Friday, December 30, 2016

interim book report: The Jesus Driven Life by Michael Hardin

I have been taking The Jesus Driven Life slowly over the past month because Michael Hardin has many important things to say and I can only hold a few of them at a time in my cluttered mind. My 22 part ongoing series, Not everything Biblical is Christian, tries to do in part what Hardin is able to do more substantially. I started the series because I shared the issue Hardin raises,
The ‘standard’ Protestant view of the inerrancy or infallibility of Scripture is unacceptable. It is not simply a question of ‘historical errors’ (was Jesus crucified before or after the Passover meal) but the deeper theological ones (why is God as reflected in Jesus so substantively different than God is portrayed in many Old Testament texts) that have caused me to rethink the nature of the Bible. loc. 4375 Kindle
Like Hardin, I was raised dispensational fundamentalist with an adoration of the Bible instead of the person who is the living, embodied, incarnate word of God. My blog series has tried to expose the faultiness of inerrancy, not through historical errors, but through direct contradictions or overrides by Jesus himself. As a dispensationalist, I could solve (temporarily) the problem Hardin points out by telling myself God's approach has changed since the arrival of Jesus. A dispensationalist would, ironically, rather negate a verse in scripture, "Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews) than posit the Bible is imperfect.

The fear of the fundamentalist is that if one part is considered imperfect then what part is trustworthy? My simplistic answer is any part in disagreement with Jesus is not of God, but provides the negative space to contrast with the beautiful parts from God. Hardin offers a more refined perspective, using the anthropology of Rene Girard.
Some may object and say but if that is the case how do we distinguish between what is “man’s word” and what is “God’s Word?” This has already been answered by suggesting that revelation comes through the voice of the forgiving victim. It is the Crucified that speaks the eternal word: shalom. loc. 4400 Kindle
This line "revelation comes through the voice of the forgiving victim" clearly applies to the last words of the martyr Stephen as opposed to the martyred prophet Zechariah, as explained in the previous post. In order to "get" the Bible, we need to gain the outsider perspective. Do we have friendships with those who are blamed for society's problems? How do they perceive Jesus? Why do they see him that way? They can give us eyes to see and ears to hear if want.

Here is the 22 link series, Not everything Biblical is Christian.
Part one points out that the words of Satan recorded in the Bible are not Christian doctrine.
Part two shows the Sermon on the Mount overruling the cursing of enemies exhibited in Psalm 137.
Parts three and four show Moses getting overruled by Ezekiel and Jesus.
Part five merely brushes the concept of source criticism.
Part six looks at the Old Testament application in the early church: a brief summary of the book of Acts.
Part seven looks at how the church has worked this out regarding slavery.
Part eight, showed one example of how an unchristian part of the Bible helps tell the Christian story.
Part nine asks who would Jesus hate?
Part 10 discusses women as Biblically approved spoils of war.
Part 11 discusses divorce.
Part 12 discusses the imposition of Bronze Age social constructs onto our diverse and complex modern world.
Part 13 discusses women as property in the Biblical world.
Part 14 discusses dehumanization of people with Biblical support.
Part 15 discusses the evangelical culture that tends to proclaim the terrible day of the Lord is around the next corner.
Part 16 shows how the end of the book of Job overrules 90% of the soliloquies in the book.
Part 17 discusses a Psalm of confession.
Part 18 discusses more Psalmist theology.
Part 19 discusses something in the New Testament writings of Paul.
Part 20 discusses condemnation.
Part 21 discusses religious zealotry that approves of murder.
Part 22 discusses how two prophets responded to their murderers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

two Biblical martyrs but only one a saint

The day after Christmas is a day to remember the first Christian martyr, Stephen.

Acts 7:59 – 8:8 (NRSV) While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died. And Saul approved of their killing him.

As Stephen dies, he prays like Christ for his oppressors forgiveness. But Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, perhaps intentionally, contrasts Stephen's response to his enemies with another prophet from Israel's history, Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada.

2 Chronicles 24:17-22 (NRSV) Now after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and did obeisance to the king; then the king listened to them. They abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their ancestors, and served the sacred poles and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs. Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD; they testified against them, but they would not listen. Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, “Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has also forsaken you.” But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the LORD. King Joash did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. As he was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!

Jesus has challenged the religious norm he was born into and was executed by the religious leaders in collaboration with the state. However, even in his death he continued to break with tradition. As he gasped for breath he was still able to pray, "Forgive them." He did not follow the example of Zechariah. Zechariah rightly challenged his religious culture but believed God had run out of mercy for them. Jesus revealed that God's well of mercy has no bottom. Zechariah's view of God, though biblical, is not Christian. Stephen has the understanding of a more Christ-like God, who would rather die at the hands of his enemies, because he loves them, than avenge himself on them. God will love his enemies into relationship instead of destroying them, like a good Father.

This contrast was gift wrapped for daily lectionary readers. I am merely presenting it to my fellow believers who do not have this practice.

This is part 22 of the series, Not everything Biblical is Christian.
Part one points out that the words of Satan recorded in the Bible are not Christian doctrine.
Part two shows the Sermon on the Mount overruling the cursing of enemies exhibited in Psalm 137.
Parts three and four show Moses getting overruled by Ezekiel and Jesus.
Part five merely brushes the concept of source criticism.
Part six looks at the Old Testament application in the early church: a brief summary of the book of Acts.
Part seven looks at how the church has worked this out regarding slavery.
Part eight, showed one example of how an unchristian part of the Bible helps tell the Christian story.
Part nine asks who would Jesus hate?
Part 10 discusses women as Biblically approved spoils of war.
Part 11 discusses divorce.
Part 12 discusses the imposition of Bronze Age social constructs onto our diverse and complex modern world.
Part 13 discusses women as property in the Biblical world.
Part 14 discusses dehumanization of people with Biblical support.
Part 15 discusses the evangelical culture that tends to proclaim the terrible day of the Lord is around the next corner.
Part 16 shows how the end of the book of Job overrules 90% of the soliloquies in the book.
Part 17 discusses a Psalm of confession.
Part 18 discusses more Psalmist theology.
Part 19 discusses something in the New Testament writings of Paul.
Part 20 discusses condemnation.
Part 21 discusses religious zealotry that approves of murder.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

eyes to see but cannot see

It has really not been until this election that I understood Jesus' use of parables and his justification for them. The parables weed out those with confirmation bias. Let me explain. Jesus, and the prophets he quotes, likes to say about their critics they have eyes to see but cannot see and ears to hear but cannot hear. This clicked with me when I read the same idea expressed by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter in a science fiction novel, "The Long Cosmos." They write this in the context of a extraterrestrial message "Come Join Us."
Some believed it must be what it most obviously looked like, some kind of SETI message from the sky...Others believed it couldn't be that precisely because that was the most obvious explanation." (p. 8)
In the same way, a significant minority of the American voting public refused to apply Occam's razor of reasoning, the simplest explanation is the best one, and chose conspiratorial explanations over and over again. Benghazi acquittals - didn't matter, guilty. Bragging of sexual assault - didn't matter, just jokes. Private email server acquittals - didn't matter, guilty. Assertions to reinstitute torture - didn't matter, hyperbole. Family foundation accusations documented untrue - didn't matter, guilty. Family foundation admitted violations and fines and self-serving or undelivered donations - didn't matter. all oversights.

This year's advent readings in the Old Testament mostly come from Isaiah. Yesterday's reading is from Isaiah 43:8-13. Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes, who are deaf, yet have ears! Let all the nations gather together, and let the peoples assemble. Who among them declared this, and foretold to us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to justify them, and let them hear and say, “It is true.” You are my witnesses.

The American voting public were warned over and over again about voting in a kleptocrat with ties to the oligarch nation of Russia. Yet despite his associations with Russian political apologists, his own dissembling about his real estate dealings and personal relations with Russia's oligarchs, his voters chose not to see. But they were warned.

Today's Isaiah reading is from Isaiah 10. Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the calamity that will come from far away? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth, so as not to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain? For all this his anger has not turned away; his hand is stretched out still.

Disenfranchisement of minority voters happened in many red states. This is documented and being adjudicated. In some states a school to prison pipeline is a reality for minority students. In some states, instead of raising taxes on the wealthy, they let the infrastructure of poor communities fall into disrepair so that their water is poisonousPrivate charter schools are enriched at the expense of public schools in poor districts. One Georgia lawmaker claimed a free lunch for hungry children deprives these kids of their dignity even though he gets plenty of free lunches from taxpayers.

Today's Advent reading in the Psalms comes from the 50th. Verses 16-21 But to the wicked God says:  "Why do you recite my statutes, and take my covenant upon your lips; 17 Since you refuse discipline,  and toss my words behind your back? 18 When you see a thief, you make him your friend,  and you cast in your lot with adulterers. 19 You have loosed your lips for evil,  and harnessed your tongue to a lie. 20 You are always speaking evil of your brother  and slandering your own mother's son. 21 These things you have done, and I kept still,  and you thought that I am like you."

When a president of a Christian college allies himself with a candidate who defrauded students in a fake university, that is befriending a thief. When church leaders excuse the serial adultery of their candidate, they have cast their lot with him. When a christian evangelist labels progressives, whether Christian or not as godless, that is speaking evil of his brothers and sisters.

This is a willful blindness from people who claim to know God and his book.When one of their own tries to point out the duplicity, his group is threatened with withdrawal of financial support. Perhaps if they did their advent readings everyday they might repent. In the meantime, I will try to love these folks into an eye opening experience as someone like William Barber is doing with the Moral Mondays movement..

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Is God Love or not?

One of my conservative Christian friends on facebook shared this comic by Christian comic artist Adam4d. I used to take this line of reason, but now I disagree with it because the "bottom line" for Adam's theology is not what I find in Jesus.

For Adam's comic, the basic gospel message is about us. I think instead the basic good news from Jesus is God is a loving entity that seeks everyone who is lost to restore them to full relationship, like a widow and lost coin, a shepherd and a lost sheep, or a father and lost son. As Jesus' brother James writes, "Mercy triumphs over judgment." As his beloved disciple John writes, "God is love." I join many great theologians in the church's history who start from this ground floor instead of an anthropolgical statement.

 Catholic monk and scholar Meister Eckhart (1200's) writes "How long will grown men and women in this world keep drawing in their coloring books an image of God that makes them sad?"A view of God that starts with his love instead of his justice has unexpected hopes. A justice-first God makes sure an adulteress woman is stoned to death. A love-first God makes sure she lives and gives her accusers a different perspective. 

 Catholic Saint Francis of Assissi (1100's) writes "God came to my house and asked for charity. And I fell on my knees and cried, 'Beloved, what may I give?' 'Just love,' He said. 'Just love.'" Francis gets that Jesus, God's icon on earth, is love. His orientation is love, first and foremost.

from Adam4D

One of the church's greatest philosophers, Saint Thomas Aquinas writes in the most merciful way, "One may never have heard the sacred word "Christ," but be closer to God than a priest or nun." The answer to the "mind-boggling" question in the last panel, "Why does God save anyone?" is because God is love. Even us wicked fathers, as Jesus tells us, won't give our kids a snake if they ask for an egg. How much more the good father of all creation will do. A good father rescues every kid drowning. God loved the world so much he created it and redeems it, all of it, even Trumps.

The quotes are from the book "Love poems from God." I highly recommend reading it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

How to get Russia interested in your blog

I've written about Trump with his name in the blog title twice. Suddenly, I have more interest in my blog posts from Russia than I ever have. Here is a picture of my stats, courtesy of Google's Blogger platform, over the past week.
I am a very little guppy in the big pond of blogs and social media and I have never had Russia more than the lightest green on the stats map.

Why do Russians care about my blog? The CIA says they are so invested in Trump's victory that they leaked the DNC's emails but have kept the hacked RNC's, presumably for leverage. They filled comment fields with Trump trolls, making false assertions (blatantly lying) and overwhelming social media conversation with dis-information. Senator John McCain has called this digital meddling a form of war.

I turned off comments on my blog ages ago because of spam and trolls. Russia has become America's troll in chief to support Trump.

It's creepy that I am a repeat destination for Russia's webcrawlers.

I did not vote for this deplorable man. I did not ally with an oligarchy that seeks to remake America in its image, no longer the land of the free or the home of the brave.

Monday, December 12, 2016

I still love Donald Trump

As a straight white man in the modern United States, I live a privileged life. I do not worry about sexual harassment. I do not worry about being killed for a traffic violation. I do not fear being killed for my sexual orientation. I live in a society that makes good assumptions about me because I am a white man. Yet, I want to empathize with my brothers and sisters of color. I want to empathize with my sisters. I want to empathize my LGBTQ neighbors. I listen to their stories. I read their tweets. I read their blogs. The voices of the minorities are the voices in many of the Psalms, most written while the Jewish people were in exile. The Psalms are the blues hymnbook of the Bible. But I have been blind, as a majority male to the power of these songs of lament. I do not feel the weight of oppression.

But because of Donald Trump, I begin to really know the soul of the Psalmists as I read through the lectionary. The Advent readings are chosen for the anticipation of a deliverer. Until one feels the need for rescue, though, one can't feel the desperation in them. Here is Psalm 52 for today.

Psalm 52
1  You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness *
against the godly all day long?
2  You plot ruin;
your tongue is like a sharpened razor, *
O worker of deception.
3  You love evil more than good *
and lying more than speaking the truth.
4  You love all words that hurt, *
O you deceitful tongue.
5  Oh, that God would demolish you utterly, *
topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,
and root you out of the land of the living!
6  The righteous shall see and tremble, *
and they shall laugh at you, saying,
7 “This is the one who did not take God for a refuge, *
but trusted in great wealth
and relied upon wickedness.”
8  But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; *
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
9  I will give you thanks for what you have done *
and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence of the godly.

This is biblical poetry I get. When I read this I am reminded the more things change, the more they stay the same. Judaism really congealed in the exile. In the same way, Christianity blossomed in persecution. Because of Hitler the church got the writings of Barth and Bonhoeffer. Because of the genocides of WW2 the church's theologians realized their theology needed to stop dehumanizing the Jews.

Because of Trump, I get the Psalms better. Because I get the Psalms better I get my fellow non-majority neighbors better. I love him for that. I think Trump is all those things the poet is ranting against in Psalm 52, but because of that tyrant we have this poetic prayer. I will pray this with the Psalmist. So I'm also thankful the Trump has made me someone who prays more.

May his administration of greed and wickedness end soon. May he come to repentance for greed and lies and deception soon.

Monday, December 05, 2016

If you ignore your Nazi history, you may repeat it.

image source
People don't like it when I compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. They think I am claiming he plans on committing genocide. I do not think that. However, his strident white nationalist supporters do compare him to Hitler, so I am agreement with them on at least one topic. Trump is a master at propaganda and uses disinformation techniques, something useful to any demagogue in the making. He also routinely scapegoats entire groups of people as the source of the problems his supporters endure. He also encourages the majority to feel like a persecuted minority. White christian men like being told that consideration of others and laws that facilitate economic equity for women and minorities are just "political correctness" or "anti-white racism" or "feminazism." Allowing for the full constitutional rights of gay and transgendered citizens is "social depravity engineering" which will turn white children into flaming queers. Diminishing white male superiority is terrifying for the self-centered who have been enjoying that privilege for hundreds of years but exciting for everyone else, 3/4 of the planet.

The Nationalist Socialism Party of 1920-30's Germany felt similarly. When they came to power politically, they made similar assertions toTrump's white supremacist supporters today.

"We are a master race, which must remember that the lowliest German worker is racially and biologically a thousand times more valuable than the population here."  — Erich Koch, 5 March 1943, (Wikipedia)

White workers are horribly upset that they are being out competed for jobs by Mexicans and Chinese. It has nothing to do with racism, but with the lower cost of business outside of the United States for unskilled labor. This has been happening for decades, but the black president is somehow to blame, even though the white president before him did not fix it either. And they forget the black president has replaced most of the jobs the white president before him lost. I don't think it's due to short memory but to racism.

The Nazis implemented Aryan laws to "preserve" it's culture, which, in their eyes, was being diluted by the success of Jews. They wrote a booklet Why the Aryan Law. It open with lines like these.
The Jewish people, once only tolerated, knew how to raise a hue and cry about discrimination and persecution, winning the sympathy of the world for the “poor Jews.” They increasingly infiltrated deep within our national organism, growing to have power over every single area of our national life. The old saga, the “Edda,” observes that one blocks a river at its source. The failure to do that was the great mistake of the German people. Thank God, it is not too late. Our F├╝hrer Adolf Hitler recognized the importance of the problem for Germany’s rebirth, and outlined its solution in his program.
Now I can replace the word "Jewry" in this paragraph and replace it with "Muslim" or "homosexual" or "black-lives-matter" and hear similar sentiments from some of our nation's governors, legislators, and president elect. The blind racist/xenophobe/sexist/homophobe believes any successful person who does not match their identity is out to destroy their country, even if the non-majority person is successful precisely because of the culture and it's laws. White Christians have told me that the Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros wants to destroy this country. White Christians have told me the influx of Syrian refugees is diminishing European culture. White Christians have told me compassion for Syrian refugees and letting them into the U.S. will result in terrorist sleeper cells which will eventually turn on us.

The U.S. has always been a stew of nationalities. Yet it has always been xenophobic as well. Jews fleeing Hitler were denied entry to the U.S. because the nation did not want to expand it's quota of immigration, not even for 500 refugee children. Before World War 2 the U.S., like the rest of the world, was recovering from the Great Depression. Millions were out of work. Sound familiar? Jobs were limited. Prosperity was concentrated. Competition from cheap labor was not acceptable. As explained in this article on the St. Louis a ship full of Jewish refugees turned away by the U.S., compassion had reached its limit for most Americans.
Quotas established in the US Immigration and Nationality Act of 1924 strictly limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted to the United States each year. In 1939, the annual combined German-Austrian immigration quota was 27,370 and was quickly filled. In fact, there was a waiting list of at least several years. US officials could only have granted visas to the St. Louis passengers by denying them to the thousands of German Jews placed further up on the waiting list. Public opinion in the United States, although ostensibly sympathetic to the plight of refugees and critical of Hitler's policies, continued to favor immigration restrictions. The Great Depression had left millions of people in the United States unemployed and fearful of competition for the scarce few jobs available. It also fueled antisemitism, xenophobia, nativism, and isolationism. A Fortune Magazine poll at the time indicated that 83 percent of Americans opposed relaxing restrictions on immigration. President Roosevelt could have issued an executive order to admit the St. Louis refugees, but this general hostility to immigrants, the gains of isolationist Republicans in the Congressional elections of 1938, and Roosevelt's consideration of running for an unprecedented third term as president were among the political considerations that militated against taking this extraordinary step in an unpopular cause.
People wanted laws, not feelings, not compassion, not hope for all. Letting in more Jews was impractical. These people were not vetted. Who knew how many were communists or anarchists? Even children could not find room in America's heart.
Roosevelt was not alone in his reluctance to challenge the mood of the nation on the immigration issue. Three months before the St. Louis sailed, Congressional leaders in both US houses allowed to die in committee a bill sponsored by Senator Robert Wagner (D-N.Y.) and Representative Edith Rogers (R-Mass.). This bill would have admitted 20,000 Jewish children from Germany above the existing quota.
Even children could not be trusted. Every time a Somali immigrant commits a crime, xenophobes wag their fingers and claim, "We told you so," as if anyone could guarantee children will grow up to never choose poorly or to never hate those who mistreat them. Additionally, the refusal of non-white immigrants to immediately forsake their own culture and embrace (white) american culture uncritically is viewed as a danger to white americans. Yet white Americans living overseas gather together as ex-pat communities. White Americans also tolerate Polish-american clubs or German-American clubs or Greek churches or black churches, but not Syrian neighborhoods or mosques.

He's afraid of the foreigner, the definition of xenophobia. Yet he's from a state represented in Washington by a black Muslim man. Like Germany in the 1920's and 30's facts are replaced with racist tropes to assuage xenophobic citizens, who choose disinformation over true information.
It's riddled with conspiracy theories about how Muslims who come to the US are spreading jihad and Sharia law. Back to Trump and Hitler, a Trump apologist, Scottie Nell Hughes insists, “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts.”

For this American, if there are no facts for our democracy, then can we function without our founding political document's assertion "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."?

Segregation never works because segregationists keep sub-dividing. West Viriginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War. Jones County tried to secede from Mississippi. Those segregationists in Mississippi were able to keep the other segregationists from their goal, unlike Virginia. Culture is not to be preserved. It is to be enjoyed. Even isolated cultures change over time. The only static cultures are dead cultures. This country was founded on a political philosophy of hypocritical egalitarianism. This country has improved by acknowledging the hypocrisy of the founding fathers who owned slaves, who would not let women vote, On the other hand today's culture warriors tend to forget the presence of Muslims in our country since before the revolution, mostly as slaves. But the country's founders sought to ensure freedom of religion included more than christian denominations.

In his autobiography, Jefferson recounted with satisfaction that in the struggle to pass his landmark Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom (1786), the Virginia legislature "rejected by a great majority" an effort to limit the bill's scope "in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan." George Washington suggested a way for Muslims to "obtain proper relief" from a proposed Virginia bill, laying taxes to support Christian worship. On another occasion, the first president declared that he would welcome "Mohometans" to Mount Vernon if they were "good workmen" (see page 96). Officials in Massachusetts were equally insistent that their influential Constitution of 1780 afforded "the most ample liberty of conscience … to Deists, Mahometans, Jews and Christians," a point that Chief Justice Theophilus Parsons resoundingly affirmed in 1810.

But now, we have a President elect who campaigned on the idea of the immigration of those who are Islamic. The Nazi propaganda booklet I quoted from at the beginning of this post warns about jews destroying their culture, In their view it was "The Jews" had caused the Bolshevik revolution; it was "The Jews" who put Germany into crippling debt because it lost the war it had started in 1914. This is scapegoating, boiling down very complex situations to a simple people group. It is no different from the American nazis today who warn about the muslims in our midst. Muslims crashed planes into our buildings, Muslims blow themselves up around the world. Therefore, all muslims are terrorists. Muslims have more children then Christians so therefore msulims want to destroy christian societies.


One billion human beings follow Islam. Some are white, most are brown. They are as complex as any white christian family. Some are more devout than others. Some are hypocrites. Some are terrorists (most terrorists in American history are white christians). Some are peace makers. Some are artists. Some are freeloaders. Some are hard workers. Most just want a home, a job, and time to be with their family, like the Jews of Nazi Germany, like gay Americans, like black-lives-matter activists, like anyone else who is outside the mainstream.

Our culture does need to change. It needs to change toward even more compassion and away from exploitation and fear mongering based on racist tropes and scapegoating. The world is our neighbor and our collective survival depends on generosity towards each other. Love will save the world.

image source

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The God who compromises

Last year I wrote a number of posts about the plain fact that not everything Biblical is Christian. (You can use the 21st entry to find all the previous ones). One of the aspects of this rejection of biblicism is Jesus' overruling of Mosaic laws in favor of merciful, compassionate and even graceful responses; instead of Mosaic "eye for an eye" view of justice, a way of non-violent turning of the cheek, instead of execution of adulteresses caught in the act, a refocus on self-judgment, instead of his intended mission, an enlarged one. It's this latter example of compromise with compassion I've been thinking about today.

Matthew the tax collector, a despised profession among his fellow Jewish citizens living in occupied Palestine, who followed the merciful Jesus tells a curious anecdote.

Matthew 15:21-28 The Voice
Jesus left that place and withdrew to Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman—a non-Jew—came to Him. 
Canaanite Woman (wailing): Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is possessed by a demon. Have mercy, Lord! 
Jesus said nothing. And the woman continued to wail. His disciples came to Him. 
Disciples: Do something—she keeps crying after us! 
Jesus:  I was sent here only to gather up the lost sheep of Israel. 
The woman came up to Jesus and knelt before Him. 
Canaanite Woman: Lord, help me! 
Jesus: It is not right to waste the children’s bread by feeding dogs. 
Canaanite Woman: But, Lord, even dogs eat the crumbs that fall by the table as their master is eating.
Jesus—whose ancestors included Ruth and Rahab—spoke with kindness and insight.  
Jesus: Woman, you have great faith. And your request is done. 
And her daughter was healed, right then and from then on. 

There are so many topics to cover here, but I want to focus on one. Jesus will compromise when it comes to mercy. This scene hearkens back to Abraham's negotiation with God on his way down to judge Sodom and Gomorrah.

It seems to me compromise is a mark of holiness; not compromise in general, but compromise in particular when more mercy and compassion are available. Within the early church a compromise was found to fully include Gentiles who did not follow Mosaic traditions. Like the Canaanite woman in this story, they had great faith and exhibited the radical lifestyle of love. Instead of walling them out completely or forcing them to humiliate themselves physically to conform to Jewish cultural norms, the church exhibited its own radical lifestyle of love and chose to compromise with inclusiveness. The church did not compromise with those who were pretenders or money grubbers or exploiters of the poor and ignorant.

I live in a country that has a difficult time with compromise. It's seen as a weakness. When judges exhibited mercy in their courtrooms, legislators took away the freedom to compromise by making laws imposing minimum sentences or three crimes and a life sentence laws. The perceived weakness of the judges was met with "no compromises" laws which have resulted in great abuses and miscarriages of justice. For six years the national legislature has refused to compromise with a president it despises, even when compromises will help so many citizens, because compromise is viewed as weakness by the electorate.

My country's inability to compromise once resulted in a Civil War that cost a million lives. I see my country in a similar position 150 years later. "All or nothing" is the mindset.

But Jesus, supposedly the model for my Christian nation, compromised. He was also considered weak and a threat to society. When violent people perceive weakness, they attack. People like to assert their dominance when they feel insecure. Jesus felt secure in his humility. Does the church today?

After the election an exasperated co-worker asked a friend of mine, "What do you evangelicals want?" The implied question is "How much dominance do you guys want? Since you can't humbly persuade people to your theology do you need laws outlawing other religions or the freedoms of other religious adherents? How can you say out of one side of your mouth you are about love and out of the other choose a political leader who has a record of lying, cheating, exploiting, and money grubbing?"

The church that compromises to the benefit of the marginalized is the church that looks Christlike, and deserves the moniker "Christ-ian". The church that practices "true religion" as Jesus' brother James writes, James 1:27- 2:7
Real, true religion from God the Father’s perspective is about caring for the orphans and widows who suffer needlessly and resisting the evil influence of the world.
My brothers and sisters, I know you’ve heard this before, but stop playing favorites! Do not try to blend the genuine faith of our glorious Lord Jesus, the Anointed One, with your silly pretentiousness. 2 If an affluent gentleman enters your gathering wearing the finest clothes and priceless jewelry, don’t trip over each other trying to welcome him. And if a penniless bum crawls in with his shabby clothes and a stench fills the room, don’t look away or pretend you didn’t notice—offer him a seat up front, next to you. 3-4 If you tell the wealthy man, “Come sit by me; there’s plenty of room,” but tell the vagrant, “Oh, these seats are saved. Go over there,” then you’ll be judging God’s children out of evil motives.
5 My dear brothers and sisters, listen: God has picked the poor of this world to become unfathomably rich in faith and ultimately to inherit the Kingdom, which He has pledged to those who love Him. 6 By favoring the rich, you have mocked the poor. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the rich who step on you while climbing the ladder of success? And isn’t it the rich who take advantage of you and drag you into court? 7 Aren’t they the ones mocking the noble name of our God, the One calling us?
 I don't even know how to begin to provide commentary on James. It is such succinct writing. A philosophy that believes, contrary to evidence, that enabling the rich to get richer will eventually trickle down some pennies to the poor, is not a philosophy James agrees with. If America was great in the 1950's, the rich paid up to 3/4 of their income in taxes. With all that money in the government's coffers services were plentiful, infrastructure was great, wages were sufficient, and the middle class swelled. But it takes legislators willing to compromise to restore this historical aspect of America. An uncompromising legislature and citizenry may revisit the historical aspect of American of 150 years ago.

May we all follow the example of the God who compromises.