Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Christian progressives, racism and the chosen people of God

The greatest of divide is often caused, at its deepest root, by ideological errors. Both evangelical and progressive Christians are concerned about racism. The concern happens because of the reality of the 21st century in the United States. We are overwhelmed by racism and its brutality. But the differing world views and theology of the orthodox and the progressive lead to different solutions. The progressives who insist they are for peace, for equality and for following the “way” of Jesus are bending away from their ideals. The orthodox are beginning to understand their oneness in Jesus which is held in place by each bearing the righteousness of Jesus rather than their own righteousness.

The oneness is inclusive of all races—each belonging to Christ and therefore belonging to each other.

Several postings, one by a progressive teaching elder, who is a friend on Facebook and one by a lesbian teaching elder, whose opinion piece was on the Presbyterian Outlook, led me to this subject. Both postings are, in my opinion, extremely offensive.  The first was simply a cartoon:

The site the cartoon was taken from also holds offensive pictures. It is a Facebook site called Bay Area Intifada. Its profile picture is of a Middle Eastern revolutionary, Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, and a Mexican revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata. But the really troubling picture is one of blacks stabbing whites. In its real context, the slave uprising in Haiti in the 18th century, the picture makes sense but on this particular site and given its context the picture is racist and scary:

How is posting such a cartoon from such a site pastoral? How does it lift up the love of Jesus Christ? How does it speak peace?

The other posting, “Language matters: Finding common ground in faith narratives,” is about the concept of white privilege and how the author, Beth Buckingham-Brown, believes the idea of chosen feeds into and affirms white privilege. She writes:

“As a pastor who preaches every Sunday, I am aware of the language I use. Over time I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the following claims: “We are the people of God.” “As God’s chosen people, holy and beloved …” “God chooses us and sends us.” In addition, some Reformed concepts like “God’s elect” or “God’s predestined” or “God’s holy ones” or “the saved” are equally troubling. How did we get from the Israelites (a concept that is at best confusing based on timing and definition) being God’s chosen people and the inheritors of God’s promise and blessing, to the church in the United States, Presbyterian in particular, becoming God’s chosen – which has meant, in part, that we mount a militant defense of the land which we have taken by force and the democracy which only applies to some? We are not Israelites. And yet we (some of us) claim the favor of God and the chosen status by inserting ourselves into the narrative. …”

Buckingham-Brown goes on to conclude “.”What I hope is the promise, though, is that if we can once and for all separate church and state (and not let the state determine theology), we will be able to re-envision a theology that is centered on Jesus. In Jesus’ world, either we are all chosen or none of us are chosen (which really means none of us are!).

This is all theological confusion. The first posting the cartoon, leads away from the fact that we are all sinners and in need of redemption. The far, far right, “Christian Identity” which sees the white races as Israelites and the Jews as literal children of Satan is the same. Both the progressive and the radical right are scapegoating. Two things happen with this. Everyone’s sin and all evil get dumped on one group of people. And the individual sinner is not addressed instead she gets lumped into a group and is left without a chance for personal redemption and transformation.

This also leads away from peace. It is evil.

The second posting, about white privilege and chosen, is written by a teaching elder who does not seem to have a clear grasp of scripture or theology. The Nazis saw Germans as a chosen race but this was not a biblical concept. It had nothing to do with the calling of Jesus Christ. Biblically, being chosen has nothing to do with race but rather with God’s call to redemption. Such a call does not place one in any kind of worldly position but rather it is a call of service to the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is also a call to repentance and forgiveness. It means admitting to being a sinner unable to save oneself. The righteousness of Christ is our only righteousness. The life of Christ is our only life. Our chosenness unites us to Jesus and with that we are united to multitudes of every race and ethnic group on earth and in heaven.  It is the life and death of Jesus that has united us.

Worthy are you to take the book and to break its seals; for you were slain, and purchased for God with your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth. (Rev. 4:9a-10)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellences of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10)

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