Archive for September, 2008
We’ve been talking about the crucifixion of Jesus and what it means. In his book on atonement, Saved From Sacrifice, Mark Heim quotes Gil Bailie, Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and Director of the Florilegia Institute:
“Perhaps the anthropological role of the Christian church in human history might be simplified as follows: To undermine the structures of sacred violence by making it impossible to forget how Jesus died and to show the world how to live without such structures by making it impossible to forget how Jesus lived.”
Heim goes on to say;
….The celebration of the Eucharist combines both of these emphases. In some churches this is made explicit. Before reception of the bread the participants are told, “Take and eat, and may the spirit in which Christ died be your spirit also.” When Christians gather at communion, they encounter an unequivocal reminder of Christ’s bloody death. They are faced with the fact that victims have real flesh and blood. When we hear “Do this in remembrance of me,” we should hear the implied contrast that comes with emphasis on this. Unlike the mythic victims who became sacred models for future sacrifices, Christs is not to be remembered with scapegoating, by taking or being new victims. “This” is a humble meal and prayer, not a new cross.”
Reading this I was reminded of what Bishop N.T. Wright once said about the different views of atonement;
“In any case, I am one of those who think it good that the church has never formally defined ‘the atonement’, partly because I firmly believe that when Jesus himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal. Of course, the earliest exponent of that meal (Paul, in 1 Corinthians) insists that it matters quite a lot that you understand what you are about as you come to share in it; but still it is the meal, not the understanding, that is the primary vehicle of meaning. What is more, I happen to believe, as a reader of the New Testament, that all the great ‘theories’ about atonement do indeed have roots there, and that the better we understand the apostolic testimony the better we see how they fit together.”
From The Cross and the Caricatures: a response to Robert Jenson, Jeffrey John, and a new volume entitled Pierced for Our Transgressions
I don’t think these ideas necessarily negate other atonement views; there certainly may incorporate more than what has been said here, but certainly not less.
(Mark Heim is Samuel Abbot Professor of Christian Theology at Andover Newton Theological School and Bishop Wright is the Anglican Bishop of Durham, England)
My favorite actor, Paul Newman passed away Friday, September 26th, after suffering from cancer. I loved Paul Newman’s acting, his roles and the movies he chose. Being a fan of sports and formula car racing (sorry, not NASCAR) meant that Newman also had another hold on my attention. His devotion to serving others through his charities and business interests set him apart from the majority of celebrities. But even these passions paled when compared to what he felt for Joanne Woodward, his wife of 50 years and also a movie star. Their long marriage, raising a family in the hills of Connecticut, was a true Hollywood anomaly. He was 83 years old; A pretty good ride.
Retiring in 2007, his last role was playing the voice of “Doc Hudson”, world’s greatest race car, in the animated movie “Cars” and it was a fitting epitaph. Though known as a great actor Newman was also a hell of a driver and racing team manager.
In 1978, at Summit Point Raceway, I saw Paul Newman drive for the first time. I wasn’t a fan of his movies then and most of my crowd were quite cynical about a rich movie star horning in on our local SCCA club racing. He had the pole that day (of course, he had lots of money so his car and crew were the best). I remember he was driving #33, a Datsun 200SX ( a ‘sporty’ B210) in the red white and blue livery that Bob Sharp racing would later become famous for.
It was drizzly and on the first lap he spun out, much to our delight. You can’t buy talent, we thought. There were about 20 cars in the field that day and Newman passed a car on each lap, usually in the Carousel , a very tight series of downhill ess turns. He went on to win the race by a nice margin. We were impressed.
Later on, in the Paddock I saw Newman walking along pit row, right towards me. As we approached I neversously said, “Nice race”.
“Thanks, kid.” he replied, raising his can of Budweiser in salute.
A great American icon. I’ll miss him.
This is great stuff. From an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Smiling women on the cover of a slick magazine. Sold from under the counter. Must request it from store clerk. That’s not something a buyer would typically find in a Christian bookstore. Not unless it’s one of the more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstores across the United States, including about six in metro Atlanta.
Gospel Today, the Fayetteville-published magazine, was pulled off the racks by the bookstores’ owner, the Southern Baptist Convention. The problem? The five smiling women on the cover are women of the cloth — church pastors.
Southern Baptist polity says that’s a role reserved for men.
Teresa Hairston, owner of Gospel Today, whose glossy pages feature upbeat articles about health, living, music and ministry, said she discovered by e-mail that the September/October issue of the magazine had been demoted to the realm of the risque.
“It’s really kind of sad when you have people like [Gov.] Sarah Palin and [Sen.] Hillary Clinton providing encouragement and being role models for women around the world that we have such a divergent opinion about women who are able to be leaders in the church,” Hairston said. “I was pretty shocked.”
Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “It is contrary to what we believe.”
It bases those beliefs on their interpretation of New Testament Scriptures.
Southern Baptist representatives at national meetings have adopted statements saying women should not be pastors, but each church is independent. A few churches have selected women, such as Decatur First Baptist, where the Rev. Julie Pennington-Russell preaches each Sunday from the pulpit.
Pastor Tamara Bennett of California is one of the featured pastors on the magazine cover and talks in the article about the challenges of breaking through the stained-glass ceiling.
“God’s assignment is that no souls are lost and all are saved,” Bennett said. “Gender is not how God sees it. We are about winning souls, period.”
Southern Baptists are not the only ones to frown on women preachers. Catholics, the largest Christian denomination in the nation, do not allow women priests. And some conservative evangelical groups, such as the Presbyterian Church in America, do not ordain women.
“We weren’t trying to pick a fight,” Hairston said. “We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches.”
Uh-oh. There’s that word again….
Driving home from the beach yesterday we were listening to one of the comedy channels on XM Radio, Laugh USA (it’s the only one that is without raunchy profanity). One of the shorter segments was from an old Mort Sahl routine that he must have performed in 1960, because he speaks of the U2 incident as currently taking place. I tried to find a transcript of his act but I’ll have to rely upon my memory.
Sahl was a groundbreaking political comedian and he stepped on a lot of toes that deserved stepping on, both Left and the Right feet. He had sort of a rambling stream of consciousness type of delivery and in the course of this monologue he mentioned religious people and that they were in support of capital punishment, even if it meant that the occasional innocent victim might be killed. Sahl found this to be ironic, since an innocent victim of capital punishment figured so heavily in our theology (he must have been referring to Christians).
I think it’s interesting that nearly fifty years ago a Jewish comedian accurately nailed what is wrong with so much of the church. We have placed so much emphasis on the necessary sacrifice of Jesus – necessary so that we might benefit – that we forget that what was done to him was evil. Those Roman and Jewish leaders who conspired to have him crucified did so in order that the status quo, an uneasy peace, might be maintained. It mattered little to them whether or not Jesus was deserving of execution and they knew nothing of God’s atoning ‘plan’ for his death. They chose to overcome political rivalries and intense dislikes in their mutually assured destruction of this thorn in everyone’s side. Everyone who was in power, that is.
We forget this when we are willing to support a justice system that allows the sacrifice of innocent victims in order that we may exact vengeance on those who deserve it. Jesus, as God incarnate, did not die of disease or in an accident or of old age; his life and death should still have satisfied God’s substitutionary demands (according to some of the prevailing atonement theologies). Yet he was made a political scapegoat and then executed in a tortuous manner that was well known to the people of the time, so well known that there apparently was little need for the early church to make an icon of the cross. They knew fully well what crucifixion was and what kind of people were killed in that manner. As victims of Rome’s persecutions they could easily empathize with those crucified. Yet they knew that it need not be their fate, that Jesus had destroyed this need for scapegoats. Even so, if such a fate befell them, they had already been vindicated by Christ. He had pointed out the illegitimacy of systems of sacrifice.
Throughout the scourging and nailing to the cross Jesus presented a blunt yet nearly silent testimony that what was taking place was wrong. Yes, I do believe he had to go through with this, that it was the Father’s will. Not to satisfy his Father’s demand for innocent blood, but so that we might understand his indictment of us all, for our ( if, at times, ignorant ) collusion in these sacrifices. Every time we stand by and allow someone to suffer or die because it is in some way expedient or necessary for peace, harmony or the well being of the majority, we hammer another nail in the Cross.
The world continues on a never ending cycle of sacrificing one scapegoat after another. We rationalize this violence, saying it is necessary so that peace might be made and ‘justice’ served. Whatever benefits come from this violence (or threat of violence), they are only temporary and soon the world cries out for more blood. Satan creates the problem and Satan provides the solution.
But the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross took place only once and with his resurrection Jesus cheats Satan of his victory. We need to only look towards this supreme act of self-sacrifice, the ultimate expression of love, to understand how we can break this evil sacrificial cycle that plagues us. The example of the Cross teaches us that we may be resurrected from this mire of selfish death. We must learn how to die for God. This means that, like Jesus , we must be being willing to die for others, not requiring that they die for us. This is hard stuff to swallow and history has shown that we have little appetite for it.
As Mort Sahl reminds us, Jesus was also an innocent victim, a scapegoat, unjustly sacrificed by worldly powers to satisfy worldly needs. Jesus said that what we do to others, especially our victims -even the lowest of the low – we also do to him.
Another Jewish fellow, not so funny, once said this:
With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6: 6-8
From the BBC:
A law that landed a Florida teenager in jail for having sagging jeans that exposed his underwear is unconstitutional, a judge has decided.
The 17-year-old spent a night in jail after police arrested him for exposing 4in (10cm) of boxer shorts in Riviera Beach, south-east Florida.
Town voters backed the law in March after supporters raised a petition.
However, a circuit judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional based on “the limited facts” of the case.
Carol Bickerstaff, defending teenager Julius Hart, had urged Judge Paul Moyle to throw out the law, saying: “Your honour, we now have the fashion police.”
Before making his ruling, Judge Moyle said: “We’re not talking about exposure of buttocks. No. We’re talking about someone who has on pants whose underwear are apparently visible to a police officer who then makes an arrest, and the basis is he’s then held overnight.”
According to the same article, cities across the country are considering similar legislation. Hopefully they are paying attention to what’s happening in Florida and shelving this foolishness. That’s all this country needs: more restrictive and hard to enforce laws on the books. It’s not like our courts and prisons aren’t already over crowded and our police aren’t already overtaxed. Crazy stuff.
Does anyone really think this is going to work? Don’t they understand the rebellious mindset of young people? Why didn’t government ban long hair and blue jeans in the sixties? (my dad would’ve loved that). Maybe it’s because a lot of those kids were already pissed off and staging protests and sit ins etc. – no reason to add fuel to the flames.
Anyone remember any child psychology? A sure fire way to have more kids wearing their pants around their knees is for old farts to tell them they can’t. If you really want to kill this silly fashion trend then have George Bush or David Hasslehoff start pulling their pants down. That’ll make it a very uncool thing to do, overnight.
Young people already think older people are a bunch of stiffs who are uptight about stupid things – why do we want to go ahead and prove their point for heaven’s sake? There are enough things to be worrying about already without wasting our time over the bad fashion sense of goofy kids (And it is bad fashion sense – ugly, stupid, dumb and impractical. But so are most young people, God love ‘em – what do we expect?)
Anyway, we need to get our own houses in order first before we start pointing fingers at the kids. Droopy drawers don’t offend me as much as some of these other fashion statements do:
Jeesh! I don’t know which one is the worst (OK, yeah. The last one is.) but the droopy drawers set’s got nothin’ on these fashion assassins. As my late friend Dave Hammond used to say when encountering an underdressed yet ample passerby; “There oughta be a law!” (but then I might have to get rid of my bright yellow and orange tropical shirt – it is sooo ugly!)
Knowing what you know right now, what would you do?
Would you protest? Offer yourself in his stead? Run to his assistance, perhaps even resorting to violence?
Would you run and hide, as his apostles did?
Or would you let it happen because you believe that this is part of God’s plan for salvation and you should not interfere?
Bittersweet day yesterday. My 22 year old son, Ian, was inducted into the Marine Corps at Fort Meade Maryland and right now is enjoying his first day in the care of the sergeants.
This is Ian halfway down Bright Angel trail in the Grand Canyon last June. The last big family vacation. He’s in pretty good shape, always has been. He’s been known as the ‘Walking Dude’ around Ellicott City for around 8 years. I hope it pays off in boot camp.
The sergeant in charge of the recruiting station insisted on cutting Ian’s hair himself. You can see that he is really into it. Apparently that hank of hair was 1 inch too short for the purpose of donation. His mom put in a Zip-Loc.
Ahh. The Mullet. The sergeant’s idea. I promised Ian this would be put up on the net.
Worth another look.
The nearly finished project. The finishing touches are to be applied at boot camp.
Does he look nervous? I sure was. (And still am.) One of the other sergeants remarked, ” Aw, there goes our Jesus.” ( Ian had been attending Physical Training at the station 3 to 4 times a week for the past three months and that had become his nickname.)
The Oath. Now, I just want to say that his mother took this picture. There is no way I would’ve let that young lady block his upraised hand. In fact, there is no way I would have allowed her in the picture. Concentrate on the yellow circle, gentlemen.
The happy recruit with his proud/sad/anxious mother.
Next time we see Ian should be in three month and, God willing, he will be wearing a United State Marine Corps dress uniform. I am terribly anxious and nervous for him – I truly regret that I never did my national service and have no real idea of what faces him now. I am more than a little envious of him.
I guess you can tell I’m also pretty proud of Ian. (I hope so.) I’ve never really posted this kind of ‘family’ album thing before. But I have an ulterior motive. The recruiting sergeant said that we should try to write to him as much as possible, perhaps every day. So I was hoping to send him a copy of any comments that this post might generate. If you’re game (and I hope you are) could you address your comment to Ian? ( And don’t forget the mullet!)
A recent Gallup poll has come up with some pretty unsurprising news: McCain leads Obama with regular white church goers where as Obama takes the lead with whites who attend church infrequently or not at all.
Now, I am probably going to vote for McCain in November. And his choice of Palin does not sway me one way or the other. I like Obama, but I think his vision might come with too expensive a price tag. But honestly, if he won, it wouldn’t be the end of the world for me.
The funny thing is, that 5 years ago, when I was NEVER attending church, I wouldn’t have voted for Obama if he was the last man (or woman) in the country. Not because he is black but because he is a ‘liberal’. Attending church has definitely made me less ‘conservative’. I seem to have fallen out of step with the majority of white church-going voters. Huh.