Random Thoughts for October 26, 2010

* The problem with liberation theology (of any sort) is that it pits the oppressed against the oppressor. It calls for the liberation of person from person. All the while it ignores the Biblical teaching that all men are oppressed by sin and all need liberation from sin, regardless of skin color, culture, or economic status.

* When it comes to social justice, we must remember that the Gospel is the highest good. While we are called to help people regardless of their beliefs, all our actions should point to Christ.

* If there is no justice in the afterlife, then is God really a God of love? If your eldest son continually punches your younger son and shows no remorse, do you really show love to your younger son by giving your oldest son a new room with an Xbox 360?

* People have lost faith in the government because the government lost faith in morality. A government ruled by pragmatism and not virtue is a government that will inevitably oppress its people.

* God is not an idea, but a Being. It would be appropriate to treat Him as such.

* The Church is failing because we don’t understand the Trinity. If we were to approach the Trinity as the Trinity – and not as a means to a theological end – we would truly begin to understand Christianity and how we should live.

Jesus Loves the Tax Collectors

Think of the person you see as being a spiritual guru, someone you look to when seeking spiritual advice on Christianity. Now imagine that you’ve invite that person to your home for dinner, but instead of choosing to dine with you he or she instead chooses to dine with Bernie Madoff. In fact, the more you learn about this person, the more you learn that he or she is often around people like Bernie Madoff. You notice a repertoire boasting of CEO’s, politicians, and people who have cheated their way into riches. What do you think of that person?

The feeling you get might be akin to the feeling people had about Jesus. Even now we conveniently ignore the fact that Jesus hung around tax collectors. Of course, this term is far more palatable to us today because “tax collector” doesn’t have the same ring that it used to. To get a sense of what a “tax collector” was back then, we need look no further than Wall Street. The operators of Enron, the various companies that gouge prices, the people buying multi-million dollar yachts – those are the tax collectors.

Luke 19 seems a bit starker when read in its proper historical context. Zacchaeus was a rich man and his riches were gained by cheating people out of their money. While being a tax collector would bring in quite a bit of money to begin with, the position left him open to cheat people, and he took advantage of that.

Imagine Jesus sitting at the table with the head of a union, with the CEO of a company that just laid off 300 people, but the CEO never took a pay cut, or with two men involved in price gouging. Not only that, but He chose to go have dinner with them than to go have dinner with you.

It is important to remember that Christ reached out to the tax collectors as well as the prostitutes and the poor. For one, this eradicates both liberation theology and liberation theology light; the idea that Christ came to earth for the fiscally oppressed must face up to the facts that Jesus befriended tax collectors, who were the furthest thing from fiscally oppressed. They were spiritually oppressed, but it was by the Pharisees who believed that tax collectors were unspiritual due to the methods in which they gained their money (think of that next time you label someone a Pharisee).

The other reason it’s important to remember Jesus’ ministry to the tax collectors is so that we understand that everyone needs Christ. All are worthy of our service (though in different ways) and our love. It doesn’t matter if it is the poorest beggar on the streets of Calcutta or the richest man in the United States – both are oppressed by sin and both need the liberator of Jesus Christ.

What we should also take away from Luke 19 is that after meeting Christ, Zacchaeus is changed. He offers to give some of his riches to the poor and to pay back all of his income that he has made through cheating people. This is another important thing to remember; all are welcome at the foot of the cross, but Christ doesn’t leave us there. Christ will change us. We come to Christ in whatever condition we are in, but He will move us and cause us to change. The prostitute ceases to be the prostitute, the tax collector ceases to be the tax collector, the liar ceases to lie, and the list goes on. When sinners encounter the real person of Jesus Christ they come to repentance.

Next time you feel you need to judge the rich for being rich, or quote [out of context] the passage saying it’s difficult for a rich man to enter Heaven, keep in mind that just as Jesus showed love to the prostitutes, He also showed love to the tax collectors. He showed love to the Donald Trumps and the Bernie Madoffs of His time. Just as He showed love to the rich, so too should we.


Conservative Liberation Theology

Glenn Beck has hounded President Obama for attending a church that takes to heart the principles of Black Liberation Theology. In fact, Beck has taken it further warning his audience to be weary of any preacher who calls for social justice, because they might buy into some type of liberation theology.

Concerning the perils of liberation theology, Beck does have a point; all types attempt to supplant the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with one of the auxiliary issues of the Gospel, generally justice for the oppressed or justice for the poor. While these are areas impacted by the Gospel, liberation theologians tend to place these issues at the center of the Gospel. Thus, Christ died to bring economic parity, or Christ died to end a patriarchal system that oppresses women, or Christ died to free the oppressed. All of these systems then seek to bring about this new type of salvation through revolution or through the government. For the already oppressed in a corrupt nation, they use revolution to bring about the fall of the current government and to uplift a new government that falls in line with this new Gospel. For those in truly democratic nations, they tend to vote for the party that begets the most social change and actively support those parties.

Of course, under liberation theology, there is hardly equality among the ‘sinners.’ In black liberation theology, white people are at a disadvantage when it comes to salvation. In typical liberal theology, the rich are at a disadvantage when it comes to salvation. In all liberation theology, the typical structure is that one group of people is kept down by another group of people, and Jesus came to save the oppressed group of people and to overthrow the oppressors. Such movements are typically liberal.

But since the mid-80’s, conservative Christians have unwittingly bought into a type of liberation theology without realizing it. The Religious Right adopted the Republican Party and began to preach what I would call Conservative Liberation Theology (CLT). Glenn Beck, in all his lambasting against liberation theology, is simply the newest proponent of CLT. The conservative view tends to be less nuanced and holds to more traditional theology than the liberal view, but it is liberation theology nonetheless. Continue reading

The Gospel of Jesus Christ vs the Gospel of Brian McLaren

Recently, I did a post covering the absurdity of labeling ideas “post” when the idea isn’t really “post” anything. Conveniently enough, today I came across a post by Brian McLaren talking about ‘postcolonial theology.’ True to form, just because he labels theology postcolonial doesn’t mean he’s moved past the colonial idea of conquering and subduing what is viewed as inferior or as a blockade to change, rather, he’s simply change the target of colonialism. Sadly, it’s still a racist theology, but the target of the racism has changed.

McLaren’s antipathy towards orthodox Christianity is summarized when he states,

By distinguishing some theology with a modifier – feminist, black, Latin American, eco-, post-colonial, or indigenous, we are playing into the idea that these theologies are special, different – boutique theologies if you will.

Meanwhile, unmodified theology – theology without adjectives – thus retains its privileged position as normative. Unmodified theology is accepted as Christian theology, or orthodox theology, or important, normal, basic, real, historic theology.

But what if we tried to subvert this deception? What if we started calling standard, unmodified theology chauvinist theology, or white theology, or consumerist or colonial or Greco-Roman theology?

The covert assumption behind the modifier post-colonial thus becomes overt, although it is generally more obliquely and politely stated than this:
Standard, normative, historic, so-called orthodox Christian theology has been a theology of empire, a theology of colonialism, a theology that powerful people used as a tool to achieve and defend land theft, exploitation, domination, superiority, and privilege.

If that doesn’t sound disturbing, I’m not writing well or you’re not reading well.

To any casual student of Church history, this is a highly faulty description of orthodox theology and simply shows the nefarious intentions of Brian McLaren and other emergents in subverting the true Gospel of Christ. Notice how Brian makes a blatantly racist statement; he shows he’s comfortable with black theology, latin theology, feminist theology, et al. But normal theology – the theology he thinks is bad – he labels as “white” theology. In other words, “white” is bad and if you’re white, you have a hell of a lot of conforming to do in order to please God, whereas non-whites are already there since whites have persecuted and colonized non-whites. Continue reading