December 2, 2020

Justice without Jesus?

Migrant Mother. Photo by Dorothea Lange (1936)

Justice without Jesus?

We have people who have made justice their God, yet another instance of the litany of humanity’s idol worship. We have people defining justice as they see fit rather than wrestling with what Biblical justice is. And, in the end, we have people abandoning Christ.

Michael O. Emerson

• • •

Michael O. Emerson has written an article at Christianity Today that comments on the social justice movement and how some Christians are “distancing themselves from the faith” in order to work for justice in society. It’s called, Goodbye Christ. I’ve Got Justice Duty, and I encourage you to go to the link and read it.

Emerson begins by giving two examples. The first is a white male pastor who became concerned about racial inequity and how the church has been complicit in maintaining white dominance. Emerson lists some of the ways he watched him change as he moved away from the kind of faith he held to a commitment to justice.

  • He began to question his interpretation of the Bible.
  • He began to question whether or not personal morality really mattered as much as he had previously thought.
  • His language changed and became “saltier” as he fought against injustice.
  • His countenance changed and he became more frustrated, angry, and bitter.
  • His sermons changed and he depended less and less upon the Bible.

Emerson also describes a white female professor, serious about her Christian faith. As she began to study more about racial justice, she became more and more frustrated with the church, which didn’t seem to care. She distanced herself from her faith community. She began to question many of her previous ideas, including her sexual identity. “I will not live in the repressive gender binary system that is unjust, limiting, and harmful,” he quotes her as saying, adding that she came to see the Bible as promoting unjust systems of oppression.

Two people, two stories. They represent what I see repeatedly. Christians grow up in faith defined as an individual relationship with Christ. When they learn that God cares about justice, and when they see the whiteness and complicity of the faith they claim, they either become tied tenuously to that faith, mocking many aspects of it, or they leave it all together. (Emerson)

Michael Emerson cites others who have observed this kind of transformation. And he concludes, “Ultimately, we have what my pastor Peter Hong calls ‘Justice without Jesus,’ resulting in frustrated, embittered ex-Christians joining others bent on bringing justice to the world no matter the means. Only the end goal matters.”

But Emerson thinks this is a dangerous bypath, and that a commitment to the biblical Christ is the only way to advance true justice by practicing “the politics of heaven” rather than those on the left or the right. He acknowledges that the church has made this exceedingly difficult in many ways and for many reasons, but he encourages people to seek out communities of faith that are less dominated by white privilege, to read books that promote justice from a biblical perspective, and to learn from Christian activists who are already engaged in the work itself.

I have sympathy for what Michael Emerson says here. However, I think he is naïve about how faith-change occurs.

One of the hallmarks of Internet Monk has been its insistence that escaping “mere Churchianity” can and usually does involve a journey into the wilderness. Some people simply have to leave. Out of the institution, beyond the boundaries, and into unmarked places where one must deconstruct one form of faith in order to reconstruct something else in its place. This journey may take a long, long time. The way and its resemblance to anything that looks like a traditional religious path might not apparent.

And we must be patient with people on the journey. Who knows where they may land?

I hate to see anyone break from Christ and become “converted” to another cause. But when the bourgeois church presents a Christ who is ignorant and unconcerned about issues like racial and social justice, then perhaps the church is not where Jesus may be found after all.

And perhaps some of these folks that Michael Emerson is so concerned about will actually find the real Jesus in the neighborhoods and streets, blessing the poor, the mourning, the meek, and those hungering and thirsting for justice today.

• • •

NOTE FROM CM: I have removed several comments. Some of you cannot read a post and comment without the subject being diverted back to the POTUS and related matter. The author of the post I’m commenting on today said nothing about DT, showed no inclination toward supporting him, agreed that the U.S. church has been complicit in racism, recommended several resources for Christians who are interested in social justice, and even set forth, in general terms, a Christ-centered definition of justice and shalom. His article was a lament that people are leaving the church, not that they are leaving right-wing politics. Please stay on topic.

Comments

  1. ““If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door, you will not find Him in the chalice.”

    (St. John Chrysostom)

  2. Richard Beck says that because Jesus identifies Himself with the poor, we go to the poor not to be like Jesus, but to find Jesus.

  3. We have people who have made justice their God, yet another instance of the litany of humanity’s idol worship.

    Many Christians, and wide swaths of the Church itself, for a long, long time have fooled others and themselves into thinking that Jesus is their God, when injustice actually is.

    • As if God isn’t justice. And the OT and NT place a whole lot more emphasis on economic justice than criminal justice (as least I’m the way we have bifurcated the terms).

    • thatotherjean says

      I am very much inclined to your way of thinking.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Hard to get riled up for Justice when you’re personally benefiting from the existing Injustice.
      (For a lot of the history of Calvinism, “material blessings” (getting rich) was PROOF you were Predestined Elect.)

  4. He began to question whether or not personal morality really mattered as much as he had previously thought.

    Wait, haven’t we recently been told over and over again by American Christians that they voted for Donald Trump, despite his history of appalling personal morality and his continuing horrible attitude and actions towards and words about other people, because personal morality doesn’t matter in achieving politically desirable outcomes for the good of the nation?

    • Do as they say, not as they do.

    • This author says nothing about Trump and, it seems to me, would probably agree with you, Robert. He recognizes the problem in the church. That’s not really the issue in his article.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      And in Chrsitainese, the only “Personal Morality” that matters is SEXUAL.
      Once more, the Christianese obsession with/tunnel vision on Pelvic Issues.

  5. ….. ex-Christians joining others bent on bringing justice to the world no matter the means. Only the end goal matters.

    Make the ex-Christians Christians, and you have a description of the rationale of many of those American Christians who voted for Trump despite knowing what a skunk he is: “. .. no matter the means. Only the goal matters.”

    • His good friend Roger Stone is calling for Trump to declare martial law if he loses the election. We’ve seen this movie played out in Iran and South and Central America under direction of our own CIA. Now it looks like it may be our turn. QAnon will be totally on board with such a coup, as will be many American Christians, who will say that the end justifies the means.

    • Once again, I think the author might agree with you. He’s not wrong about diagnosing the problem.

  6. Burro (Mule) says

    He began to question whether or not personal morality really mattered as much as he had previously thought.

    What is “personal morality”? As opposed to what? Impersonal morality? Personal immorality? Morality makes no sense unless it’s social.

    It’s hard for me to keep track of the varying visions of “Biblical” justice that roam the land in these days; we need to treat everyone as if they were basically the same, roughly Norwegian, yet we have to be careful not to ‘appropriate’ distinctive elements of their culture. And heaven help you if you should try to advise someone that ‘their Own Body’ is not really their own, that they will be held accountable for teaching it bad habits and appetites…

    I’d like to move beyond justice to mercy. I’d also like to be Francis of Assisi or Seraphim of Sarov, owning nothing but my debt of love to others, but Paul was right about marriage…

    • In evangelical-world, “questioning personal morality” always means “beginning to consider the possibility that it’s not a sin to be gay.”

      In particular, a Christian who says “boys will be boys” and that it’s normal for men to commit adultery or to get women drunk and take advantage of them will never be said to be “questioning personal morality.” A Christian who tries to twist Scripture into a defense for white supremacy will never be said to be “questioning personal morality.” A Christian who beats or emotionally abuses his wife or children will never be said to be “questioning personal morality.” But let an evangelical voice even the tiniest doubt of the conservative stance on homosexuality – even if the evangelical in question is straight and therefore the only thing they’re considering changing is how they treat others who are gay – and they will be labeled as “questioning personal morality.”

      • Burro (Mule) says

        We must know different evangelicals.

        I’ve been wondering if social-media evangelicals are the equivalent of social-media Orthodox or social-media Calvinists.

        • I at least have known social media and IRL Calvinists. And there is, unfortunately, a not insignificant venn overlap between the two.

          • Burro (Mule) says

            All the Calvinists I know IRL are gentlemen of the highest order. I guess I don’t get out much.

            • There are such indeed. They also, in my observation, are much less inclined to make EVERY conversation center on Calvinism.

              • Eeyore,

                The problem is the posers like the Neo-Cals and the Calvinistic Baptists (like Piper, Mohler, and others) give historic Presbyterians and Continental Reformed (like Dutch Reformed) Calvinists a bad name. These posers who ascribe to Calvinist soteriology and mix it a smorgasbord of Baptist theology (like memorial view of the sacraments, credo-baptism, congregational polity, dispensationalism, etc.). A Chinese menu really.

                Just like Trumpistas and Christian Right has destroyed the term evangelicalism and made it a dirty word, these posers are well on their way to making Calvinist a dirty word. Or if you prefer light beer (which tastes awful and gives real beer a bad name). Neo-Cal = Milwaukee’s Beast Calvinist = Pilsner Urquell (if you are comparing Pilsners)

    • thatotherjean says

      While I take issue with some of your points, Mule, you and I agree on several: Morality makes no sense unless it’s social, and mercy is as important–maybe more–than justice.

  7. Iain Lovejoy says

    He is flat out wrong, in my view. The problem is not people finding “Justice without Jesus” but a church that preaches “Jesus without justice”. When “Christians grow up in faith defined as an individual relationship with Christ” they are growing up in a “faith without works” as James put it, which is dead. Emerson talks about the “biblical Christ” and “true justice” and the “politics of heaven” without really acknowledging what they mean.
    Biblical justice is this:
    “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
    says the Lord …
    learn to do good;
    seek justice,
    rescue the oppressed,
    defend the orphan,
    plead for the widow.”
    And this:
    “He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
    He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
    he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.”
    And this:
    “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice* [*not “righteousness”], for they will be filled.”
    And this:
    “But woe to you who are rich,
    for you are receiving your call. [*this is what the Greek literally says, not “comfort”].
    Woe to you who are full now,
    for you will be hungry.
    Woe to you who are laughing now,
    for you will mourn and weep.”
    We are told to “seek first God’s dominion and his justice*” [*again, this the principle meaning of the word];
    the point is that justice is not a hobby or side issue for God, and cannot be one for a Christian either, something that they do as an optional extra whilst not interfering with attending services and cultivating their “personal relationship with Christ” and whatever other “proper” religiousy thing they are doing. God’s justice is at bottom identical with his love: his care for the poor, the weak and the oppressed, and for their deliverance from their oppressors. Those who “make justice their God” aren’t guilty of idolatry, because they are making love their God, and God, we are told, *is* love. It is those who make their God something other than love and justice their god who are guilty of idolatry, as whatever they are worshipping, it isn’t God.

    • Yep. He’s flat out wrong, and I can’t sympathize with his concern. It sounds dishonest.

    • Iain,

      I think the far right struggles with ‘social justice’ as an issue;
      so the word ‘justice’ and the name ‘Jesus’ are at odds for them now.

      I agree, Mary’s Magnificat is all about social justice but for the fundamentalist world, Mary is ‘just another sinner’ and no ‘special’ attention is paid to her. In that fundamentalist world, people are a long way from ancient Church.

      • Back in my evangelical days, I had a heated argument with a fellow seminary student where I insisted that “justice” was entirely criminal, and that “economics” was an entirely separate sphere where free market rules must take precedence. He very patently told me to go back and re-read the OT prophets and see how *they* defined justice and economics. It was a very painful and humbling process, but the message eventually cracked through my thick skull.

        • Burro (Mule) says

          “Economics” is just ‘how much freedom do you have and what do you do with it’?

          What is the relationship of property to freedom? In a way, the powerlessness of the poor is a place I have been trying to get to all my life.

          Tolstoy tried to get there too. It didn’t work out well for him, although I hope he got points for trying.

          • >Tolstoy tried to get there too. It didn’t work out well for him, although I hope he got points for trying.

            One thing he certainly did get, and that was excommunicated by the Russian Orthodox Church.

            • Burro (Mule) says

              It was mutual.
              Still is.

              • Tolstoy excommunicated the Russian Orthodox Church?

                Who knew?!?

                • Good on him. 😉

                  • Ok, this actually inspired me to look up some details about Tolstoy’s excommunication. Two things – first, it did nothing to improve my already low opinion of the ROC. Second, it very much fits the pattern under discussion here today – i.e., following Christ often leads you *outside* the established church.

                    • In fairness to the ROC, Tolstoy was not the easiest person to get along with. His poor suffering wife Sofia should’ve been canonized by somebody. His moral perfectionism, which he was able to realize only occasionally, and which included abstinence from sex, resulted in cruel and indifferent treatment of his wife and family. Sofia’s private diaries document this over the space of several decades. Tolstoy was no saint, and his efforts to become one appear to have made him a horrible husband and father.

                    • Don’t ruin my ROC hate party with your inconvenient facts. 😛

    • thatotherjean says

      +10

    • Thank you Iain, my thoughts exactly.

      “Jus” means “putting things/the situation/relationships to right, right ordering.” If that ain’t “Christian” then the term is meaningless.

  8. “Christians grow up in faith defined as an individual relationship with Christ.”
    Would it make a difference if we changed from an “individual relationship” to a “communal/catholic” one?

  9. Burro (Mule) says

    The one place where he isn’t wrong is in the vision of the oppressors. What shall become of them, especially when they are insensitive to the preaching of the mighty Forerunner “Let he who hath two cloaks impart to him who hath none, and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” The mighty Forerunner spoke to the tax collectors “collect no more than what is appointed of you”, but what is missing is what he would have said to those who set the collections of the tax collectors.

    Relatively recently, I made a purchase of silver bullion. It has since doubled in value. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and this silver could speak against me in the day of judgement. I could die tomorrow, at which time Eeyore’s commissars will be the recipients of this silver (stupid mule that I am, I have no will). Will the hungry be benefited then by this silver? The money is God’s but who will be its steward?

    The Revolution wants the oppressors to die if they will not repent. When this spirit enters the seekers of justice, they have departed from the spirit of Jesus, and I see that a lot, even here on this board.

    • Who on this board wants “the oppressors to die”? Many of us know that we ourselves are among the oppressors, in one way or another.

    • “what is missing is what he would have said to those who set the collections of the tax collectors.”

      I suspect that you would not have found many Romans at a Jewish desert revival meeting. But if any had showed up, I suspect John’s words to them would have echoed James’ to a similar audience – Woe unto thee, ye rich! You heap up riches in the last days! The unpaid wages of your workers cry out to God! You and your wealth will burn!”

      “The Revolution wants the oppressors to die if they will not repent. When this spirit enters the seekers of justice, they have departed from the spirit of Jesus, and I see that a lot, even here on this board.”

      I get that. But if you don’t at least have some understanding of the frustrations with unfulfilled justice and the blindness of the oppressors, you haven’t thought about it hard enough. Even John Wesley, while he decried the potential violence of slave revolts, held them to be entirely justified.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        That’s not an answer, you know. You’re like that superhero whose power was that he got really angry.

        • Your answer isn’t an answer either. Anger and violence are bad. I acknowledge that, personally. We American Christians too much ignore the racism and injustice of our society. Do you acknowledge that, personally?

          • The racism and injustice of American society IS angry and violent.

          • Burro (Mule) says

            I don’t like the term ‘racism’. Like all shorthand it covers up too much and illuminates practically nothing. If Finn were here with his stories of Midwestern burghers voting to keep darkies out of their neighborhoods, that accusation might make better sense. It would also be wrong, and I’d vote against it.

            I’m racist in ways you probably can’t even imagine, but I’ll bet bourbon to sour beer you’d leave a crowd becoming increasingly African American in percentage well before I would.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          You’re like that superhero whose power was that he got really angry.

          “The Spleen” from Mystery Men, a superhero comedy about third-string supers who have to ring in when the city’s first-string superhero screws up and bites the big one.

          • I thought that was Mr. Furious who got really angry. The Spleen was the one whose flatulence made people faint.

    • “The Revolution wants the oppressors to die if they will not repent. When this spirit enters the seekers of justice, they have departed from the spirit of Jesus, and I see that a lot, even here on this board.”

      I think this is the kind of spirit the author at CT is seeing and is concerned about. The two examples he gave, if you went and read his article, were extremely angry.

      What I think he might be missing is that this tends to be true of a lot of new “converts,” who wake up to the fact that they’ve been participating in a lie and feel they’ve suddenly found the truth. Is that a fatal transformation? The author seems to think it is — he thinks they’ve left Jesus permanently.

      My point is that faith journeys aren’t quite as neat as that, as though one is simply “in” or “out.” They may very well be on the path to a faith in Jesus that is profoundly more than the author can ever imagine.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Remember Eagle? Got burned real bad, flipped 180 into “Chrsitanity is a Cancer” for a couple years, then mellowed back out and ended up a believer but a semi-Done blogging on church corruption? That appears to be a common trajectory in such cases; after my burn job/burnout I ended up a None for a few years then gradually drifted back until I settled in a mainstream liturgical church.

        The two examples may have been in their “Cage Phase” (where they’re better off locked in a cage to prevent damage spread/contagion) and gotten stuck there.

      • ‘My point is that faith journeys aren’t quite as neat as that, as though one is simply “in” or “out.” They may very well be on the path to a faith in Jesus that is profoundly more than the author can ever imagine.’

        I agree with this whole heartedly – I find these descriptions of people ‘falling away’ to be really crude caricatures & would want to say to those who make them that the story isn’t over, many of those people haven’t left the faith at all, just worked through a bunch of stuff brought up by the seeming incongruence of what they see with their Christian experience. They may well be back in another church for the rest of their lives, joining more mainline congregations where genuine social justice is rightly held to be part of the outworking of God’s kingdom & not a distraction from it.

        More & more I find I’m a bit disturbed (probably too strong a word) by those who become Christians & none of their theology every changes or grows. I can’t help feeling they either never actually meet any challenges, or ignore them rather than doing the painful thing & grappling with them. I may be completely wrong & these are people whose better soil grows far more crops than mine, but life is just not a simple thing.

    • ‘I will pull down my barns and build larger ones.’ But if you fill these larger ones, what do you intend to do next? Will you tear them down yet again only to build them up once more? What could be more ridiculous than this incessant toil, laboring to build and then laboring to tear down again? If you want storehouses, you have them in the stomachs of the poor.”

      ~ St. Basil of Caesarea, “I Will Tear Down My Barns,” AD c.370

      I’m glad your investment in Si is paying off…

  10. “He began to question his interpretation of the Bible.”

    Well, we CAN’T have that, can we?

    “He began to question whether or not personal morality really mattered as much as he had previously thought.”

    *Mutters something about the analogy of the Pharisees’ cups – clean outside, filthy inside*

    “His language changed and became “saltier” as he fought against injustice.”

    One disservice most English translations of Bible do us is that they massively tone down the “saltiness” of the original languages. The Prophets in particular.

    “His countenance changed and he became more frustrated, angry, and bitter.”

    I get that one. But hearing an evangelical complain about how bitter progressives are brings to mind lots of mental images of pots and kettles comparing their degrees of shadiness.

    “His sermons changed and he depended less and less upon the Bible.”

    I suspect he might be another factor at play here – perhaps the pastor in question is spending less time exegeting, and more time making uncomfortable applications…

    • Burro (Mule) says

      He’s just reading the parts of the Bible he didn’t underline the first time he read it.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Problem when you think of Chapters and Verses in complete isolation, like a grimoire of one-verse verbal-component spells. You lose the narrative overview.

        Example: If Romans 1 had gone a few verses longer, the whole meaning would have changed. From “GAWD H&S FAGS!” like it’s usually read to a decline narrative with a 180 twist ending similar to the Prodigal Son.

    • American Christians prefer euphemism to “salty language.” For instance, instead of “F–k you!” they say, “Bless your heart!”, but in many cases it means the same thing, and carries the same anger, although the euphemistic version also often has plenty of ressentiment in it.

      • There’s that “outside clean, inside filthy” dynamic again…

      • “Bless Your Heart” is a Southern genteel way of saying one of 7 things (and 6 of them are on variant of you are an effing idiot). Nothing a sugar coating of civility to hide what you really think. Fortunately I am in the Boston area and up here if we think something is an Effing Crock of Sh*t, we will tell you that it is an Effing Crock of Sh*t. No sugar coating needed.

        • thatotherjean says

          Southerner here: Indeed it is. Southerners take an indirect approach to a good many things. “Politeness” can cover a great deal of territory.

    • Eeyore,

      Like good old Paul suggesting the Judiazers go all the way and cut off their ‘nads?

      Or Elijah suggesting that Baal didn’t answer because he was taking a wiz…

      Paul considering his life before Christ as sh*t?

      That salty language?

  11. “I’m at a loss for understanding the fundamentalist-trumpist alliance.”

    A perfect storm of fear, resentment, pent up racism, and lack of understanding of what Jesus really calls us to – compounded by decades of constructing a media and ideological bubble to live in (which many companies and “ministries” found highly profitable). We’re just lucky that the first person to come along and tap into that witches brew is an incompetent manchild. If someone halfway competent had been able to fill those shoes, we’d be in even worse straits than we are in now.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      He’s on his way. Hell abhors a vacuum, despite being one.

    • I think it’s even simpler than that. Most of us hold multiple identities – even if we identify as Christian, we also have cultural identities like conservative / progressive, northerner / southerner / midwesterner, etc. Everything Trump is resonates perfectly with a conservative identity – he commits exactly the sins that conservatives excuse and celebrate as signs of a red-blooded American male (racism, sexual assault, adultery, bullying, machismo, greed, cruelty, etc.).

      If someone’s Christian identity ought to make them turn away from Trump in disgust but their conservative identity finds him deeply appealing, it becomes a tug-of-war where the stronger identity will win.

      • Burro (Mule) says

        Trump is an asshole, but he’s an asshole you can see yourself going out drinking with and having a good time until you wake up in the morning to find your wallet missing. He’ll give you permission to indulge the darker side of your nature, which has always been the appeal of the Bad Boy.

      • Or, their Christian identity has been so formed and guided by conservatism that it’s practically indistinguishable from it.

    • “I’m at a loss for understanding the fundamentalist-trumpist alliance.”

      Perhaps you have too charitable a view of its history. In the 20th century in America, it has been mostly regressive, reactionary, and bigoted all along, and so has the evangelicalism that spun off of it; and though it publicly eschewed politics until the 1970s, that was only because many of its adherents were ensconced in positions of social and political power already, they had been for a long time, and it wanted to maintain the status quo, so there was no need for political activism. It never hesitated to make alliance with rascals where that was politically advantageous, for example during the Jim Crow era; but then it was in alliance with the white status quo, and against social change that would’ve benefited Black people, and indeed many of its most respected members were bigots of the worst kind in positions of power.

  12. “when the bourgeois church presents a Christ who is ignorant and unconcerned about issues like racial and social justice, then perhaps the church is not where Jesus may be found after all.”

    Lately, Slacktivist has been flipping the old latin tag “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” (outside the Church there is no salvation) on its head. Today, in America, he says it’s “INTRA Ecclesiam nulla salus” (INSIDE the Church there is no salvation).

  13. What is worse: for someone to abandon their “Christian” identity because of the white church’s complicity in racism, or for someone to continue identifying as “Christian” yet become an idolater: a Trump-worshiper, a white supremacist, a gun-worshiper, a culture warrior?

    I would rather see someone maintain their relationship with God, even if it means leaving church, than see them safely ensconced in a church that feeds them culture war rhetoric to numb their soul and keep them from realizing that their relationship with God has been lost.

    • Michael, the author’s perspective is that the people he’s concerned about are not “maintaining their relationship with God.” He sees them abandoning Christ as well as the church.

      • “He sees them abandoning Christ as well as the church.”

        Because he can’t distinguish between the two. I’ve seen a lot of Evangelicals make this line of argument of late – “You can’t bad talk Christ’s bride” in effect. Ironically, this is the same line of argument Papal apologists tried to use to shut down the Reformers. Needless to say, it didn’t work.

        • They have decided they don’t want to go where their churches are going, and they’ve been indoctrinated by their churches to believe that if they leave those churches they are abandoning Christ. The indoctrination is incorrect, it always has been.

        • Yes, and the ironic thing is, as the author says, these people have been raised to define faith as “a personal relationship with Jesus.” But somehow, the church still becomes the mediator and the protector of that relationship, so that disagreeing with the church becomes opposition to Jesus.

          • Chaplin Mike,

            Let us not forget the standard canards like “Judge not.” or “Touch not God’s annointed.”

            Or how about this one all the Trump loving Evangelicals like to use (or some variant):

            “Got put Trump as President, and he will be there until God puts in someone else.”

            While that is technically true and according Scriptures, we both that is an attempt to bully and imply that if you are against Trump for any reason at any time you are somehow against God. Because God sets up all kings and rulers according on Scriptures, not just Trump. But they are counting on many people to not know this.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              “If you question what I say or do
              YOU REBEL AGAINST THE FATHER, TOO!”
              — Steve Taylor, “I Manipulate”

          • This stuff and the basic complicity of church goers in all of this are why the “NONES” and the “DONES” are exploding.

  14. Burro (Mule) says

    Hatred of Africans seems to be fundamental to the psychology of this country. It’s hard for me to understand as I never had much commerce with them until I was in my 20s.

    One of my friends in high school was a golden-boy jock who couldn’t leave off tormenting a coke-bottle-glasses loser (who happened to be Jewish to boot). When I asked him why he tormented the poor nebbish, he told me, “I dunno. I just hate his guts”. That seemed odd to me since there was no way this poor guy could be any threat to my golden friend’s unblemished social dominance. One day he let it slip. ” I hate him for what he lets me do to him. I’d die before I let anyone do that to me, or I’d find some way to even the score.”

    Both turned out to be gay in the gay 70s, one in New York, the other in Chicago. I don’t know if that matters.

  15. Matthew 10:32-42

  16. NOTE FROM CM: I have removed several comments, and could, with no apology, remove more. Some of you cannot read a post and comment without the subject being diverted back to the POTUS and related matters. The author of the post I’m commenting on today said nothing about DT, showed no inclination toward supporting him, agreed that the U.S. church has been complicit in racism, recommended several resources for Christians who are interested in social justice, and even set forth, in general terms, a Christ-centered definition of justice and shalom. His article was a lament that people are leaving the church, not that they are leaving right-wing politics. Please stay on topic.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      If people think that the Democratic party will be a better vehicle for justice and shalom than the [broader] Church, well, hay, check back in with me and let me know how that works for you.

      Maybe that’s where Dr. Emerson sees them going.

      • No, Mule, he doesn’t talk in terms of politics and affiliations at all. His sole concern seems to be that people are leaving Jesus behind and out of their “justice” equation.

        I sympathize with that. I don’t like to see anyone trash their faith. However, knowing that their “faith” consists wholly of the Jesus they’ve been given by today’s church, I can understand why they might hightail it.

        But, as I’ve tried to say repeatedly, one need not view their exodus as a fatal error. A good pastor would continue to love them and take interest in their lives, and encourage them on their journey. God leads down mysterious paths is my point.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          And if they’re abandoned and shunned at that point, they may get stuck in that stage or go up for grabs for any weird-ass belief system that comes along.

  17. OK, so I went and read the original post. He is overly discreetly vague. I take it from context when he talks about “Christians” he means White American Evangelical Protestants. What then does he mean when he enjoins Christians concerned with justice to find like-minded churches? Is he saying they should go join their local UCC or Episcopal church, depending on how they feel about liturgical worship? I could respect that, but I don’t that this is what he means. He may be positing the existence of justice-concern Evangelical churches, but he doesn’t name names.

    Then he finishes with this little gem: “Don’t veer to the left. Don’t veer to the right. Instead, as the Rev. Danny Martinez has said, let us engage in the politics of heaven: working for God’s Kingdom here on earth.” What does this mean? He seems to be saying that the political right and political left are equally concerned or unconcerned with justice, so a plague on both their houses. Shall we go down the list? Let us, for simplicity’s sake, offer just one item. One side wants everyone to have access to affordable health care. The other side has spent years vilifying the notion. He is making a “Both sides do it” argument. He is wrong. Whether he is ignorant or disingenuous is an interesting, but ultimately irrelevant question. feh.

    • I agree with you, Richard. Emerson reflects a shallow “in-house” vision of social justice issues and how Christians participate in them. He has what I’ve referred to here as a “temple” mentality, not one which is organically tied to what’s happening in the world around us. I think that’s one reason evangelical Christians in particular have trouble thinking about someone leaving the church/Jesus. They’ve separated themselves from the world outside and have little imagination for a Jesus who walks the streets.

      • It’s funny that Jesus is described in the Gospels as only entering the Temple on a few occasions – once as an infant, once as a boy, and (maybe) twice as an adult. As an infant, only a couple of msgrinslizycranks recognized Him. As a boy, He astonished the Temple staff with His knowledge and questions. As an adult, He turned the place inside out and upside down, and the Temple staff had enough and had Him killed.

        TL;DR – Jesus and Temples (more specifically, those who love and staff Temples) do NOT get along.

        • ‘msgrinslizycranks’ should be ‘marginalized cranks’

        • Eeyore,

          There are likely other times He did enter or sacrifice at the Temple that are not mentioned in Scriptures as part of Christ keeping the Law perfectly.

          • But the gospel writers chose not to mention or emphasize those times. I do not think that is a coincidence.

            • I agree. It was not necessary (as Scriptures say Christ fulfilled the Law perfectly. That simple statement is enough – no need to go into the reeds on that). Also, all the Temple sacrifices, holy days, etc. were all types and shadows anyway as the NT clearly states.

    • Thanks for putting into words exactly what I thought about Emerson’s article. He wrote as if evangelical Christianity is the only legitimate version of Christianity.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Remember that Fundagelical have redefined “Christian” without any modifiers to mean Fundagelicalism and Fundagelicalism alone. This Fundamental Law of Spiritual Reality follows naturally from that.

  18. Evangelicalism has never been very good at real, serious introspection — the kind that includes the ability to question yourself, your priorities, your practices, and what you might as an institution be missing. I know that it is not easy for any organized religion to do this, but evangelicals seem to be even worse at it than most because the whole bent of the tradition is against it.

    This article seems to be of a piece with that trajectory. If someone leaves or questions, it seems to be largely about them, or about corrupting outside influences.

    I have little hope that much will change.

  19. The Amish rite of passage that sends youth into the world (I’m not informed about the ins and outs of it – just know it exists) is to me, conceptually, a tremendous and important idea. Every Christian should be sent out to the picture shows, not the G-rated ones, and the dance halls and then the slums. See first hand because second hand is right on the cusp of meaningless. Go into an apartment with holes in the walls, with a leaky ceiling, a tub that doesn’t work and cabinets that are home to a couple of hundred roaches. Sit on the couch if you dare to get some bugs into your clothes to take home with you. Smell the place. See how all that feels. Perhaps meet some people who have erred and are now enmeshed in a sometimes just but sometimes highly dysfunctional justice system that perpetuates and inadvertently encourages more crime. Then get back to studying your bible and see what verses matter most. These are all references to a few experiences of mine, actually as an Evangelical but I think our little church was not typical of the “Wealth equals Godliness” motif currently in vogue. That view creates a sense of the poor as ungodly and suffering the just consequence of their faithlessness. If only they were bible believing, faith filled saints like us, the Lord would surely bless them with wealth and dignity because that’s the formula. I think that the people that are being referred to in this post may look like they are leaving Christ because there is a visceral disgust in them propels them headlong from the church system, initially, like a rabid teenager rebelling against authority. It’s essentially required so that there can be no confusion as to their loyalties (ie the church ‘system’ vs. finding Christ on ones own two feet). Once Christ begins to be found in this gritty, organic, messy, unmanaged way, a person can integrate as they will without losing themself in group think. Half measures turn out to be no measures. It is essential that they look like outsiders if they are going to find any room in their search for Christ in the flesh. Christ in them. Christ as all and in all. Unless they hate ‘mother’ and ‘father’, loosely translated as “pastor, elder and choir director,”who probably don’t recognize them anymore as the faithful servants of God that they knew and loved, they cannot be His disciples. And yes, it takes T-I-M-E. Churches often wrangle as best they can so as not to lose numbers. More concern is given at times to the collection plate or the loss of status as a vibrant and ‘growing’ church than to the individual, gut wrenching, experience of finding a deep, meaningful and, most of all, abiding faith.

    • You win the internet today, Chris. Wise words.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Every Christian should be sent out to the picture shows, not the G-rated ones, and the dance halls and then the slums. See first hand because second hand is right on the cusp of meaningless.

      Doesn’t that also appear in the origin story of Buddhism?
      How Prince Gautama (Buddha) grew up in total luxury and indulgence, then walked outside his palace and got hit in the face with the Reality of poverty, misery, and death? And that was what started him searching for Enlightment (understanding and meaining in life)?

      • I think that’s Robert’s field but yup. No replacement for the five senses when it comes to empathy. No class can teach poverty. It has to be tasted and smelled and touched. Social justice is not 3 credits with a lab. I’m not proud of my inactivity in this regard. I’m certainly not out campaigning but I do feel a solidarity with people who want to venture out of the cushy confines. I did a lot more of that when I was younger.

      • Yep. In the religious legend you are referring to Guatama Buddha’s princely father went out of his way to prevent his son from encountering the suffering of life, as well as the ascetic religious life, in the world beyond the boundaries of his palatial estate, wanting his son to become a great king. The Buddha nevertheless on several trips outside encountered an old man, a diseased man, a corpse, and a wandering ascetic. From these experiences, he was inspired to follow the path that would lead to the end of all suffering, forsaking his princely inheritance and becoming a wandering ascetic himself.

    • Burro (Mule) says

      I guess my problem is that most of the Evangelicals I know passed through that territory when they were in their 20s and 30s, some 40s. They fought their way out (not all were White), and are in zero hurry to go back. In fact, they tend to turn a listening ear to those who promise them they’ll never end up back there.

      The big difference is that the Whiter and wealthier you are, the more Get Out Of Turdtown Free cards you are issued, and, eventually, even the stench departs from you. If you’re Black, it appears that the path upward is steeper, more fraught with broken railings, less forgiving, but still manageable.

      But yeah, here in the US, stupid choices lead straight to Turdtown. Do not pass ‘Go’. Do not collect $200.I know Proverbs says that the ground of the poor produces much, but oppression eats it up, but it’s also full of good advice like not sleeping during the day, avoiding fools, drunkenness, and general f*ckwittery.

      • Iain Lovejoy says

        Our society can be like some sick competition where those already wealthy give one poor person in a hundred the chance to escape and join them, and then wash their hands of the other 99 who lose by saying it’s their fault for not competing harder. Jesus didn’t say Lazarus was perfect, or that the rich man who ignored him couldn’t have found half a hundred reasons why it was Lazarus’s own fault he ended up begging at his door: it is irrelevant.
        I forget which church Father said that all the wealth we have we have stolen from the poor. None of us would want to live in a society where we all received our just deserts. If we who are rich keep our money because we won’t forgive the poor for every little small sin we can find to blame for their poverty, what chance have we of forgiveness for all our own great sins in acquiring and hoarding our wealth?

    • Tom aka Volkmar says

      Well said Chris.

  20. My opinions on these matters are opposite of many who post here. But supposing systemic racism is actually a problem in this country, what laws, that we don’t already have, could help?

    • None. Do laws ever help at all? The gospel is not about enforcing behaviors. If you want a law: love the Lord your God. Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Get out of yourself and your little world and see the big picture.

      • I think it was Martin Luther King who said something along the lines of a law can’t make a man love me, but it can prevent him from lynching me. So while laws alone can’t solve the issue, they can help. But I’m all for people going in on their own initiative and doing good rather than waiting for the government to step in and do something.

    • Iain Lovejoy says

      Not sure exactly what US laws already exist, but apart from the obvious outlawing of embrace discrimination in not just employment but also property ownership, mortgages, banking and other services, and also discrimination by zip code (which is often a proxy for the same thing) laws are needed to prevent the rich and powerful (who are often white) from stamping on the poor (who are often black) and reducing inequality and ensuring social mobility. These are known: taxation which ensures the rich are taxed fairly to assist the poor, including inheritance tax which mitigates all the wealth being kept by (white) dynasties who are already wealthy, labour laws which ensure decent terms and conditions for staff and protect them from unfair dismissal and arbitrary lay-offs (and black people are often the first to go), and having a sick day doesn’t mean losing your job, proper funding for education and higher education so you don’t need rich (white) parents to get along, an end to unpaid “internships” which privilege those who can live off their parents, healthcare for all so being sick and poor means never getting better and fit for work again, decent housing so kids can grow up healthy, decent youth facilities so they aren’t hanging about on street corners with nothing to do, end to mass incarceration for petty offences (which somehow always seems to happen to black people) and a “war on drugs” which means (black) kids grow up without fathers. It really is a very long list.

      • All you said, and in the US police departments need to reform police training so that officers do not act as military occupying a foreign country ready to escalate encounters with civilians in Black neighborhoods to warfare at any show of resistance. Also, much more regulation of firearms.

      • I’m pretty sure laws already exist outlawing discrimination in every area you mentioned. Most of the rest of your list seems to deal with poverty, which is not just a black issue. I realize that discrimination in the past has led to a greater percentage of black people being poor than white people. But rich doesn’t equal white as you imply in your response. There are around 20 million white people in the US living below the poverty line. If we are going to focus on poverty it is better to keep race out of it. Race is just going to create another point of division where people could otherwise be united. Lastly you mention the issue of incarceration, which I would need to study more to be able to say much about, but I’m all for a justice system that focuses more on rehabilitation than punishment.

        • “But rich doesn’t equal white as you imply in your response.”

          If you were to run the demographic numbers, I’m very sure the vast majority of rich people here *are* white. The exceptions just prove the rule.

          “There are around 20 million white people in the US living below the poverty line.”

          As compared, by percentage, to how many white people are not? And what percentages of the “minority” populations living in poverty? Raw numbers don’t tell the whole story.

          • The website I looked at showed about 20 percent for blacks and Hispanics, and 10 percent for Asians. In just terms of numbers there are about twice as many white people below the poverty line than black.

            • Again, look at percentages. If you’re more likely to be under the poverty line if you’re not white, doesn’t that indicate something is wrong?

              • I told you the percentages and I mentioned the history of discrimination that has helped cause the discrepancy. However, I believe you’re more likely to make headway against poverty in the black community if you fight poverty as a whole and don’t make it all about race.

                • In theory, yes. In practice, you just can’t ignore the structured racism that plays into the process. I’d be great if we could be colorblind in my not solutions, but the problems aren’t.

        • Iain Lovejoy says

          There are four elements:

          – Making deliberate or overt racism as difficult as possible, and trying to deal with discrimination due to lazy stereotyping and / or unarticulated or unrecognised (but nevertheless very real) uneasiness or negativity towards people who are “different” is always a necessary part of it, but won’t work on its own
          – Power imbalance: race discrimination is often very difficult to prove: people rarely nowadays actual admit their decisions are due to race. If you allow situations where employers can arbitrarily fire people without reason, or people can be arbitrarily barred from neighbourhoods, or police have a complete lack of accountability for their actions, anti-discrimination laws can’t bite because no matter how much you can see statistically that black people always seem to be the first people who get it in the neck with these decisions you can’t prove that race was involved in any particular case.
          – Poverty itself: as others have pointed out, due to historic discrimination black people are as a matter of simple fact disproportionately poor.
          – Social mobility: if the system is rigged so that people from poor backgrounds can’t escape their poverty, and the children of the poor stay poor, even if you removed actual race prejudice, black people, who are already disproportionately impoverished by past racism will still continue to remain disproportionately poor.

  21. One of the hallmarks of Internet Monk has been its insistence that escaping “mere Churchianity” can and usually does involve a journey into the wilderness. Some people simply have to leave. Out of the institution, beyond the boundaries, and into unmarked places where one must deconstruct one form of faith in order to reconstruct something else in its place. This journey may take a long, long time. The way and its resemblance to anything that looks like a traditional religious path might not apparent.

    Or, as Richard Rohr would describe it, “Order, Disorder, Reorder.”

    Too many people think that “faith” is static. Heck, Evangelicalism harps on “conversion” yet fail to understand that conversion is both an event and a continuing process.

    • I think part of it is sheer laziness. Another part is the assumption that all spiritual change is unidirectional, always improving, and any deviation is “backsliding”. Add to that the assumption that all theological truth is eternal, unchanging, and unequivocally revealed in the Bible, and you get a very static view of faith indeed.

  22. “Our task is not to protest the world into a certain moral conformity, but to attract the world to the saving beauty of Christ.”

    — Brian Zahnd, Beauty Will Save The World