Category Archives: Social Justice
OK, so yesterday I said I wanted you all to come with me on a journey so that you could understand how I can to hold the opinion that I do about Christianity and homosexuality. To begin that journey, let me tell you a bit about where I came from. (You can read this story in more detail beginning here.) I grew up in an evangelical Southern Baptist Church in Tennessee. I was raised in Bible Buddies, Royal Ambassadors, and Vacation Bible School. I learned about the importance of the Scriptures from a very early and read them vociferously. I first finished reading the Pentateuch (the Torah, those first five books of the Old Testament) while in Middle School out of my own curiosity. I would assume that by now through devotions, personal exploration, academic study, lectionary reading, and preaching that I have encountered the vast majority of biblical texts several times. They shape my narrative consciousness and greatly inform the way that I process and understand the world.
I tell you all that to say that I think the Bible is important. I am not saying that because the book is thousands of years old depending on its constituent parts that it is irrelevant to modern life. I am not saying that the Bible has nothing to do with homosexuality. I am not saying that I can ignore the parts of Scripture that I don’t like. I am not saying that we can just do away with the parts of our Scriptures with which we are uncomfortable. Far from any of that, I think the Bible is an important source of God’s revelation to us, a record of God’s revelation to God’s people throughout time. The Bible contains the record of supreme revelation of the Divine — The Gospels of Jesus Christ. This is an important book, one that I grew up with and to this day cherish. I still have my first children’s Bible (an illustrated NIV, 1984) sitting on my bookshelf next to my Greek New Testaments.
All that said, I think the Bible is the place to begin this journey. You had a little bit of narrative there at the beginning but — fair warning — the following discussion is going to get highly technical. I don’t believe in handling the Bible without rigor, without care, without the full breadth of our intellectual capacities. It deserves that kind of close attention. Therefore, I am going to use a lot of Greek in this discussion of the New Testament and a lot of classical context. These are things that you can look up and independently verify if you so choose. I don’t just pull them out of a hat because I am finishing a degree with concentrations in religion and classics. Read the rest of this entry →
Tags: Academic, Affirming, Baptist, Bible, Bible Buddies, Biblical, CEB, Christian, Christianity, Classics, Common English Bible, Devotion, Epistles, Father, Gay, God, Gospels, Greek New Testament, Holy Spirit, Homosexual, Homosexual Relationship, homosexuality, I Corinthians, I Timothy, Jesus, Joe Carter, John, Journey, King James Version, KJV, Lectionary, Lesbian, LGBT, Luke, Mark, Marriage Equality, Matthew, NASB, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, New King James, New Revised Standard Version, New Testament, NIV, NIV 1984, NKJV, NRSV, Old Testament, Paul, Pederasty, Prostitution, Religion, Revelation, Romans, Royal Ambassadors, Scripture, Scriptures, Sodomy, Southern Baptist Church, Tennessee, The Gospel Coalition, translation, Vacation Bible School, Welcoming, Welcoming and Affirming
[[This sermon was prepared for a Samford Sunday (a rural preaching program at Samford University) but remains ungiven as of yet. Update: Given at Spring Creek Baptist Church in Honoraville, Alabama.]]
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.”
He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age — houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Mark 10:17-31, NRSV
In case you didn’t know, the economy isn’t in good shape right now. The politicians tell me it’s worse than ever and it’s everyone’s fault so long as it’s not theirs. Things are getting better — little by little — but it has not been speedy and it will not be fast. We’re adjusting to a new way of life with a lot less borrowing and a lot more saving. In the meantime, the transition is anything but pleasant.
It’s so unpleasant, I think, because it feels so futile. It doesn’t seem like we have a lot of say in how things go. On the one hand, our voice and our vote don’t seem to matter. We can’t often oust congressional incumbents. We can’t make our legislators work together. We can’t hope to match the money special interests, corporations, lobbyists, and think tanks put into engineering not just elections but politicians. Even the people we like are subservient to a broken, crooked system. And on the other hand, the economy, if we leave it out of the hands of the politicians, falls into the hands of another elite few — and we definitely don’t even get to at least feel like we’re electing them. These bankers and brokers run a manipulative and abstract system that I can’t even hope to understand. They play with our retirements and our futures like it’s pocket change. They guide the price of goods and gasoline, impacting our lives in ways in which we have no input. They’re privy to languages and levers to which you and I simply have no access.
So what do we do when one of those people walks up to Jesus? I’m going to be straight with you. I’m not going to lie to you or hide what I think from you. I have a lot of difficulties with this passage. I want to get mad. I want to start flipping tables and be all self-righteous about it. I want to get angry. I want to get mad. I want to get mad at the banks that collapsed our economy. I want to get mad at the politicians who let them. I want to get mad at the people who continue to have — and have more and more — at the expense of those who have not. I want to get mad when every time I want to talk about things like poverty, racism, injustice, or oppression, people call me a socialist. I want to get mad when, as Archbishop Hélder Camara said s well, “when I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” I want to get mad when we talk about wealth, prosperity — money.
But that’s not what Jesus does.
That’s not what Jesus does. Sure, elsewhere we get to see Jesus flip some tables, but that’s not what happens here. Instead, Jesus looks upon this man and loves him. I told you, I’m not going to lie to you this morning. There are days when I get so frustrated, I want to join the Occupy Wall Street crowd in protest against the imaginary money markets that dictate our lives. I want to hate the people who get their kicks and giggles — and paychecks! — from gambling with our future. I want to hate the people who got us into this mess, whether they’re bankers or politicians.
But that’s not what Jesus does.
Jesus loves him. Read the rest of this entry →
All the Children’s Crumbs
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
Mark 7:24-27 (NRSV)
In many Christian traditions, it is customary for the preacher to say, “This is the word of the Lord” and for the congregation to say, “Thanks be to God.” When we come to a passage like this one, however, that seems hard to say. How are we to respond to such a so-called “hard saying” of Jesus? “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs … to the dogs.” This is the word of the Lord? Who is this Jesus? This Jesus is not the one I met in Sunday School. This Jesus is not the one in whom I professed faith when I walked down an aisle like this one. This Jesus is not the one in whose name I was baptized. This Jesus is not the Jesus I know.
Let me tell you the story of the Jesus who I know. He emerged onto the scene, baptized by his revolutionary cousin John (1:1-11). He was tempted and tried just as you and I (1:12-13). Out of his trials, he emerged a healer, prophet, and teacher (1:14-20). He walked out among the marginalized and the oppressed (1:21-39). Mark tells us he even went to the lepers, the ones everyone considered wholly unclean (1:40-45). He healed them. He even cured the paralytic everyone assumed deserved what he got (2:1-12). He healed him. He called tax collectors, political protestors, and everyday workers to be by his side (2:13-17; 3:13-19). He healed them. He overturned traditional rules and paradigms to the point that they called him Satan (2:18-28; 3:20-30). He healed them. He mystified us with parables and astounded us all the more by going to the Gentiles, casting out even their demons (4, 5:1-20). He healed them. Whether it’s a poor woman coming in the crowd or a religious hotshot coming to his face, he healed them (5:21-43). He traveled across the sea (he even walked on it!) and he fed the thousands (3:7-12; 6:30-52). He healed them. He told the religious leaders that they had it all wrong. “You do a great job,” he said, “of ignoring God to keep your own traditions.” (7:1-23) He healed them. A woman from the fringes, from Syrophoenicia of all places, a Gentile, comes to him and … “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” Read the rest of this entry →
A friend and I were wandering through the Borough Market in London today. They have all sorts of food there (really, anything you could want), and it’s wonderful food. We bought some great cheese there and I found a phenomenal loaf of bread. That’s not really the point, however. We came across a stand toward the end of our trip there selling chutney.
Now, what in the world is chutney? (That’s what I thought anyway.) Chutney goes well on basically anything. Crackers, bread, salads, warm vegetables, cold meats, quiche, pizza, pies, and so on and so forth. Long story short, it’s delicious stuff. But this wasn’t any ordinary chutney.
The young woman selling the jars of deliciousness told us that they were sold by an organization called “Rubies in the Rubble.” What is it, you ask? Well, let me tell you. She said that she was originally working for a lucrative financial entity (specifics and other details remain unmentioned) while attending a church in London. While she went to the church, she served people in the parish community that were finding it difficult to get back onto the employment ladder. In other words, the people who no one else really desired to help.
She quit her financial job and started Rubies in the Rubble to actually employ those struggling around her local community. Now, they make and sell the Chutney we bought at the Borough Market, allowing for a new start for all of these people.
Simple, right? I thought so, but I also thought it was quite remarkable. It’s not the normal approach people in the church take to help others. This young woman’s commitment to others was not driven by a desire to convert them, but to be a positive presence in their life that helped them get back on their feet.
Additionally, “Rubies in the Rubble” works to make us all aware of the food that we waste. So, they use the materials that would otherwise be cast aside when cooking. And, again, the result is fantastic.
I know (via the end of the year report provided by WordPress) that I have a nice collection of readers in the UK (you’re not huge, but it’s nice to know you’re there), so if you are one of them (and live in London), please head down the Borough Market (Jubilee section) some Saturday and help out this endeavor. If not, you can also order them on their website. Not sure what you can and can’t do in the States, but it wouldn’t hurt to email them.
What organizations in your Church/community do you know of doing this sort of thing? What’s their story?