Saturday, March 29, 2014

PROGRESSIVE CHRISTIANS MAKE FOLKS MAD


My father loved the title of Tony Campolo’s 1984 book It’s Friday But Sunday’s Comin’.  He had a copy of the book, but I am not sure if he ever read all of it or just liked the title. What I am certain of is that my father would never have agreed with what is now Tony Campolo’s identifying work. Lester Cooper (1919- 1989) if he were alive today, would not become a card carrying member the Red Letter Christian movement of which Tony Campolo is one of the founders.  What is it about progressive Christians that make folks mad?

First, we don’t like to hear the truth spoken so plainly about ourselves.  If it is spoken about others we get up and applaud, but if it is about us we tend to fume inside and get furious at the messenger.  When Jesus was here on earth, he spoke the truth and made the leaders of Jerusalem so mad that they nailed Him to a cross. Folks have a strong reaction to someone saying, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10: 21 ESV)

My father would not have been at odds with this part.  He stayed in Kentucky as an educator making much less than he could have if he had moved to another state.  In 1959, he gave that up to start traveling from church to church raising money to go to Africa as a missionary.  He sold our home in Kentucky and in the fall of 1960 part of our family sailed out of New York City for Cape Town, South Africa on our way to Mashoko Mission in Zimbabwe.  He had done what Jesus said do as far as he was concerned.  At first glance, you would not think daddy or any other bible believing Christian would have a problem with the Red Letter Christian movement.  After all, isn't it just based on the words of Jesus?

"When asked about party affiliation, the Red-Letter Christian is prone to answer, 'Please name the issue.' " But Campolo also says RLCs are upset about "gay-bashing, anti-feminism, anti-environmentalism, pro-war, pro-gun, and Religious Right politics." These items sound a lot like talking points from a James Carville memo.”  (Stan Guthie in the October issue of Christianity Today)

The problem is not the words of Jesus, but rather the way they get interpreted and used to choose sides in the political arena.  I am not sure the purpose of Jesus’ ministry was a political one.  In fact, I think He got in trouble with His followers for not being political.

The truth is for the most part the church and the RLC movement are neither one very close to the example set by Jesus, but He said, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7: 14 ESV)  That means we should not expect to find many examples around us of folks on the path to life eternal.  That is one of the red letter hard truths no one likes to hear.  Folks would rather believe in universal salvation.

I don’t have answers.  I have questions.  Like, will we ever stop complaining about each other and start trying to help all of us reach our dreams?  I really don’t care what your stand on the Red Letter Christian movement is or whether you are a conservative or a liberal.  It is none of my business what you believe about God, politics or sex.  I consider it my business how we treat each other and how we treat our home the earth.

Does that make me a liberal or a conservative?  Does that mean anything about my politics or religion?  The only relationship is to the degree my belief system has been informed by my experiences within both political and religious circles.  I don’t think they have had as great an impact on my belief in human rights as the mental health system has and the coal industry has had on my thoughts around environmental issues.

In Wolfe County, KY churches abound and government programs are a plenty, but the percentage of the population potentially exposed to water exceeding a violation limit was 100% during the past year and the number of children in poverty was 50%.  http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/
It does not seem to matter if the government or the church is in a place the people can still be suffering beyond what most people can even imagine. My mother was born in the county and my father in the adjoining county.

It is Friday and Sunday is coming and somebody better wake up because the narrow gate is closing and the path is getting harder to walk.


© Ed Cooper, March 28, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
    All rights reserved




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