"I’m Jesus of Nazareth, and I approved this message."
Note: this post was actually written by my friend and occasional co-blogger, abc41. When I transferred the blog from Blogger to WordPress, all of her Blogger posts were apparently tagged with my name. So credit where credit is due; I’m not this thoughtful. 😉 – Marilyn, 11/3/11 (I’ll fix her posts as I find them.)
Reflecting further on the aforementioned Loconte piece….
I find that I’m not in huge disagreement with some of his points. For example, I think it’s fair to suggest that the scriptures do not provide “a coherent political philosophy.” It might not be too off the mark to opine that they do not provide even a coherent theology! The Bible is in fact not a single consistent document, but is a collection of texts that were filtered through the experiences of diverse communities under a variety of circumstances. Even those of us who perceive an Ur-Theme of Liberation in the Christian Bible (Exodus, the prophets, Jesus) have to admit that the collection is full of contradictions and that we do pick and choose from among the texts. We liberals love Micah 6:8 and we loathe Leviticus 18 (just to cite some of my own favorites). But in the interests of intellectual honesty and humility, we are obliged to take account of everything in the Good Book, and that is my best argument for why biblical study ought to be at the top of every congregation’s adult education curriculum. As Christians and liberals (or progressives, or whatever we are calling ourselves these days — maybe just disciples), we need desperately to improve our understanding of these texts that we claim are foundational for our faith.
My own experience, at the end of a period of about 20 years out of the church and active in politics, was that politics alone was an inadequate foundation for making meaning. When I came back into the church in my 40s and began to work seriously at my personal faith development, I came to understand the importance (for me — I’m only speaking for myself) of the transcendent mystery of the divine. We do indeed “see through a glass darkly,” as St. Paul put it. Or, as a former (Methodist) pastor put it, “We have the Wesleyan quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience — but God is mostly mystery.” So it behooves all of us to be pretty prudent if not humble about our claims for divine approval of what we are about.
And this is why I believe you would never hear Jesus make the statement that is the headline of this piece about any political program. God is not a Republican, or a Democrat, or a Green, or anything else. God is God, and we had better beware of subordinating our theology to our politics. Politics can be an expression of faith, but never its basis.
I think I will have more to say later on this, especially what it means for the church in our day.