Thursday, December 3, 2009

Basic Religion, as taught by a rebel Evangelical

An old friend of mine recently posted a link on Facebook. When a Rabbi posts an Esquire article by an Evangelical, which had been pointed out to him by a Catholic scholar, it’s probably worth checking out.

Shane Claiborne is, apparently, an Evangelical who isn’t too popular with other Evangelicals, because he keeps preaching that they (the Evangelicals) should be more like Jesus. His article is, essentially, about how we (he is mostly talking about Churches, but I’d include Jewish organizations, and probably all religious institutions) keep forgetting the actual, core teachings of our religious traditions:

The more I have read the Bible and studied the life of Jesus, the more I have become convinced that Christianity spreads best not through force but through fascination. But over the past few decades our Christianity, at least here in the United States, has become less and less fascinating. We have given the atheists less and less to disbelieve. And the sort of Christianity many of us have seen on TV and heard on the radio looks less and less like Jesus.

It’s obvious that Claiborne and I have very different theologies and beliefs – he clearly believes in the literal Divinity of Jesus, and I can only assume that, when he talks about the Afterlife, he is talking about something in which I ardently do not believe. But, when he says things like:

It is so simple, but the pious forget this lesson constantly. God may indeed be evident in a priest, but God is just as likely to be at work through a Samaritan or a prostitute. In fact the Scripture is brimful of God using folks like a lying prostitute named Rahab, an adulterous king named David...

it becomes apparent that, as different as our theologies might be, our philosophies, and our values, overlap quite a bit.

“They” pray that God’s will will be done on earth, just as it is in heaven. “We” pray that we, with God, will “perfect the world under God’s rule.” There isn’t a whole lot of difference there, I’d wager. I’m not saying that Jews and Christians are all the same – I strenuously believe that, in many important, even fundamental ways, we’re very, very different. I’d generally rather celebrate and embrace those differences, rather than try to smooth them over. But, it’s at least as important to remember that, deep down, we share very much in common. And, in the end, what we’re all trying to do is create a world which is better, kinder and more holy than the one which we inherited.

Maybe the fruits of the Spirit really are beautiful things like peace, patience, kindness, joy, love, goodness, and not the ugly things that have come to characterize religion, or politics, for that matter.

Amen, brother. Amen.

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