Many years ago I knew this guy named Rodney who was killed at this particularly horrific intersection, where an earlier death had occurred. Everyone knew it was a crazy dangerous intersection. Sometime after Rodney’s death, they redid the intersection. It’s still a mess, but far less dangerous. I remember thinking, “we had to sacrifice at least 2 people to get this problem fixed.”
From that time on, I have viewed progress as a type of acceptable human sacrifice. By raising speed limits, deaths increase. So, we sacrifice a few hundred people a year to the god of expediency. We had an extremely dangerous intersection near our house where countless collisions had occurred–I have no idea how many people were sacrificed over 22 years before they made it a 4-way stop.
We know certain industries like mining result in a predictable number of illnesses and deaths, but we willingly sacrifice them to the gods of energy and progress. And let’s not forget the god of the 2nd Amendment. I don’t have to say any more about that. We have gods of policing, law and order, gods of races, and the list goes on, each involving the sacrifice of human lives.
Will future civilizations look back on us as a culture who routinely engaged in human sacrifice to their gods? Will they recognize our culture not as the pinnacle of progress and human rights, but as a culture of brutality?
Are human sacrifices necessary for our society to exist (and “progress”)? Must there be homeless and poverty for the “greater good?”
I don’t pretend to have the answers, I just anguish over the reality.
One morning a few years ago, I sat down on our couch and started to read the Gospel of Matthew from start to finish. I had, of course, read the book before, but perhaps not as one cohesive work. It would prove to be quite dangerous.
As I read through the story, I began to realize that the story it told, and the teachings of Jesus, presented what could be described as a “liberal” worldview. Capitalism didn’t fit into the picture, nor did any kind of superiority. The Gospel of Matthew contains the Sermon on the Mount, several parables, instructions to love your enemy and to forgive others. Jesus quotes the Old Testament to “liberalize” it, turning it from a “judge others” approach to a “forgive others” one.
“They” say that Matthew’s purpose is to show that Jesus is the Messiah. I think the Gospel of Matthew revolutionizes first Century Judaism.
Anyway, my mind turned completely around, as if I’d read this stuff for the first time, and also realized that Jesus did not support the kind of world that Sean Hannity (who I listened to daily) and Donald Trump espoused. In fact, there was nothing conservative about Jesus at all.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus would be a Democrat–his kingdom is definitely not an Earthly one (at least at this point), but his dream was that his Kingdom would be done on earth. This means radical love, radical forgiveness, and radical humility, which means more liberal than American politics in total.
Who is my neighbor? Forgive how many times? Blessed are the who?
So yes, that day was the first day I had actually read this book, and it changed my life.
From July 9, 2016, thoughts as I began to wake up. Oddly coincidental, as I post this I’m listening to the Beatles “Baby You’re a Rich Man.” “How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?” If you have the dedication to go back so some of my older posts, you can see that it was around this time that I began to bail on the conservative dream and found myself voting for Hillary Clinton. The rest is history, as they say.
Confessions of a privilege addict
Hello, My name is Alden, and I am a privilege addict.
I’ve known that I was privileged (although I never thought of it in those terms until recently) since I was a child, and I have relished every minute of it. I know that many of you will doubt or dispute this, as I have never been part of the “1%” and have usually hid my elitist arrogance, but it’s true.
I believe that humans are inherently tribal in nature; our brains, as my daughter recently explained to me, naturally categorize and order things in order to attempt to understand them. We do the same thing to ourselves, categorizing and ranking ourselves within the greater culture. As children, we are dependent upon others and finding our way in the world outside of our immediate family (or sometimes even within the family) can result in insecurity. The sooner we organize ourselves–finding our tribes, so to speak–the sooner we will achieve some sense of security and belonging.
As a typically insecure child, I found security in my birthright categories:
I was an American, living in the best and most powerful nation in the world. In a world where war was the norm, there was confort in knowing that we could blow up any nation that challenged us. And yes, there is still some comfort in knowing that in spite of the threat of terrorism, we could destroy any country we wanted to. I have no real comprehension of living in a country where being invaded is a very real possibility. I am privileged to be an American.
I was a Christian, living in a Christian town in a Christian country. It was a small town, with perhaps one Jewish resident. Better yet, I was a Lutheran, belonging to the largest and most impressive church in town, which also happened to be the most theologically correct church (and yes, I still believe that, but my belief now is based on study, not culture). We were superior. There was no persecution of any kind for a Lutheran in Minnesota.
I was a male. “Man” was the default. Adam was a man, Jesus was a man, etc. “Man” was the generic label for humanity. This was kind of a mixed blessing, as males had more expectations put on them than women. We had to learn to be providers, we may have to go to war, etc. However, these decisions were in our power, as men were the leaders.
I was white. In my home town, we were all white. And, being all white, we could be benevolently and safely non-racist. Everywhere I went, it was clear that white was the norm. Jesus was white, Santa Claus was white, the President was white, and nearly everyone on television what white. It was obvious that whites were the majority, and the norm, and that it was in our power to be gracious and accepting of non-whites. It was in our power.
So there I was. And here I am, a straight white male Christian middle-class employed American, with a great wife and children, living in an idyllic setting in a peaceful, small town in Oregon. I am privileged, and I enjoy it very much. From the comfort of my climate-controlled home, I can view the hate and hurt of the rest of the world, and pretend to have empathy.
But, I know I can’t. I will never understand what it is to grow up being one of the not-privileged. Not really. Twice in my life I have been in situations where I’ve faced armed policemen, but I’ve never experienced it as a black, an Hispanic, or a Native American. I’ve never interviewed for a job as a woman. I’ve never been refused service or the right to marry because I’m gay, or been reported as a terrorist because I speak Arabic.
I know I am privileged; I am the norm. I don’t feel guilty because of it; as Lady Gaga sang, I was born that way. I admit that I am glad that I am privileged, because I know that my life is a little bit (or a lot) easier because of it. I am addicted to being privileged. I like it. I can’t change the fact that I’m a straight white American male, but I can admit that it makes me automatically privileged, and acknowledge that it’s wrong. To make the Declaration of Independence a reality–where all men are truly equal–I have to be willing to sacrifice my privileged status; that’s the way equality works.
It’s amazing what I find looking back at my own writing. 4 years ago I began this theological journey that led me to start to write another book, something which I really had no energy for at the time. Looking at this post, I can see that my vision hasn’t changed, and this indeed could be the forward. Enjoy.
Initially published 3-19-19
If I were to write another book, it could be another, even clearer, presentation of the gospel.
If I were to write another book, it would be because my wife told me I should, because the good news is way better than even I thought it was a couple of years ago.
If I were to write another book, this could be the Forward.
It is coincidental that here, in mid-Lent, I have just finished reading my fourth book in a row on the atonement, besides listening to various sermons and lectures online. It’s not that unusual for me to lock onto a subject, but I don’t think I’ve ever locked on to something this meaningful and relevant, for it relates to everything (if you happen to be a spiritually-minded person). For that matter, it’s relevant even if you’re not, but that’s a topic for another time. It’s relevant to everything because at the heart of the atonement issue—and the larger issues of life, death and everything—is the nature and character of God.
At this point in my studies, I am more than ever convinced that a majority of evangelicals around the world have been taught things about the atonement—and subsequently the nature of God—which are heretical. In this, I am in line with most of the church throughout history. It is unfortunate that so many church attendees will have to listen to sermons about justice and wrath and how God abandoned Jesus on the cross because He couldn’t look on sin, about how we are all worms saved only because God poured his wrath on Jesus instead of us.
This kind of thinking not only portrays God as being not at all like Jesus (and somewhat schizoid), but pits God against Jesus, antagonist versus victim, dividing the Godhead. This thinking, by the way, came from Calvin, who was forced to this conclusion to make sense of his other heretical ideas.
This is not good news. If anything, this should cause us all to wind up on Easter with a case of PTSD. Even after being saved by the skin of our teeth, we still have to deal with the fact that our God would have crucified us, and will still go on to throw most of the world into hell for all eternity. This is supposed to make us happy? Rejoice! We’re saved, but the rest of the world will burn forever!
With this kind of thinking, it’s no wonder that some of evangelical Christianity (if it can be called that) has turned into a kind of war-mongering hate group, fostering various “us against them” mindsets and acting not at all like Jesus (who, by the way, is not coming back on a white horse to smite anybody).
Thankfully, none of this wrath-based thinking is true. It doesn’t even make sense. (Part of the problem is that words like wrath, ransom, and hell have been mistranslated and the English words mis-defined.) If God was paid off by Jesus, that’s not really forgiveness, is it? If someone else pays off my mortgage, the bank hasn’t forgiven the loan; it was paid in full. Calling it forgiveness is not being very honest. Plus, it makes God into someone other than who Jesus said he was.
The Good News is so much better! Here’s a basic outline of the true story, which (with various nuances) has been believed since the early Church (if I were to write another book, these are topics that I would explore in depth):
• God is exactly like Jesus (the Bible tells us so).
• God is love. Period. (It’s all about the love, ‘bout the love, no wrath…). The wrathful God is a myth.
• There is no original sin/guilt as invented by Augustine/Calvin. Mankind is not totally depraved. Sin is a plague, and we are victims.
• God never wanted sacrifices. (This was news to me, but a couple of later OT writers—and Jesus—make this point.)
• Jesus was born (incarnated) to join man back to God.
• Jesus is in the Father, and the Father is in Jesus (they are not like Legos that can be pulled apart).
• God forgave us apart from Jesus’ death. He forgave us without payment or incentive. (There’s no forgiveness if payment was required.)
• God did not turn away from Jesus because of sin; God looks at sin all the time. The verses in Habakkuk need to be read in context, which actually is making the point that God does indeed tolerate sin.
• Jesus died to save us from sin (the plague) and death. He basically blew death up from the inside when he rose on Easter.
• Jesus died “for the sins of the world.” Yeah, that’s everyone.
• We don’t become saved to get into heaven or escape hell; we are saved from sin and death so that we can become one with God (at-one-ment is an English word made up by translators to try to capture this meaning).
• God is not sending anyone to hell (which is nothing like Dante described it).
• Jesus is not coming back to destroy anything (forgiveness and wrath don’t mix). Revelation is not meant to be read literally. And those looking forward to future violence are more apt to tolerate it on Earth now.
• God is good. Always.
• God is love. Always. No qualifiers.
Now isn’t that so much better? It should be, because this is what the Bible actually teaches, if we really look at it apart from those screwy notions we’ve accepted as truth.
The Good News is that God loves [all of] us and forgives [all of] us because that’s who God is; exactly like Jesus showed us.