A Vegan Precedent?

From Genesis:

{1:26} God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

{1:27} God created man in his own image. In God’s image he created him; male and female he created them.

{1:28} God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

{1:29} God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree, which bears fruit yielding seed. It will be your food.

{1:30} To every animal of the earth, and to very bird of the sky, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food;” and it was so.


The food that was originally given was what grew from the earth. For us and for other living things — animals and birds and everything that creeps on the earth. How much healthier might we be?


Does Jesus Lie?

From EvilBible.com comes the following litany of Jesus’s lies. They are in italics. I have appended a few remarks to each.

1) And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21:21-22 NAS)

This has to do with the inner capacity to apply will to reality. It is a way of saying we are in control. That we are seems evident by the largely uncontrolled things that we clearly cause, to great detriment. It would be best if we controlled with some sense of partnership with Abba.

2) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 NAB)

Same general theme here. Giving when we ask is the way Abba chooses to answer when we pray. And so forth. It does not mean we can control reality entirely but it most certainly means we are not pawns of fate.

3) Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:19-20 NAS)

What does this mean? It means that movements of any sort can work and that movements animated by awareness of Abba and Abba’s Way are to be desired. They do things like end slavery and segregation and extend human rights and justice. Vastly more effective than lone ventures or movements propelled by various others who need not be named. Jesus is talking about Abba-empowered community.

4) Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. (Mark 11:24-25 NAB)

I suppose new age sorts would call this simple visualization. I shy from that reduction of what is said here. I am more inclined to believe that Abba wishes us to take on large and significant aims and projects.

5) And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9-13 NAB)

If one understands that this is about mobilizing the will, this is not substantially different than what the crypto-athiest Nietzsche maintains in Zarathustra. It comes to the same thing. Jesus is trying to turn lemmings proactive and the New Testament is testimony to the difficulty of that endeavor.

6) And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it. (John 14:13-14 NAB)

This to me is an example of creedal messianism in the New Testament. The NT is an ex post facto statement of largely creedal statements and our access to the actual words of Jesus is hardly assured.

7) If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. (John 15:7 NAB)

I prefer to believe that the gist of Jesus is that Abba is within us and available to us and that he, Jesus, manifests Abba’s Way. That is not to say he had any desire to be worshipped or for a religion to be built around him.

8) It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. (John 15:16 NAB)

Creedal as well.

9) On that day you will not question me about anything. Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. (John 16:23-24 NAB)

As well.


Grass Roots Notes 3 — Ordination

It has been years since more than a handful have taken seriously the ramifications of ecumenism and one of the corollaries of the scandalous division of the churches — the near laughable status of ordination in our time. And yet for the local church the questions of ecumenism and ordination have ongoing and possibly crucial importance.

Ecumenism is so hobbled now that I almost think local churches are going to have to develop brand names to present something like a united face to the world. I am serious. I think any two or three congregations willing to cooperate should make that declaration as public as possible. Just to shock the local residents into seeing that there might be something like grass roots Christian unity after all.

Ordination is a difficult matter. It is all tied up with issues of professionalism (we must keep the seminaries going), denominationalism (guild status) and theology (who validates this anyway, and for what?)

My own belief is that the functions of the church should be clearly defined and that they should be limited to two. I wish I had words to say what these two functions are. I used to call them chaplaincy and teaching. But these terms are a bit imprecise, particularly chaplaincy.

So let me approach it from a different angle. Assuming that some education is needed for someone to be paid for serving the church, of what should this education consist?

It should consist of providing the recipient with the ability to communicate what the gospel (what I have come to call Abba’s Way) is, not merely in its essence, but in the way of life that it teaches.

The recipient should also recognize that she or he is merely a resource and that the primary task is to so feed the laity that the laity is empowered to carry on the way of life in the world — as individuals and part of the human community.

The only remotely valid basis for ordination — and it is a slim one indeed — is the need to confer some professional identity on those who carry out the functions noted in the previous paragraph. The idea of ordaining everyone to a list of various tasks is not a good one. It merely underlines the questionable nature of ordination.

Renewal of the church begins with the acknowledgement that the first task is to introduce a violent and uncaring world to a way of life that runs counter to the Budweiser ads, mud wrestling and smooth legal practices.

The most impenetrable barrier to such renewal is a trained up professional minister who preaches a polished sermon every week. That sets in motion the church as a show, the creation of a lay audience and a general support for the charade-church that is the denomination mirroring what should be congregational concerns with programs and task forces and the like.

All a local church should undertake as a professional responsibility is the communication of Abba’s Way to all who are interested and the empowering of the laity via some methodology that has yet to come into being.

In general I assume empowerment would involve a move away from benevolence as institutional support to benevolence as an attitude out there in the world.

Empowerment would mean that the offering would be one’s discipleship for the coming week. Empowerment would mean groups of two and three looking after each other. Empowerment would mean cessation of much church busywork so that creative juices for voluntarism in the community would flow more freely.

Because denominations are not initiating these processes, we have nothing like a common stance as far as ordination goes. Even in enlightened quarters we are suffering from a basic hardening, an acceptance of the statue quo as normative, a suspicion of Luchenbach — that is to say of getting back to the basics of life.

The world takes nothing we do with real seriousness because they either do not know who we are by what we do — or they think they know who we are by what they see from the likes of Pat Robertson and other TV luminaries.

The minister today is generally isolated, told by her or his denomination to do thus and so and expected by an untutored laity to perform many functions under the sun while they inhabit the committees necessary for a typical corporate enterprise. Ecumenism is not existential. Ordination only is as it relates to the practicalities of pensions and such.

Is this a sorry state of affairs?

Forty years ago many thought it was. Today it seems normative. And the price of renewal rises as its parameters become more clear.


The Religion Code

This is not a review of The Da Vinci Code. It is a comment on the underlying thinking that appears to dominate the film.

The great theologian Karl Barth goes ignored in our time and the void has been filled by everything from Mel Gibson’s gruesome evocation of a conservative Roman Catholic declension of religion, The Passion of Christ, to Ron Howard’s The Da Vinci Code. The latter is a stalwart effort to give credence to a pop modernity with nods toward codes and symbols; but it falls back finally on the premises of religion.

Barth took the tenable position that the gospel Jesus spread was not religion at all. Religion is a human construct that, at worst, plays to the lower end of the human spectrum of consciousness where superstition and infantile understandings reside.

It is ironical that Barth wrote in opposition to religion at a time when fundamentalism was emerging as the very vanguard of deleterious religion worldwide. Barth probably did more to base conclusions on a stringent reading of Scripture than anyone since the Reformation.

He offered in Church Dogmatics and other works a damning refutation of what I have no hesitation in calling the Religion Code — an immature and mindless formula which believes particular actions will bring particular rewards, that certain objects have supernatural power and that among religions of the world there is one that is true above all others. Mine.

In Barth’s universe it is nonsensical to base any supposition on such premises.The Christian gospel was to him a flat-out rejection of the belief that blood lines have to do with anything. Jesus stood against all forms of exclusivism and put no human boundaries on grace or salvation as he understood it.

For Barth, religious inferences in the Bible are trumped by prophetic proclamations of universal love which make religion itself, with its protagionist-antagonist dynamics, a code for the very history the gospel judges and seeks to transform.

If we reject exclusive, blood-line understandings, we have no basis for aggressive and nativist forms of religion in today’s world.

Yet media too often join religionists in helping to reduce prophetic Christian understanding to “documentary” pap about Jesus offered on various cable channels, often utilizing the comments of unaccountably uncritical religious academics. Perhaps they are bemused by prospects of Warhol fame.

The Religion Code accepts and propagates the very idolatries Jesus himself opposed. Holy Grails. Crusades. Blood lines. Chosen persons. Yet under the umbrella of diversity and tolerance, the Religion Code gives credence to the worst aspects of religion: superstition, authoritarianism, intolerance, warfare and idolatry.

The Religion Code espouses what Dostoevsky derisively called mystery, miracle and authority. Christianity remains an understanding that continues to elude the world.

Only when we reject the notion of religion itself, as Barth did, can can begin to move toward an era of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “religionless Christianity”. And have done with the hoary premises of the Religion Code.


The Election No One Wants To Win

Congress 2006? No one wants to win.

Right religionists may rebel if tolerance makes strides and the culture war goes in the direction of live and let live.

Democrats are petrified they might win and share blame for bankruptcy deficits, Iraq and health ineptitude.

Republicans and Democrats can relax.

How so?

It would be delightful if some ordinary folk, whose radar does not turn off when an easy dollar is dangled or a complex problem is presented, would decide that 2006 is their year and simply run in the primaries of the party most likely to win.

This could be the year incumbents of all stripes took the pipe.

Of course unchallengeable touch-screen voting from Diebold and others favor corrupt spectral persons whose affiliations can be deduced from election results. That is enough to quell anything like a democratic (small d) initiative.

The goal of a pox on all houses would be leaders who can gently and firmly dismantle the sad products of the current crowd whose casual destructions have alienated persons of all persuasions. That would clear the decks for a new start.


The Primacy Of Fire Or Spirit Baptism

Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1: 9-11; Luke 3: 15-22

The WAY OF JESUS is the way of fire baptism which is baptism by the Holy Spirit. The Luke text is the source for this. John the Baptist states that Jesus will baptize in this way.

Therefore any water baptism is merely a beginning point and is not strictly even necessary for the follower of the way of Jesus.

The baptism of Jesus by John is a water baptism. But it is also a Holy Spirit baptism because the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove and Abba speaks the words “my beloved” and “I am well pleased”.

Since we backslide, there perhaps ought to be many ways to show repentance including something like the baptism in the Jordan. But the fact remains that the baptism we are now to seek is that of the Holy Spirit and of fire.

Two things accompany Spirit baptism. Note that fire baptism is really a powerful statement of Spirit baptism because in Acts at Pentecost the Spirit does descend as tongues of fire!

The two things are deliverance and purification.

Jesus does not, as far as we know, baptize with water, though he does wash the feet of his disciples, implying servanthood and love. Nor does he make any ceremony about baptizing with the Holy Spirit.

What then is the fulfillment of John’s prophecy about Spirit and fire baptism?

If we take from Luke the ideas of purification and deliverance, Jesus fulfills these for us by initiating the cleansing, inrushing, powerful actions of the Spirit as the gift he gives to his congregation or church.

The church is literally created where this gift is received!

This makes Pentecost the essential completion of John’s statement about how Jesus will baptize in the future.

What then is the WAY OF JESUS for us in the here and now?

It is most probably to include the water baptism as one of numerous water rituals that could be performed to signify human repentance and turning from sin and the desire for deliverance, purification and rebirth.

It is most assuredly to initiate times when the baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit is actively sought and received.

The role of the Spirit in Jesus’s ministry is not tangental but foundational. The Spirit comes down upon him at baptism and literally drives him to his own journey of encounter with the principalities and powers, Satan in the desert.

So when we consider the place of baptism today, move quickly to the prophecy of the Baptist — which was indeed fulfilled before all eyes at Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan.

It would not be out of place for continuing rites of baptism to seek the Spirit baptism, but the texts give us a strong argument AGAINST infant baptism and against the sacramentalization of baptism in a world that has been fully sacramentalized by the healing power of Abba in Jesus Christ and the Spirit.


Divine Anger

So afraid are we of being tagged with the W word — wimp — that we cannot stand for reasonable values such as tolerance, democracy and helpfulness as over against power, guts and self-interest — without being marginalized, mentally and spiritually, if not physically.

When I see G-d as Jesus saw him — as Abba — does this preclude the existence of divine anger?

I think not.

But I also think that divine anger is the product of a relationship.

Let’s take the story of the Prodigal Son.

The wayward one has basically trashed himself in the process of leading a life that has little regard for anyone else and he comes home broken.

Now let us wonder what Abba his father was going through as the Prodigal was out messing up. We may assume that such anger as he felt was frustration, impatience, agony — because Abba is within each person and is working for the best results, but Abba does not deny people dignity — the very dignity that means a person can be disgusting, abusive and totally objectionable if that is what the person decides to be.

That dignity also is the key to mental health because it means the person cannot foist off responsibility on anything or anyone else.

So divine anger is basically agony and frustration because people who should know better are trashing themselves and others.

You think the Prodigal Son story is about two brothers and how Abba inclines toward the sinful one and that makes Abba permissive in his mercy? Think some more. That is only part of it.

What are you doing to prodigalize yourself?

The only reason the Prodigal was saved from more idiocy was that he saw himself as he had become and was disgusted and turned to Abba.

Can we just turn to Abba and expect to be wined and dined because we were presuming on someone who is just a nice guy? How dumb is that?

Abba is the very pinnacle of worth and dignity and honour and intellect and love — and Abba feels ANGER a good deal of the time because people are wayward, prodigal, abusive, stupid, judgmental, prideful, stingy.

Abba takes it amiss when we do not become who we are meant to be, but escape and then spew our venom out on other people, setting up chain reactions of misery.

Abba not angry? Think again.

Abba’s mercy and love are worth more than anything the Prodigal ever found in his ignorance and blindness. Abba stands ready in each person to forgive and help establish a better way.

This is not religion or creed. This is reality. The only thing you have to do is look within and be honest with yourself. That is what the Prodigal finally did and that is why Abba’s anger was replaced by joy.