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Archive for December 2016

White Privilege II – Reflection on a post-Christian Concept

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Now available… privilege cards, so you can preserve a permanent record of the shaming of your friends.  I notice she left ‘citizen of the First Workd’ off the list.

I wrote a few weeks back a long, long reflection on the post-modern idea of ‘white privilege’.  I came across a couple of other articles, written entirely from a secular perspective.  My critique of the concept is principally from a Christian context, as I can see no indication in Christian teaching that we have the option of segmenting one group along racial lines.

CBC editorialist Rex Murphy published this reflection back in May 2015.

I’ve seen the captious phrase “white privilege” — a camp neologism by my reading — very often lately. It emerges from the intellectual marshes of social justice “educators,” a typical pseudo-concept from that roiling pastiche of academic pursuit.

At base this nonsense asserts that white people come equipped — habited as it were — with all sorts of advantage, opportunities, easy dealing, and in general a faster better reach for the good things of life than human beings less pale. The phrase has not surprisingly spawned a slogan — after all, what academic discipline doesn’t aspire to the abrupt short-thought of a bumper sticker? — Check Your Privilege. Which translates into a hectoring from social justice warriors, as they so deliriously style themselves, for white people to stand back and tabulate with tearful guilt the infinite advantages that result from their epidermal good luck. […]

The obsession of seeing everything in race-coloured terms is itself racist. Anti-racism pursed by zealots transforms itself into the very vice it deplores. This is the cost of identity politics, and its close bedmate, victimology enterprises — the desire to judge, define, represent and indict the individual by the group he or she belongs to. Every human being’s experience in its infinite particularities and potentials transcends category.

It is to the great shame of modern universities that they have debased themselves to the pursuit of these follies, and that they do not cast this cant aside as being hollow, sublimely tendentious and utterly shameful to the idea of, or the aspiration to achieve, an educated mind. Wasn’t Doctor King’s most famous prayer that he hoped to see the day “when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character?”

Which led me to one of the original contrary articles, eventually published in Time, written by a Princeton undergrad (apparently) frustrated with the number of times he had been told to ‘check his privilege’.  I’m not sure that I buy into a bunch of his arguments.  As I’ve said previously, there is an aspect of some of the (US) contrary voices that focuses on portions of the American dream…work hard and be blessed.  I would also call that a post-Christian concept, as the work hard and be blessed dynamic is equally contrary to Christ’s teaching.  Not to say that hard work doesn’t sometimes result in benefits, but it ignores the reality for much of the world that a life of hard work generates little in the way of what Westerners would consider to be benefits.  Hard work is never a path to salvation, which is sometimes the trap of the American dream.

That said, it is interesting that the author, Tal Fortgang is the descendent of survivors of the Holocaust, an event which mainly involved the murder of millions of white Jews by white Germans.  Certainly another good example of ‘white privilege’ at work.

I can add to that example hundreds of others illustrating massive white on white violence – the Stalinist purges for one, estimated as involving the deaths of somewhere between  600,000 and 49 million (which we will never know).  Rex Murphy also highlights the reality that most of those who fought wars on behalf of the western allies were ‘poor’ white people.  The concept of ‘white privilege’ is suspect first from a rational perspective.

Apologist Ravi Zacharisas points out that the issue of racism is ageless, and is not solved by perpetuating racism against others:

…Right from the beginning of creation, hate and segregation came into the first family.  A brother hating his brother.  Why?  Because he seemed more sensitive to God.  Imagine that!  You see, hate and eviction come not just because of race.  They can come because of race or place or face or grace.  Racism is not just a white versus black issue.  We make a cardinal mistake pitting two colors against each other.  Go to Asia and see the regional hate and discrimination, the religious hate and discrimination, the social/economic hate and discrimination.  It is ultimately the passion that seeks to bring down somebody else and justifies its self-superiority by finding a reason to do just that.

This very week, an African American politician referred to Justice Clarence Thomas as an “Uncle Tom.”  When a news reporter questioned this characterization, his justification for using it was his race. I respectfully disagree.  Few abuses of the soul are more dangerous than those that legitimize hate by grabbing a twig of history and thinking they have grasped the root of revenge. You do not right a terrible wrong with an insatiable spirit of perpetuating vengeance.  So he was dead wrong…

The Christian perspective on the question is that all of us have fallen short of the grace of God – all of us.  That means not some more than others, not some less than others.  We (especially in the West) love to play the “I’m not as bad as X” game and thereby convince ourselves that we are righteous.

We do not resolve past injustices by creating new injustices, even if those injustices are argued for by the very people the injustice is focused on (why can’t a white proclaim their blood guild over ‘white privilege’?).  Racism and privilege is not resolved by creating new types of racism and privilege.  As Ravi Zacharias observes, stigma tends to defeat dogma – if you can shame people, you never have to engage their ideas.  In this case, it is a form of reverse shaming creating self-stigma, which then removes any need to engage the idea of real change.  Why agitate for change when you already feel so bad?

From a Christianity Today article:

That’s not an easy thing to grapple with, especially for students from privileged background. They’ve often benefited from unearned advantages, said Cleveland. Coming to grips with that can leave them angry and confused.

She recounted a story told by one of her colleagues, in a discussion about diversity. A white student asked, “Are we inherently sinful because we are white?”

“He said, ‘No, you are not sinful because you are white—but you have inherited a sin because you are white. The question is, ‘What are you going to do about it?’” said Cleveland.

The legacy of our families of origin can leave us with inherited sins that need to be actively addressed.  Events even several generations back can have lasting impact on us today.  However, that is much different than saying because you are white you have inherited a sin.

If that is good theology, why are we not speaking of black slavers having to repent of their inherited sin?  Or Hutu children having to repent of their parent’s sin of aiding a genocide?  Or Stalin’s daughter?  Or the entire race of Germanic people?  Or the children of Somali pirates?  Or the children of mob bosses?  Or (if you’re Anabaptist) the children of soldiers?  Or everyone descended from any of the many people recognized to have wrought great evil in their time?

The reason we don’t, is because this concept of sin, applied across an entire racial category, is not Christian.  That is, it does not fit in the framework established by the life of Christ.

And it is only a small step from that thought to thinking about vengeance paid unto the first and subsequent generations, a thoroughly Old Testament concept.

The fact that the person being interviewed moved so easily into a fundamentally contradictory statement (you’re not sinful because you’re white, but you’ve inherited sin because you’re white…so you’re not sinful, but you are?  Is that second or third degree sin?) is one of the things that causes me grave concern.  If you can’t be rationally consistent, you don’t have a hope of being theologically rigorous.

God’s reality: the sin of gossip (one we are almost all regularly guilty of) is equal to the sin of gluttony, which is equal to the sin of theft, which is equal to the sin of murder, which is equal to the sin of mass murder.  Sin and God are not in a transactional relationship with each other: you do not build good credits by virtue of good works, which in turn offset your sin black marks.  there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  The distance between God and the holiest human that has ever lived, and the distance between God and the evilest human that has ever lived is indistinguishable, so distant is God’s righteousness from our best efforts.  But…

…the accounting book and the weigh scale were both destroyed forevermore in the action of Christ upon the cross.

We constantly fall into the transactional trap, because we need to convince ourselves that we are good, by convincing ourselves that we are not as bad as someone else.  It appeals to our rational, logical mind because it makes so much sense (while that sense reflects only the wisdom of this world).  There’s a parable about that – the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18).  What the transactional trap really reflects is the old sin of pride.

‘White privilege’ falls into the transactional group, because it is about making ourselves feel bad, so we can be convinced we are good.  It is intended to obtain pity from onlookers, something that has replaced love and relationship in the post-modern context.

White privilege involves identifying that the sin of a particular racial group needs to be singled out, as a way of combating that sin.  That is utter foolishness, and could only happen in an era rightly identified as post-truth by Oxford.

You do not remove sin, by sinning to point it out.  The sin of racism (which is as present in the ‘white privilege’ movement as it is everywhere else) is not corrected by sinning against the entire race of white people.  But we love to convince ourselves we are good, because we feel so bad.

That Christians continue to argue this point is an illustration of how far away from the Gospels we have fallen.

Romans 3 (ESV):

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

[…and the part which continues to frustrate me particularly is the aggressive assertion that I don’t understand white privilege, coming to me exclusively from white people.  I will say this again: ‘white privilege’, whatever you think it may be, does absolutely nothing to restore right relationship between my people and yours.  I don’t want your ‘white privilege’ repeatedly brought forward as an example of how bad you feel about the past.

It’s important for me to say very clearly that I receive those assertions of ‘white privilege’ as an act of colonialism.

After some prayer, I’ve realized that the reason this affects me so viscerally is because it is activating big portions of my broken family history of racism, and impacting my own sense of indigenous identity.  The assertion of a right to ‘white privilege’ is the same old refrain I’ve heard throughout my people’s history, that included things like the use of white, Protestant troops to forcefully solve the Metis problem in Red River.

Advocate to change the Indian Act, demand your government right the land crimes committed against indigenous people by governments and citizens, and demonstrate that you are actually interested in a new relationship.  Those injustices are continuing to be perpetuated by Canadian governments this day (1,000s of examples – but there are still court cases like this going on if you can believe it.).  Until then, stop wasting my time with these assertions of ‘white privilege’.]


Written by sameo416

December 28, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

where does our political allegiance lie as Christians?

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Advent 4, 18 December 2016, SJE ©2016 Amos 9 (preaching series)

Apologies for the delay in posting…our staff Christmas party was Saturday eve, and I finished this literally in time to walk out the door.  I missed my usual eve-before post.

Here we are at the 4th Sunday of Advent and the last chapter of the Prophet Amos.  We are presented with the last of five visions. This one is a prophecy of judgement and the outcome of action and decision made far earlier.  The Lord comes not as divine comforter, but as judge and the bringer of punishment.  Even though the sequence ends with a word of restoration, we have some pain to march through before we get to the happy ending.

But, even before I get into the text, I want to emphasize why prophetic texts are important.  The modern church likes to think of God as someone who just wants us to all have a good time, meaning we can claim moral endorsement of doing whatever it is that makes us feel complete.  This fulfills me, therefore it is holy.  That includes re-writing Jesus as a soft and pliable man who never rebuked anyone and, with the exception of a few really bad Pharisees and Sadducees, was a thoroughly nice guy with everyone.  This is nothing short of a heretical view of our Lord and we see consistency across the ages between Amos’ account of this holy vision of judgement, and the same Lord who came to earth some 2,000 years ago, and the same Lord who will return on clouds to judge the quick and the dead.  Remember how the Baptizer John described what was to come with Jesus, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”   This sounds not dissimilar to what we’ve just heard from Amos.  There is a unity presented to us across the Scriptures, but it is a unity that we would rather avoid, because it allows us the flexibility of an idolatrous remaking of Jesus into someone safe.

The account begins with the Lord standing beside the altar and issuing a command.  Note he is standing by “The” altar, as in His altar, and not one of the many other altars to other deities. The Lord says: “Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people”  There is ambiguity in pronouns in the text so it is unclear what is being shattered, pillars or heads, or pillars and heads.  The ambiguity is likely intentional, and reflects both a literal destruction of the corrupted temple and the corrupt people.  What follows is an interesting list of the places where those who flee will be unable to hide from the Lord’s winnowing fork: Sheol, heaven, mountaintops, the bottom of the sea, and even in captivity with enemies there will be no place safe.  This has parallel with a happier text, Psalm 139 ,which asks where someone could go to hide the Lord.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. … (ESV)

The Psalmist then makes a petition before God about the wicked enemies who hate the Lord and take his name in vain, asking that God slay the wicked.

19 Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20 They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain,
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22 I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

So here we have Amos reporting a prophecy where God is promising to do exactly what the Psalmist has asked, except the wicked in this case are the kingdom of Israel as led by their evil king Jeroboam II.  This leads to an interesting question – when we pray in petitions to change the hearts of others, or to stop the hand of those who do violence, how often do those petitions end up rebounding on to our blood-guilt in the cycles of violence and evil that continue to trouble the planet?  How often do our prayers, in God’s hands, have the effect of transforming our hearts?  I would suggest that as soon as you start to pray, both things are going on, and one of the false assumptions we make about prayer is that we have the ability to focus it on what is the object of our attention, when really what we’re doing is inviting the Almighty to work to transform the world including us.  Here the psalmist’s prayer brings judgement upon God’s people.

What do we do with this case where God tells us, through Amos, that no one will escape shattering capitals, the sword or the serpent?  The message continues with this line in the 4th verse, “and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good.”  (cf Jer 21:10, 39:16, 44:27)  Now before we conclude that God is doing something contrary to his nature – that is evil – a word on the Hebrew.  The word in this context could also be translated as ‘bad’, meaning that God’s eyes will be locked onto the Israelites not for the intention of bringing them goodness, but badness.  Don’t assume because of the text that this is a manifestation of evil.

The Lord is going to bring badness on the entire kingdom, in verse 8 it is reaffirmed that the place his eyes are resting is all of it and it is to be utterly and totally destroyed.  This is the northern kingdom, for it is the southern kingdom and the house of Jacob which will be spared.  The story unfolds in reality as the northern kingdom will progressively fall to the Assyrians over the next 40 years’ and most of the intelligentsia and leadership are taken away into exile in Assyria.  Jeroboam II’s leading of the nation into grievous sin does not leave a restful rule behind.  Of the six kings of Israel which follow, 5 are assassinated or executed.  At the end of the story, the northern kingdom is no more, scattered like chaff into the surrounding nations.  This brings us a second interesting lesson about prayer, often our horizons are too close to see God’s will that unfolds over generations.

The text on destruction ends with an interesting phrase at verse 10, “All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’”  I’m highlighting this verse as it reflects a too-common part of the human condition, which is our inability to see when we are headed on a road to perdition.  Be attentive when you start to think in human absolutes – God will surely continue to bless us! Because you have plenty.  Or that the collapse you are ignoring in another part of the world will have no impact closer to home (cf Metric, Speed the Collapse: All the way from where we came, Built a mansion in a day, Distant lightning, thunder claps, Watch our neighbor’s house collapse, Looked the other way, And then the storm was overhead, All the oceans boiled and rivers bled…)

At verse 11 we have a folding of the text, as the prophecy of annihilation turns to one of restoration, and the remainder of Amos speaks to a wondrous future.  There are some interesting aspects of that future that are worth pausing over.  First is that restoration of Israel will come through a restoration of the rule of David, but it will be a different sort of rule.  This one will allow the followers of the One God to possess the remnant of Edom including all the nations who are called by God’s name.  It’s suggested that the word Edom used here may be a word play on Adam, because the assertion that all the nations will be involved is a hearkening far forward to the coming of the Christ.  This text from Amos is used by James in the Acts 15 account of the Council of Jerusalem as part of the proof that support Barnabas and Paul’s argument that God has called the Gentiles to follow Him.  So, it all ends in a happy ending, and we can place Amos back on the shelf for another decade or so.  Or can we?  I’ll suggest that this prophecy speaks to us as much today as it did to the northern kingdom.  Let’s talk about some of those messages.

The first thing is to reinforce something I’ve said a number of times – Christians are not to place their faith in worldly leaders as the ones who will bring peace, prosperity and happiness to our land.  Whether we live in times of peace and prosperity or times of war and famine, it is difficult to draw linkages from those transient events and God’s presence or actions inside history.  It is so easy for us to co-opt things which support our particular sinful vision of the way the world should work, and I’m continually disappointed to see how often Christians become advocates for particular political systems or individuals as the ‘godly’ choice.  So, Amos leaves us with a number of messages: such as, rules of nations can lead the entire nation into a state of evil as the northern kings did repeatedly.  We have seen this happen repeatedly in our life time – most recently in Syria, where the ruler has directed multiple chemical weapon attacks on his citizens.  We are called to be discerning citizens of a different state, who specifically are not permitted to create idols out of anything in that secular world, be these systems, secular movements, social justice warrior hood or political leaders.

Amos highlights for us that claiming political allegiance as a part of faith can be a very dangerous place.  The American Evangelical movement has, in some aspects, become indistinguishable from the political movement it parallels.  There are similar aspects in Canada.  It leaves us with a question – how are Christians to engage politically, if that is even a possibility for a believer?  My first answer is very carefully, if at all.  Reformed theologian Karl Barth frequently warned that there was no political movement which represented the kingdom of God (cf Widdicombe), and apologist Ravi Zacharias goes a step further to note that as soon as a faith movement becomes politicized it signs approaching death for that movement.  We might say that God’s kingdom is so incompatible with human-led and developed structures that there is no time that a Christian should be able to endorse a secular social movement of any sort as being representative of the Kingdom.  This is one reason for caution before importing any secular social justice movement into the church – because even if it is about justice, it is not necessarily about God.  That doesn’t mean we don’t participate in, for example, Idle no More or marches for peace, but it means we do not equate those events with God’s kingdom.  This is a very challenging thing to do, because much of what we do as Christ-centered people exists on the margin between the secular culture and the Ecclesia, the Body of Christ.  But, this is our particular call as followers of Christ.

Theologian Oliver O’Donovan makes this even more explicit: “Pending the final disclosure of the Kingdom of God, the church and society are in a dialectical relation, distant from each other as well as identified” (The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology, p. 251).  This was certainly one of the most troubling aspects of the recent US election, not because it was a new phenomenon, but because I have never seen it so clearly marked.  The role of the Christian in the political sphere is certainly to influence the process, to vote, to add our voices to the calls for Godly justice for all for certain, but we cross over into a realm of risk when we start speaking about how a particular political candidate or a particular social movement is righteous and blessed by God.

Some do refer to this, the Ecclesia, the Body of Christ, as a political movement unto itself, and I would argue that we are not properly a political organization because that immediately defines us in secular terms.  But if the secular world starts to recognize us as a political group, or just another social justice group, this is when we have clearly stepped over from the Body of Christ into a religiously-minded movement of the world and not of God.  Our call in the world is to be so radically focused on truth and justice that the rest of the world is unable to recognize as anything other than lunatics.  (on the Orthodox tradition of the holy fool for Christ, see St Simeon, or Holy Fool as starters).  That may sound harsh, but it is the approach which strikes me as being most true to Christ’s call, and the reason O’Donovan states that the Body of Christ and the secular society are in diametric, that is opposing, relationship to each other.  The reason for that is because we seek to model ourselves after a leader like no human leader has ever been.  When was the last time you heard political pundits praise a political leader for humility, grace, or a servant nature that astonished everyone who heard about it?  When was the last time you heard a political leader say that there is only one true king?

The reality of political movements is that they, along with us, are so deeply integrated into the secular ocean of culture that it is a fight to even recognize the biases and entrenched systems of oppression and violence that each one of us participates in daily.  The call of Christ is always to move deeper into relationship with God in love, which means we never arrive at that destination, but are always moving further into the divine presence.  That approach in turn further transforms our hearts, and identifies a whole new layer of injustice that exists around us.  That process of deeper in, and further on makes the establishment of a Christocentric political movement impossible: the best we can do at any one point is to be innocent as doves, wise as serpents, and to resist the urge to say, “This is the candidate Jesus would endorse.”  That sort of action is idolatry, and reflects the point at which we have let the distortion of sin shift our worship and allegiance from the proper king, to one made by human hands.

Anglican theologian David Widdicombe points us to Jesus’ answer to John the Baptist’s question about who Jesus is, as the key to understanding what exactly constitutes the Christian’s politic: “The dead receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” (Matt 11)  The conclusion is that the church is not about a political theology, but a people who always practice mercy and wait upon the ultimate reconciliation of the creation in the person of the merciful judge.

Perhaps one of the greatest things that the individual Christian can do within these interlocking secular systems of politics, finance, violence and oppression is to act as a voice of prophetic truth, to say, ‘this is not the way of God’, or even to repeat one refrain endlessly as each new political plan for salvation is unfurled, ‘what about the widows, the orphans, the hungry, the blind and lame?’  Our greatest witness may be just to ask the right questions, focused strongly on the witness of Christ with God’s abiding presence within our hearts.  In making that witness we must remember that our defining act as a follower of Christ is to manifest love to all, and particularly to those who are left loveless by the culture.  We do so because Christ came to earth not to save good people, but to save those who were dead.  There is but one authority for the church: the person of Christ.

A group of Lutheran theologians made this clear in May 1934 when they issued what is called the Barmen Declaration.  In a Germany on fire with populist support for this new charismatic leader, they reaffirmed that the church is not called to be aligned with any secular power as some of the churches had done:

Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death. We reject the false doctrine that the church could and should recognize as a source of its proclamation, beyond and besides this one Word of God, yet other events, powers, historic figures, and truths as God’s revelation. [1]

Amos gives us a clear cautionary prophecy about the way that leaders, church and political, can lose their way and take their whole church or nation into grievous sin where justice is ignored.  As followers of The Christ, we are called to citizenship in a different sort of nation, one whose primary purpose is the continued quest for holiness, which means it is constantly subverting the focus of secular politics and culture.  The church is not a political organization, but an eschatological community which subverts all constructs of human conception by holding them up to the bright light of Christ.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,

who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and gave him the law on Sinai:

Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm. Amen

snips I cut for time reasons:

Any secularly conceived concept of equality is fatally flawed, as that equality is not conceived through the person of the Godhead in relationship and is therefore only a shadow of what is imagined as possible.  Equality only exists through Christ, because that is the only place where true equality is possible.

Musician Steve Bell performed in Edmonton last week, and prior to performing an Advent song he described Advent as a season of quieting the noise of surface longings so that the deeper longings could rise and be recognized.  This is what we are to be about in this holy season, quieting, so that we may hear the deep longings which God has written on our hearts, and which are often drowned out by the noise of the world.  Deep calls to deep.

Here’s an example, fair trade coffee – it wasn’t that long ago that fair trade coffee was a rare thing to find, and meant you bought your coffee either on line or through Ten Thousand Villages or a similar social justice organization.  Now we see some form of fair trade effort being made by almost every place that sells coffee commercially, even places like Tim Hortons and MacDonald’s make some effort to source coffee in a different manner.  That’s an example of how Christian witness and advocacy can act to transform an oppressive commercial practice – it’s certainly not perfect, but it’s better.  Now, if we take that to the extent that we say start printing posters with something like, “Jesus would have drunk only fair trade coffee”, we would have crossed over into the realm of the secular.  I suspect that the Gospel’s comment on fair trade coffee would be to ask if it’s really that fair, if the trade part is really just, and if we should not consider giving up coffee altogether.

In my sermon on the first chapter of Amos, I quoted the Soviet dissident and Nobel Laurette Alexandr Solzhenitsyn (sol ja nit sin), on why the Jewish people had suffered so much over history.  It is worth repeating again, as it works the same way for us.  “The reason for our misery is that we have forgotten God.”  So Amos, rather than an interesting historic footnote, is spookily prescient of our post-modern context, as the prophets continue to call us back to the One true God.  Amos preached into a context that wasn’t far off what we see today, peace, prosperity and plenty (for some at least) but a nation that had completely forgotten the covenant with the Lord which was the basis for their very existence, and a nation that was ignoring the heart of that covenant, which was based firmly in God’s message of justice for the oppressed and the voiceless.

I am in the midst of reading Kvriacos C Markides marvelous book The Mountain of Silence.  This is his account of dialogues with Father Maximos a monk from Mount Athos.  It is an exploration of both Orthodoxy and the monastic tradition which follows on the desert ascetics.  While I didn’t mention any of that directly, the fabric of the sermon is shot through with Fr Maximos’ teachings on the goal of all Christian life being unity with God (following the classic model of spiritual development: purgative, illumative, unitive)

Article on politics and faith by Winnipeg Anglican theologian David Widdicombe.  Widdicombe is Rector of St Margaret’s parish in Winnipeg, a wonderful place of music and challenging theology.  I took a course on spiritual leadership from him while at seminary.  A deep thinker, with a doctorate from Oxford with Rowan Williams as his thesis supervisor.

I had serious writers block on this sermon until I found this article posted on a FaceBook group:


“How is the Christian to engage politically in the present age? This is not an easy question or task. Claiming that your politics are Christian, as so many do, does not make them so. Karl Barth famously and frequently warned that no political party or program directly represents the kingdom of God. Oliver O’Donovan’s version of Barth’s rule makes it clear how challenging it is to get this right. “Pending the final disclosure of the Kingdom of God, the church and society are in a dialectical relation, distant from each other as well as identified” (The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology, p. 251). To shield theology against political programs and principles that undermine or betray the Gospel, while acknowledging that the Gospel does bear some authoritative relation to the public sphere, is no easy task.”

Oliver O’Donovan, theologian.  I find O’Donovan almost unintelligible without really careful and thoughtful reading.  He is a profound thinker, just not terribly accessible (in the same way that NT Wright is to read).


The ‘O Antiphon’ for December 18 (from Wikipedia)

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,

who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and gave him the law on Sinai:

Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

Isaiah had prophesied:

  • “[…] but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.” Isaiah 11:4-5
  • “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us.” Isaiah 33:22

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (joy of the Gospel), particularly where he outlines impediments to the joy of the Gospel reaching people’s ears.


[1] The Barman Declaration, May, 1934 set this out clearly as the church struggled with Hitler’s growing populism.  The reaffirmed that there is only one true king, and the church has no business aligning itself with other secular authorities.

Written by sameo416

December 18, 2016 at 11:04 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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