Jesus Was Not Born to Die

The idea that Jesus was “born to die” is central to the theology of the Christian Right.  Bestselling author John Piper wrote Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die.  Among the reasons he lists are:  to absorb the wrath of God, to cancel the legal demands of the law against us, to provide the basis for our justification, and to rescue us from final judgment.  The introduction to this book on Amazon.com states: “The most important questions anyone can ask are: Why was Jesus Christ crucified? Why did he suffer so much? What has this to do with me? Finally, who sent him to his death? The answer to the last question is that God did.”

Deterministic teachings such as these raise troubling questions about the nature of God.  They also disregard the value of Jesus’ life, ministry, and freedom of choice, and ignore the social and political factors that led to his death.

To believe that Jesus was born to die and that God’s intent was for Jesus to die can lead to the acceptance of the suffering of ourselves and others, and to apathy in the face of injustice.  This allows us to justify not only Jesus’ execution, but other injustices as well. For if all is well and it is God’s will for one man, Jesus, to be tortured and executed by the State, why not others?  (This question takes on new meaning as Donald Trump promises to revive and expand the policy of torture practiced during the Bush administration.)  If things have been set right by the death of Jesus and everything is going according to God’s plan, why try to change anything?  Why not accept everything that happens, every injustice, every execution, as God’s will?

This is religion that supports Empire.  This is the antithesis of the spirituality of Jesus.  It serves the Powers.  Entrapment of the innocent, torture, and execution by the State are not now and never have been in accordance with the will of God.

The death of Jesus was not God’s intent.  God’s intent in sending Jesus was to show us what God is like and what human life and community can be when lived in the presence of God.  Clearly, such a life is a threat to the Powers that Be.  Jesus had settled for himself long before that being a beloved child of God meant being at odds with the world’s power structures.  He had been tempted early on to seek status, wealth, and worldly power. Instead, he chose the “foolishness” and “weakness” of Love.  He chose “the wisdom of God, secret and hidden,” which the rulers of that age did not understand.  “If they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2). That’s why Jesus died—because the ruling Powers killed him.

Fortunately, we don’t need to jump through ideological hoops in order to have a personal, life-giving, Spirit-filled relationship with Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to adopt a deterministic belief system in order to come to terms with suffering and to experience forgiveness, spiritual connection, and the unconditional grace and love of God.

The story of the execution of Jesus brings about a great reversal of spiritual perspective.  Instead of seeing God as a King, Judge, or Director of human events, in the crucified Christ we see God as the object of scorn, shame, ridicule, and judgment, as abandoned and broken-hearted, as lover, as Love.  God rejoices with us when we rejoice, weeps with us when we weep, showers both the just and unjust with all the blessings of creation, and calls us to embody Love in this world.  Jesus was one who did just that.  Those of us who follow him are called to do so fully and completely, renouncing fear and paralysis, living in the power of the Spirit, and heading straight into the heart of the struggle for a better world, as he did.

Previous Post:  Rejecting Theological Sadism.  Coming Next:  The Subversive Jesus.  

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” Sharon’s Facebook Page.   

 

 

 

People of Faith in Support of Standing Rock

14940070_953475381423258_5373093476486501858_oHow can modern Christianity have so solemnly folded its hands while so much of the work of God was and is being destroyed?”                                       Wendell Berry

Christian interpretations of scripture that support domination of the earth solely for human profit and hierarchical views that place some human beings above others have caused immeasurable harm.  Not only has much of modern Christianity solemnly folded its hands while creation is degraded and destroyed, but also while our brothers and sisters are exploited and abused.

Fortunately, there are other strands of Christianity that are focused on justice, peace, and the healing of creation.  There are also a growing number of denominations that are taking actions of repentance for past harm, making amends, and taking seriously the call to act as responsible members of the interrelated and interconnected community of life.

I’m leaving this morning for Standing Rock.  I’ll post again soon.  First I want to catch up with what’s going on related to people of faith acting in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe of North Dakota.  The tribe is trying to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would cross under the Missouri River, threatening the water of millions of people.  Thousands of people have travelled to Standing Rock, including members of over 500 tribes. Many are camping there.  Hundreds of people have been arrested trying to stop the pipeline, and solidarity actions have been taking place around the world.

Last Wednesday, November 2, I was among several faith leaders who responded to an invitation to attend a demonstration in Auburn, California, in support of the water protectors in Standing Rock.  It included song, drums, spoken word, and a sending-off ceremony for people who were on their way to Standing Rock.  At the time, I knew I’d be going but I didn’t know when.  As the elder called down a blessing on me and on the people I would leave behind as I travelled, I felt clarity that it was time.  By that evening, I had announced I would go with my friends, who are leaving today.  I’m leaving with them.

Last Thursday, November 3, over 500 clergy travelled to Standing Rock, in response to an invitation from the tribe, to stand in solidarity with the people there.  I shed tears when I learned that one of their actions was to burn a copy of the Doctrine of Discovery, a doctrine through which the Roman Catholic Church gave Christian explorers the right to claim for their monarchs any lands that they “discovered.” Indigenous peoples inhabiting the lands might be spared if they converted to Christianity; otherwise they could be driven off the land, enslaved, or killed. Missionaries were complicit in this colonization project. In 1823, the Doctrine of Discovery was adopted into U.S. law. It was referenced in a Supreme Court ruling as recently as 2005.

Several denominations, including my own, have held services acknowledging and repenting for Christianity’s past complicity in colonization, forced conversions, assimilation, and genocide of Indigenous peoples.  If we who are Christian intend to make amends and be reconciled with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, a big step forward is to support them in their current struggles to protect their treaty rights and the rights of the earth, and to learn from them about the value and interconnectedness of all parts of creation. By doing so, we honor creation and work for justice in our time.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

 More about Standing Rock: 

 Official website and place to donate to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.  

 Facebook page:  Standing Rock Sioux Facebook page.  

 Democracy Now is covering this action on a daily basis. 

 More about the Dakota Access Pipeline

 The United Nations statement.

 

We Are Everywhere

14191889_10208873080458651_1980802515_o

Sharon leading a climate Justice workshop at Roseville United Methodist Church.

Here I am, coming up from the depths of prayer, meditation, study, and writing.  These past months I’ve been focused primarily on writing my new book, Love in a Time of Climate Change, which is almost ready to send to the publisher.

Then in August, I spent three weekends leading workshops in Merced, San Rafael, and Roseville on “Climate Justice” for the United Methodist Women’s program of transformational learning, Mission U.  I had helped write the book for the class, and last Spring I had traveled by train to St. Louis for the leadership training.  The workshops I led emphasized that working for climate justice includes, but is not limited to, making simple lifestyle changes.  It also requires us to respond to the demands for justice from those who are living and working on the front lines of climate change, and whose lands and waters are threatened with pollution by extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction, transport, and refining.  It also means working to change the system that perpetuates climate change and so many other forms of injustice.  That’s why banners at climate justice demonstrations often say “System Change Not Climate Change.”

Just today, I had to add a few words to my book about the growing protest led by the Standing Rock Sioux against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.  This, too, is climate justice action.  It is also history in the making!  The camp now includes 150 tribes and over 1,000 people.  A call for solidarity actions has gone out, and I plan to participate. Here is more information and a list of actions planned so far.

The courageous, Spirit-filled actions at Standing Rock give me hope.  I believe that the Spirit is active wherever people are taking a stand for people, for the earth, and for future generations.  And such actions are not just taking place in isolation.  As the title of a popular book on this topic says, “We Are Everywhere.”

 

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

Support the Indigenous led movement to Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline

#NoDAPL Solidarity             https://nodaplsolidarity.org/

 

 

 

We Who Believe in Freedom Shall Not Rest

Reinette and Sharon at Occupy Wall Street

Reinette and Sharon at Occupy Wall Street

I have been horrified by recent shootings of police officers, and my prayers go out to their families and colleagues.  At first I was concerned that the strict nonviolence practiced by the Black Lives Matter movement had been compromised, so I was relieved to hear that the gunmen were not part of the movement.  Because, you see, I support Black Lives Matter (BLM).  Of course I know that all lives matter, but black lives seem not to matter when police so frequently kill black people and are not prosecuted.  BLM has raised awareness of the racial bias of policing in certain areas of this country and has intensified demands for racial justice.

There is also a backlash against the movement, which seems apparent in the outrage expressed over Nevada City Council member Reinette Senem’s Facebook comments.  She has since apologized for her generalizations and clarified that she supports the local police and values her relationship with them.  I hope she stays the course and refuses to be shamed or intimidated into resigning her position.

I am glad to hear that she and others believe that our law enforcement officials are respectful and have a good relationship with the public.  That has been my experience as well. But racism is a reality in this mostly white community.  I have witnessed it.  I suspect that there are racial overtones to the recent debate.

I believe that the organized attempt to force Reinette out of office is a red herring, that is, “something that distracts attention from the real issue.”  The real conflict locally seems to be between those who support BLM’s calls for police accountability and those who do not, between those who are appalled by ongoing police killings of black human beings and those who want the public to fully support and trust the police.

The “blue wall of silence,” which prevents ethical police officers from calling out unethical colleagues, does not serve the interests of anyone.  Rather, it endangers all police officers as well as the public.  Yet it seemed like some of the speakers at the recent public forum wanted to extend the blue wall of silence to public officials and to put the public on notice that we, too, should support law enforcement without question.

One speaker quoted a Bible passage from Romans 13: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities…  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain!”  Reading this passage in the context of the public forum implied that all police and all authorities are just.  That is simply not true.  Many of the other speakers made the same case—that we should support the police no matter what.

This demonstrates the rational distortions that result from taking selective Bible passages literally.  Jesus disobeyed the rulers of his time, as did the apostle Peter who said, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).  Paul and Silas were flogged and thrown in jail.  The Roman Empire put Jesus, Peter, and Paul to death.  Some people may truly believe that if you do what is good you will receive the approval of police or other authorities.  But that’s not always how it plays out.

Racial discrimination is well-documented in the US criminal justice system.  This statement is not an attack on police officers who do their best to protect people and uphold the law.  But the truth is that people of color are at a disadvantage in interactions with police and in our courts, jails, and prisons.  Read The New Jim Crow or Lockdown America or Just Mercy to find out more.

This conflict is not new.  It is historic, with roots in the system of slavery, followed by segregation, voter suppression, “stop and frisk,” and zero-tolerance policing.  Police killings of black people have been happening all along, but BLM is bringing these killings to light.  In the words of a civil rights song:  “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers’ sons…we who believe in freedom shall not rest, we who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes.”

 

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

 

 

The Moral Argument to Divest from Fossil Fuels

12143254_10153845227697415_2054819286481668662_n

Jenny Phillips, Coordinator of Fossil Free UMC, with Bill McKibben, a United Methodist Sunday School teacher and Coordinator of 350.org

My prayers are with my friends and colleagues who will be at the upcoming United Methodist General Conference, working to pass legislation to screen fossil fuels out of United Methodist investment portfolios.  There are both economic and moral reasons to do so.

The economic argument is that investors in fossil fuels face “stranded assets” and the resulting financial loss as coal, oil, and gas companies are unable to extract and burn all the reserves upon which their projected profits and stock values are based.  United Methodists advocate for strong environmental regulations and a widespread switch to renewable energy sources, but if these changes take place, many of the reserves will be unavailable.  Furthermore, as we have seen with the bankruptcy of Peabody Coal and the recent downgrading of Exxon Mobil stock, it is quite clear that market forces related to fossil fuels are volatile.

Still, the moral argument is strongest:  it is wrong to profit from wrecking the planet.  Ending our addiction to fossil fuels should override arguments based on economic self-interest or the economic interests of our denomination.

As United Methodists and as followers of Christ, we should have no part in investments in fossil fuels, which pollute the atmosphere with the persistent greenhouse gases that are causing climate change, bringing disaster upon people, harming creation, and foreclosing the future.  Rather, we should be investing ourselves and our money in renewable, life-sustaining, and regenerative enterprises.  By doing so, we step away from institutional complicity in destroying creation, affirm our deepest values, and offer a vision of hope for a transformed world.

Follow Sharon’s blog by clicking the “Follow Sharon Delgado” button at the right or by “liking” the Shaking the Gates of Hell Facebook page.  

 Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.   Order Sharon’s CD– Climate Change:  What Do We Know?  What Can We Do? or download a free MP3 version.