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Monthly Archives: June 2020

Endorsement of My Article Dealing with Racial Issues from a Student

 

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[rare summer post]

I really do think that the topic of race relations is generally not helped by the way most people concerned about the matter approach it.

As fallen human beings, we often like to think ourselves quite self-sufficient. Confident we are able to overcome the problems we have, we charge into them headlong, full of righteous conviction, and in doing so easily exacerbate the divides that we feel exist, and in some cases really do exist… between us.

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Yes, I have this problem too.

That said, I did my best to write a paper that I thought really could bridge divides, and create more light than heat. I talked about the paper, published in the journal Lutheran Mission Matters in this blog post, and you can read it here.

 

 

I recently shared this paper with a student of a mixed-racial background who read it, and here is what she said to me (this and other correspondence below shared with permission):  

Thank you so much for sharing the paper with me, I truly did enjoy it and must say that it was indeed a helpful paper. Sometimes it can be difficult to get things across to certain family members of mine as they cannot picture themselves in my shoes. They live in a small town where everyone looks like everyone so I can see why they may have such a negative mindset on certain topics but I want to change that. I would love to share this paper with them in hopes to help them understand the importance of reaching out and loving minority communities. They are very religious and me not being as religious as I used to be, they sometimes try to use the word of God against me and I struggle thinking of things to say back. This paper speaks their language and spoke to me in a way I could understand. I am so thankful for this class as it is bringing me closer to God and will hopefully bring me closer to my family and make difficult conversations with them easier.

Update: Later on, she shared this: “Thank you so much for listening to my words and voicing them. I have shared this article with a few family members and the outcome was positive. I am so thankful that this article has given me a starting point to further discuss these topics with my family.”

Now, this student lives in the area of Minneapolis that was affected by the recent George Floyd situation. Here is what this student had said to me before I shared this paper:

“I think the topic of suffering we are discussing has really described my life lately. I’d say I am mentally suffering from the many conversations I find myself having with both family members, co workers and even some friends describing the events and protests that have been happening these past weeks. Being half white and black, I have had to confront many white family members. It sucks honestly, constantly seeing them post that they do not understand the protests and the “black lives matter” movement. I have seen so many posts about people being upset about George Floyd being able to have a funeral, him being held a hero and the changes being made to the MPLS police department. To top it off, a family member today posted that real Christians would not hop onto the BLM “bandwagon”. Bandwagon? Are you kidding?

I’m hurt. I’m confused. I do not really have any place to vent. Because I am biracial, my whiteness often causes my experiences to be invalid to some people. I really hate seeing family members post things like this because I love them so much but having a son of my own now who is biracial as well, I will cut ties. I do not want him to grow up hating a part of him like I did.”

Here is how I responded:

“yyy,

It is a hard time for a lot of people right now. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t know what to say, but I feel I need to be honest too. It looks to me like George Floyd was killed unjustly and I saw all the people on the right and even “far right” (according to the media) condemn the killing as unjust. So why could people not be brought *together* through this? Instead, it seems like many used the situation for political gain (I am not talking about the peaceful protestors). I think the issue is that a lot of people who are white (my ancestors, by the way, came to America after the civil war and were German and Finnish, so immigrants) are confused about why they are being told they are white supremacists. Also, when they hear “Black lives matter,” they think “Don’t you believe I think that is true? Of course I believe that.” When they also find out that the BLM website says this:

-We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.

-We dismantle the patriarchal practice…

-We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.

– We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual.

…or at least did (I don’t know if it has been taken down now, but that *is* at least what it said)…

They are confused about why someone needs to support BLM in order to be pro-black. Or how Christians can be expected to support such an organization.

I have studied the issue quite a bit, and I wrote a paper addressing racial issues. I wonder, yyy, if you might do me the honor of reading it and sharing your honest opinion with me. I tried to write it to be helpful, to offer a constructive way forward: https://lsfm.global/uploads/files/LMM%2011-19__Rinne.pdf

yyy, if you don’t have time to read it, or time to read it and talk with me more, I get it. I don’t want to exhaust you too, and I’m sorry to hear you have had a bad couple weeks. *Thank you* for being honest and reaching out to me, even if you regret it now (I certainly hope not). Know in your heart that I look so forward to this!:

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands….

–Revelation 7″

UPDATE:

I have been watching the presentations at the 2018 MLK 50 conference from the Gospel Coalition. Most of the talks I have not found to be terribly helpful, but this short 10-minute one really stands out, I think. It certainly spoke to me.

Would that we might hear more messages like this when it comes to this fraught and terribly difficult topic:

Click on the picture

 

UPDATE 2: This is also an excellent new article dealing with related issues.

FIN

 

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Woke to the World’s or the Word’s Whispers?

 

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When I said I wouldn’t be posting here again this summer I wasn’t planning on preaching again for a while… This is a sermon text, preached today.

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“What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. – Matthew 10:27

 

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It’s good to be back with you today for what might possibly be my last time with you.

I jest – I think – but there are difficult things happening in the world we know right now, and I am going to address many of those questions…

I can’t think of another day where it has been more challenging to compose a sermon…

After all, today you are back together for the first time in a long time! In many ways, this is cause for celebration – is it not?

And yet, we also know that we come together as the world is experiencing great difficulty and pain.

We don’t want to be those who bury our heads in the sand for relief, but those who look everything in the eye, acknowledge the difficulties and challenges we face, and don’t say “peace, peace” where there is no peace…

…And nevertheless…

Come out of all of this stronger.

For when we are weak then the Lord’s strength shines forth – and we have the joy and peace that passes all understanding…

So, I am going to speak very freely about many a difficult and controversial topic today….

Just like our Scripture readings for today do! Did you hear those readings?

Man.

Let us always remember, as Jesus tells us, we live from every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

And false teaching kills souls. And not only this, but as a note in the Lutheran Study Bible puts it: “False doctrine about the relationship between God and His people inevitably undermines social stability” (1222).

Mere possession of God’s word cannot save a people. Especially when so many teachers misrepresent it. We must know this Word well!…

I know some of you will likely very much appreciate what I have to say today, others not as much. Either way, I hope that it might open up doors to speak, to learn, and to grow as God desires us to grow….

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Paul says: “…you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance….

What claims your allegiance? What is allegiance?

A definition I found: “loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause.”

When I was young, I said: “I pledge allegiance, to the flag of the United States of America…”  Many people now, many Christians are saying this is bad…. Idolatry.

It’s not…

It’s disheartening for me to see the confusion from so many Christians about questions of God’s judgment, authority, and matters of nation… who we are as Americans.

No, we can’t have complete answers to the questions people have. At the same time, we should be able to speak to them with some level of conviction….

We listen and we have something to say.

And the Bible really does help us think through all the difficult questions…

The Bible is centered on the Person of Jesus Christ, and so, when we know it well… when its content increasingly occupies our hearts and minds – not only for an hour on Sunday or even a few hours during the week – we come to be the kind of people who know what God expects of them, and whose heart becomes in line with His….

We become more like Jesus.

And, I think, it is when times are hardest, when times are darkest, that not only we – but others – are more ready for the message and transformation that God has in store for us….

When Rome was collapsing around him, the 6th century church Father Gregory the Great had some wise words:

“If someone’s house were shaken and threatened with ruin, whoever lived in it would flee. The one who loved it when it was standing would hasten to leave it as soon as possible when it was falling. Therefore, if the world is falling, and we embrace it by loving it, we are choosing rather to be overwhelmed than to live in it.[i]

The Scriptures say “God so loved the world” and yet also “Love not the world…” or, “Don’t love the world…”

What does this mean? For us today?

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First, Covid-19

What to make of this? Why must we face the threat of disease? Or why must we face any disaster or evil of men?

Throughout the Bible, the explanations of such things vary. Sometimes the disaster comes specifically because of the evil of human beings as punishment in this world.

But Job actually faced suffering not because of any sin, but because God wanted to test his faith.

The man born blind in John 9 was said to have suffered not because of his own sin or his parent’s sin, but specifically so God could be glorified through Jesus’ healing him, doing good to him.

We are told, after all, that our Lord even uses evil for good. Adam and Eve, and we following in their train, may ruin the world, but he will use even the evil we create for His glory.

In any case, whenever suffering and disaster comes, it does us well to remember how Jesus used a “current event” in his preaching in Luke 13:

“…those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

As one pastor, puts it, this means,

“You’re all sinners. You’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. And whenever some kind of pandemic sweeps through the world, you should each see this as a reminder that we live in a world of sin and corruption, that you are a part of that sin and corruption, and that you need the forgiveness of Jesus that was poured out for the world on the cross.” (Hans Fienne

And because we continue to receive the forgiveness of sins that gives us eternal life in Him, our Psalm for today will be fulfilled

“You will not fear… the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

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Now, speaking of using current events in one’s proclamation… Let’s talk about politics.

We are to support and be loyal to our leaders. To our mayors, our governors, our President.

It doesn’t matter who’s in office, and it doesn’t matter if you think that he or she is not a person who represents what “we” stand for.

If you think that, then you are to go about expressing your disagreement in the most respectful — even if uncompromising — way possible, without intending to weaken the authority and legitimacy of our elected leaders.

If you disagree, read Romans chapter 13. If you don’t like the Mayor, the Governor, the President – fair enough — aim to beat the best version of that person at the ballot box.

We used to call it being the “loyal opposition.”

You also should remember to be respectful of governing authorities when you try to do something like reform the process of law and order in our country, for example.

And it might help to keep in mind Martin Luther’s good words:

“…I do not mean to say that we should despise, reject, or do away with soldiers, fighting men…They too, when they are obedient, help with their fist to maintain peace and protect things. Every occupation has its own honor before God…”

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Another question you might be struggling with right now is this:

“Who is my neighbor?”

I mean, “yes”, it is the whole world. And Jesus, whose got the whole world in His hands, says I am even to love my enemies, right?

Right.

On the other hand, you must dig deep into the Scriptural text and learn to become more familiar with the particularities addressed there. Yes, to be more “nuanced”. Look, after all, at what the Apostle Paul says…

“… as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers….”

The Christian is to love all, but we nevertheless must also ask: how to prioritize my love, i.e. to be concrete when it comes to “doing good to all…”?

“Who are my people?” is indeed the key question.

Answer: 1. God alone 2. The future heavenly Nation, the Church 3. My family/tribe 4. My immediate neighbors in my proximity 5. My town/city 6. My country 7. The world – including anyone God throws in my path personally.

Ideally, all of these things work together. In reality, we will always have to be wrestling with this: what does “as we have opportunity” mean in this or that circumstance?

Certainly, for example, the Good Samaritan is justly commended for his compassion – as unexpected as his actions may have been….

Should we however, encourage the father and mother who take a 20-year-old migrant male into their home with their 3 teenage daughters?

So, difficult decisions – including some we may possibly come to regret – need to be made. And we should not be too quick to think we have all the answers.

When I hear that even conservative biblical commentators are saying that even our Lord Jesus Christ learned from the Canaanite woman to stop being racist towards his neighbors after calling her a dog…

I might want to think twice about what is driving a lot of Scriptural interpretation today…

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So, what about the racial conflicts in America? How does this fit in with the neighbor question?

When we say “African-Americans” how much does this hyphenation really help us? After all, aspects of the cultures they brought with them — and formed while they were slaves — have undoubtedly been woven into the fabric of this nation for its good — in a myriad of ways. Think only of many of the hymns we sing…

And yet, please note that in order to be supportive of your black Christian brothers and sisters in particular and American blacks in general, you do not need to say the following:

-We are self-reflexive and do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege and uplift Black trans folk, especially Black trans women who continue to be disproportionately impacted by trans-antagonistic violence.

-We dismantle the patriarchal practice…

-We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.

– We foster a queer‐affirming network. When we gather, we do so with the intention of freeing ourselves from the tight grip of heteronormative thinking, or rather, the belief that all in the world are heterosexual.

In other words, you do not need to support – you should not support — the organization known as “Black Lives Matter.”[ii]

And, going along with this, I hope it goes without saying that you should not support “drag queen story hour” in public libraries or “sex ed” in public schools which leaves the impression that those who are opposed to homosexual activity or believe there are only two genders are bigots. Bigots driven by, as the Supreme Court of the United States of America puts it, “an irrational animus…”

Frankly, we would all be fools to not ever wonder whether or not God is going to judge and destroy the United States of America for its sins, even as we also should love our country

Even as we should also remember our ultimate citizenship is in heaven…

That is what should ultimately drive us here…

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Next, and the most difficult, part:

And is “systemic racism” one of those sins God might be judging us for? What are we supposed to make of the claims we hear now of systemic racism or a system of white supremacy?

These words might be new to many of us. An article I recently read helped explain these concepts a bit:

“Structural, systemic, systematically — we’re hearing these words a lot at the moment. Racism isn’t individual. It is structural or systemic. So are poverty or injustice. People aren’t just oppressed or tortured; they are systematically oppressed or tortured.

This… language… comes from Marxist academia and the Black Power activism of the 1960s, and it evokes the radicalism of that time, which is generally now regarded as having been on ‘the right side’ of history. These words are also helpfully vague — nobody knows precisely what they mean — which means you can stress them without being contradicted. You can also feel righteous without quite knowing why. It’s lazy speech, in other words, which makes it stupid. Or perhaps it’s the other way round. Language, Orwell told us, becomes ‘ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.’”

While this man is right, I would also just point out that people like Karl Marx would have never had the appeal they did had they not had lots of rich material to work with, pun intended.

Even as we must indeed say “thought shalt not steal,” and “though shalt not covet,” we also should always say, simultaneously, “God hates false scales” and “the worker deserves his [fair] wages”. The author goes on to say:

“Still, if we don’t know precisely why social wrongs are ‘systemic’, we get the gist. It means there is a system, a machine, built by the powerful, which perpetuates injustice. A system that benefits the powerful and crushes the powerless. On race, therefore, we are led to believe that every aspect of society — politics, education, capitalism, even our language — is designed to enhance white supremacy….”

Now, I don’t think that the idea of something being systemic is necessarily wrong by itself: it can and does point to real things. For example, I think that in many inner-city communities, violence is systemic. I think that the idea that is OK for a single mother to take the life of her unborn infant is systemic, and consciously promoted. I think the idea that it’s not a bad thing for a couple to live together, being involved in sexual activity before marriage, is systemic. And the idea that black people were intrinsically inferior — and hence of less worth — was systemic in the civil war south and even in many areas during the Jim Crowe era.

So what systemic means is that it is the water that we swim in.

And the idea here, of course, is that many are not even aware of this: a fish is not even really aware of the water it swims in just like we take for granted the air we breathe.

We as Christians should be particularly aware that this is the case.

As Christians come to realize they are going or are to go “against the flow” they can certainly say — without moping and whining though often not without receiving that accusation! : ) — that an anti-Christian sentiment in the United States at large is increasingly systemic.

And yet, is hatred or disdain for the other on the basis of race systemic? Is the belief that some groups are intrinsically inferior and hence not worthy or “our” communities systemic? At least in this or that place?

Certainly, if this were clearly is the case, it would make sense to repent of our role in it individually and even as a community.[iii]

Now, with that said, consider also what the author I quoted above goes on to say:

“[A]ll this ‘systemic’ talk isn’t just wrong; it is dishonest. Because western society isn’t systemically racist. If anything, it is systemically woke. Our political institutions, our schools and colleges, our corporations are all geared towards destroying racism. Students in schools and universities aren’t brainwashed into thinking that racism isn’t a problem. On the contrary, almost everybody who has been educated since the 1970s has been relentlessly taught to abhor racial prejudice. Our workplaces are run along politically correct lines. Our language is policed, in case it might incite racial hatred. The machine, or what those Sixties radicals would have called ‘the Man’, is anti-racist.”

And some of course, are saying it is not anti-racist enough…

It is a lot to take in.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, be as wise as a serpent even as you are as innocent as doves.

Does it not seem, after all, that we are quite far from the idea of judging each individual by the “content of their character” here? If that thought was incomplete, just what completes it?

So, what to think – what to believe – here? Who to trust? Whose experiences to trust? Whose experiences to take as the norm for all?

What errors do we have and how should we turn from them?

Do we, perhaps feeling the world’s spirit, really need to get “woke” as they say? Maybe just “more woke”?

Or do we ultimately need to become less woke to the world and more woke to the Word?

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The Lord certainly does call us as His people to perpetually repent. It’s the first of Luther’s 95 theses, and as his friend Philip Melanchthon put it, “faith lives only in repentance”.

Notions like corporate repentance – in the church or in the nation – even make sense from a Biblical perspective.

But does it make sense to repent of things that I am not sure I am guilty of? Or sure that we are guilty of?

Perhaps when I feel pressured to do so socially or perhaps am moved by emotional stories and appeals? (perhaps without other perspectives even being allowed to be heard?)

Some sincere questions I am sure I’ll be asking in the future:

When is it wise to let past evils lie, rather than drudging them up again?

Besides turning away from God in general, what specific sins do we need to repent of?

And are we ready for the difficulties entailed in corporate repentance, especially if some want to insist on a “multi-cultural” society?

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C.S. Lewis has some real wisdom to share here. Recently a pastor by the name of Will Weedon explained why he was getting off social media on the internet

“I remember reading Lewis describing why he didn’t bother with newspapers and such: it only made him feel guilty or helpless over situations he could do absolutely nothing about, and invited him to neglect the neighbor who was right at hand.”

Indeed.

That not bothering with newspapers though did not stop C.S. Lewis from writing a letter to the editor of the British paper the Guardian about the angst that was being stirred up in England during World War 2 over the nation’s past sins and guilt — and her need for national repentance.

Here are some of the things he said which might help us think through our present circumstances[iv]:

“The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbour; for a Foreign Secretary or a Cabinet Minister is certainly a neighbour. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing but, first, of denouncing the conduct of others…

“A group of… young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins’; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet, [the Foreign Secretary or a Cabinet Minister], whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’[v]

Words to ponder. Lewis also adds:

“In art, in literature, in politics, [an educated man who is now in his twenties] has been, ever since he can remember, one of an angry and restless minority; he has drunk in almost with his mother’s milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen. All Christians know that they must forgive their enemies. But ‘my enemy’ primarily means the man whom I am really tempted to hate and traduce. If you listen to young Christian intellectuals talking, you will soon find out who their real enemy is. He seems to have two names—Colonel Blimp* and the business-man’. I suspect that the latter usually means the speaker’s father, but that is speculation. What is certain is that in asking such people to forgive the Germans and Russians and to open their eyes to the sins of England, you are asking them, not to mortify, but to indulge, their ruling passion.

… For an older patriot to repent of England’s sin, there is a price to pay because the patriot truly loves England. It is painful for him to repent; it requires mortification of the flesh to do so. But young, urban intellectuals at the height of social conversation in WWII have different cultural feelings.”

This world, for all its problems, is not wholly ignorant of its many problems….

People get that things are “not the way they are supposed to be”. People get that apologies and restitution are sometimes necessary.

And yet…

The world and its spirit will, apart from Christ, get repentance wrong….

It is a good thing we are Christians first, and Americans second…

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And… it is a good thing that God has given us His Word though to help us through it all.

For, admittedly, these things are not easy to understand. They demand so much of us![vi]

Again, the Apostle Paul says in one of our readings for today: “you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance….”

What has claimed your allegiance?

Your Lord.

Do not doubt His love. “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Do we even begin to understand the love and patience of our God?

Do we realize that even Christians – those who trust in Jesus Christ alone and would never consider giving honor and glory to another god – have sins – damnable sins! – that they are unaware of?

Sins that while equally warranting condemnation are more or less dangerous when it comes to killing men’s souls…

On the one hand, things like suspicions leading to sophisticated accusations of “systemic” kinds of evil (passed off quickly and made with little reflection… based, in the end, on no real knowledge).

…or, on the other hand, things like base passions combined with clique-ish-ness intentional and unintentional – leading to snobbery, ignorant prejudices, or worse.[vii]

His blood covers us from all our sin, and yet, the rot of our Old Adam goes deep.

O God have mercy on us again! — for our love is so often the world’s kind of love, and not Yours…

But God will reveal this to you in such a way that He will not utterly destroy you while doing it [viii], for He longs to show you mercy, be with you, treasure you…

He longs to never have to weep as He cuts His people off

Not one.

Return always! Be humbled always! Be sure always! Be saved always!

Jesus’ words “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” should terrify some, but not us!

For He is a God of patience, forgiveness, and the One Who has the power to transform!

And so… we are a people of patience.

People who listen as well as speak. People who keep loving and therefore talking. People never eager to cut anyone off…

People who are driven by love and forbearance… patient with those mired in error – perhaps what some have called “invincible ignorance”! – even as they still seem to be desperate for Jesus… to cling to Jesus!

For who are you?

Again, you are those who “have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance….”, are you not?

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Master, Commander, and King.

Amen.

 

Notes:

[i] I was sent this quote from the great Christian preacher Gregory the Great the other day by someone. Gregory lived in the sixth century while the remains of the Roman empire continued to collapse all around him.

The people appreciated him so much they begged him to take power. In fact, many historians and theologians have claimed during the years it’s how the papacy first got the power it did going into the Middle Ages, the medieval period.

Here is more of what Gregory said in his day:

….let us hear what the preachers were commanded [by Jesus] when they were sent out: “Go and preach,” saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Even if the gospel were to be silent, dearly beloved, the world now proclaims this message. Its ruins are its words. Struck by so many blows, it has fallen from its glory. It is as if the world itself reveals to us that another kingdom is near, which will succeed it.  It is abhorred by the very people who loved it.  Its own ruins preach that it should not be loved. If someone’s house were shaken and threatened with ruin, whoever lived in it would flee. The one who loved it when it was standing would hasten to leave it as soon as possible when it was falling. Therefore, if the world is falling, and we embrace it by loving it, we are choosing rather to be overwhelmed than to live in it. Nothing separates us from its ruin insofar as our love binds us by our attachment to it. It is easy now, when we see everything heading for destruction, to disengage our minds from love of the world. But then it was very difficult, because the disciples were sent to preach the unseen kingdom of heaven at the very time when everyone far and wide could see the kingdoms of earth flourishing. (Gregory the Great, Forty Gospel Homilies 4.2 on Matthew 10:7).

[ii] Who says that on their website, or at the very least said it, and has never publicly taken any of it back.

[iii] Whatever you end up ultimately determining about this article, I don’t see how it cannot stir one’s heart and mind: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabiti-anyabwile/burden-removed-biblical-path-removing-racism-forefathers/ I currently think this is the best and most persuasive example of what a healthy corporate repentance might look like.

[iv] “Young Christians especially last-year undergraduates and first-year curates are turning to it in large numbers. They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England…. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?

If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happening) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society. When we speak of England’s actions we mean the actions of the British Government. The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbour; for a Foreign Secretary or a Cabinet Minister is certainly a neighbour. And repentance presupposes condemnation. The first and fatal charm of national repentance is, therefore, the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing but, first, of denouncing the conduct of others. If it were clear to the young that this is what he is doing, no doubt he would remember the law of charity. Unfortunately the very terms in which national repentance is recommended to him conceal its true nature. By a dangerous figure of speech, he calls the Government not ‘they’ but ‘we’. And since, as penitents, we are not encouraged to be charitable to our own sins, nor to give ourselves the benefit of any doubt, a Government which is called ‘we’ is ipso facto placed beyond the sphere of charity or even of justice. You can say anything you please about it. You can indulge in the popular vice of detraction without restraint, and yet feel all the time that you are practising contrition. A group of such young penitents will say, ‘Let us repent our national sins’; what they mean is, ‘Let us attribute to our neighbour (even our Christian neighbour) in the Cabinet. whenever we disagree with him, every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.’[iv]

Words to ponder. Lewis also adds:

“In art, in literature, in politics, [an educated man who is now in his twenties] has been, ever since he can remember, one of an angry and restless minority; he has drunk in almost with his mother’s milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen. All Christians know that they must forgive their enemies. But ‘my enemy’ primarily means the man whom I am really tempted to hate and traduce. If you listen to young Christian intellectuals talking, you will soon find out who their real enemy is. He seems to have two names—Colonel Blimp* and the business-man’. I suspect that the latter usually means the speaker’s father, but that is speculation. What is certain is that in asking such people to forgive the Germans and Russians and to open their eyes to the sins of England, you are asking them, not to mortify, but to indulge, their ruling passion.

… For an older patriot to repent of England’s sin, there is a price to pay because the patriot truly loves England. It is painful for him to repent; it requires mortification of the flesh to do so. But young, urban intellectuals at the height of social conversation in WWII have different cultural feelings.”

[v] C.S. “Jack” Lewis, “Dangers of National Repentance,” The Guardian, 15 March 1940!
Cited from God in the Dock (Eerdmans: 1970) 189.

[vi] When I was in college, I knew some evangelical Christian friends who would wear a T-shirt from the company “Living Epistles” that said “Go against the flow…” (describe the image)

That appealed to me…

As a young Christian blessed to have godly men and women in my life, I knew that Jesus had called us not to conform but to be transformed… to be something more…

The world will go one way… and the follower of Jesus Christ goes in another…

Fifteen centuries ago, a pagan named Augustine heard a child’s voice saying “Tolle lege”, that is, “pick up and read,” and took it as a sign to read the Scriptures whose presence had haunted him… and He was transformed.

The Lord desires that your passion and love for Him and His Word increase….

[vii] How deep does the mercy go? How far, how pastoral, should pastors be as they consider that all believers have the “felicitous inconsistencies” in their understanding which nevertheless do not, in the end, overwhelm the truth of the Gospel they cling to by faith? For example, should one who prays the following as a Christian pastor be warned? Could we even still dare to hope that if we wait to warn him, he might nevertheless be saved?:

“O God, we thank you for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call you Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; some call you the Unmoved Mover. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God. Grant that we will follow you and become so committed to your way and your kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a brother and sisterhood, that we will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men and women will live together as brothers and sisters and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. In the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.”

[viii] You are indeed, contrary to the teachings of some “conservative” Lutheran teachers today, “a continuously existing subject”.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

One More: Dedicating This Blog Post to Matthew Cochran

Read this:

https://twitter.com/Infanttheology/status/1268517550125703169

https://twitter.com/Infanttheology/status/1268534067454259203

+++

FIN

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2020 in Uncategorized