Friday Challenge–Memorable Church Signs:

Church Signs -- How much 'Truth' is Enough?

Church Signs

Church signs can take on a life of their own. Some are actually memorable. They stay with you for decades. One I remember long term said:

Jesus is cookin’ and  th’ devil is done!

Another turned up years ago at my own church. It was posted the Sunday of July 4th, and it said:

God HAS blessed America. Let America bless God.

Some are clever, some are silly, some are thought-provoking, and some are insulting. Some are short on truth, and some may speak more truth than the public wants to know.

Today’s Friday Challenge is to post some church signs that are truly memorable. You may submit lines you recall from signs you saw in the past, or you can use Google Images to locate some winners. Have fun!

Perspective on a World Run Amok

Charles Eisenstein, seeking perspective on the world.

This responds to a reader request to reply to a Charles Eisenstein article.

Visionary Dreamer

Charles Eisenstein offers plenty of ideas for consideration. Whatever his familiarity with Christian theology, his brief article raises important points we need to hear. I say ‘raises’ because while not naming them specifically, he makes points with serious ramifications for Christians.

Mr. Eisenstein draws attention to the very inadequate expression we give to what theologians call ‘the fall.’ We have failed to trace its ramifications for society, for institutions and relations of power, political and economic life, church life, and for our interpersonal relations. He is acutely aware of the destructive import of this System [note his uppercase ‘S’] on our environment and on the dignity of life itself.

History and ‘the Powers’

Charles views history from the underside, from the perspective of what is endured every day under a dominance system. And if not writing from an Christian perspective [I have no idea what or whether Charles believes], he also names such ‘powers’ [Ro 8:38; Eph 1:21; 6:12; 1Pe 3:22, 5:8; Co 1:16] as Death and Fear. What’s more, he identifies ways they influence our lives and decisions, leading us to support the present dominance-system of world power. This is also a trait of Christus Victor.

The powers of this age understand very well the need for security, comfort and self-preservation run strong, and they manipulate these deep needs very effectively against broad swathes of society to secure our complicity to the System. Charles does his part to unmask this System. Bravo!

Insight from ‘Strange’ Sources

Charles Eisenstein’s analysis touches some key Marxian motifs – alienation, wage slavery, the contradiction between social and economic realities, and the impossibility of resolving outstanding crises under our present System. Without these words, he tells us that our present System of political economy is fundamentally incompatible with human being. As a Christian who is also a socialist, I appreciate all this.

Moreover, socialist writings in recent years document the rising crises in the mental health of the poor and working class population. Charles’ article labors to establish the same point. So again, there is much here that I find commendable as a Christian socialist.

Impotence and Guilty Complicity

Charles’ reference to the ‘divine plan’ as a ‘sop to the conscience’ is exasperating because it is true. Marx’ dictum ‘religion is the opiate of the people’ says the same thing. The Eastern Orthodox Church served to bind the conscience of people to the interests of the bourgeoisie. Whether it is the Russian Orthodox Church, the broader Evangelical community, or Christian Fundamentalists, the ecclesial community which reinforces the dominating hold of an oligarchy even as it spreads rot, injustice, systemic horror, vanishes dissidents and employs child labor – that is no true church. It cannot be an agent of deliverance from this earthly domination System because it itself is enslaved/devoted to the service of that System.

While it has potential merit, I’m less than comfortable with Charles’ ‘withdraw to recuperate and reengage’ strategy. I felt that the response was not the article’s strongest point. I also sense that he intentionally writes with a peaceable hand. Effectively he says, ‘if you disagree with my basic premises, we really have no basis for discussion…’ Still, that itself is a rare and beautiful thing, and such a spirit must be honored.

Guiding Strategy Needed

With only one article plus his ‘Sacred Economics’ I am no authority on Mr. Eisenstein’s work. But I feel that a more rigorous response to the class roots of Systemic injustices would serve us better.

Mr. Eisenstein is not ignorant of Marxian analysis. His article relates private ownership and accumulation of vast wealth both in ancient Rome and in our day alike. He knows that under this arrangement, the poor and landless are disenfranchised and left with only their labor [compensated on most meager terms]. He also sees that our institutions [education, etc.] are shaped by those with power to support the System.

Charles Eisenstein is clear that injustice never happens in a vacuum. Yet for me, his article has a Pollyanna-ish feel about it. Human development and excitement, and the innate dignity of each individual are invaluable insights. But the genuine change that he wants at some point requires confronting the ownership/banking/finance/investment class which runs the political apparatus in Capitalist nations around the globe. After all, it is they which — in their respective societies — organize life in the very ways that produce the very conditions that he so ably describes.

Can Christians do Better

For that weakness, Charles Eisenstein calls us to affirm the better purpose for which we know we exist. And to pursue that is an act of rebellion no less than is genuine prayer, supported by faithful action. Perhaps that is why he entitled his article, ‘Mutiny of the Soul.’ It aptly fits the calling of the Christian in response to the powers of this age.

____________

Note:

Be aware that Charles’ article is followed by a second. And I would make the same observations there. He speaks of…

‘military occupation, confinement feedlots, the War on Drugs, economic austerity … [and] the whole apparatus of domination and control.’

Of the book, ‘A Mind of Your Own,’ he adds:

‘I hope it reaches the many revolutionaries-in-the-making among the depressed, the anxious, the addicted – everyone who rebels against the story that rules our world.’

But again, nothing specific on class struggle, which is essentially what he describes in his two articles.

____________

A Church of Fundamental Faithlessness

A clear demonstration of the meaning and power of God's kingdom intention.
A clear demonstration of the meaning, power and soteriological intent of the kingdom of God.

If we see Kingdom justice and Gospel righteousness as an ‘either/or,’ we might want to rethink a few things. More easily said than done. Why?

Luke 4x18-19

Whenever justice is mentioned, panic erupts. Accusations of heresy follow. Could the intention be to retain earthly systems of power and authority intact? Recall the uproar caused by Jesus’ birth:

‘When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him’ [Mt 2:3].

What produced Herod’s distress if not his deep reliance ON Caesar’s authority? And Jerusalem’s distress: why did good Jewish believers react the same way to Jesus’ birth unless it was because they as much as Herod were deeply invested in that earthly power system called imperial Rome?

Another GospelPreaching, teaching, reinterpreting the law and the prophets, miracles and healing, exorcisms, raising Lazarus, controversies with temple bosses, lawyers and pharisees — Jesus continually resisted the powers of this age! That was his agenda, which makes it our agenda. We can sympathize with council’s exasperation with Jesus:

“If we let him go on like this, all men will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place [jobs, status] and our nation.” [Jo 11:48].

The kingdom that Jesus embodied evoked a faith incompatible with the powers of this age. That’s the thing. We know where Jesus’ agenda took him; we know where it will take us. An exasperated Thomas put it best:

‘”Let us also go, so that we may die with him”‘ [Jo 11:16]!

And what of us?

Do not we separate kingdom and Gospel in order to avoid confronting the earthly powers of War, Famine, Pestilence and Death in Jesus’ Name? Is that not why no less than Jerusalem, Herod, the council or Thomas, many of us are dismayed by a mere mention of kingdom or justice?

What if Gospel fidelity isn’t at issue at all? What if it is a frantic desire to escape the potentially lethal consequences OF faithfulness to the King?

What if the issue is that our devotion and loyalty to Caesar runs deeper than our commitment to the risen Lord of Creation, Jesus Christ?

What if the interest is to preserve our deep investment in that earthly power system called ‘Capitalism’ or the ‘United States of America?’

What if the issue is that we have confidence in the United States military than in the promises of God to keep and preserve us?

What if it is that the narrative of American Exceptionalism of Manifest Destiny is more compelling for us than Jesus’ death and resurrection?

What if our ‘trust’ is invested in our political system and its functionary head of state, in our national economy, in our military, in our stories of and belief in American greatness? What if these are the idols to which we cling bow down in reverence? What if that is our de facto religion and all that remains of our ‘faith’ are platitudes about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, a gospel offer of forgiveness, and future blessedness?

Such a ‘faith’ incarnates nothing, disturbs nothing, challenges nothing. Since this ‘kingdom’ has no earthly implications [for the present at least], there is no reason it should cause an uproar.

Perhaps Caesar, Herod, the Jerusalem city and council, scribes and pharisees understood better than many fundies and evangelicals the import of Christ’s presence. That may be a good reason to ponder the view of kingdom and of Christian/nation relations in another post.

Remembering Daniel Berrigan

Remembering Father Daniel J. Berrigan

Father D. Berrigan

This is the face of political dissent in these United States of America.

Daniel J. Berrigan

With the death of Daniel J. Berrigan, the nation lost a hero. The Jesuit priest embodied resistance to the fallen powers of this age. On issue after issue across his long life, Father Berrigan resisted the political class for its wars and other policies injurious to life.

During the Vietnam War, Father Berrigan and eight others entered a Cantonsville, MD federal office. They confiscated draft records and took them to the parking lot.

Performing an exorcism, binding the powers ...
Exposing the demonic nature of Nationalism and War as fallen powers.

Using home made napalm they set documents alight. As they burned, the Cantonsville nine prayed for the binding of the Satan’s power.

In other words, they performed a brief service of exorcism.

Rev. Berrigan made his way to Block Island, where he met with William Stringfellow, whose writings much influenced his thought.

When the Feds caught up with Berrigan, Stringfellow was implicated for harboring a criminal. A Harvard trained lawyer, Stringfellow acted in his own defense. Stringfellow made no effort to conceal Berrigan. He argued that as a Christian, he offered Berrigan only such compassion as he would give anyone who arrived at his door. The Constitution recognizes the right to practice his religion.

Case dismissed.

American political and social activist and Roman Catholic priest Daniel Berrigan speaks into a microphone, 1981. He is probably speaking during the trial of him and seven others (including his brother Philip) for breaking into a misile plant in Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bernard Gotfryd/Getty Images)
Political and social activist and Roman Catholic priest Daniel Berrigan, likely around the time that he and seven others [including his brother Father Philip Berrigan] broke into a PA missile plant.
Daniel Berrigan remained active for peace and justice all his days. In the ‘Democracy Now’ interview [below], Daniel Berrigan retells his meeting with former Defense Secretary Robert Strange McNamara, who served under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Daniel Barrigan’s life belies the perennial rationalization of acclimation to injustice, ‘there is nothing we can do.’ We can do countless things. The question is whether we are willing to do things that will get us in trouble. For those things alone have political import to make them worth doing.

Daniel Berrigan died April 30, 2016, one week before his 95th birthday.

For years, it has been my privilege to be mentored by a former associate of William Stringfellow. My aged but sagacious friend is a retired pastor who resides with his wife in Ohio.

SFL May Day Edition

How should Chrisitans think about Socialism

It’s as good as money in the bank. You can trust some themes to evoke a warm response from fundamentalists. Take socialism. This is a staple of political evil in America. Therefore it is at the same time a political staple in fundamentalism. Socialism is evil and Kent Hovind is agin’ it.

Theft of money by those who don’t earn it is just plain wrong. This doesn’t apply when wealthy, US owned corporations enrich themselves by exploiting child labor to make garments or goodies. The problem today is that we don’t teach children the benefits of a good work ethic.

Kent Hovind dislikes money theft so much that he restructured his taxes in creative ways. Then after obstructing federal agents, he ‘earned’ a decade in the slammer. Perhaps that makes him an expert witness on the evils of socialism. He better than most understands the concept of living at the public expense.

I suppose it was inevitable that some despicable person [who would do such a thing!] had the chutzpah to put this post on Darrell’s SFL website as if one could be a socialist AND a Christian AND an American. How disgusting!

In commemoration of International May Day, that post is reproduced here, warts and all…


Christian Socialist

Dear Sam Baker:

God exists as an eternal society of three persons in ageless, unbroken communion. Have you considered that the Biblical teaching of the Blessed Holy Trinity might entail a social component?

God made all humanity in his own image. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Yahweh so covenanted with Abraham and his descendants that all males were marked with a sign including them in that same, promised relationship into perpetuity. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Yahweh gave the Sabbath and the year of Jubilee which prevented permanent alienation from the land, extremes of poverty and wealth, and provided rest for all living in the land. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

The great, OT salvation event equivalent to the cross in the NT, is the liberation of God’s people from Egypt. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Israel’s legal code required compassionate expression and civil attitudes toward all, and especially the weak and needy [women, children, the sick and aged, aliens, etc.]. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Many Psalms connect mercy, justice righteousness, loving-kindness and truth, and employ these themes in Israel’s liturgy. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Israel’s prophets railed against societal and economic injustice, and cited these things as the ground of judgment and expulsion from the land. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Jesus’ Lu 4:18-19 Manifesto is based on the year of year of Jubilee, and it functions as the interpretive core of Luke’s record. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Revelation is a kingdom of God critique/manifesto of Rome’s political blasphemy and economic extortion supported by military hegemony and apostate religion. Revelation also points to God’s alternative vision of the celestial city that comes down from Glory and [in some way that I certainly don’t grasp] causes heaven and earth to become one. Have you considered that this might entail a social component?

Introduced at creation, the social component is revisited at the consummation. It is woven in Israel’s worship, and it is attached to the covenant and the sign, the Sabbath, the Exodus, the civil code, the Psalms and prophetic preaching of Isaiah, Amos, Micah and others. It also defines the core of Jesus’ preaching in Luke’s record, and it has a significant role in casting the Revelation. Moreover, that social component is analogous of the nature of the Trinitarian life.

If you expect me to abandon this Biblical witness, you should come prepared to offer a massive weight of crushing exegesis, marked by clean, incisive, dissecting, penetrating, exacting, luminescent analysis at every point. If you’re not up to it, print my text and send it to our friend Mr. Hutson. Let him take a stab at it. Then you can post his reply for us.

I know you can cite Paul saying that a man who refuses to work can refuse to eat. But Karl Marx said the same thing. So that might not be the clean break from socialism that you’re seeking. Moreover for every such text you produce, I can post multiple texts condemning greed.

We know that fundamentalism has herds of great preachers who proclaim fearlessly the whole council of God. I’m sure you can find many who do such work as I describe in preparation for Sunday’s message every week. I don’t ask for a herd.

I ask you to name one.

Christian Socialist

____________

Francis Bellamy ____________

Plans are to return to the US May 2. May need a day or so to recover before posting. Will see… Blessings!