A friend and I have been kicking around the idea of putting together, The Golden Calf Network. We would keep a careful eye on Christian culture and see what gets the ire up. We would then explore the core issues beneath the rhetoric and bluster generally associated with rights and proceed to think through the matter biblically, theologically. Our great fear is that we might find more golden calves than expected.
We are a week away from celebrating Independence Day. The inner revolutionary in us all will think of ways we might emulate pouring tea in the harbor. We will look to the sky to visualize rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air. Our flags will blow in the summer breeze with pride. And, they should.
But, as my friend Jason pointed out, we Christians may run perilously close to blurring the lines between our allegiance to God with Country. Faux history foisted off on those who have not the time to investigate seems the order of the day to argue for America as a Christian Nation.
— Dr. Robert Jeffress (@robertjeffress) June 26, 2017
What if we Christians picked up the thread of a new revolution?
Embrace the Language
We continue to work through Paul’s letter to Christians in Rome at Snow Hill. Reading through chapter 6 brought an interesting connection between The Golden Calf Network and how Paul extends his argument regarding the obedience of faith. It is in the language.
For Paul the new revolution comes via the Gift of Grace revealed in Jesus’ faithfulness. Those declared righteous discover a new, revolutionary, identity in Christ. Setting up the contrast between the power of Sin and life lived to God, Paul draws out the logic that prior to the new revolution, human beings utilize their bodies as weapons, instruments for those of you who bristle at warring language, of unrighteousness. While he certainly would not deny that the reference to unrighteousness includes piety and purity, the root word would lead us to consider something more sinister than delinquent and dirty.
Righteousness compares to justice. That is, Paul could well be saying in our current idiom that sometimes people use their bodies in ways that contradict what is right, true, and good. If we were to compare it to justice, we would have to forego the penchant to think it is about someone getting what they deserve. That is punishment. Justice making right what is wrong. Clearly we need to be careful when we parse justice today.
Given this understanding of the language at work, Paul would remind those Roman Christians to stop using their bodies as a means to tear apart what is right, true, and good. As an aside, this is where a conversation about healthcare takes up its moral connection. If we claim the moral high-ground as Pro-life, then we must consistently make decisions that avoid the threat to life, any life. To do otherwise is to utilize our bodies to undermine what is right, true, and good.
And here is where the language of Paul intersects another Golden Calf. Paul exhorts his readers to stop using their bodies as weapons of unrighteousness and instead use them as weapons of righteousness. Translators vary when looking for the word to use for hoplon. Some choose weapon. Others prefer instrument. Using the body as an instrument seems more palatable than weapon.
However if we take account the extreme ways the body has been used to wreak havoc and harm, maybe we should let the offensive word stand. Paul utilizes common language and then flips the reader. It is not unlike reading the life of Jesus where his power came not in the force of violence but in loving compassion and empathy. Maybe you would call to mind the scene in the Garden. No swords blazing with Jesus, just his followers formed to think power comes by the sword.
Then why are so many Christians enraptured with guns?
Because it is a right?
If we take Paul’s argument, the logic of new creation, we Christians should be more energetic to stand for those whose lives have been threatened by injustice, by unrighteousness. Paul signals that our bodies would be useful as weapons for setting things right. And by weapon, he means, “the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments.”
No guns. No bombs.
But We Don’t Like to Argue!
That’s only half true.
Someone noted that in the aftermath of the Philando Castile shooting, where he was legally carrying a weapon, the NRA was silent.
When we hear that the cuts to Medicaid will harm those with costly terminal conditions, young and old, where is the Pro-Life argument?
When we know that large Corporations are influencing the healthcare debate, the budget issues in Oklahoma, and the justice reform measures in our State, where are our arguments for setting wrong right?
We will argue for the things we find energy. Those things are mostly for ourselves. So imagine suggesting to your congregation that they spend more time investigating, learning, setting aside resources, and acting in ways to bring about what is right, true, and good than on their next gun purchase, their next target practice. You will have an argument on your hands.
Another Golden Calf will emerge from the furnace of fury.