Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Please Shut Up: A Proposal for Glenn Beck

In another melodramatic act for attention, Glenn Beck claimed that social & economic justice were synonymous with socialism and communism. He then urged Christians to run from churches who advocate social justice. See HERE.

Now, what I'm about to do is sometimes considered "proof texting." That is, taking verses of the Bible out of context to support an argument. But this is usually done with ONE or TWO verses. What I'd like to display is that the Christian God, as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, is totally concerned with the issues of social and economic justice and the Bible is filled with hundreds of verses that support this.

One of the strongest themes of the entire Bible is CARE FOR THE POOR AND NEEDY.

"...but during the seventh year let the land lie unploughed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what they leave. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove." - Ex. 23:11

"Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God." - Leviticus 19:10

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’” - Leviticus 23:22

"The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." - Pr. 22:7

"When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbour, do not go into his house to get what he is offering as a pledge. Stay outside and let the man to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you. If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God." - Deut. 24:10-13

" He who increases his wealth by exorbitant interest amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor. [that is to say, God will remove the wealth from him, and give it to the poor]" - Pr. 28:8

“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a money-lender; charge him no interest." - Ex. 22:25

"He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise." - Luke 3:11

"You received without paying, give without pay." - Matt. 10:8

"Then Jesus called his disciples and said, 'I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry.'" - Matt. 15:32

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." - Luke 4:18-19

"Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me... How hard it is for those who have riches to ender the Kingdom of God!" - Luke 18:22-24

"Then Jesus said to his host, 'When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.'” - Lk. 14:12-14

"And all [early Christian community] who believed were together and shared all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need." - Acts 2:44-45

"With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." - Acts 4:33-35

"One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." - Acts 10:3-4

Consider the following picture painted by Aristides, a philosopher around A.D. 125:

They walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they lone one another. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that hath, distributeth liberally to him that hath not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him, as it were their own brother: for they call themselves brethren, not after the flesh, but after the spirit and in God; but when one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them sees him, then he provides for his burial according to his ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs, and if it is possible that he may be delivered, they deliver him. And if there is among them a man that is poor and needy, and they have not an abundance of necessaries, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food.

So guess what, Glenn Beck? You're wrong. You're a liar. And you're completely misunderstanding the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

You may hate the idea of socialism because it would cause you and your cronies to redistribute your personal wealth, but you're wrong about Christianity.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Lenten Reflection: Part II – Jesus & the Wild, Wild Spirit

In February I wrote a brief reflection on the significance of the approaching liturgical season of Lent. In that note I challenged both myself and readers to embrace the opportunity that Lent affords us to go deeper in our journey with our Lord Jesus. Now that we find ourselves in the middle of this contemplative season, I would like to share an additional reflection.

The season of Lent is designed to emulate the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-14). Thus, it is quite appropriate to use this story as a launching point and guide for our Lenten journey. In doing this I have discovered that Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is a rich resource for reflection.

All too often I forget that Jesus lived his life in the most radical way: he was utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit. The opening line of this account emphasizes this point by asserting that Jesus was led by the Spirit to wander in the wilderness. To follow the leading of the Holy Spirit is not exactly clearly defined, but one thing is for sure: it may lead you to the wilderness. That is, following the Holy Spirit may lead us away from what is popular, mainstream, or conventional. Jesus affirms the unpredictability of the Holy Spirit in John 3:8 when he informs Nicodemus that the Spirit moves wherever it pleases. The Holy Spirit is not a tame companion, but we may trust that where the Spirit leads we may find life. This Lent I am trying to discern what it means to depend on the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, we may find ourselves led by the Spirit to a solitary place. As I read the Gospels I am constantly amazed to find how often Jesus was escaping to a lonely place to pray (Matt 14:23, 26:36, 26:44; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16, 6:12, among others). The fact of Jesus’ dependence on the Spirit and his example of spending time alone in prayer has offered me an explicit model for discerning the direction of the Holy Spirit.

As we journey toward Jerusalem and the events of Christ’s Passion, I encourage you to wander in the wilderness and find time to be alone in prayer alongside Jesus. Then and only then will we discover the wild unpredictability of the Holy Spirit and allow God to take us through the wilderness to the Promised Land.