Thursday, December 29, 2011

Jesus on the Revolution

The Revolution of God is very close—change your actions and trust in the revolutionary teachings.

The Revolution is like an acorn.  It begins so small—a simple word, a simple action.  The acorn is planted by a man, but he does not control its growth—that is determined by God.  It grows up slowly— first a sprout, then a sapling, then a trunk with branches.  But after it is grown—powerful and majestic— all the beings who rule the air live in its shade.

The Revolution begins with the King.  The King sends messengers to those who await him and they proclaim, “The King is coming!  Come out to meet him!”  But the proper authorities all made excuses.  “Sorry, I’ve got to get married.”  “Sorry, I’ve got to watch my investments.”  “Sorry, I’m heavily involved in politics.” “Sorry, my family needs me right now.” “Sorry, my business is taking up all my time.”  The King then commanded his messengers, “Then go out and tell the rejected to come.  Go out to the streets, go out to the slums, go out to the mental health facilities, go out to the disabled—tell them all to come.  As for those who were going to enter the nation—they will all be sent out.”

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be when the Revolution arrives.  In those days, everyone was enjoying themselves, eating pleasurable food, drinking to their satisfaction and more, they were marrying and participating in holidays and pleasures.  Then the flood came suddenly and destroyed them all. 

Even so, you must be ready for the Revolution to come.  It could come at any time.  If the owner of the house had known at what time the thief would come, then he would be waiting, shotgun in hand.  But you do not know when the Revolution comes.  So be ready for it at any time.

Whoever wants to be a part of the Revolution, they must be ready to give up their job, their family, their pleasures—even their life!  I didn’t come to bring peace, but division.  For the revolution, a son will be divided from his father, a daughter from her mother, a husband from his wife, a man or woman from their closest friends.  In fact, unless you hate your father, mother, children, spouse, sister, brother, friends and possessions you will never have part in the coming nation of God.  Unless you are ready to be condemned to death, you cannot take part in the Revolution.  Whoever pursues saving their own life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for my sake or the Revolution will gain it.  Anyone who gives up their job, possessions, and family for the sake of the Revolution will gain more work, possessions and family—along with persecutions—in this life and the nation of God to come.

Whoever is ashamed of me and the Revolution before men, I will be ashamed of him before God.   But whoever declares me before men, I will declare him before God. 

How lucky are the poor—for they will rule the nation of God!
How lucky are those who sorrow—for they will laugh.
How lucky are the lowly—for they will rule the earth.
How lucky are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
How lucky are the merciful for they will gain mercy.
How lucky are the right in heart for they will live with God.
How lucky are those who make peace, for they will rule as God’s sons.
How lucky are those who suffer injustice for the justice of God, for they will rule the nation of God.

The day the Revolution comes, all men, all authorities on earth will see the King coming with all the power of God with him.  All the rulers in earth and heaven will be cast down.  And everyone will see God’s King take the throne of God above all other rulers.  Then the King will call to himself all of his people—the oppressed, the merciful, those who were ready for the Revolution—and establish them as rulers. 

Then the King will call all the people of the world to himself.  And they will be divided before him—the just from the unjust.  The King will say to the just, “Come and live in my nation.  For when I was hungry, you gave me something to eat.  When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink.  When I had inadequate clothing, you gave me clothes.  When I was homeless, you gave me shelter.  When I was sick, you helped me.  When I was in prison, you visited me.”  And the just will say, “When did we do all these things, Lord?”  The King will reply, “You did these things to these lowly and oppressed—my brothers, who now rule over you.  Even as you did it to them, you did it to me.” 

Then the King will turn to the unjust and say, “Get out of my face.  You hated me and now I spit in your face.  Because I was hungry and thirsty and you gave me nothing.  I was needing clothes and you gave me nothing.  I was homeless and you told me to get a job.  I was sick and in prison and you ignored me.  Get out of here.”  As they were leaving, the unjust will plead, “But Lord!  When did we do these horrible things?”  The King will reply, “When you failed to help these lowly who now rule, then you were expressing your hatred to me.  Leave!”  And these will leave and be punished for eternity.  But the just will live happily forever.

Taming the Revolution

The revolutionaries that make a difference never look revolutionary as soon as they get into the history books.  Lenin was truly revolutionary, but by the time Stalin came along, Lenin was co-opted, kidnapped, beaten and misshapen.  No longer was Lenin the compassionate genius, ready to do whatever necessary for the good of the working class.  He’d been adopted and abused by the ruling class in a way he’d never been when he was alive, because when he’d come out of the process, his image was no longer who he really was.

          Think of how modern China can use Mao to support their capitalist policies.  How Dorothy Day is made almost non-religious by many of her modern workers.  How Lutherans reformed Luther to make him the leader of the quiet, passive denomination.  How Buddhists made Siddartha an object to be worshiped rather than primarily a life to be imitated. 

          That’s what happened to Jesus. Again and again.

          Over two centuries of spinning, Jesus has become a never-ceasing top, and cannot be recognized in the theology that bears his title.  “Christology” is all about “the essence of deity” and “two natures” and “was it God or the human Jesus that picked up the toothbrush, May 2, 27AD?”  Jesus’ philosophy suddenly is about “intellectual assent” “faith and works” “predestination” and other non-issues.  The results of Jesus’ work has become building churches, pastoral education and conservative platforms.  Jesus isn’t spinning in his grave—although the church that bears his name treats him as if he were dead—rather, he is vomiting spiritual fruit.

          Jesus wasn’t about opulent wealth, but surrendering possessions.
          Jesus wasn’t about taking the name of deity, but humble leadership.
          Jesus wasn’t about complicated philosophy, but straightforward ethics.
          Jesus wasn’t about intellectual satisfaction, but the release of prisoners.
          Jesus wasn’t about supporting the decadent authorities, but about radical politics.
          Jesus wasn’t about forgettable worship, but about life-destroying devotion to God.

          It is always the descendants of a great revolutionary that destroy his real persona, his pure revolution.   Some say that Jesus was co-opted by Paul, transformed to be “Christianity” as we know it.  It isn’t really true.  Paul’s presentation of Jesus was filled with radical politics and life-pretzeling ethics.  Some say that it was the early church, as represented by the interests of the writers of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Hell, if they were the problem, we would never know it, would we?  They are the only real way we experience Jesus as all.

          The real problem began in the second and third centuries, when the simple, straightforward words in first century Judea began to do flip-flops, becoming trained dogs in the hands of expert etymologists.  By the time the church of the fourth century, having bitten the fruit at the encouragement of Constantine, the original intent of Jesus was lost in quagmire of Greek philosophy, interpreted by Ignatius and Augustine, never to return. 

          Well, not “never.”  Should the true intent of Jesus never have been seen, then surely God would have nuked the church and started over.  All throughout the history of the church there has been a minority that pursued the ideal of Jesus—a slender thread that the church quelched or bureaucratized as quickly as possible.  Montanus, Francis of Assisi, Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, Michael Sattler, Dorothy Day.  Some intellects, some simple, but all of them cutting through the layers of lard that had been thrust upon the gospels.  They opened the velvet cage that had attempted to tame the wild Jesus, and the Tasmanian Devil of a religious leader was released, albeit briefly, to wreck waste upon the tame Christendom. 

It is time to do it again. 

It is time to open the real Jesus to scrutiny and public mocking again—this time by those who claim his name.  This Jesus isn’t passive or quiet—he is loud, boisterous, insulting and rebellious.  This Jesus is angry, violent, insane and superstitious.  This Jesus wasn’t killed as some supernaturally-fated accident.  This Jesus was killed for good reason.  If we met up with this Jesus, we might think ourselves that for the good of our society, he would need to be killed.  I’m not sure who would like him in our white bread, MTV-as-revolution, anesthetized society.  But it is time to set him loose.  Then we’ll see who follows him.

How can we do this, how will we set him loose?  We will write the gospels again—not as if they were set in this time.  But we will write them as if they were written by revolutionaries in first century Judea.  Some explanations will be necessary along the way, so we can understand what they were fighting.  This isn’t a translation, it is a paraphrase, but I am attempting to keep as close to the text as possible.  If I change it, it is change so we can appreciate how radical, how contrary Jesus’ look at reality and society really was.  

And is.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas: A New Viewpoint

Father walks into Son’s bedroom.  Son is laying on a single bed, playing with what looks like marbles in a box.  On the wall are posters and bumper stickers: “Creation: Love It Or Leave It” and “You Deserve A Sabbath Today” and “Next Time You Think You’re Perfect, Try Walking on Leviathan” and “The Few, The Proud, the Creators.” 

Father: (Cautious) Hey, Son.

Son: (Sulking, but trying not to show it) Hey, Dad.

Father: Haven’t seen you around lately.

Son: Been busy.


Father: (Trying to sound interested) Oh, really?  Doing what?

Son: You know.  The usual.

Father: (Sighs)  Let’s pretend I don’t know, okay?

Son: Whatever.  Well, right now I’m trying out a new atomic number.

Father: That sounds cool.  Is it stabilizing?

Son: I’m sure it will.  Just need a bit more dark matter.  Few more quarks. 

Father: Great.  That sounds great.

(Pause.  Son keeps playing with marbles in the box.)

Father: So…  I haven’t seen you around lately.

Son: Yeah, you said that.

Father: I kinda hoped that you’d show up at the last staff meeting.

Son: Oh, you wanted me to be there?

Father: Since you are on the creation staff… yeah, I thought you might want to show up.

Son: I don’t really see the point.

Father: Since you were so significant in starting this whole mess, I thought you might want a part in cleaning it up…

Son: Dad, don’t put that on me again…

Father: Look, we need to talk about this.  You were instrumental in the initiation of this project, and at first you were at the heart of sustaining as well, but your heart just hasn’t been in it lately.  Why?  Is there something wrong?  Something I did?

Son: (Rolling eyes) Dad, no, I mean, you’re perfect.

Father: That’s true, but I’m trying to understand your perspective.

Son: It’s just… I’m still disappointed.

Father: About what?

Son: About the humans.

Father: What about them?

Son: Well, look, Dad.  I thought that maybe you’d finally put me in charge of something.    I’m old enough now, I think.  Maybe you don’t think I’m responsible enough—I don’t know.  And here was this project.  The big one.  We were remodeling the earth—again—but this time I really thought we had hit on it, we had done it right.  This was the final try.  But instead of being put in charge of the project, you handed it off to… him.  The human.  I mean, he was a great idea—brilliant, really.  The capstone of the whole project.  But whose idea was it to put him in charge?
Father: I think you know…

Son: Yes, Dad, it was your idea.  And I know you’re perfect and all, but—  but—…   What a lame idea!  It wasn’t too many generations later that the whole project had to be wiped out and drafted again, all because of those humans.

Father: Noah was a good man.

Son: Yeah, fine, when he wasn’t drunk out of his skull!  You told him about fermenting grape juice didn’t you?

Father: He had a long, hard life...

Son: Sure he did.  That’s because all of these humans—all of them, from Adam to Noah on down— are all STUPID!  As a group they are technologically brilliant, but whether in a group or individually they are moral imbeciles!  They are just as likely to worship a stump of wood as they are a true god.  And the way they treat each other—paranoia, lack of empathy, rejection and being rejected for the most idiotic reasons—“Oh, you’re stepping on my land, looks like I need to kill you…”  Just ridiculous!

Father: Moses wasn’t ridiculous.

Son: Yeah, he’s the only one who would pay attention to you.

Father: Abraham paid attention.

Son: Sometimes. But the incident with Abimelech…

Father: Hey, he’s only human…

Son: That’s the point!  They’re ALL only human.  Yeah, Dad, you chose some great ones there (although I still have some questions about Samson) but still, as a race they have no right to rule.  No right to be in charge of my project!

Father: So, you see this as really being yours?

Son: Oh, no, Dad.  It’s yours.  All yours.  I wouldn’t want to be in charge of it now. 

Father: Oh, really?

Son: No way, it’s all too messed up now… (Father stares at the Son)  Stop it!  Stop this omniscient bit, it’s getting really annoying.

Father: You would like to be in charge of the project.

Son: Well, I think I could do things better…

Father: Then why not show up to the staff meetings?

Son: C’mon, Dad.  The staff meetings are a joke.  You know that Satan’s plan is just to wipe the whole project out.  He’s got most of the staff in his pocket, and they are all subtlety subverting all of humanity against you.  They are trying to force you into a corner to just destroy the whole project and start with something else.  So the staff meetings end up being as ironic as a human committee: (Begins imitating the council) “This human’s great!”  “Oh no, Most High, let me show you what he’s really like.”  “Well, you can try.”   And there are these manipulations of nations that end up changing nothing at all.  It just doesn’t matter if it’s Babylon or Persia or Greece or Rome—humanity is still just as stupid and just as immoral. 

Father: So you think you could do better.

Son: You bet I could!  We just need to get rid of these gods that encourage evil and guide them into following your law.  Who knows, perhaps even humans can be trained to do right, if they had the right guidance.

Father: So you want to replace the gods?

Son: Dad, look, they’re taking all the credit that belongs to you.  All creation honors these lesser beings and ignore the Most High.  You’d think they’d know better, but they don’t.  If we got rid of the gods, we can retrain all of creation and not have to wipe it out again.

Father: Hmmm… good plan Son.  Of course, the gods wouldn’t like that.

Son: So who cares?  You just get rid of them.

Father: I could… if I had a good enough reason.  I can’t just willy-nilly get rid of whatever power in heaven I want to.

Son: Why not?  You’re the Most High, right?

Father. Of course.  Technically I can do whatever I want.  But for me to be just, I have to have sufficient reason to do away with any being.  I don’t just destroy life because I can.  Well, look Son.  I’ve always thought that you had the best aptitude to deal with this project—certainly you were more involved in it initially than any of the others. 

Son: Well, sure.  I got to spend time with my Dad.

Father: Yeah.  It was great, wasn’t it?

Son: It sure was. (Pause.) I’m sorry, Dad.  I… guess I could show up to more staff meetings.  Participate more.  It’s enough to know that you’d listen to me, even if no one else does.

Father: Thanks for the thought.  But I have another committee in mind for you.

Son: (Unsure) Really?  Not the Subcommittee of Restricting Unapproved Epiphanies?  I really think that those guys are…

Father:  No, this committee is really… unique.  And I think you alone have the gifts to do it.

Son: What is it?

Father: I want you to train the humans.  Yourself.

Son: (Sighs) Dad… you know what happens.  You get a group of humans, and there’s all this bowing and “Almighty” this, and nothing ever gets done, and no one listens to you.

Father:  But it might be a way to train the humans not to worship the other gods.

Son: And replace them for me instead.  Sure, I can train them, but it seems wired into the human genome to worship any old slug, as long as it’s got something “glorious” about it.

Father: Not if you are human yourself.

Son: (Shocked)  What?  Be a…  I don’t think you know what you’re asking.

Father: I sure do.  It’s the biggest challenge anyone’s faced.

(Long pause)

Son: But humans… breathe, Dad.  All those germs constantly entering into their lungs, then passing through the tissue and entering the blood stream.  The bacteria they have in their intestines.  Their mouths—they are like a living, walking, zoo!  Disgusting!

Father: I understand.  If you recall, I made the design.

Son: But I’d have to give up creating.  Give up my life’s work…

Father: You won’t stop creating.  Just think of it as just finishing the work you had begun.

Son: I don’t know, Dad.  I mean, if they just saw some human descending from heaven, they’d certainly think that I was a god, no matter what the body…

Father: That’s why you’d have to be born human.

Son: In a womb?  Floating in amniotic fluid for nine months?

Father: Yep. 

Son: Unable to speak for… years?  Humiliated by human parents every day?  Never seen as more than a slave?  And then… puberty? 

Father:  All of these experiences are a part of what makes one human.  If you are going to have the experience, you have to have the full experience.

Son: Adam didn’t, and wasn’t he fully human?

Father: And look how he turned out.

Son: I don’t think being pushed through a vagina would have changed him that much!

Father: (Smirking) You never know until you try.

Son: Dad, this is disgusting!

Father: Yes, I know.  And it is even worse than that.  You will be abused by those who need you the most.  There will be attempts to kill you and there will be nothing you can do.  The gods will come after you, but I will protect you in some limited ways.  But all of this, all of your power, all of your knowledge—you’ll have to set it aside.  The only things you can do or know will be what I give you on a day by day basis.  It’s a tough job.

Son: I just can’t.  This is too much!  Asking me to give up everything I know.  Only to become one of those filthy creatures you erroneously placed in charge of that chaos?  I can’t imagine.  It just isn’t worth it.

Father: It isn’t worth rebuilding all of creation?  It isn’t worth finishing the project you began?  If the project isn’t worth some self-sacrifice, think of this.  All along, you regretted the fact that I gave humans the opportunity to rule the planet.  I believe you called them “filthy worms” at the beginning.

Son: Well, I was exaggerating…

Father: Fine, I accept that.  But the fact of the matter is, I DID give humans rule over creation.  And I can’t just take it away.  That’s one thing I will never change, if I make a promise, I keep it. 

Son: Didn’t you promise Moses you’d kill off the Israelites?

Father: That wasn’t a promise, it was a threat.  You’re getting off the subject.  One way or another, it is a human who will rule all creation.  That’s the foundation of the whole project.  A human will rule, not a heavenly being, but one bound to the earth, made from earth…

Son: Yeah, so, a human will rule…  Oh, I see.  So this gives me the rule over creation. (Brightens) You are giving the project to me!

Father: I’m giving you the OPPORTUNITY to have the project.  It must be given to a human.  If you become a human, it is possible for you to be in charge of the whole project. 

Son: And the other gods?

Father: If they don’t become human, they aren’t even in the running.

Son:  And Satan?

Father: Don’t underestimate him, Son.  He will do everything he can to stand in your way.  And it is possible for him to stop you. You will have to defeat him.  But remember this—you can’t defeat him through your creation powers.  You can’t defeat him through a human army.  There is only one way to defeat him…

Son: Which is…?

Father: We’ll talk about that later.  What I need to know now is, are you going to make the attempt?

Son: To be human?

Father: Yes.  And to be completely obedient to me.

Son: I always do what you say, Dad.

Father: Yes, but trust me, your submission to be will be tested to the utmost limit.

Son: Are you telling me to do this?

Father: Only if you want to.

Son: (Closes eyes)  If I want?  Of course not.  It is the most horrifying thing I could ever imagine.  Being one of those crawly beings on that planet.  Giving up all the honor and power I have here.

Father: So your answer is…

Son: Yes!  Oh, yeah.  The possibilities… wow.  I’ll have to start making plans.  Thanks Dad, this is a great opportunity. (Looks directly at Father)  Thanks for giving it to me.

Father: (Smiling, he shakes his head)  You are such a weird kid…

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christianity v. Jesus (part 1)

Jesus, The Stranger

Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, came to this world a stranger.  The apostle John said, "He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.  He came to that which was his own, but His own did not receive Him."

Jesus, Himself, said, "I was a stranger and you invited me in."  In effect, He stated that not only had He come as a stranger but He had come for the stranger.

Jesus was estranged not because He wasn't what He should have been but rather because the world wasn't what it should be.  Even though the world had been created through Him, it didn't recognize Him.  The world suffered from human sin, as well as mankind.  Even now it groans, Paul says.

In the end, it is not Jesus who is the real stranger, it is us.  And one sad symptom of our estrangement is the sound of our groaning.

Though ultimately Jesus was not the one who was estranged, He still did come for the stranger.  If you invite a stranger in it is as if you had invited Him.  He has come so that no one has to be a stranger ever again.
            -Michael Card, from the book Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ