The Trajectory of Progressive Religion

We are stardust.3_garden-of-eden
We are golden.
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

This was the chorus of Joni Mitchell’s song, Woodstock, circa 1969. Looking back, I see a fair amount of naiveté in the lyrics, as though the eponymous rock concert might draw all of us to some sort of perfect world. 

But in the words there is something. Yearning. A wish for better things — things are not what they ought to be and they should be what they once were. “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden…” 

That is the Jesus message: restoration. He came to initiate a stunning reversal of world fortunes in which those who believed in him might participate. As He starts them on the road back to the Creator’s original intention, He tasks them with clearing the curse-born rubble that bars the gate to Eden.  There is still much to be done, but some progress has been made toward tearing down the enmities that came from the fall. Think slavery and sexism, which is no more than perfumed misogyny. 

Both conditions were products of the curse — shrapnel from the disobedience in the garden. Neither was part of God’s original design. That much was clear to William Wilberforce and the abolitionists who fought so sacrificially to end the slave trade on both sides of the Atlantic. The same is true of sexism. Before the curse, the evidence points to equality between the genders: God made them in His image; male and female He created them. It was the curse, brought on by disobedience, which introduced enmity into creation and dominance of one gender over the other — “your desire shall be for your husband but he shall rule over you.” 

The trajectory of scripture is toward reversing the consequences of what is called “the fall.” Jesus is the means to that end. What many call “progressive religion” is really the Spirit-empowered dismantling of the curse by Christ’s redemptive act. Hunger, violence, domination, sickness, injustice, sexism, hatred and hundreds of societal ills are weeds that Christians have been toiling to uproot for generations.

Which leads us to what seems like a logical question: since we have seen the necessity of challenging injustices, among them human trafficking and sexism, shouldn’t we also be changing our attitudes toward homosexuality? Only to this extent: Our efforts must be turned against any expression of hatred or injustice toward and among human beings. We are called upon to defend people from hatred and to preserve justice, no less homosexual persons. 

That is a reversal of the fall. But to legitimize homosexuality is not. On the contrary. As we “get ourselves back to the garden,” there we will find man, made in the image of God — male and female He created them — with obvious design and intent. That never changed. 

Why I Like Jesus

WWJDMy daughter sent me this. She didn’t know who said it, but I thought it was worth passing along. Just another reason I like Jesus. 

“Let’s remember, Jesus was a Jewish man of color, born homeless to an unwed teenager, who spent his formative years as an illegal immigrant before returning to his home country to hang out with twelve men, prostitutes, and socially untouchable tax collectors while he taught a radical social doctrine of equality, love, and forgiveness that included paying taxes, free healthcare, and the sharing of resources within a community.” 

Tolerance (a poem)

By Dan Mayhew (to be read with tongue in cheek)

My friends are all open minded, 
Tolerant in every way. 
We smile and nod affirmation, 
And accept whatever we say. 

Our goal is cooperation, 
We honor diversity. 
It’s a fuzzy and warm occupation, 
Free of adversity. 

Such contrary thoughts we’re discerning! 
Yet being open is what we prefer, 
The adventure is constantly learning, 
Just what we’re really not sure. 

You see, truth is a slithery, slimy thing. 
It always slips out of our head. 
It has a vaguely intolerant ring, 
So we think it’s better off dead. 

Thus, we have no time for elitists, 
Who think that they’ve arrived.
Bigots! Fanatics! Homophobes!
Closed-minded, self-satisfied. 

No, we’re looking for truth that’s comfortable, 
That fits like a well-worn shoe. 
We’re looking for truth that suits us, 
Whether or not it’s true! 

Repenting Backward

We didn’t see it coming. 

We probably should have, but we were so busy enjoying our freedoms that we ignored the cost being a follower of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking shots at everybody else from my safe, smug little bunker; I’m in the line of fire, too. Consider the following cartoon pirated and modified from the Peanuts comic strip.  
Now, let me be clear: As a matter of conscience I do not favor same-sex marriage. My reasons are not based on antipathy or phobia, but a strong conviction that the practice dishonors the intent of the Creator and distracts from the parable revealed in the part/counterpart nature of human relationship. Jody and I explored that in depth in both Marriage Rx and Sword of Submission and have blogged about it recently so I won’t elaborate further here. 
My observation here centers on the hypocrisy of calling for sacrifice from people who are attracted to others of the same gender. That is the lesson of the cartoon. How hollow it sounds to, in effect, tell the homosexual he or she has to make a major sacrifice of self-denial when evangelicalism has been making excuses — “neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness.”
We find ourselves backed into a corner — the lower right corner, to be exact. We can’t redefine marriage. Though we be condemned as bigots and haters for taking a stand, there isn’t room for ignoring God’s clear intent in human creation. What we can do, from our embarrassing place in the lower right panel of the cartoon, is start working our way backward to the upper left, leading in the way of sacrifice and inviting those who would redefine marriage to join us. Jesus did not shrink from calling His disciples to surrender their property, relationships, their very lives. If we intend to call others to sacrifice, we must be willing to do the same. 

In the Image of God

George Bernard Shaw wrote: 

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will. 

Shaw was no Christian, yet he has observed something about the creative process that has implications for our understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God, the ultimate and preeminent Creator. That human beings have the ability to create, to imagine and to express that imagination in time and space, is at least in part, what it means to be made in His image. 

Bride & Bridegroom — A picture of Christ and His church


My husband used to be a drama teacher. For each production, he had the role and responsibility to choose a cast who could best display and bring to life the intent of the author of the chosen play. Once a role is cast, there can be variation in interpretation, but there is also a laying aside of ones’ own identity, in order to display the role to a watching world (although Hugh Grant always seems to be playing himself). 

We must pay careful attention to the following scripture:

“For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

Creator God held a mystery that He desired to unfold in the natural realm. He desired to display a prophetic picture, to His creation, of the nature of the relationship He chose to have with them. God, Who is Spirit would make Himself known by relating to His creation in the male role of Bridegroom. Humanity would be invited into the feminine role of the Bride, one who would take her part–opposite her Divine Counterpart. Mankind, by design, was created both male and female, that we might display the image of God (“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;” Genesis 1:26a). Marriage was to display, to a watching world, the very nature of His triune likeness.

A watching world seldom sees all that God might want to display about Himself.
For marriage to be the conveyance of Truth, we must be re-instructed ourselves. Marriage implies intimacy….a vital, holy communion between ‘part’ and ‘counterpart’. So often we find couples living parallel lives rather than the merged oneness that God had in mind. It is that ‘merged oneness’ that gives an accurate representation of Christ with His Church, in the world. When the church fails to mature and is more familiar with ‘herself’ than with her Divine Counterpart, she models an entirely different illustration in both the heavenly and earthly realms. Too often the church only knows how to be intimate with the church. When we can introduce people to church, but don’t know how to encourage intimacy with the Beloved, we model an attraction to our own likeness. May all that we are as His Church, display through our intimacy with Jesus, the precious oneness that marriage was designed to demonstrate.