Tag Archives: social justice

James on Justice (An Appeal for Classless Christianity) Introduction Part 2

classism image 5

I invite you to the series of podcasts through the Book of James I’m developing. To whet your appetite here in the blog I’m providing sound bytes of the audio episodes. The current 15-minute episode is Part 2 of 2 introductory remarks on the epistle. Part 1 is here. Enjoy!

Of all the New Testament letters, I find great value in understanding the life situation of the author, James, the half-brother of Jesus. As such, you might imagine how much he picked up from his big Brother’s teaching and lifestyle, if only at the dinner table each night, especially on the topic of money, power, and classism…

He learned from Jesus that Christianity and Classism clash! Continue reading

James on Justice (An Appeal for Classless Christianity) Intro Part 1

classism image 1

Check out the series of audio podcasts through the Book of James that I’m in the process of producing. Introduction Part 1 is only 16 minutes long and fills in some of my skeleton thoughts here. Thus all the “…”

In a nutshell, James is about how Classism and Christianity clash…

“Classism,” according to the dictionary, is discrimination on the basis of social class or economic status.” It’s a system set up to benefit the upper class at the expense of the lower class. James saw it in the Church and by the Church, and he wasn’t having it…

“Classless Christianity” is the kind that treats everybody basically the same, where we preach and practice an egalitarian treatment of all humans (all divine image bearers), rich and poor, black and white, powerful and weak…

Most of us Bible fans would say the key to James is faith that works––“Don’t just say it, do it!” It’s true that he pulled no punches to make his point that a do nothing Christianity is no Christianity at all. But James had on his mind, a particular kind of good works that give evidence of saving faith. He hated theoretical faith but replaced it with something much more than theoretical works. He had some specific things in mind that demonstrate authentic Christianity, the kind that eschews classism…

Christians, just as prejudiced and bigoted along economic lines? “No way!” says James…

True religion looks after orphans and widows… You don’t get to show favoritism to the rich person over the poor at the church front door… If a brother or sister doesn’t have enough clothes or food and you do nothing about it, “What good is it?”… Some of you live in luxury and self-indulgence while some can’t even get a decent wage for their day’s labor…

James is bold to speak to the powerful rich and the vulnerable poor, to the corporate kings of Wall Street and those who live on the street. He tells us that the only brand of Christianity that God accepts clashes with cultural classism…

Check out the podcast…


BTW, I’m writing a book on evangelism. If you have any input for me, I’m all ears! And if you haven’t read my memoir, the profits of which benefit Freedom House, what are you waitin’ for?

Widows? Which Widows?

 

Afghan War WidowsWe Christians are people-helpers. It’s in the Spirit-loaded software at new birth. Problem is, we often insist on preserving the right to be selective about the recipients of our aid, as though there’s some substantive difference between one kind of human and another. The earliest Christians discovered this tendency in themselves and made the necessary adjustments. Seems like we could benefit from a reminder to do the same.

During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.”

The congregation thought this was a great idea. They went ahead and chose—

Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolas, a convert from Antioch.

Then they presented them to the apostles. Praying, the apostles laid on hands and commissioned them for their task.

The Word of God prospered. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith. Acts 6:1-7 (The Message)

There’s wasn’t simply an administrative problem that was fixed with a more efficient distribution of food for widows. There was a cultural prejudice at play. The first Christians, most of whom were Jews, wrestled with whether or not to accept the non-Jews into the Church as equals. Though outnumbered by their Roman oppressors, in the Church, Jews held the status of the majority culture. Continue reading

Social Justice = Social Gospel?

 

social_justice_sliderA certain radio talk show host made the audacious plea to his audience to leave their church if it used such profane watchwords such as, “social justice.”

“I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”

He went on to say that social justice is political code for communism and Nazism: “Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right. That’s what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner … But on each banner, read the words, here in America: ‘social justice.’” Continue reading

“Black and Blue” Lives Matter

black-blue-lives-matter-cartoon-598There’s a bunch of stuff that doesn’t matter, like arguing about one another’s mottos about what matters!

Just so you know, I’m pretty sure that it’s my life that actually matters most! Okay, I’m willing to concede that everyone who looks like me and agrees with me matter too––somewhat.

Of course, we also stand for the officers who are serving their communities faithfully and with equanimity. Saying “black lives matter” is not choosing sides against law enforcement. It’s not saying that all cops are bad any more than it’s saying that all blacks are good.

It’s a contextualized statement, like saying “Children’s Lives Matter.” That doesn’t mean adult lives don’t matter! In Hitler’s Germany precious few courageous souls stood and said in effect, “Jewish Lives Matter!” [Before you rush to the reply button, I intend no precise correlation between German Nazism and American racism.] Nevertheless, racism is racism.

Nobody in their right mind believes that it’s “only” black lives––or blue ones, for that matter––that actually matter. In a semi-literate society we really shouldn’t have to explain that the dictum simply means that black lives matter too!

For clarity sake, this “too” isn’t the same as the other two “to’s” in our language. Though this too has two meanings, as in “too much” and “me too,” the former meaning being the one implied by the “Black Lives Matter (too)” movement.

So we should not be confused by the assumption that black folks only matter “to” us, or that there are only “two” of them or us that matter. Those are those other pesky two to’s. The “too” that we’re trying to clarify is the one that means also, the one we shouldn’t need to need in order to make it redundantly obvious that we don’t mean they’re the only ones that matter.

If all that seems too convoluted, I recommend just reverting back to me being the one who matters (most). Continue reading

My favorite book on “justice” so far (other than the Bible, of course)

justice 3I’m ashamed to admit that I came to the table late on the social justice topic. As an aspect of God’s compassionate personality and as a significant portion of our responsibility as his followers, somehow over the years this ubiquitous Bible theme eluded me. I’ve since discovered that with the possible exception of idolatry, the Bible addresses injustice with greater frequency than any other sin.

Though “justice” is mentioned 134 times in the Bible, in my three decades of pastoral ministry I never gave one message on the concept of justice for the poor and powerless. In fact, until just a few years ago, I’d never even heard a message on it. (That’s not coming to the table late – as in during the dessert. That’s arriving after the table has been cleared and the dishes washed and put away!) Nevertheless, to coin a phrase, “Better late than never.” Continue reading

Don’t come to my house!

poverty(A fictional account of … Well, you decide what it accounts for.)

After a hundred lifetimes of daily beatings, neglect, and hunger; Carlos and Maria, six and ten years old respectively, decided to flee for something better. Their mother had died giving birth to Carlos Jr. and the children were left to the inept care of their abusive alcoholic father. They had both just been belt-whipped again for something that kids do. Maria gave her brother a small bag and told him to pack as many clothes as he could and be ready to bolt when she woke him after Carlos Sr. passed out in front of the TV in the living room.

“Where are we going?” Jr. asked his sister.

“I don’t know yet, but wherever it is, it’s gotta be better than where we are,” she answered. “Just get ready, and when it’s time I’ll let you know what to do.” Continue reading