Faith, Theology — August 30, 2012 9:49 am

What if Jesus meant all that stuff?

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Let’s go into the vault, shall we? Back in 2009 Shane Claiborne wrote an article for Esquire magazine in which they asked him to address those who don’t believe.

Claiborne is an author and activist who is also a founding member of the Simple Way, a new monastic movement based in Philadelphia.


I want to invite you to consider that maybe the televangelists and street preachers are wrong — and that God really is love. Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter. (If there is anything I have learned from liberals and conservatives, it’s that you can have great answers and still be mean… and that just as important as being right is being nice.)

Check it out will you? 

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  • I know what I’m about to say is a badly, beaten horse, but how would you define the parameters of when to be mean and when to be nice. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. And even if the parameters are somewhat clear, somewhat sturdy, it seems that even if we obey them and act accordingly when the time is right, why is there always going to be someone who will judge us for being too mean when we ought to be nice, or too nice when we ought to be mean. If only I had a clear-cut principle to go by that I could show detractors when they think I’m out of place in this sense.

    Yes, the whole ‘How Dare You!’ speech by Mark Driscoll annoys me. Why? The first knee-jerk reaction I’d have is that he is being mean. Too mean. Or, perhaps I should say being mean at the wrong time. That it is out of place, somehow. Or that the meanness doesn’t seem to be emerging from an authentic individuality. It doesn’t seem fresh or undomesticated or untamed enough to be seen as truly ‘Biblical’, for lack of a better word. I can’t pinpoint it, but when I watch that youtube video, I can almost hear the countdown in his head, whispering, ‘Ok, I’m at that part of the sermon where I can act like Paul might have, or when Jesus threw around the tables of the money-changers, in 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1, auto-bot TRANSFORM!’. Then, ‘How dare you!!!!!!!!!!!’ Back to Driscoll’s inner voice, ‘Wow. I sound awesome. Just like Paul or Jesus would have. Oh, look! Those guys over there look really annoyed at me. It must be working. Time to make eye contact. Gosh. I’m just like Jesus right now. Hold on. I’m getting quieter. Let me get louder one last time. Oh, that was good. That was really good. Man, I’m a good pastor.’

    The picture I’m painting is one of a manufactured meanness. A plastic-doll meanness that is all the more obnoxious because it is plastic. But in terms of knowing and discerning when and where real meanness is actually real and how to appreciate it when it happens (and not desire niceness if the meanness is real – ‘real’ meaning ‘Biblical and ok’.), I’m at a loss. It’s like I only approve of it if I already like the guy or gal, or if it’s against blatant modes of oppression like The Holocaust, or something. But in the everyday, work-a-day world, I’m at a complete loss on how to discern when meanness is ever appropriate, because the subject-matter that might inspire it is so insipid, that it might always be forever out of reach to really know that it was Christian, if it’s possible for it to be. Do you know of a criterion to go by?

    And I’m sorry if that didn’t touch on the article you linked to at all (I’ll read it!), but that just came out of me.

  • The psychological perspective of the mean Christian is so annoyingly warped that his/her twisted mind can/will shove any and every plea for correction with some odd interpretation in the Bible (the Westborow Baptist Church comes to mind!).

    1. The street-corner preacher yelling fire and brimstone –
    Rebuttal: But John the Baptist did it! Jesus stormed the temple! Paul used harsh language in his letters! The prophets were condemned for the same reason!

    2. Televangelists –
    Rebuttal – These are basically epistles represented through the medium of television. Paul asked for money to support the Church! As did many of the pillars of the faith, including the Church Fathers.

    3. When we plea for relationships –
    Rebuttal – This takes too long. The Bible is a like a lion that needs to be let out of the cage. It can take care of itself. The relationship-formula is exactly that: a formula. Albeit, a fluid and dynamic formula, since it has to accommodate itself to every individual, but a formula nonetheless. Better to hit the sinner over the head with blatant truth. Whoever turns away in disgust isn’t a part of the elect, or it isn’t there time. Whoever is convicted, steps forth and receives the benefits of salvation. Relationships ensue in discipleship after salvation. We are not to mingle or yoke with unbelievers! When truth is spoken clearly, harshly (the prophets are filled with harsh language designed to jolt the sinner out of complacence!), we rely on the Holy Spirit, not a man-made relationship formula seemingly designed and acquiescent for modern audiences more concerned about feeling good and accepted than a dose of uncompromising truth.

    I could go on. But this is their mindset. I wonder how we reach those people? What sort of psychological barriers do we have to overcome to keep these folks from fulfilling Gandhi’s maxim? How do we who desire to follow Gandhi’s maxim walk the tightrope between the occasional need to voice ‘judgmental’ truth in the face of blatant and threatening opposition and the psychological need for under-girding relationships to sow the person’s field for potential seeds so there might be something the reap?

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