Should the Church of England remove its images of Jesus?

History is littered with iconoclasts, from the Babylonians to the Romans, from Henry VIII to the Puritans, from ISIS and now to Justin Welby. 

It wasn’t so many years ago that Christians faced ridicule for decrying art and film that depicted Jesus Christ in mocking ways. Netflix’s, ‘The First Temptation of Christ’ came out only one year ago. I was only a kid at the time, but Melbournians still remember the controversial ‘Piss Christ’ that hung in the National Gallery of Victoria.

Christians were scorned for their protests and narrow-minded bigotry toward popular expressions of human thought and creativity. Expressions of Jesus and of God are more than permissible, they are lauded no matter how grotesque and inaccurate they are.

How quickly the culture turns.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has just announced that the Church of England will reconsider hundreds of statues and portraits that portray Jesus Christ, Mary, and other Biblical figures. The reason for this break with centuries of tradition?  They are too white. The Archbishop’s statement is a direct response to the Black Lives Matter Movement that is sweeping around the world. Statues around the world are toppling faster than in a game of 10 pin bowling.

To be clear, racism is real and there are legitimate concerns relating to how people of different ethnicities are treated. In Australia, racism is not as widespread as some would have us believe and it is more commonplace than many others appreciate. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read Shai Linne’s story that was recently published by The Gospel Coalition. There is also an important conversation to be had in Australia about our ignorance of indigenous history.

I think there is a valid argument for removing statues of people who were involved in the slave trade or were slave owners. It’s also important to note here in Australia, while there are voices calling for monuments to go and for names to change, some indigenous leaders are arguing that these concrete and marble edifices should remain.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has spoken against the removal of statues,

“I don’t believe removing statues contributes positively to this conversation”.

“These statues should remain as a reminder of a point in time in our lives – even when detrimental. They serve as prompts to encourage people to talk about history.”

“As Indigenous Australians we have sought to have the true history of this nation told so that it reflects both Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives and history.”

While some of the targeted statues represent person directly involved in slavery, other historical monuments been vandalised have either distant connections with slavery and at times, none. 

In America, General Ulysses Grant may have led the Union army to victory over the Confederacy but that’s not enough for saving from the spray paint, rope, and hammer. Rioters even defaced a statue of Matthias Baldwin, a figure involved in the abolitionist movement!

In the United Kingdom, the famed statue of Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn was last week defaced, despite the fact that he lived 400 years before the infamous slave trade.

The University of Liverpool is now considering renaming Gladstone Hall, not because the former Prime Minister was involved in slavery but because his father owned slaves.

It’s not only public edifices that are facing demise; the prophetic title, ’Gone with the Wind’ has come to pass, shows on Netflix are being removed, the children’s cartoon, ’Paw Control’ is in trouble for depicting police through the positive prism of a friendly dog. Another Australian beer (‘Colonial’), has found itself being removed from bottle shops. And perhaps with a note of irony, one of the world’s most progress leaning newspapers, ‘The Guardian’, is also facing the shredding machine because of its connections with slavery in the 19th Century. The Guardian’s founder, John Edward Taylor, was a slave owner and during the American Civil War, the paper opposed Abraham Lincoln and the Union.

History, including our Australian history, is a complex mix of the good and the evil, the noble and the ignominious. Past generations were either blind to or supportive of sins in their day, as will future generations look upon us with horror at some of the practices we have embraced. Understanding history requires humility, not hubris. Appreciating the pain experienced by people in our communities requires patient listening and wise reflection.

Others are making the point, rather than destroying history, is it not better to relocate genuinely offensive sculptures to a more appropriate setting, perhaps a Museum?

What about Churches? Many a Puritan in heaven is probably saying right now, “well, we did tell you”.

Many church artefacts have historical significance, and some have artistic and cultural importance. I may be an iconoclast, but I’m not a Philistine! Even Baptists can appreciate art and history. I love visiting Westminster Abbey and soaking up history and listening to exquisite music. Unfortunately, it’s not good theology that has finally caught up with the Church of England but woke culture that is forcing the arm of this now largely derelict institution. What a sad indictment on a church who ignored centuries of preachers and pastors calling for reforms. I’m not saying that we should ignore cultural shifts when they come knocking, but churches should not succumb to mob rule. This is what has led to today’s confrontation on the doorstep of Canterbury.

It’s not all bad. Indeed, there is merit in reevaluating the presence and prominence of many church figurines and works of art. After all, Christianity is a religion of the word. We worship a God who cannot be seen, not a God who is represented by the artist’s brushstroke or chisel.

If there is to be repentance about Christian iconography, it should be less about a particular cultural expression of Jesus Christ, and more about the fact that our religious forebears thought it a great idea to depict Jesus at all.

As the Church of England evaluates the objects and art that adorns her beautiful buildings, I hope they realise that this won’t be an easy fix. Justin Welby is mistaken if he believes that removing a few statues of an Anglo- Saxon Jesus will appease the broader narrative that is taking hold of the West. Cultural vigilantes either don’t know how far to go or they are fully cognizant of their intentions, which in some cases seems to be the dismantling of western culture. Addressing racism is, as far as Christians are concerned, a Gospel issue. Agitating for the complete destruction of our history and of Western values is quite another story.

I can foresee the situation where there will be very little left in Westminster Abbey and many an English Cathedral. Once all the sinners will have their names scratched out and their memorials removed, what will the glorious buildings have to offer?

Western civilisation has always been a faulty tower; it is, after all, built by sinful human hands and imaginations. At the same time, there is much good to be found and these are goods that have come about because of Christianity. The imago dei and therefore equality of all people, secularism and religious freedom, the scientific revolution, the music of J.S. Bach and Mendelssohn, the art of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, hospitals, universities and orphanages, are all flowers born out the Christian worldview. This is certainly a vast improvement on the alternatives that are built without reference to Christianity (cf. North Korea, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia).

However, we never conflate the Kingdom of God with the West, that is a tragic mistake which needs to be repented of in parts of even Australian Church thinking.  Part of the dynamism of the Church is her ability to make a home across cultures. Language is no barrier. National borders are not an inhibitor. The Church is not the Church of Germany or England, Africa or Asia; it is the Church belonging to Jesus Christ. 

So what are we to make of Anglo-Saxon versions of Jesus Christ? It shouldn’t need saying but just in case, Jesus wasn’t Scandinavian. He wasn’t an Englishman or an Italian. Neither is Jesus American or Australian. Jesus was Jewish, as was Mary and the first disciples. If anything Jesus was more brown than white, and he had dark hair and he was circumcised. This Narazene, however, came into the world for his own people and for the nations.  This Jesus born in Bethlehem, who is the eternal God, is the Lord over the nations.

“Great and marvelous are your deeds,

    Lord God Almighty.

Just and true are your ways,

    King of the nations.

Who will not fear you, Lord,

    and bring glory to your name?

For you alone are holy.

All nations will come

    and worship before you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15)

This King of the nations theme is first indicated in the covenantal promises to Abraham. Further details are revealed as the Old Testament progresses. With the birth of Jesus Christ, the Kingly theme finds fulfilment: He is the Saviour of the world. He is the one whose Gospel goes to the nations. It is his Gospel that has Divine power to save both Jew and Gentile.

The real and living Jesus, as opposed to the artist’s imagination, was born of a particular ethnicity and he transcends ethnicity. In this sense, there can be an argument for representing Jesus as white, or as brown or black or yellow. He is the Jewish Messiah who will bring healing to the nations. As the Apostle Paul explains in his letter to the Colossians,  In Christ,

“there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11)

Here lies the good news message that brings death to racism. On this, I do believe Justin Welby and myself are in agreement.

It is not Western civilisation that will ultimately win, no more than it will be Persian, Chinese, Ethiopian, or Greek. Jesus both supersedes culture and he will transform culture. Indeed, despite being profoundly indebted to this Christian message, Anglo-Saxon societies are gradually moving away toward atheistic secularism and even toward old fashion paganism and panentheism. It is across Africa and China, in Brazil and Iran that Christianity is growing at tremendous rates. In this single message of forgiveness and love, people of all colours are finding home and hope.

My advice is, let’s give up trying to make Jesus’ out of concrete, stone, and paint. Let objects of historical or artistic value be taken to a museum. A Church is no place for icons, lest of course Westminster and Canterbury qualify as museums rather than places for Christian worship. Instead, let’s speak the message of Christ in the languages of the world that everyone might hear of the true King who reconciles sinners, dismantles racism, and creates unending peace.

Here’s a vision worth preaching,

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2)

No, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christian

Jehovah’s Witnesses have come into the media spotlight once again due to their reluctance to sign up to the National Redress Scheme.

The Scheme was introduced as a result of the findings from the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse.  The Royal Commission uncovered many hundreds of cases of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the organisation’s complicity in covering up these cases. With the announcement of the National Redress Scheme, there was wide recognition among Christian Churches of its importance, and most denominations signed up quickly. According to last night’s report on Channel 10s The Project, the Jehovah’s Witnesses “will not join the scheme”.

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In the Federal Parliament,  Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said of institutions that are not joining the scheme is that they are “doubling down on the crimes and doubling down on the hurt”.

First of all, it is quite staggering to hear that a religious institution is refusing to join the scheme. I hope this changes before the cut off date of June 30th.

Second, I made the mistake of sending a tweet.  Twitter is designed for tweets and for twits, and I was one last night.

The Project repeatedly referred to Jehovah’s Witnesses as a Church. The word association is unhelpful and confusing because Jehovah’s Witnesses are not a Christian Church. They are a religious group but not a Christian Church, and the distinction matters.

I said, “BTW Jehovah’s Witnesses are not a church. They have nothing to do with Christianity & neither do they describe their communities as a church”.

What I said is accurate. Jehovah’s Witnesses call their communities ‘Kingdom Halls’ not Churches. It’s also true that they have nothing to do with Christianity. Responses came flooding in, correcting my ignorance of Christianity, with people declaring Jehovah’s Witnesses as Christian and as a church. 

Some people insisted upon the Christian credentials of Jehovah’s Witnesses, simply on the grounds that some Jehovah’s Witnesses now call themselves Christian. One person linked to a piece on the BBC as definitive proof that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian Church. Do people even stop to think and realise that the BBC is a media outlet, not an academic institution let alone a school of theology? If I’m wanting medical advice I visit my GP, I don’t ask the BBC. If I’m wanting an expert opinion on Constitutional Law, I don’t google a television station, nor do I treat a quick Wikipedia search as Gospel truth.

As it happens, I am a Pastor of a Christian Church who holds a degree in theology and who writes regularly on theological matters. None of this necessarily makes me an expert (and I’m not an expert in cults), however, I have a fair understanding of what beliefs accord with Christianity and those which do not.

We are living in strange times when a basic point can be demonstrably proven, and yet washed over as an irrelevance. One person suggested that it doesn’t matter if Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in the Trinity, they still qualify as Christian. That’s like saying you can be a vegan and enjoy eating steak every night. Another person admitted that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t seem to have a high view of Jesus, but because they believe in ‘God’ they still count as Christian. Perhaps the word Christian is a little confusing! Based on this flimsy argument Muslims and Hindus are also Christian!

Twitter has become its very own version of the famed Monty Python Sketch, The Argument Clinic.

Both historically and theologically, Jehovah’s Witnesses is rightly considered a separate religion, which at most is an aberrant form of Christianity. Theologically, they belong to the category referred to in the Bible as ‘false teaching’. Why? Because they reject almost every core belief of the Bible regarding the person of God, the person of Jesus Christ, the resurrection, and the means by which people can be redeemed.

Christianity can be traced back to the person and work of Jesus Christ, some 2,000 years ago. The Bible details, as does Jesus himself, that Christianity is the fulfilment of God’s ancient promises that were written about in the Old Testament. In this way, Christianity is directly linked to Judaism. Christian Churches today base their teachings on these Scriptures and they worship this Jesus as God.

In contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses came into existence in the late 19th Century, in the Pennsylvanian town of Allegheny. Their founder, Charles Taze Russell, began as a Seventh Day Adventist but he came to disagree with how Adventists were predicting the Second Coming of Christ. He claimed that Jesus had already returned in 1874 and would consummate his reign in 1914. From there, groups formed across America, and eventually internationally. There is something like 70,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia today. The Jehovah’s Witnesses is an American made religion. Their origins are not even directly connected with a Christian Church, but they jumped off from another American sect/cult.

To my knowledge, no Christian denomination, historically or present, has ever accepted Jehovah’s Witnesses as a legitimate and authentic Christian Church or denomination. Rather, they are rightly defined as a separate religion, if not a cult. In fact, until very recent, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been referred to as a cult, given the stern control the religion’s leaders have on their followers. This authoritarian and bullish control over people is well documented and this point was also noted last night’s segment on The Project.

Jehovah’s Witnesses adhere to almost no basic and essential Christian belief. In almost every area of Christian belief and thought, their views openly contradict the Bible and well established and historic Christian teaching. Their beliefs can no more be aligned with Christianity than calling an egg a type of fruit or, believing cows milk comes from the artichoke.

It’s not as though Jehovah’s Witnesses beliefs are locked away in some hidden vault and can’t be accessed for reading. It only requires a short visit to their own websites to discover how open Jehovah’s Witnesses are about rejecting basic Christian beliefs. In fact, I conclude that the only reason they ever use the term ‘Christian’ is in order to fool the public into thinking they are somehow a legitimate religion and not a cult. It’s like a Collingwood supporter trying to invite themselves into the Carlton coaching box, while wearing a Collingwood jumper, carrying their Collingwood membership card, and singing “Good Old Collingwood Forever”, as a duet with Eddy Maguire (apologies to Collingwood and Carlton fans alike)!

 

9 Beliefs that are inconsistent with Christianity

Here are 9 facts about Jehovah’s Witnesses that make this religion irreconcilable with Christianity:

1. The Bible used by Jehovah’s Witnesses (‘The New World’ translation) is a corrupted version that changes words and meaning of the Bible to fit with their beliefs. A classic example of this deliberate manipulation of the texts is John 1:1. The New World states that “the word was a god”. The actual text says, ‘the word was God”. The insertion of the indefinite particle completely changes the meaning of the verse, and indeed it changes the identity of Jesus (which is, of course, the intent).

To my knowledge, no reputable Bible scholar in the world accepts the ‘The New World’ translation as a legitimate and faithful rendering of the Bible.

2. They reject the Christian teaching that Jesus Christ is eternally God. Instead, they believe that Jesus is a created being and prior to being on earth Jesus was the archangel, Michael. Jesus is a lesser God to Jehovah, whereas the Bible teaches that Jesus is equally and fully God, as is God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

3. They reject the Trinity, that there is one God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  

4. They reject the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Instead, they claim Jesus returned to his pre-existent spiritual state.

5. They don’t believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. Rather the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force working for Jehovah.

6. Salvation is by good works, not by grace, and you can lose your salvation. Salvation is based upon adherence to religious practice, especially missionary success.

7. They don’t believe that hell is final and eternal. Rather everyone who goes there will come back and hell will be made redundant. Some people, though, are so evil that even hell is too good a place. They end up in a place called Gehenna (which they believe is different to hell).

8. They believe that God’s Kingdom came to earth in 1914 and the Battle of Armageddon has been predicted numerous times…although each date was predictably wrong!

9. Only 144,000 people will be saved (based on a misinterpretation of Revelation ch.7). This has caused consternation for the several million members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world today. To accommodate the overflow of members, while only 144,000 members will be welcomed into heaven, others can now be sent back to earth for what’s being coined, a b-grade eternal reward!

A Challenge for Churches

What struck me last night is the ease in which people are prepared to call an organisation by a certain name, on the basis that they have heard someone else use that word in association with the group. In one sense this shouldn’t surprise because, in today’s Western Culture, self-identification has become the only plumb line for truth. If I identify as such, I am, and no one has the right to question the validity of my self-expression. If I say that I’m a Christian, I am regardless of what I believe or how I live. Such blind acceptance is notably ridiculous, and it’s also dangerous.

What about facts and reasons and looking at evidence? Part of the issue is that the average Aussie doesn’t know what Christians believe and so they are ill equipped to assess what beliefs are and are not Christian. This poses an enormous problem. The general population may hold certain assumptions about Christianity which are often completely disconnected from Christianity, or at best, are vaguely true. It shouldn’t surprise us therefore that we have such frail and diluted understandings of the faith.

This means Christian Churches have a responsibility and opportunity to be clear about what we believe and to provide useful teaching in the public square to aid our neighbours in coming to grips with these good and life changing truths. Instead of preferencing vague and sloppy theology in the name of connecting with people, we ought to be catechising our churches and referencing clarity and conviction in our presentations to the broad community.

What is Mentone Baptist Church doing to combat this community fuzziness toward Christianity? Apart from this blog which aims to present a Christian view of the world, we have almost finished writing a new course exploring the big questions of Christianity. It’s called ‘Making Sense of Christianity’. Anyone interested in joining the 4 week study can register by emailing pastor@mentonebaptist.com.au.

My initial frustration last night has turned to sadness.  It is insane that a religious institution is prepared to double down on the pain of victims to child sexual abuse, and it is terribly sad to once again hear that knowledge of Christianity is so nebulous in our society, that we can’t distinguish basic and logical truth from error.  Christian Churches have a lot of work to do. Are we ready for the task?

Making Sense of Christianity

A new course exploring Christianity is coming to Melbourne.

‘Making Sense of Christianity’ is written by a Melbournian and for Melbournians. In each episode, Murray explores some of the big questions of life:

1. God and the universe

2. Humanity, Sin, and death

3. Jesus Christ

4. Christians and the Church

For further details and to register, please email pastor@mentonebaptist.com.au

 

The Search for Christian Authenticity

I first came across Gregorian Chants when I was 18 years of age. I was studying first year music at university. Straight away I became entranced by the sounds of these monastic choirs. I similarly appreciate the Cantatas of J.S Bach. Although composed 300 years ago, these are beautiful sonnets to God. It is one thing to listen to the Cantatas on my Spotify playlist, but it is quite another experience to sit in a cathedral and hear a choir and orchestra sing in front of you.

At the same time, I wouldn’t want my local church using these musical forms during our Sunday services, for a variety of both theological and pragmatic reasons. For starters, we don’t speak or understand either Latin or German; if we can’t understand the words we shouldn’t sing them.

 

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Photo by Shvets Anna on Pexels.com

The ABC has published a revealing article this weekend, noting a surge of young adults turning away from contemporary churches and toward more traditional church.

“Gregorian chants, renaissance choral music and incense wafting from a metallic censer.

In an era when Kanye West runs gospel-inspired services, and megachurches, like Hillsong, release chart-topping hits, these ancient Christian traditions are, unexpectedly, having a moment.

And they’re not just resonating with older generations, either.

Younger people are flocking to late-night Latin Mass — at least they were pre-COVID — and embracing Christian orthodoxy in online spaces.

So says Tara Isabella Burton, America-based author of the forthcoming book Strange Rites and a member of the self-proclaimed “Weird Christian” movement.

The allure of Weird Christianity goes beyond an espousal of the Bible. Burton says the otherworldly nature of religious rituals are also appealing to the young and disillusioned.

“There’s a sense of enchantment that often comes with the pageantry,” says Burton, who attends St Ignatius of Antioch in New York City, part of the Episcopalian or Anglo-Catholic tradition.

“It’s that sense that this is a sacred place and not just another thing you do in your week, the same way you might go to a SoulCycle class or you might go out to dinner with friends.”

I have witnessed first hand a few young adults who are thinking this way. They believe older equals authentic, and tradition indicates genuine Christianity. The logic is,  if we can work our way back to the past we somehow become more like the early churches and therefore we are having a genuine Christian experience. The way to be really close to God is to embrace the old. This phenomenon isn’t only about embracing the old, it is about turning off the new. There are millennials seeing through popular Christianity with its accommodation of mainstream culture and its compromise on Christian teachings that don’t suit a consumer audience. 

There is something astute about this revelation. The historian Tom Holland, who isn’t a Christian, has made a similar observation although about English Bishops,

“I see no point in bishops or preachers or Christian evangelists just recycling the kind of stuff you can get from any kind of soft left liberal because everyone is giving that…if they’ve got views on original sin I would be very interested to hear that”.

Like giving Coke away to kids, the caffeine and sugar in some of the trending churches is addictive, but it leaves you hungry and needing to pay a visit to the Dentist. It’s one thing to recognise a weakness in one presentation of church, but jumping from one unhelpful extreme to another is not the answer.

It is a truism that churches focusing on contemporary production can be theologically shallow and even spiritually misleading. At the same time, many traditional churches give similar attention to production quality and can also be doctrinally unorthodox.

Reverend Dries, of Christ Church St Laurence in Sydney, advocates for an ‘older’ style of church. He highlights (perhaps unwittingly) a crucial flaw in what these young people are wanting in a church.

“It’s not theatre, but there’s certainly an element of drama,” he says, pointing to the candles, incense and elaborate liturgical wear that feature in services.

“We sing music here that goes back to the Middle Ages — Gregorian chants — and renaissance choral music, so we rely on young people, who are very involved in those things.”

Reverend Dries believes that Anglo-Catholicism has an “element of mystery about it” that can be missing from everyday life or other religious practices.

“Some of our young people come from a more evangelical tradition, which is sort of word-based and very long sermons or improvised prayers,” he explains.

“I think for some people … there sometimes comes a point where they can’t deal with words anymore, and there’s this genuine desire to enter into silence, mystery, music and ritual.”

One of the issues here is that Christianity is a word based religion. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Jesus reveals God. The written word of God reveals God. God is not found in the silence but in his word. The Bible itself calls on churches to make the ministry of the word central to its life.

devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” ( 1 Timothy 4:13)

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

Also, the separation of music from word ministry is a false dichotomy. According to the New Testament, music is a part of the ministry of the word, not separate from it. If you believe a certain musical style connects you to God in a more authentic experience, and the preaching of the word does not, then it’s not Christianity you are holding onto but a form of neo-gnosticism.

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” (Colossians 3:16)

As I read the piece on the ABC and have spoken with several young people wrestling with these issues, the question is, are we looking for a religious experience or are we worshipping God? Are we determining the efficacy of the experience by what appeals to our senses or by what God has spoken in his word?

Of course, no single style of church fits all, but a 19th or 13th century version of doing church is no more Christian than is the church who adopts the latest pop genres. This may sound strange to some readers who belong to evangelical churches but the point needs stating: You can be a truly orthodox Christian without being a member of the orthodox church. You can be a truly catholic Christian without joining Rome. In fact, believing older is closer to the original is a dangerous misnomer. Assuming that tradition equates to a more full version of Christianity can lean toward gnosticism and to a disconnecting from the head (Col 2:19).

And if one is to join one of these historical denominations, which version of older is more authentic? Do we choose Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox or Ethiopian Orthodox or Roman Catholic? And among each of these options which type of orthodox or Catholicism will we choose, for there are many and varied branches belonging to each of these tribes?

For hundreds of years churches never sang Gregorian Chants,  the clergy didn’t wear vestments and there were no high altars or gothic structures. Incense and candles were used in Old Testament cultic services but they didn’t feature in the earliest churches, and there is certainly no instruction for their use in the New Testament. What these millennials assume is authentic church is, in fact, a product of the slow development of medieval Christianity.

I am encouraged to hear that there are many young adults recognising a superficiality in some contemporary expressions of Christian Church. They are right to resist the consumer menu that is found in these places that worship ‘trend’. It is, however, a mistake to conclude that older is necessarily better.

There is one exception to this, the old which is The Tradition, the Scriptures.

  • Is the Bible read, taught faithfully, and believed among the Church? Is the whole counsel of God explained?
  • Is prayer to God the Father a regular part of church life?
  • Is the focus on Jesus Christ and glorifying God, or is the attention given to me?
  • Is the object of spiritual experience faith in Christ or does it depend on some extra biblical human tradition, whether that tradition is brand new or a 1000 years old?
  • Are the ordinances (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) faithfully administered?
  • Does the Church practice believers’ membership and are the members growing in unity, maturity, and love?
  • Are visitors, Christian and unbeliever alike, welcomed and befriended, and encouraged to know the Gospel?

Looking for an authentic experience of God is a worthwhile pursuit. Indeed, is it not the highest and most rewarding of goals? This is however only successful when we encounter the Christ of Scripture, who is the living, reigning, saving, and judging, God over all things.

At Mentone Baptist, we are currently preaching through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. The central idea in this letter is sufficiency and supremacy of Jesus Christ. Paul is at pains to remind the Church that they have believed the real Gospel, but now they need to remain in this Gospel. Why? Paul notes that there are always other ideas and practices that become attractive and popular, but they are not necessarily of God.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:6-8)

I am not arguing that all older styled churches adhere to such ‘human traditions’ any more than I’m suggesting all contemporary churches are somehow more faithful. The answer is of course, both and neither! However, Paul’s appeal is incredibly important. We ought to assess what is taught and what is practised according to the measure God has given us, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Too often, when I’ve heard someone say that they want to become Orthodox or Catholic, it’s because they are convinced that those traditions somehow lead to a more full or experientially complete encounter with God. Such think not only insults the people of God who constitute the local church that you’re leaving, but it is also an assault on Christ who is the head of the church. Again, I’m not arguing against all tradition here, but I am repudiating the idea that older means closer proximity to God and to being a real church.

The principles of church that I’ve listed above will find free expression in various cultures and times, and that is part of the curious success of Christianity. This faith can be known and experienced across time and places. There is no single style of church, both the cathedral and the home church can be equal and real expressions of the body of Christ. The megachurch and the small community church can likewise be equal representations of Christ’s church.

My encouragement to churches is, be biblical and keep things simple. We can learn from history without replicating it in the present. We can discard old fashions and do meaningful church while avoiding the unhealthy proclivity toward individual consumerism. One of the wonderful things about Christianity is its cultural adaptability. The one Gospel can be faithfully transmitted across cultures and time. While the Bible is clear about what constitutes a church and while the Bible prescribes which elements are necessary for church, the in-practice reality of these things is not dependent upon a single expression.

I don’t want my church looking like either Hillsong or the Catholic Cathedral. We are not required to reject the past in order to reach the future, and neither am I bound to take on and use every latest whim that captures our culture’s attention. If the church is constantly reaching into God’s word and letting the rule Christ govern us, we will continue in being faithful, knowing the fulness of God, and communicating the Gospel in ways that are understandable and attractive to the community around.

“For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily  in Christ, 10 and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

JK Rowling, Cancel Culture, and the Gradual Demise of the West

Real life dementors are swooping around JK Rowling and they’re coming for you too.

JK Rowling has found herself caught up in cancel culture. Both JK Rowling and Harry Potter are currently trending on Twitter. There are 100,000s comments and memes expressing outrage. Indeed many of these tweets are themselves outrageous and even abusive. 

What did JK Rowling say to invoke such anger? She dared challenge the culture’s narrative.

“If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”

Let’s be clear, JK Rowling hasn’t said anything controversial. She has simply noted an established fact: a scientific, biological, and sociological fact. Indeed, sex is one of the few self evident truths that has been universally accepted in all human history and across cultures, that is, until the last few years. In today’s Western world, to affirm that women are women and that men are men is to speak heresy. To suggest sex is real is paramount to signing your own incarceration to Azkaban.

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Our societies have been occupied by other important issues of late, especially the COVID-19 pandemic and now racism. The response to JK Rowling is a reminder however that even a pandemic and racism don’t diminish the fervour of those following the latest chapter in the sexual revolution. Again note, we are talking about half a million comments stemming from a simple statement affirming that women are women. This shows us how nothing is to excuse, distract, or dilute, full and unquestioned adherence to the sexual milieu.

While our attention has been necessarily elsewhere, the Victorian Government is still planning to introduce legislation this year that may well prohibit classical Christian teaching on sex and gender. Also, over the past few days, The Australian has published two important articles exposing the wrongful conflation of autism with gender dysphoria. Girls with autism are being misdiagnosed with gender dysphoria and are undergoing treatment to change their gender.

“Professor Attwood, a psychologist based in Brisbane and author of the guide known globally as the “Asperger’s bible”, said unhurried and thoughtful gender change could be a success but he worried about a crash back into depression if trans status was embraced with impulsive and unrealistic hopes of a fix for autism“Once they’ve changed gender, they still have autism and when (gender) transition doesn’t solve their problems they think, Oh no, that was the only option I had, what’s the point of life?,” he told The Australian.

“One of the characteristics of autism is what we call a one-track mind, and sometimes the issue of gender dysphoria (discomfort with one’s body) and changing gender becomes a special interest with a phenomenal knowledge and determination.”

Not even medicine is immune to popular social theory. Our culture’s inability to affirm basic scientific and social truth exposes a growing distrust of authority and a preference to determine moral goodness by personal inclinations. This has the negative effect of harming children and creating greater social disharmony.

As today’s example with JK Rowling demonstrates, hardline secularists preach a message of tolerance that is soaked in hateful speech. They call for justice and acceptance while demeaning everyone around them and demanding their silence. Secularist sermons are as religious as the most ardent fundamentalist. They are as confident as the Titanic sailing from the shores of England and will prove to be as successful.  Except, in this case, the new moral arbiters are not waiting for the iceberg to hit, they are already busy throwing overboard anyone and everyone who questions the decided course, which is to hit the iceberg. That is the agenda. We are not witnessing the rebirth of Western culture as much as we are signalling its gradual demolition.

The project of relativising truth was all along about breaking down society in order to introduce a new and authoritarian truth. This new order exists without reason and grace and it insists on our total allegiance. Gender theory serves as the flagship for the new orthodoxy. The fact that this theory keeps bending and changing every few months is ignored by the most vocal evangelists. Whatever its latest iteration, unwavering conformity is demanded.

Paul Kelly has offered this insightful analysis of the fracturing of Western culture. He says,

“The progressive mantra is that Western liberalism is immoral with its tolerance of colonialism, invasion, racism, inequality, climate cowardice, sexism and patriarchy. While Australians are pragmatic and responsive to sensible changes in the liberal status quo, progressivism demands a new moral order that unnerves and divides the community. It is about power. It sees every issue in terms of a victim class and an oppressor class. It is more interested in power than solutions. It demands people change their values to fit its moral impositions and it is disgusted by how liberalism has tolerated so many reactionary views…”

“…American writer Yuval Levin argued in his 2016 book, The Fractured Republic, that culture was being re-engineered. It was now what the individual preferred it to be. Once your guiding star becomes your own self-expression then, as Levin says, we “recoil from any demands that we conform to the requirements of some external moral standard — a set of rules that keeps ‘me’ from being ‘the real me’, ‘true to myself’ ”.

Such rules were to be discarded. Indeed, they were to be mocked, with the Christian religion top of the list. Such individual empowerment leads to defiance of moral instructions handed down by church, state or nearly any authority. Those defying the authority are applauded because being “true to yourself” is seen as the ultimate morality.”

Jesus declares that the “truth sets us free”. Yet, we see our society abandoning truth on many fronts; not only Christian truths but also universal knowledge. We see it with our attitudes toward the unborn, we see it when society denigrates other races, and it’s evident in our whitewashing of sex and gender. The situation is made more complex because past generations have not always offered a better discourse. Examples abound of where Western culture has previously suppressed self evident moral truth in the name of other ideologies, but this is no justification for repeating the sin of Adam today.

As Paul Kelly suggests in his article, Western societies like Australia are likely to become more fragmented and tribal. One of the byproducts of this is that as we grow weaker, we become more vulnerable. The sun is slowly setting on the West, less because of emerging powers like Communist China, but because like Rome we have chosen to destroy ourselves. At times we highlight genuine issues and then weaponise them to knock each other out. Agreement is often aloof and kindness even more distant. It is telling that as a society we can no longer agree on what a woman is and what a man is.

That there are individuals who believe they are born in the wrong body cannot be denied. That most children who wrestle with this disjuncture find the issue resolved as they grow into adulthood is also a fact. That some individuals continue to struggle with their gender identity does not mean we dismiss biological facts, but it does require us to find suitable ways to love and support them. Indeed, while Christian ethics is largely dismissed by today’s cultural elites, it is the Bible belief that all people are made in the image of God that teaches us that all people matter. We do not leave those aside those who are crying for help, rather we come alongside them.

The West is in trouble. As a Christian, my primary focus is not on keeping the West. However, to say none of it matters is simply naive. With all its flaws and failures, Western civilisation has given the world liberties and life that have not grown elsewhere. Again, the very notion of human equality and dignity depends on Judeo-Christian teaching.  If the West is to be saved, we need to rediscover the very doctrines upon which it was built, and indeed the very same teachings that are now flourishing in many other parts of the world; name Christianity. This exercise, however, requires humility and even repentance. At the moment, there is little appetite for either.

Racism, Protests, and our faith in Christ: a letter to my church

“Turn from evil and do good;

    seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14)

 

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Dear Church,

I have never written an email of this nature to you before. I do so out of love for you all and also love for our neighbours.

I understand that among us there will be different reactions to the events transpiring in America this week, and there will be varied thoughts about how to respond.

As a church, we, of course, hold substantial agreement on account of our union with Christ. We confess Jesus is Lord. He is the One Saviour of the world. Together we affirm all human beings are made in the image of God and all are therefore equal before him and have inherent worth. We affirm that racism is anti-Christian, anti-God, and is destructive to society.

This week we are being reminded of how highly charged and partisan our societies have become. In the name of ‘love’ and ‘truth’ too many people have given up love and truth and instead turned on one another. Sadly, cultural movements often have the effect of dividing rather than uniting. We need to resist those temptations and false binaries, both in the church and as we live in the community.

There is a mass protest being organised in Melbourne city this Saturday, to support ‘Black Lives Matter’.

As your pastor, while recognising our freedom both in Christ and in the State to voice our concerns, I want to draw your attention to the following important points:

  1. In the State of Victoria, there remain strict laws enforcing social distancing and limiting meeting in large numbers, both indoors and outdoors. COVID-19 remains a health issue in our society. Both the Federal and State Governments, and the State Police are urging Victorians not to attend because of the COVID-19 situation
  2. Authorities have issued a warning, informing the public that there are protesters planning to incite violence and disorder.
  3. The organising group behind this particular city protest (Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance) does not recognise Australia’s legal system and has called for the dismantling of Australia.

I’m not arguing against the principle of public protest, nor am I telling anyone what they should or should not decide. I personally don’t think protests and marches are the best way to argue a point. But I acknowledge that there can be value for this kind of social action. I have friends who have participated in different protests in the United States in recent days, and many who have not and yet they are very much grieved by the events in Minneapolis last week. It is incumbent upon each of us to make decisions that are appropriate and reflect love for neighbour and that don’t dishonour the Lord Jesus in any way. 

To anyone planning to protest this week, know why you protest and understand your aim. If you are joining with others, know why they are protesting and what they are aiming to achieve.

We can stand against racism and not join this particular protest at this time. You might like to post a statement or prayer on social media to express our belief in the dignity of Indigenous Australians or call for greater measures to tackle the terrible numbers of Aboriginal people who have died in custody since 1991. You could post appropriate Bible verses.

When restrictions are lifted then perhaps organise an appropriate event: a prayer vigil, or prayer walk, as I’ve seen Christians doing in the US this week.

I’ve just heard Mike preach on Psalm 34, which was recorded for this Sunday. I encourage you all to listen on Sunday; it is a good and timely word. We want to be focused on God, we want his word to direct our motives and attitudes and thoughts. Even as a church where we agree racism is evil, we may want to respond in different ways. Be gracious to one another when we talk and share. Be prayerful. Find ways to love your neighbour: welcome them into your home, speak a kind word, ask them how are they doing.

We want to avoid the danger of falling into popular narratives from the left and from the right. Instead, our identity and our lives are now defined by the Gospel of Christ; this is what it means to be Christian. Therefore, let our motivations, words, and actions promote this good news. Doing so doesn’t make our voice weaker, it is more powerful and attractive.  It allows us to grieve with those who grieve,  to express anger for those who are trodden on, to forgive, and to know God will do right. 

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,

    and his ears are attentive to their cry;

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,

    to blot out their name from the earth”. (Psalm 34:15-16)

Nancy Pelosi repeats President Trump’s mistake with the Bible

“Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to heed a warning”. (Ecclesiastes 4:13)

“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” (Proverbs 26:14)

 

If President Trump acted with hubris and foolishness yesterday by standing in front of a church building and holding a Bible in his right hand, then someone should have told Nancy Pelosi not to repeat the mistake.

Nancy Pelosi is the serving Speaker of the United States House of Representative. She has responded to President Trump’s awful photo op by offering one of her own. During a press conference at the Capitol Building today, Nancy Pelosi held onto a Bible and spoke to the media. She had learned one lesson of what not to do from President Trump, she opened the Bible and read out loud what can be described as a loose paraphrase from Ecclesiastes ch.3

“There’s an appointed time for everything…A time for every event under heaven. … A time to heal, a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing..a time for peace…”

She might have continued and read what follows in that chapter, 

 And I saw something else under the sun:

In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

 I said to myself,

“God will bring into judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time to judge every deed.”

 

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Nancy ‘the Bible teacher’ Pelosi may have offered at least a conciliatory tone but the grandstanding is nonetheless equally egregious. It was a silly game of oneupmanship, made using the word of God as the instrument of choice.

The fact that she opened the Bible and read a few verses holds her to a higher standard of responsibility. As the Scriptures says,

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror” (James 1:22-23)

I’m sure this press briefing will be received positively by many. The media hasn’t treated it with the same kind of disdain that has been expressed over President Trump’s efforts yesterday. Let the reader understand, the media isn’t interested in the word of God being rightly handled, and neither are partisan hacks. As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we ought to be.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

These words are not written for politicians, they are directed to pastors, and they are also applicable to Christians in general. Christians should not be fooled by either photo op. Mocking God is not a wise course of action, and we don’t want to find ourselves excusing or supporting these behaviours.  Pretending to hold Scripture in high regard while openly legislating against its teachings is known in the Bible as ‘hypocrisy’.

As a result of criticising President Trump yesterday, I received some pushback, which is unsurprising in our fractious world. As Christians we must understand that the standard for Christian faith is not allegiance to any given political party, it is the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is a real danger for Christians living in a polarised and politically partisan society. Of course we all hold political preferences, and I appreciate the real ideological difference between Republicans and Democrats; these things matter,  but they should never supersede our allegiance to Christ.

Criticising the wrongful actions of one political leader does not mean an endorsement of another; that is a logical fallacy. If we cannot hold people in public office to account even when they represent our political party,  and call out their abuse of God’s word, then perhaps we need to ask ourselves what kind of Christianity we are believing.

The footage of President Trump was poor and should not be defended by Christians. There was no calling the nation to open this word and to live by it. There was no humility. Today’s footage of Nancy Pelosi similarly speaks to political expediency.

Caesar is not infallible and neither is Brutus. I would love to see both Pelosi and Trump reading and meditating upon this precious word that truly gives peace, life, and hope to all who receive it. It is truly insane when the very word of life is being held in the hand and yet rejected. I encourage my American brothers and sister in Christ to pray for their leaders, as the Scriptures urge us to.

Let me finish with the words of a pastoral colleague who is serving in a church in Virginia. He summarises the issue well:

“Beware of those who use God’s Name for political gain.

Jesus is neither a Republican or Democrat.

His Kingdom is not of this world.

“God’s name is blasphemed…b/c of you.” Romans 2:24

In the past 24 hours, 3 leading political figures have presented themselves as representing Jesus without giving evidence of knowing Him.

Our church would welcome each as guests & we’d share the Gospel w/ them but I’m grieved when people confuse people about what it means to know Jesus.

To be clear: Christians can vote for candidates who are not Christian. We often will.

But beware of forming your opinion of Jesus based on the lives of those who use Jesus to further their own anti-Jesus ambitions.”

An Australian watching America this week

“He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight”. (Ps 72:14)

“Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

 

Australians live many thousands of kms from the shores of the United States, but we are watching a compelling and disturbing drama unfold. It is difficult to look on and not feel a wave of strong emotions.

I am writing as an outsider and conscious of that fact. I have twice visited the USA, and have made many friends during those stays. I have visited some of the great cities that are now facing upheaval. Only yesterday I saw footage of the street where I lived for a month in Washington DC, as vehicles and trucks of the National Guard drove through carrying soldiers to a hot spot. Across the road from the Capitol Building, I have sat in a restaurant and enjoyed lunch with a brother in Christ. He is an African American and a member of the Church where I attended while in DC. As we broke bread together, we chatted and I listened to his thoughts about racial tensions in the United States. We have remained friends on Facebook. As I see him and other friends posting on Facebook this week, I am reminded to pray for them.

Many Images coming out of America

There are many images being shown across the world from Minneapolis to Washington DC, from Atlanta to Los Angeles. We are hearing multiple narratives told by media, politicians, and by the general public. The problem in weighing up all this information is that much of it is conflicting, some of it is unverifiable, and a lot is infused with different political and ideological agendas.

The fact is, leaving aside exchanges with friends, the noise of social media gives little place for nuance and calm. Public opinion sadly feeds off anger and loud rhetoric. Twitter is hardly known as a platform for peacemaking.

One week ago a man was murdered on the streets of Minneapolis. George Floyd was killed by a police officer who used excessive and brutal force. Floyd’s cry, “I can’t breathe”, was ignored by all four police officers present at the scene. It is difficult to watch the video and hold back from shouting at the officers to let him go. It is horrifying to watch. George Floyd’s death was so unnecessary; it was an act of evil.

Since the murder of George Floyd on May 25th, many cities in America have erupted in social turmoil.

I am hearing that many African-Americans are fearful, angry, and hurting. Many are not on the streets protesting, but the sting of May 25th is very real. Others are protesting, quietly or loudly, fervently with purpose.

There are many peaceful protesters. There are also violent rioters and looters. I suspect some are lashing out in anger and fear, not knowing how else to respond. It is also clear that George Floyd’s murder is being exploited by criminal elements, including ANTIFA. It is only right for police to prevent these people from destroying property and harming human life, and to arrest them when they do.

There are members of the media doing their job impartially and in a considered manner, while others agitate the situation by throwing flammable words on television and in the news. It’s not only American media, but Aussie reporting of American stories is often blinkered and biased.

We have witnessed politicians and community leaders speak with passion and reason, and we have also heard politicians from across the spectrum use the situation to push their own drum. The political grandstanding and ideological manipulating of some is disgusting and is so counter productive.  There is already blood on the ground, without piling on rhetorical mud and manure from self interested people wanting to win votes or to buy more viewers.

Obviously, I am not an American, nor am I a person of colour, but we do share our humanity. I feel grief and anger for those who are mistreated on account of their race. Pain runs deep and the past is not quickly healed. How can one watch images of African Americans crying in the streets and shaking with fear…it should not be. All human beings are God’s image-bearers. All are wonderfully made by God and deserve to be treated with dignity and great value.

Amidst the footage that shows escalating violence, there are also many beautiful images to be found: a policeman embracing a young African American boy who is trembling, a police chief removing his riot gear and joining a crowd of protestors in solidarity with them. People need to see these stories of peacemaking in order to help change the narrative that is dominating the news. How can we encourage peace and progress if our newsfeeds are cluttered with violent scenes and with angry commentators hurling abuse at political opponents? Of course, we need to recognise the ugly and the evil, but we must also display the good.

 

An Image

There is one image that has taken hold of the story today, and it is of President Trump standing outside St John’s Church in Lafayette Square, holding up a Bible in his right hand. The previous night rioters had set fire to the building. Today it was used as a symbol of Presidential fight back.

As a Christian and as a pastor of a church I am less than pleased to see the Bible being used in this way. I trust many more Christian leaders will speak up about this Presidential stunt.

 

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The Rector of St John’s and the Bishop of Washington have both expressed anger and dismay at President Trump using the outside facade of St John’s and him holding a Bible.

Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington said of the uninvited visitor,

“I am outraged…And I just want the world to know, that we in the diocese of Washington, following Jesus and his way of love … we distance ourselves from the incendiary language of this President. We follow someone who lived a life of nonviolence and sacrificial love”

I think it’s wrong for the President to stand outside and use a church building without the express permission of its clergy. What’s worse is him holding up God’s word for a political photo-op. Keep in mind, President Trump is not the first American leader to misuse God’s word in public office and he won’t be the last. But this calculated image is foolish. It is foolish because few people are convinced the President takes the Bible seriously, let alone reads, believes and practices what the Bible says. It’s also foolish because the Bible isn’t a book to fool around with.

As the writer to the Hebrews says,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

By this word God saves and he judges. By this word, God mocks rulers and the nations, and he speaks comfort and peace to those who humble themselves. It is this word that alone declares all people are made in the image of God and are therefore equal in his sight. It is this word that declares Jesus Christ is Lord and that all people are accountable to Him for how we live. It is this word that speaks of God who loves us profoundly, such that his only Son laid down his life for sinners. Indeed, the very Bible President Trump held in his hand with that defiant face, is the word that says,

“Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.

11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.

12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps 2:10-12)

A friend of mine noted the irony of this chosen site for politico-religious vanity. Outside St John’s, the cameras took photos of a President who does not believe the Scriptures nor does he practice what they teach. Inside St John’s Church, there are clergy who also do not believe or practice the Scriptures. St John’s Church and the presiding bishop of Washington are known for their errant views about Christianity. Both inside and out, they treat the Bible with disdain.

The most profound irony is that this Bible, when opened and read and considered, offers truth that sets people free. It offers life to those who believe. It brings forgiveness to those who repent. It lifts up and gives hope to those who are hurting. If people are serious about racial reconciliation and the healing of political and social wounds, don’t copy the President and avoid listening to clerics who similarly misuse the Bible. Rather, open it and hear the word that changed the world and can also change us. Here is sound advice from Jesus, 

“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

 

 


I’ve posted a Part 2, in light of Nancy Pelosi’s own Bible photo op