Posts Tagged ‘Jesus

07
Oct
12

The Heresy of ‘Pro-Life’ Christians

Our scripture readings in ELCA Sunday service often provoke my thoughts. My thoughts are never aligned with the Pastor’s sermon, for sermons are typically generalized and oriented toward a certain orthodoxy. The last Pastor who made sermons a challenge to our lives was the late, great Bill Christman (a Presbyterian).

Today’s First Reading, Genesis 2:18-24, included:

Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Today’s Gospel, Mark 10:2-16, included:

Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’

Those who identify as Pro-Life assert that a fertilized ovum – the zygote – is a person, fully equivalent*. Their justifications for tying this assertion to a “right” to life are invariably shallow, effectively being ‘It just is, that’s all’. I have never seen or heard of a Pro-Lifer using Genesis 2 and Mark 10 as an authority for this assertion. It seems obviously applicable: in what way does a couple literally “become one flesh”, except via conception? If God demands that the couple not be separated, surely He intends that the very “one flesh” also not be separated.

*Except when it isn’t – some Pro-Life advocates defer personhood until implantation of the zygote.
And even those notable Conservative Protestants, the Southern Baptists, have previously sanctioned some abortions.

This Mark 10 justification of the Pro-life agenda would better adhere to scripture than the typical citations. Will Pro-Lifers embrace this justification? It is unlikely that any will ever notice my comments in a tiny blog. If they independently make this association, they will risk an accusation of hypocrisy, or worse, for the scriptures do not instruct us of an isolated facet of our relationship with the Almighty.

Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, Son of God, brought a New Covenant between God and man. Jesus was overt in his violations of many Jewish laws. He affirmed a fairly small portion of the Old Covenant, for while He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.” – Matthew 5:17, that left a large body of legalities to be voided. His statements in Mark 10 were remarkable for specifically citing Law that was to remain unaltered, without allowance for obliquely fulfilling the spirit of the Law. Jesus established finally, as explicitly as we ever see in scripture, a linkage between conception and marriage.

There are Christian denominations which ban divorce, such as the Catholic Church, the LDS-Mormon Church, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and Conservative Protestant such as Southern Baptists. Every one includes exceptions.

Exceptions are something which Jesus did not often offer. He certainly did not instruct us that conversion to Islam, or adultery, or other exceptions apply to divorce. Yet such exceptions are normative in even the most conservative denominations.

Is this why Pro-Lifers do not cite Jesus’ authority from Mark 10? Do they attempt to conceal their hypocrisy which is already well-known?

If they are sincere in claiming that their attitudes about reproduction are guided by Sacred Text, let them permit themselves to be guided by the only words of Jesus regarding the “one flesh”. Let them embrace the same hatred and violence at the most-closely related offense to the Law of God – divorce - that they exhibit toward those who make, and even to those who merely advocate, reproductive choices.

27
Nov
10

Founded Upon Christian Principles

Some folks assert that the United States of America was founded upon Christian Principles, and that the Founding Fathers relied upon Christian Principles {or here or here} in formulating the guiding documents of our nation.

I have no argument today against that assertion. I do believe it to be irrelevant. When the Founding Fathers provided the means to amend our Federal Constitution, and almost immediately exercised that means via the Bill of Rights, it guaranteed that the Constitution would remain a living document, subject ultimately to what the citizens of America wished it to be. No ‘Strict Constructionist‘ can offer an authoritative exegesis of ‘Original Intent‘ regarding a Constitutional Amendment which was enacted after every Constitutional author was deceased.

The relevant discussion is what an America, guided by Christian principles, would be. It would have been impossible, either shortly after the death of Jesus of Nazareth or just after Christian scriptures had been largely fixated by Emperor Constantine in 325 CE, to predict what Christianity, guided by Christian principles, would be. That does not deter me from attempting to offer some possibilities for America.

Consider first the several ways in which Christian principles have already been used to guide governmental policy.

The Founding Fathers, who are assumed for the purposes of this commentary to have been guided by Christian principles, wrote in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, that apportionment shall include “… three fifths of all other Persons.” That is, slaves were counted as a fraction of a person. Slavery was allowed, de facto, constitutionally. The best exemplar for this, the Christian principle guiding this result, is 1st Corinthians 7:21:

Were you a slave when God called you? Let not that weigh on your mind.

America had a prolonged disagreement with Native American peoples about land rights, etc. Take the Indian Removal Act as an example. The Christian missionaries who opposed this genocidal Act were apparently misguided, since in 1830 there were still Founding Fathers available to correct deviance from Christian guidance. The resulting land cessions and forced migrations brought death and misery to thousands of Native Americans of all ages. I am not a good-enough Christian to provide the basis for this Act of Holy Governance. Most Teabaggers should be able to describe the savage, un-educated and un-Godly lifestyle that prevented Native Americans from being worthy to retain land and rights which only the White Man might use advantageously. Perhaps, as with the Curse of Ham (Genesis 9:20-27) being applied to black-skinned peoples, the often-dark-skinned Native Americans would have been deemed to only exist as ‘servants of servants’.

Such humanitarian scourges have not been confined to racial matters. All Christian religions (it is not just one, don’tcha know?) and denominations (for which there is insufficient space to list here) have disagreed and fought with each other in explicit ways. I was reared as a Southern Baptist. My church would not accept a baptized Christian for membership unless he or she were re-baptized as a Southern Baptist.

And what of a future America, fully guided by Christian principles, instead of being guided by the haphazard application of such principles? European governments of the past are a good model. It was common for non-Christians for have second-class legal status. The word for this in Islam (for non-Moslems) is ‘Dhimmi‘. We can expect, analogous with Saudi Arabia or Middle Ages Europe, to have Dhimmitude of non-Christians. Perhaps we would count Dhimmis as 3/5ths of a person.

I believe that one currently-prominent public discussion would be resolved by Christian principles. Tax policy would be greatly improved by tithing to the government as we all already do (we all do, right?) to our churches. No maximum tax rate of 33% – it would be 10%. No social manipulation by providing deductions for mortgages, medical expenses, or child care. No corporations like ExxonMobil, General Electric, or 2 of every 3 U.S. corporations which paid zero Federal taxes from 1998 through 2005.

We could easily solve a multitude of social problems as a genuinely Christian nation. Poverty would disappear as we followed the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth – Matthew 19:21:

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

My Grandparents took in a ’5th son’ during the Great Depression to help families who were even poorer than my Grandparents. We could eliminate government departments of social services in this way.

The earliest church, which most intimately knew and understood the teachings of Jesus, did choose such a form of governance – Acts 2:44-45:

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

John Bolton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President Bush (and an eminent Conservative), described the dominant non-republican aspect of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He said, “in Iran, you have a theocracy … Iran is governed by jurisprudence that comes directly from Allah. … If the law comes from God, and the only people who can really understand it are the Mullahs, are you really gonna have a vote on whether you agree or disagree with God?” America, which Bolton later described as “the most libertarian country in the world”, would not accept such a system.

Teabaggers, simultaneously seeking minimal and Christian governance, are, in fact, already at war with themselves.

04
Feb
10

What Happened to Christian Doubt?

Gospel of John, Chapter 20

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the LORD, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the LORD.

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

→ Hey! Isn’t Thomas the Neglected Apostle?




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Basic Understanding

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.
- Edward R. Murrow

Intellectual Property Notice

All original material Copyright James R. Stone 2010, except where specifically noted. Some images licensed under Creative Commons, or GNU Free Documentation License, or unlicensed and public domain.

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