Rob Bell

Jesus, Jerusalem, Samaria, and Independence Day

Fireworks began disturbing the evening hours over the past several days. Before we made the connection to early July 4th celebrations it sounded like someone unloading a moving van in the driveway. These pre-July 4th celebrations will likely turn into post-July 4th festivities with the weekend coming. The situation is magnified considering we live in an ex-rural area where there are pastures on three sides of our place.

My friend Alan Cross is re-reading about the Battle of Gettysburg.

Alan Cross I am deep into Civil War study and readings tonight and thinking about all of this with the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg happening today through Wednesday. The next best thing to going to Gettysburg for the commemoration is to take some time to refresh my memory and learn new things about the war. So, I read.

Ed Stetzer is Exchanging over Patriotic Worship.

U.S. pastors: If your service was driven more by America than by Jesus today, you need a new plan for next year.

Longtime friend Guy Rittger quotes Paul Craig Roberts wondering if anyone realizes the state of the State.

“Washington has proven conclusively that it has no respect for anyone’s human rights, that it has no respect for any country’s sovereignty, that it has no respect for any moral principles, especially those it most often mouths, and that it relies on coercion and violence alone. The rest of the world now knows who its enemy is.” – Paul Craig Roberts

I listened to an interview with Rob Bell. It was interesting to note that of all the subjects the provocateur raised, the one he noted that landed him in more hot water when he was a pastor at Mars Hill was the subject of American politics. Yes, that Rob Bell. The one who suggests love wins.

My brother could testify to such an incomprehensible reality. Questioning the conflation of Christianity with American Patriotism stirred the passions in his neck of the Christian woods more than any revival preacher had in the church’s history. Indeed, he has moved on.

If Martin Heidegger found the Apostle Paul insecure, a reference to Monday’s post, then the connection may lie in Paul’s willingness to challenge the givens, the powers of his day. Following Jesus would mean nothing less. The promise of the parousia, Jesus’ return, destabilized the project as it was a to-be-determined event. Uncertainty over the when of the parousia spread and we find the Apostle Peter’s attempt to calm his readers insecurity, “God is not slow concerning his promise . . ..”

Luke narrates the Story of Jesus and includes a turning point – he [Jesus] determined to go to Jerusalem. You may recall older translations – set his face like flint or set his face resolutely. (9:51) Step back for a moment and consider Jerusalem more than a destination city. Our normal habits of reading may limit the impact of Luke’s detail if we are not careful.

Jerusalem certainly referred to a place. But, it meant much more. The land represented a promise. The Temple represented dwelling. The Ark represented presence. And, the to-be-restored Throne of David represented reign. God’s promise. God’s place. God’s presence. God’s palace. By the time we reach Jesus’ day however, things had changed.

Relationally the religious features of the day served to keep the system intact. Think of Jesus’ instructive moment, “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The structures in place kept people managing their lives by keeping the law/Law rather than being different people by loving God and neighbor. One wonders if we are not witness to repetition turned farce.

The political, social, cultural, and religious ingredients combined to form certain hostilities to Jesus and his message of Kingdom come near/here. Jerusalem then represented the seat, the center, for these coalescing forces that waged war against the very idea that God is with and for people. Jesus’ Story consistently challenged the givens, the status quo, a balance supported by Rome no less.

Most instances found Jesus chased about by those who would trap or hope to kill him. But, when we read that Jesus determined to go to Jerusalem, they would not need to look for him. He was coming for them. He was coming for them.

On his way he passed through Samaria. Any opponent of Jerusalem would be welcome in Samaria. Not so fast. Jesus may be opposed to the way the system and structure robbed people of hope and love. He was not however interested in a substitute system with Gerazim as its focal point. Luke reports that Jesus’ intention to disrupt life in Jerusalem, which may bring change, did not sit well in Samaria. Besides, Jesus had a conversation with a woman one time. He told her it was not this mountain or that one. We should have known.

It is at this point I am struck on the eve of our Independence Day celebrations. Consider the history of Christianity in America. I realize there is not one history but histories. For the sake of this piece, consider the religious thread captured by William Ames. His Errand in the Wilderness points to a hope to establish in the New World what had gone sour in the Old. A light would shine across the Pond, a City on a Hill. What had gone wrong there would be set right here.

The American Christian project aimed to supplant the State Church and demonstrate the proper relationship between Church and State. Not on that Continent but on this One. Reminiscent of, “Is it this mountain or that one?”

We battle worldviews wherein what seems more important are our views than the people who also inhabit the planet. I use planet because America is not the world. For too long we have thought there is a hedge of protection. God likes our way better than all others. It is as if Jesus stayed in Samaria. He found a Country system he could abide. Once there it would seem to give credence to the givens, the way of life, in that region over all others. And here we are.

Jesus did not stay in Samaria. Maybe we fear Jesus leaving our Samaria. For long we have believed we possess God. But God cannot be possessed unless we have made God our Object. And we have. We have objectified his Name on our currency and fear its removal. We considered our schools lost when in public to him we could not pray. We fear the loss of God but what God? Can God really be lost?

On to Jerusalem Jesus went, and wept. He wept that the elements found in the way the world was given kept people bound and blinded to the hope before them. He wept at what could be but they would not. He wept knowing that he came for them, for them. And maybe he wept knowing the only way to remove what binds, blinds, and holds human beings was to go to Jerusalem. Challenging the world as it was would mean death, his.

Heidegger considered enactment the substance of being Christian. Being Christian, a true believer, for Martin, is engagement with this life, in this world. If being God is not a Name on a currency, then Christian is not an adjective for a Country. Instead, it is for people whom in this Country, any Country, enact and engage the life and way of Jesus wherever they/we go. Failing to enact the life and way of Jesus in our own life is to be an unbeliever.

Maybe this is one way we could understand “being unto death.” If we enact the life and way of Jesus in the world it may indeed mean death, ours.

Weekly Wrap – Maybe You Missed These Posts

College Game Day is in Norman. The hosts just donned masks and portrayed the coaches from the top 4 BCS teams. Each stated their case as to why they should make the title game. Quite premature to this Sooner fan.

Here are posts from this week you may have missed. Enjoy your Saturday.

Dwight McKissic and His Candidate of Choice – “McKissic is calling for a more robust Christian vision for all of life. Candidly Dwight locates issues of abortion, slavery, women’s suffrage, poverty, and historically oppressed people along the same plane.”

Block and Brueggemann on the Election – Block describes the way Brueggemann helped him consider Meaningless Narratives. Incidentally if you have not read Block’s book, Community: The Structure of Belonging, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Underneath the Tunic or, What do Rachel Held Evans and Rob Bell Have in Common? – “Equal treatment. Rachel Held Evans and Rob Bell suffered the same hammer when facing the prospects of offering a different vision for how we talk about others in relationship to our pronouncements as final. For many the hammer is the only tool in the box and everyone who disagrees, or poses a different possibility, becomes the nail. Criticism is egalitarian.”

First to Turn – Friday Photo – Fall colors emerge amidst the holdouts.

Do “Nones” Believe Church is Getting in the Way? – Must the Church be the culprit?

Underneath the Tunic or, What Do Rachel Held Evans and Rob Bell Have In Common?

Equal treatment. Rachel Held Evans and Rob Bell suffered the same hammer when facing the prospects of offering a different vision for how we talk about others in relationship to our pronouncements as final. For many the hammer is the only tool in the box and everyone who disagrees, or poses a different possibility, becomes the nail. Criticism is egalitarian.

Piper bid farewell to Rob Bell over Love Wins and Rachel Held Evans faced the prospect Christian booksellers would not carry her book, allegedly over her reference to female parts according to medical parlance. The result? Rob Bell owes Piper for the negative publicity that resulted in huge sales for Love Wins. And, Rachel Held Evans owes Lifeway for the negative publicity generating interest and sales for her new book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood.

The kerfuffle created by the report that Lifeway will not stock Evans’ book, either a result of the poor sales of her first book or another unmentioned reason, continues to spur points and counter-points. This amounts to reader titillation. Baptists, and many Evangelicals, really do not care to be told what to read, or what not to read. Read More

Propaganda, “Rap On” or, Value Other Voices

My ears are old. I confess that when it comes to music I am often stuck in a time warp. My time spent listening to music in those adolescent and teenage years seem decades ago. Indeed they are. But, I still like music from the late 60’s and 70’s. I paid some attention in the early 80’s but I never could be construed as an aficionado.

So, when rap, hip-hop, and now spoken word emerged I confess to a bit of disorientation. I tried to listen. But, it never really caught on with me. I do brand myself an eclectic music lover but generally I do have a couple of glaring omissions that shrink its breadth.

In recent years I have kept an eye on Steve McCoy. Well, on his blog. I enjoy his wide interest in music and his suggestions have rarely disappointed me. I have even noticed him pointing to some of the music from my favorite era on occasion.

Recently Steve called on some to weigh in on a musical artist I had not heard of and whose genre is noticeably absent from my iPod. I don’t fit Steve McCoy’s appeal group. Not prominent. Not a dean. Not an entity head. Read More

Risking the Ethics of Critique

Social media creates any number of occasions for errant critique. Ernest Goodman interrupted his regularly scheduled programming about Scripture translation to raise the issue of the ethics of critique in a global social media world subject to the whims of those able to push “publish.”

John Piper and the Gospel Coalition took aim at missional authors Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. Incidentally, I facilitated an online course with Hirsch on his book The Forgotten Ways for Biblical Seminary a few years ago. According to Piper, in the video, he received a paragraph of a recent book by Hirsch and Frost, The Faith of Leap, from the Gospel Coalition. I have not read the book so any opinion I formed about the book would be un-informed. Too bad others refuse to assume such a position.

Goodman likened Piper’s critique to a MacArthurian move. May be. I think it follows the pattern set by D. A. Carson. Rather than investigate the claims of some in the Emerging Church at the time, Carson read what he felt he needed to then wrote a book that suggested he knew how to be conversant. I realize that in a bygone day that meant something like becoming familiar with and so reading someone’s thoughts may well have sufficed. That was then, this is now. Read More