Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So-called Christian voter guides often reflect partisanship more than Biblical breadth and transformational intention

REDEEMING CREATION. A writing assignment began with the question: Are the things that concern God a core part of my concern? My response shapes up this way: The story of the Bible involves a cosmic recovery effort--catalyzed in the incarnation, testimony, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth--of the whole of creation. God’s care to save persons includes a care to form them together into redemptive, prophetic communities that co-labor with God’s future in focus. The "big picture" of the Bible demonstrates a God who cares to salvage literally everyone and everything--material and spiritual--sparing no expense.

PARADOX OF ONE AND ALL. I’m also impressed that there are paradoxes in the recovery mission of which we are a part. The call of shalom is as sweeping as a global movement and as intimate as peace between two people. Justice denied one is enough to bring down a whole nation. Breaking chains of oppression and releasing the oppressed is the hinge on which swings authentic personal faith. As we do it unto the least we have done it unto Jesus. The power of the witness of one may well trigger the faith of multitudes.

BEYOND PERSONAL SALVATION. From this perspective, I find lots of room for growth in my vision and practical concerns. My evangelical heritage places near total focus on personal salvation. But we will not be Biblical people or Biblical communities if we care only about helping people into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “Getting right with God” coincides with getting right with one another, getting right with our community, with our enemies, with creation, with the universe. Being “born again” brings not only spiritual rebirth, but new eyes and energy with which to refocus and reshape a fallen creation.

GOD’S “TOP TEN” CONCERNS. Both the Old and New Testaments make clear that God is primarily concerned with some things that do not make the “top ten” list of religious groups seeking to influence American politics: Poverty. Violence. War. Hunger. Absence of peace. Injustice for the innocent. Abuse of power and privilege. Life crushing debt. Wrongful imprisonment and torture. Ignoring the stranger. Blocked access to health care and healing possibilities. The list could go on (Specific Biblical references supplied upon request, or simply read the scriptural references in Bread for the World). If these are unmistakable primary concerns in the Bible, I must ask the question: why are they not primary concerns for people who say we read and live by the Bible?

READ IT FOR YOURSELF, FOR THE WORLD. It seems to me that those of us who claim to know Jesus “better” than others would do well to get to know the Bible better ourselves. As we do, more of us will discover that we are being unmistakably called to realign our personal and political priorities and passions. As we do, more of us will be called upon to recant our unholy alignments with political wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. As we get to know what concerns God most repeatedly and thoroughly throughout the multi-millennial cosmic recovery effort, more of us will be challenged to break with both the dominant culture and pseudo-evangelical subculture and to live with radical abandon the Kingdom that is within us, among us, and still yet to come.

DANGEROUS READING RESULTS. Reading the Bible for oneself has produced the most radical breaks with culture and religious subcultures in history. Augustine was radicalized as he read the Bible for himself. Francis of Assisi read it, abandoned convention, and lived joyfully in poverty. Martin Luther brought scandal upon himself and reformation for the church after he read the Bible for himself. Hand-me-down, run-of-the-mill religion is always safe…this side of heaven. But let us dare to read the Bible for ourselves, observe God’s concerns, and align our lives with God’s passion for people, for creation, and for the future...whatever the cost.

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