, at play, in the holy land?? Stop.
The two hour execution in festive Arizona? Dear God.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Time to Restring (the Guitar Series, part 2) - Caleb Miller

When it comes time to restring one of my guitars there's a pretty set process I go through. Typically I will restring the whole thing because a string has broken while playing. Call it OCD but I don't like having one new string and five old ones. I can hear the difference. The new string is often much brighter and because of that, it tends to project a little more than the others. The symphony of harmony produced by six new strings (or at least strings of the same age) is a thing of beauty. With all the glory of an orchestra, the instrument sings. When that balance is lost, it's like a violin is seated too closely to the listener, drowning out the other instruments.

When I sit to restring the guitar I don't just attack the strings with a wire cutter and start pulling them out. First, I'll start with the two middle strings - the ones whose tuning pegs are at the top of the headstock. I will loosen those strings all the way, a quarter turn at a time-by hand. Using a string winder puts too much unnecessary stress on the neck. Then I'll continue moving outward alternating strings bottom to top until I've loosened them all completely. I still haven't cut the strings for many reasons. A cut string has a unique ability to find your hand and stab it with all the force of a piercing needle thrown by an air compressor. It hurts, trust me. Once all the strings are loose, I'll finally start cutting, again working from the top of the headstock down, cutting them close enough to still leave me a piece to hold while removing the leftover from the tuning peg. If there is a broken string, I don't cut it again, it's already broken!

After carefully removing the smaller pieces from around the tuning pegs, I'll start removing the bridge pins, carefully making sure I don't let the piece of broken string fall down in the guitar. At this time most might just start throwing their new strings back on so they can get back to playing. Not me. I'll spend time cleaning every crevice of my guitar, removing dust, fingerprints, sweat (gross) and anything else foreign that has found a home in or on my guitar. Once it's back to it's pristine shine, I'll start restringing.

Flurry: The Untidy, Beautiful Colors of Life -

My friend, Kelley Monaghan, posted this photo elsewhere with this really great meditative exercise. She writes: 
Is there a time you remember when something happened or someone said something, and suddenly the lights turned on and everything went to color? I picked the artwork below just for the colors. When do you feel alive like this? Is there room in the kingdom for the untidiness of this
As I reflected on my own spiritual journey, I couldn't help connecting such epiphanies to Jesus' promise of abundant life ... and the contrast of soul-withering experiences of dead religion. The former were usually messy interruptions of joy through those the world regards as 'least' ... especially the wee ones on the margins of society: little children but also friends who live with disabilities or addictions.   

By contrast, the colorless phases were often self-inflicted, but others were also imposed by religious cultures that could not abide coloring outside the lines ... if color were involved at all. I have had many marvelous moments in the context of loving faith communities. But I've also known what it is to be strangled by the need to maintain "a testimony" by what I can't do, where I can't go, what I can't eat or drink, what I can't wear. I've known the mini-martyrdom of sitting straight in wool slacks on wooden pews in stifling heat in order to 'be good' ... but happily, also the explosive exuberance of cross-cultural worship or chain-breaking revelation. Clearly, two very opposing spirits are at work ... sometimes even in the same setting! 

It's not just a case of casting off all restraints and doing whatever I please ... I tried that and found it too can become its own form of bondage. In fact, these wonder-moments never seem to be generated by me at all. Not even my own striving for greater freedom. Rather, they represent the intrusive grace of God ... a breaking in of Love that shakes us loose and lifts our chins and may even move our feet. Jesus called this the kingdom of God. 

Suddenly, the blind see ... our eyes are opened to the truth that even in this life, there is more going on than we know. I can't make this happen. The best I can do is to wash the mud from my eyes and wait for the next flurry of light, sound and color.  
21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 22 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” 23 Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.” (Luke 10).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Vulnerability that Makes Peace Possible: An Interview with Stanley Hauerwas - by Andrew Klager

Editor's Note: In this interview, my friend Andrew Klager asks Stan Hauerwas for his theological response to the unfolding events and violence in the Middle East and the reaction of Christians in the West. The full interview can be found HERE.
Klager: The Middle East is becoming more of a mess as the weeks go by and is hemorrhaging in places such as Syria, northern Iraq, Israel-Palestine, and in many respects still also in Egypt. So, how does your theology -- your theological reflections, or the way you do theology -- guide your reaction to the complex mix of religious, political, and economic reasons for this instability? Or, more simply, what does your theology say about how we should respond to the chaos and violence in the Middle East?
Hauerwas: Who's the "we"? -- I'm not going to do United States foreign policy, so the "we," I take it to be "we" Christians who find ourselves with very unhappy alternatives, which means we need to make all the friends we can get. And that, I think, would be extremely important for Christians to simply be present in these contexts in a way that we can have some idea of what in the hell is going on, because I think that to really know what's going on is very hard to discern. And that means -- I mean, I'm really attracted to the work that Christian Peacemaker Teams do, who go to Hebron and get between Palestinians and Israelis and say, "can we fix you guys a meal?" I mean, that's at least starting to help people discover one another's humanity, and if you don't do that, I think that any kind of long-term solution is quite hopeless.
Klager: For better of worse, there are a variety of initiatives that could be implemented to address the violence in pockets of the Middle East -- including military action, political negotiation and diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and grassroots conflict transformation and peacebuilding. What are a few of the key theological considerations that you'd underscore to others in an attempt to convince them to support nonviolence and a just peace rather than violent, dehumanizing approaches?
Hauerwas: Well, I think that fundamental is the presumption that as followers of Christ we do not assume that we are going to rule the world. Rather, we assume that God has given us time in a world with deep injustice to do the kinds of things that are necessary for the recognition of the dignity of the enemy, and how that recognition can lead to reconciliation. And it takes time; ... God becametime with Christ, which means that we have all the time in the world to do what's necessary.
Klager: What are some of the most toxic theological ideas that you see as especially encouraging the support of violence and imperialism in reaction to the instability in the Middle East, for which healthier theological alternatives should be posed instead?
Hauerwas: That if we don't do something, things will go to hell in a handbasket -- and where the "we," to assumed meaning the American "we" -- and that is often underwritten by certain kinds of Evangelical theology that assumes that Israel, as a modern state, really is still the promised people. Now, I believe that Jews are the promised people, but I don't believe that that necessarily finds expression in the state of Israel, and I find some of that kind of rhetoric extremely toxic.
Klager: What do you say to -- or what have you found causes the most positive cognitive dissonance when said to -- those Christians who promote a militaristic "solution" to the many conflicts in the Middle East?
Hauerwas: How attention to the cross helps us see that God would rather suffer our violence than to do violence, and that in the cross, therefore, we find what it means to be a follower of Christ to the extent that we don't reproduce the violence that killed him.
Klager: Loving one's enemies is hard. As you've famously admitted before, "I'm a pacifist because I'm a violent son of a bitch."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Seinfeld and Michael Richards in Honest Conversation - Brad Jersak

"Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee"

A while back, Jerry Seinfeld created a little internet series called "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" -- a chance to improvise the chemistry of spontaneous moments with various actors and comedians from his world. The episode that grabbed my attention was his connection with Michael Richards, who played Kramer on "Seinfeld," the sitcom about nothing (by its own testimony). The Richards episode of "Comedians in Cars" is viewable here:

What struck me were Richards' reflections and regrets on that fateful night at the Comedy Club when he reacted to hecklers with some racist slurs. Someone recorded the exchange on a smartphone and posted it to the internet. Call it one of those "Mel Gibson moments" (more on him later) ... a meltdown that you can't just rewind or delete. It becomes part of your 'permanent record.'

Seinfeld's brief and unscripted exchange with Richards about that night, seven years past, comes back to me frequently. Here's the transcript of those moments:
Michael Richards: I think I’ve worked selfishly, not selflessly. It’s not about me; it’s about them. 
Now that’s a lesson I learned seven years ago, when I blew it in the Comedy Club, lost my temper because someone interrupted my act and said some things that hurt me and I lashed out in anger. I should have been working selflessly that evening …  
I busted up after that event seven years ago. It broke me down. It was a selfish response. I took it too personally and I should have just said, ‘Yeah, you’re absolutely right, I’m not funny. I think I’ll go home and work on my material and I’ll see you tomorrow night.” And split or something. Anything. 
But you know, it was just one of those nights. 
And thanks for stickin’ by me. You know? No, really.  
Seinfeld: There was no issue with that. 
Richards: Well, I mean, it meant a lot to me. You know?  
Seinfeld: That’s nice.  
Richards: But inside, it still kicks me around a bit.  
Seinfeld: Well, that’s… Okay, well, that’s up to you.  
Richards: That’s a big cup too.  
Seinfeld: That’s up to you, to say, "I’ve been carrying this bag long enough. I’m going to put it down." 
Richards: Yeah … yeah. 
To clarify, Seinfeld sounds colder in the transcript than in the actual video, but it was clear that these are two dear friends, with a high level of mutual trust and the ability to shoot straight with each other. It's not for me to psychologize the conversation or critique Jerry's advice or how Richards received it. Rather, the chat struck a nerve for me because we all carry bags of regret ... often for years and years.

This is especially true when we have hurt others -- especially those we love -- and even more so when the harm done is ongoing.

Friday, July 11, 2014

I Need a New Guitar - Parable by Caleb Miller

I need a new guitar. my old acoustic has finally given up on me. When I go guitar shopping, I sit and play each guitar for a while. Each one has its own unique tone, everybody knows that, but they also have their own feel. the way the back of the guitar rests against your body is just as important as the sound. Ever try spooning with a partner who lies perfectly straight and stiff? It's a bit like that. Some guitars will feel stiff, even the expensive ones. A cheap guitar is one that is made to look good on the hanger, have the right shiny parts that catch the light and your eye, but when you pick it up…you can tell. 

A guitar is something that needs to mold to your body before you ever hit a chord. Once I find one that sits right, I move my hands around the fretboard, still not playing, but feeling the fit. I have small hands, and if my pinky can't reach the 6th string comfortably, the guitar goes back on the hanger, without being played. Then I'll hold the guitar and look down the neck looking for any twists or bends. Once the fretboard is straight and my hands fit right, and the fit to my body is right, I'll tap the strings on the 12th fret to see what kind of harmonics I get. No harmonics - no playing. It's only after I've tested the fit, fretboard width, harmonics and neck that I'll actually start playing. 

Once I start playing I'll never just whip into a song, especially something that isn't what I'd play normally. Too many just want to crank out some shred that they know to impress the guys around them. I don't care about impressing them, I'm trying to impress the guitar. I palm mute a couple simple chords - I'm looking for percussives in the sound. Too tinny - back on the hanger. No percussives - back on the hanger. After I've tested that, I'll play a few open chords higher up the neck to test the intonation. if it's off, back on the hanger. If there’s a buzz in the frets, it goes back on the hanger. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

What If Hitler Invaded Your House? Brian Zahnd

Meah Shearim by Eric Lubiyov  
Lately I’ve been giving a lot of interviews on my new book A Farewell To Mars. It’s a semi-autobiographical confession of how I moved from being an enthusiastic supporter of war American style to proclaiming the peaceable kingdom of Christ. Since I’ve marched among the ranks of sincere war-endorsers for most of my life, I’m sympathetic with well-meaning Christians who believe in the way of Mars. I try to tell the story of my conversion honestly and gracefully. I level criticism, not at soldiers, but at myself. My aim is to take the reader on a journey where Jesus and war are examined in the light of an unencumbered reading of Scripture.
But in a twelve minute radio interview there is little time for narrative and nuance. Instead, the interviewer usually leaps to what they consider “the heart of the matter.” In every interview I’ve been asked this question: “What would you do if Hitler invaded your house?” Well, it’s not exactly that question, but in every interview these two questions have come up: What about Hitler? What would you do if someone invaded your home? Hitler and home invasion. These are the two arguments that allegedly make the Jesus way of peace impossible. So let me address them. I’ll begin with Hitler.

When I claim that waging war is incompatible with following Jesus, the knee-jerk objection is always this: “What about Hitler?” The problem with the “Hitler objection” is that we have stepped into the middle of the story. It’s 1940 and we’re asking, “what are we going to do about Hitler?” As legitimate as that question is, we need to back up and ask this question first: How is it that Christians could wage war at Hitler’s behest? How did the land of Luther and the Reformation become the land of Nazis and the Holocaust? Hitler is as much a problem for Christian Just War theorists as for Christians who oppose war altogether. After all, Hitler waged his blitzkriegs with baptized soldiers sporting Gott mit uns on their belt buckles. How did this happen? How was Hitler able to convince Christian soldiers to kill other Christians in Poland, France, and Russia? Hasn’t something gone tragically wrong with the church when Christians can be persuaded to kill other Christians in the name of ideology and nationalism? The enduring catastrophe of Constantine subverting the kingdom of God was that the politics of Jesus were set aside for the interests of empire. This eventually led to the shame of the crusades where Christians killed under the banner of the cross, and then to the horror of the two world wars where European Christians slaughtered one another by the millions.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Farewell to Mars: Brian Zahnd's Timely Send-Off to the God of War in an Age of Religious Violence by Andrew Klager

Zahnd, Brian. A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. New York: David C. Cook, 2014. ISBN: 978-0781411189

Rarely do books on such timely topics combine the right mix of incisiveness, accessibility, and brilliant analysis in a single literary package, but Brian Zahnd has achieved this elusive synthesis in his most recent offering, A Farewell to Mars: An Evangelical Pastor's Journey Toward the Biblical Gospel of Peace. On the heels of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings on D-Day, Zahnd has given us a remarkable overview of Jesus' peaceable kingdom as an alternative to the nationalism, patriotism, and militarism that define the political ethos of his own American homeland, even if it exists to a lesser degree in other countries around the world as well. "What Jesus called evil," Zahnd observes, "are the very things our cultures and societies have honored in countless myths, memorials, and anthems."

Poetic and perceptive, insightful and courageous, it's as though nearly every sentence is a tweet-worthy aphorism with the power to generate life-changing (or at least life-reexamining) cognitive dissonance among his many readers: "We sequester Jesus to a stained-glass quarantine and appropriate a trillion dollars for the war machine," Zahnd laments. Pervading the pages of this thin yet rigorous volume is a careful deconstruction of one of the most ingrained impulses in societies built on the soul-destroying munitions that rouse endless warfare: gratitude toward "our side" -- which is mistakenly equated with "God's side" -- for killing other human beings in order to preserve our so-called "freedom" (read "comfortable, affluent lifestyle"). As Zahnd remarks, "Freedom becomes a euphemism for vanquishing (instead of loving) enemies; truth finds its ultimate form in the will to power (expressed in the willingness to kill). This is a long way from the ideas of peace, love, and forgiveness set forth by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount." Indeed, "If we carefully examine how we use the word freedom," Zahnd challenges us, "it becomes apparent that we use it to sanction our perceived right to pursue happiness in a self-interested fashion."

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Progressive View of the Bible and Science - by Derek Flood

Editor's note: There was a good discussion on Derek Flood's article, "How is a Fallible Bible Inspired?" through his readers at Red Letter Christians. Derek gathered some of his responses to clarify things in more detail and reproduced them at his blog, The Rebel God. With CWR's 'Year of the Bible' in full swing, his answers are good food for thought as we move ahead. Here's Derek ...  

Johnboy asks,

"Don't you use scripture itself to formulate your ideas of who Jesus is and what He's about? Doesn't that make your viewpoint self-defeating?"

Derek: Yes, the New Testament is where we read about Jesus. That makes it a unique and central source, but the goal is not simply to have information about Jesus, or even (contra what some liberal Christians would say) to simply follow the teachings of Jesus (which we should of course do!). Far more central is to connect with the living Jesus, to connect with God in Christ, to connect with the one John calls "the Word." In other words: Christianity is not just about information, but about relationship. It's about reading the Bible as a sacrament that leads us to a living life-transforming connection with the Spirit of Christ, and having that relationship of being loved and shaped by the Spirit lead us into a life of loving others as we love ourselves, being transformed by the renewing of our minds to have the mind of Christ. The Bible plays a key role in this as the vehicle that leads us to Christ, the window through which we see Christ with the help and vivification (fancy word meaning "breathing life into") of the Spirit.

Scripture (and in particular the NT) is unique in that it is the record of the disciple's encounter with Jesus the logos of God, the "image of the invisible God" as Paul says. The idea is that we would not simply read about that, but that we would likewise come to know, personally, this same Jesus through the Spirit. As John writes, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete." (1 John 1:1-3). In other words, "We met this guy Jesus who is Life, and we want you to meet him too, and have that same living connection to God! That would make us so happy!" They are writing what we now call the New Testament in order to have us come into a relationship with God in Christ. That's what it's all about. Their inspired written words serve to lead us to the living Word.

Citizens of Heaven by Greg Albrecht

For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.—Philippians 3: 18-21
From the time I entered the mysterious world of adolescence, watching the 1960 political conventions on television, politics has always mysteriously attracted me. Politics has been one of my personal fascinations that I liken to that of the death wish of bugs on a hot summer night as they do their death dance, flirting with those electrified bug zappers. 

Every time we have a presidential election I find this fatal attraction sucking me into the black hole of partisan rhetoric again. I don't mean to infer that it's wrong for a Christian to be politically involved. Some Christians believe that they should not only vote but be politically active. I recognize that perspective and respect those who hold it, but I still have reservations about jumping into bed with the bug zapper. 

What does it mean to be a citizen of heaven? 

Spiritual Warfare and the Paganizing of Christianity - Brad Jersak

Copyright Dominic Jersak 2014
In these days where theological pendulums swing wildly, I’ve been giving special attention to errors – sometimes grave – that occur through over-corrections. As people of faith, I’m well aware of how Christian doctrine and practice has frequently steered wildly out of one ditch, only to veer across the road and plunge into another gulley on the opposite side. Sometimes we oppose something toxic, only to poison ourselves with a corresponding error from the opposite extreme. Or in retrieving something we had previously lost, we swallow the bathwater with the long lost baby. 
With that in mind, I want to reconsider how my very necessary rediscovery of spiritual reality may have also opened the door to ill-advised ancient mythologies—errors that Judaism had already expunged thousands of years ago. Herein, I will lay out my concern in stages for the reader to weigh, test and fact-check.  I’m claiming nothing definitive here … I am not teaching so much as raising the question for further examination.
In his classic work, The Religion of Israel: From Its Beginnings to the Babylonian Exile, the Hebrew scholar Yechezkel Kaufmann lays out the superiority and genius of Judaism vis-à-vis the pagan worldviews of the day. He treats the Jewish conception of the universe as a radical departure and contesting revelation—rather than a mere evolution from—ancient polytheistic conceptions.[1] Points 1-3 below are Kaufmann’s claims, which may be overstated, but should certainly be attended to by Christian scholars.