Saturday, February 10, 2007

Living under the law

Our church is having a Sunday preaching series on recovery from addictions, with handouts for personal or group study, with an over arching theme, Pathway to a Life that Matters. Someone, the person who wrote the handouts or suggested the current series, is quite enamored of the 12 step program for addictions. Frankly, I've yet to hear or participate in a Christian 12-step program that is as good as the original "Higher Power" AA program. I attended many meetings in the 1980s, and if I ever needed to seek out accepting, non-judgemental people, that's where I would go, even today. And trust me, I have many other options and resources. When well intentioned people try to take this model and revise it for weight loss, shopping or Christian accountability, it just falls flat.

But when Christian preachers and staff do try to help the disciples of Jesus who are plagued with overeating, codependency, grief, alcohol or drugs, and don't first and last build up the believer with the Good News of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, they are teaching and preaching the law, not the Gospel.

I haven't attended the Sunday School classes, so this past week I just stopped at the front desk and picked up the first five handouts that go along with the sermon series. The format for each week is Pray, Discuss, Read, Reflect, Consider, Pray. All five handouts are legalistic and narcissistic. I got to week 4 before the word "Jesus" even appeared. Not even the prayers are "In the name of Jesus." Almost all the scripture references are to the Old Testament, and one verse in Matthew doesn't mention in the outline that Jesus said it, and it is so out of context it doesn't even say why "the burden is light." (hint: Jesus died for our sins) Twelve step programs are about moral inventories; Christianity is about forgiven sins and living a changed life in Christ.

If this were a two hour class, where the teachers could lead gently and quitely up to the unveiling of the Good News so they wouldn't scare anyone away at potty breaks, I could give the writer a two on a scale of ten. But saved sinners and unsaved seekers (the only two groups in the pew) come and go, float in and out, attend at 3 locations choosing one or more of our 10 services. Please, please, please dear godly, believing pastors (and whoever wrote this pablum), don't let a single opportunity go by that you don't let the people know that Jesus loves them so much he lived a perfect life and died a perfect death on their behalf, and that the solution for their hurts and griefs and addictions is Jesus, not another self-help program that can send them to Hell with good intentions and a pat on the back!

When Paul told Peter to live by faith, not the law (Galatians 2)

Concerning the Jews in Jerusalem
Peter and Paul had a big spat
"You’re putting them under the law, old friend."
Paul told Peter, "Don't preach like that."

Not for a minute did Saint Paul give in,
Even when they were face to face.
At Antioch Paul then told Saint Peter
"Your gospel is such a disgrace."

"We know by law we are not justified
Although by birth we are both Jews,
Our faith is in Christ Jesus, Risen Lord
From whom we have heard the Good News."

Friday, February 09, 2007

What's in your church library?

Joe McKeever, a Baptist pastor in New Orleans, tells of a couple, Rudy and Rose French, who were called by God to NOLA after Katrina. Even in clean up, some people resist change.

"You should have seen the library," he said. "Old stuff that should have been thrown out ages ago. Why would anyone keep telephone directories for ten years? We cleaned it out."

Sometimes it takes a Hurricane.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

386 Hypocrites, what Jesus said

Yesterday I was watching an animated, interesting speaker on Book TV, Walter Benn Michaels on his book, "The Trouble with Diversity: How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality." He was speaking to a group of students, I think it was Yale or Harvard, but that doesn't really matter. They were good listeners with well-thought out questions. At first I thought he was a conservative because he was outlining the hypocrisy of some liberal causes (like a law suit on behalf of women because a woman was earning $1.2 million and her male colleagues in the same field $1.6 million). But no! He was a liberal challenging his own troops to make a difference where it counts. Finally one young man asked if the fact the author was earning $200,000 a year didn't make him a hypocrite to be speaking out in favor of leveling salaries to make working people more equal.

Great question, he responded (he said this to everyone--I think they teach you this before book signing tours even though you'll hear it 100 times). But I only make $175,000, he replied at which time he went on to justify sending his children to private schools because given the times (or was it the city where he chose to live or the moon spots or classes they needed in basket weaving) it was the only rational thing to do. Meanwhile, his excellent income left him free to criticize inequalities in the public education system (he didn't add that, those are my thoughts) including the NEA.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are." Matt. 23:13-14

Still, he was less a hypocrite than most (although God doesn't grade on a curve, I do). Also, there was no indication he was a believer or even a Christer (Easter and Christmas Christian), so Jesus was speaking to us, not him.