Individualism and the Prosperity Gospel

ImagePhotos of this nature are maddening.

This is, of course, excepting my presence in reading my facebook newsfeed, which is exceedingly more maddening. I am just a slave for slogans and the ilk.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s largely correct, as far as I can tell or what meaning I can infer from it: God is our healer through providential care and grace. We can put our faith on Him to bring us through this world, nothing can extend or shorten our allotted time on this earth. Admittedly, I’m not sure what “heart doctor” means exactly–perhaps they mean cardiologist. Moreover, when they refer to “energy booster”, I assume they aren’t referring to chugging down Red Bull energy drinks and mistaking angels for people with “wings”.

God is our portion, He fills our cup overflowing. But if that is all the post is about, it’s entirely incomplete–I would argue it’s blasphemously incomplete.

The problem of the post is not itself, but the underlying motivations of the post.

The intention behind the post is what is lacking as it is brazenly existential.

It assigns most of our hope on the current alleviation of suffering and none on the reward of faithfulness. Read more of this post

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The Dangers of Asking The Lord.

I’ve been really blessed the past few weeks by this hymn.

Written by John Newton, it speaks of the danger of asking for holiness, growing in the Lord. On the flipside, it proclaims the comfort and security in amidst the turmoil and despair. It’s quite lovely.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“‘Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

The Ripple Effect of Abortion

“Abortion seems to be the only medical procedure that people want to deny you based on how you got in that situation.

Drove drunk, got in an accident and need an organ transplant? No problem.

Messing around with a gun, accidentally shoot yourself in the leg and need surgery? Of course.

Smoke tobacco for most of your life and need treatment for lung cancer? Yep.

Climb a tree, fall out and break your leg? We’ll fix that right up.

Have sex and get pregnant when you don’t want to be? YOU GOT YOURSELF INTO THIS SITUATION AND YOU DESERVE NO MEDICAL HELP OR COMPASSION! THIS IS YOUR FAULT AND YOU WILL DEAL WITH THE CONSEQUENCES!”

—– Worry About Your Own Uterus (via quoilecanard)

I don’t normally care a lot about people arguing about abortion. I feel there is a lot of baggage associated with the pro-life, pro-choice debate. In that, I don’t think a lot of pro-choice arguments are about whether a baby is being killed in abortion, but the whole issue is intrinsically tied with feminism. Therefore, it is difficult to engage the abortion debate when the two sides aren’t talking about the same thing.

Regardless, I stumbled across this little tib-bit on tumblr. There is obviously a great amount of hyperbole, and a bit of irrelevance. I don’t think that a hospital is really a good idea of what is morally right or wrong.

It also disturbs me that the writer has compared having a baby to: [having] lung cancer”, “breaking a leg”, or “[receiving an] organ transplant”. Moreover, that having sex is like “smoking tobacco”, “driving drunk”, or “falling out of trees”.


The Ripple Effect.

The core of my problem with this argument is that none of those examples given involve a life outside of the person’s own life. It’s not very much like you drove drunk and got into an accident because that is all about your own life’s preservation.

Abortion has a much greater far-reaching impact on not only yourself and whatever you’ve done to yourself, but your own unborn child. It has not been engaged with properly by the author, but some rather fantastic analogies have been given for an abortion.

The Reality.

The reality goes more like this:

It’s more like you were driving home from a dinner with your girlfriend. You had a few glasses of wine, but not that much that you thought it wasn’t safe to drive home. On the way home, you didn’t stop at a red light. It somehow slipped your mind as you were thinking about work the next day. The car door has been wrenched open, where you T-boned the car at the intersection.

You start mumbling in a drunken haze:

“WHYYY ARE YOU IN MY WAYYYY?!”.

You then begin to explain your conditions. You expect the person to pay for the repairs to your own car, and not to call the police or anything. Basically, you begin to demand to the body that they don’t interfere with your life and to pretend that nothing happened. After a while, when the body doesn’t respond you realize that the person you crashed into is actually dead and you’re actually just talking to a bloodied corpse.

Maybe the corpse is on fire and the clothes have burnt off leaving a naked body. You shake the limp body and ask for compensation for your own mistake and lack of foresight.

After a while, you become sober, and you walk home. The police never come knocking at your door. The whole car disappears overnight, the midnight bells have caused the carriage to revert to its former state. The shards of broken windshield scattered on the road the night before is no more when you drive to work the next day. It’s almost like it was a dream.

It is blatantly obvious if you drive drunk, you have an increased chance of crashing into someone and causing loss of life. If you have sex with someone without a condom, you have an increased (well, almost 100% greater) chance of having a baby.

There is a risk taken. Abortion immediately assumes that there is a positive and negative side to this coin flip. It has this idea that life is always great or unimportant according to someone who doesn’t know anything about the person they just crashed into.

The Solution.

Christians fail in this department. More often than not, they are too willing to condemn babies born outside of wedlock because it makes them feel good about a sin they are not guilty of. More often than not, there needs to be a sense of humility and service to people that are unlike us.

On the reverse, the condemnation they dish out, they create an environment that distances rather than draws sinners close. Admittedly, I am one of those who would be more likely to be standing outside abortion clinics, but you would never see me supporting the single mothers. You never see me play an important part of raising these babies not judged as interference to life. It’s so much easier to wave signs and say sermons to people for a short time, rather than invest a lifetime into seeing someone grow to value life and what a gift that God has given.

Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Don’t miss the babies for the political stance.

The Church needs to be that vehicle the gives the help and the compassion.

The Antithesis of The Centrality of War And Violence In Culture

I had to bite my tongue in class when the topic of war came up.

I find that my views on war and violence are often quite controversial. I suspect that it is because they are controversial, that people are not always willing to hear them. Furthermore, people seem to not like opinions which span more than one sentence. They like black and white views on life–I am a Democrat, I am a Calvinist, I am a Cessationalist, I am a capitalist etc. More often than not, people don’t have the patience or time to hear a full exposition of how my view of war has been formed and evolved through time to arrive at what I believe in this. With this in mind, I think with any opinion there is a time to voice them, and there is a time to be silent. I also think there are clear opinions on war, that are reflected in our society.

It is unfortunate, because I would argue that the evolution in the history of someone’s thought is immeasurably more interesting than the final opinion that one finally arrives at. John Piper in Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian talks about how his initial views on race were shaped and influenced by growing up in a conservative culture in the South. As he grew up, he began to realize and change how he saw the world in a profound manner.

The Status Quo   Read more of this post

Steve Jobs’ Death: How Not To React.

Brought to you by none other than Westboro Church:

I’m surprised they continue to breathe air, or live on this earth because everyone else does the same as them. I am convinced there should be a multitude of different things to be doing, than trying to . I become terrified when Christians turns from being the persecuted to the persecutor–it’s something that I don’t feeling Christians to be in position to be doing. Certainly in the next world we shall be judging angels, but on this earth, I think it is too easy to judge others without knowledge.

The irony is found in a tweet by Margie Phelps:

3 hours ago via “Twitter for iPhone

Shane Claiborne Post-9/11

I thought in the weeks following 9/11 this quote was especially relevant about the world we live in.

“I saw a banner hanging next to city hall in downtown Philadelphia that read, “Kill them all, and let God sort them out”.

A bumper sticker read, “God will judge evildoers, we just have to get them to him.”

I saw a T-shirts on a soldier that said, “US Air Force…we don’t die; we just go to hell to regroup.”

Others were less dramatic–red, white, and blue billboards saying,”God bless our troops.” “God bless America” became a marketing strategy. One store hung an ad in their window that said, “God bless America–one dollar burgers.” 

Patriotism was everywhere, including in our altars and church buildings. In the aftermath of September 11th, most Christian bookstores had a section with books on the event, calendars, devotionals, buttons, all decorated in the colors of America, draped in stars and stripes, and sprinkled with golden eagles.

This burst of nationlism reveals the deep longing we all have for community, a natural thrist for intimacy that liberals and progressive Christians would have done much better to acknowledge. September 11th shattered the self-sufficient, autonomous individual. and we saw a country of broken fragile people who longed for community–for people to cry with, be angry with, to suffer with. People did not want to alone in their sorrow, rage, fear.

But what happened after September 11th broke my heart. Conservative Christians rallied around the drums of war. Liberal Christians took to the streets. The cross was smothered by the flag and trampled under the feet of angry protesters. The church community was lost, so the many hungry seekers found community in the civic religion of American patriotism. People were hurting and crying out for healing, for salvation in the best sense of the word, as in the salve with which you would dress a wound. A people longing for a saviour placed their faith in the fragile hands of human logic and military strength which have always let us down. They have always fallen short of the glory of God.” [1]

[1] Page 198. Claiborne, Shane. The Irresistible Revolution. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

The Cross Is The Perfect Statement

“The cross is the perfect statement both of God’s wrath against sin and of the depth of his love and mercy in the recovery of the damaged creation and its damagers.  God’s mercy, patience, and love must be fully preached in the church.  But they are not credible unless they are presented in tension with God’s infinite power, complete and sovereign control of the universe, holiness, and righteousness.  

And where God’s righteousness is clearly presented, compassionate warnings of his holy anger against sin must be given, and warnings also of the certainty of divine judgment in endless alienation from God which will be unimaginably worse than the literal descriptions of hell.  It is no wonder that the world and the church are not awakened when our leadership is either singing a lullaby concerning these matters or presenting them in a caricature which is so grotesque that it is unbelievable.

The tension between God’s holy righteousness and his compassionate mercy cannot be legitimately resolved by remolding his character into an image of pure benevolence as the church did in the nineteenth century.  There is only one way that this contradiction can be removed: through the cross of Christ which reveals the severity of God’s anger against sin and the depth of his compassion in paying its penalty through the vicarious sacrifice of his Son. 

In systems which resolve this tension by softening the character of God, Christ and his work become an addendum, and spiritual darkness becomes complete because the true God has been abandoned for the worship of a magnified image of human tolerance.” (1)

I think at every moment there is a tendency to rush towards one or the other. The cross is love poured out; the cross is wrath poured out. Binaries fight out in our mind, and we become ingrained on one side of the expanse. We have tried to create a dialogue between the two extremes, but it is impossible. And it is impossible except through what we have known. Then, we remember that Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient for the sins of the whole world–great enough to cover the great expanse, and wash our doubts away.

Enough for my haughty heart, enough for my lifeless soul.

Great enough to cover my lack of love, and my lack of righteousness.

Is the cross meaningful if you remove the wrath of God away from it? Is the cross meaningful if you remove the love of God away from it?

(1) (Lovelace, Richard. Dynamics for Spiritual Life, 84-85) the irony is that both those buildings could readily be defined as modernist.