Civil disobedience means breaking a law, publicly and calmly, and then accepting the punishment the law provides, in order to draw attention to a law that is unjust and should be changed. The law Cliven Bundy is breaking says that if you graze your cattle on land owned by the federal government, you have to pay grazing fees. I haven’t heard anyone articulate why that law is unjust. People are saying that the government owns too much land in Nevada, and maybe it does, but until the government sells it to you and you own it, you have to pay to use it. There isn’t any fundamental question of human rights or even the reach of government in question here at all. Mr. Bundy also doesn’t have the right to walk into the local BLM office and stuff all their staplers and pens into his knapsack and walk out.

Secondly, and just as important, there’s nothing “civil” about Bundy’s disobedience. If it was civil disobedience, he’d pay what he owes and then try, through the courts and public opinion, to change what he sees as these unjust grazing fees. But he hasn’t done that. He just refused to pay, and then led a heavily-armed standoff with the government.

I’m sorry, but if you’re defending Bundy, no matter how many times you toss the phrase “We the people” into what you say, you just have no clue about how democracy works. When you become a United States citizen, or when you take public office in America, you don’t pledge to honor whatever particular notion you have of what this country ought to be. You pledge to uphold the Constitution. The whole point of democracy is, as John Adams put it, “a government of laws, not of men.” The system embodies the will of the people and allows for change. When there’s something about that system you don’t like, you can’t just shout “Tyranny!” and refuse to obey the laws. You work to change them through democratic means.

What Cliven Bundy and his supporters are doing is the opposite of patriotism. It isn’t principled opposition to Barack Obama, or to the policies of the federal government; it’s opposition to the American system of democracy itself. And the people who are defending him ought to be ashamed of themselves.

The Supreme Court decision on Brown, in 1954, marked a moral high point in American history, but the practice that it dispatched to the graveyard had already begun to mutate into something less tangible and far more durable. What would, in the end, preserve the principle of “separate inequality” was not protests like the one staged by Orval Faubus, the governor of Arkansas, who deployed the National Guard to Little Rock’s Central High School, in 1957, in order to keep black students out. Instead, it was policies like the Interstate Highway Act, whose passage one year earlier helped spawn American suburbia. In the wake of Brown, private schools, whose implicit mission was to educate white children, cropped up throughout the South. The persistent legacies of redlining, housing discrimination, and wage disparity conspired to produce segregation without Jim Crow—maintaining all the familiar elements of the past in an updated operating system.

To the extent that the word “desegregation” remains in our vocabulary, it describes an antique principle, not a current priority. Today, we are more likely to talk of diversity—but diversification and desegregation are not the same undertaking. To speak of diversity, in light of this country’s history of racial recidivism, is to focus on bringing ethnic variety to largely white institutions, rather than dismantling the structures that made them so white to begin with.

And so, sixty years after Brown, it is clear that the notion of segregation as a discrete phenomenon, an evil that could be flipped, like a switch, from on to off, by judicial edict, was deeply naïve. The intervening decades have shown, in large measure, the limits of what political efforts directed at desegregation alone could achieve, and the crumbling of both elements of “separate but equal” has left us at an ambivalent juncture. To the extent that desegregation becomes, once again, a pressing concern—and even that may be too grand a hope—it will have to involve the tax code, the minimum wage, and other efforts to redress income inequality. For the tragedy of this moment is not that black students still go to overwhelmingly black schools, long after segregation was banished by law, but that they do so for so many of the same reasons as in the days before Brown.

The provocative argument of Capital in the 21st Century is that market capitalism, including the kind of welfare state capitalism practiced in continental Europe, will eventually lead to an economy dominated by those lucky enough to be born into a position of inherited wealth. Piketty argues that this is how the economy of early 20th century Europe worked, that the tyranny of inherited wealth was destroyed only by the devastation of two world wars, and that in the 21st Century the United States and Canada will suffer from the same affliction.

Paul’s claim about God and government, therefore, was completely unexceptional for his day–part of his cultural environment and utterly natural to him and his readers. To think of Paul’s words as a timeless blueprint, therefore, despite how clearly he is affirming/teaching, is a mistake.

Also remember that in Paul’s day, neither Judaism nor this new Jewish subgroup of Jesus followers were considered an immediate threat to Rome, and so they all more or less got along. At another time we should not presume Paul’s thinking would have remained the same–such as later in Paul’s life when Christian persecutions were underway, or perhaps when Romans were killing Jews and razing their temple in AD 70.

As Johnson concludes,

Paul cannot be held responsible for his practical advice later taken as divine revelation and as the basis for a Christian theology of state. That is too much weight for a few words of contingent remarks to bear…. Simply “reading it off the page” as a directive for life is to misread it and to distort it, for the world in which it made self-evident sense no longer exists and never can. (p. 201; my emphasis).

Translation: There’s more to reading the Bible faithfully than just doing what it says, no matter of clearly it seems to be telling us what to do.

Which leads me to my point: Clear affirmations/teachings, just like everything else in the Bible, need to be seen in context. And in doing so we may come to see that when the Bible is affirming/teaching something, that does not mean it is binding. It may mean that is not longer is.

And if anyone wishes, they can still call that “inerrant.”

What I am saying here about Romans 13:1-7 is not radical. I suspect many evangelicals would play the context card as Johnson does. And that is precisely part of the biblical literalist complaint: “You weak-in-the-knees quasi-evangelicals are always taking a clear affirmation/teaching of the Bible and relativizing it with your fancy-pants talk of context and the ancient world and what not.”

They have a point, actually. I can see tons of wiggle room in Genesis 1, Ecclesiastes, etc. in the affirm/teach definition of inerrancy. But not when a biblical author is using words that in any other place would be described as a list of imperatives–clear affirmations/teachings. I mean, if not in Romans 13:1-7, then where?

Anyway, that was just on my mind at the moment. And this is why I think inerrancy–however intended or defined–isn’t a very good descriptor of what the Bible does.

At the end of the day, you simply can’t avoid genre and context when talking about how the Bible works. And when you do, definitions of inerrancy seem less and less convincing.

So what do we do? Let’s begin here: Before the cross is anything else, it is a catastrophe. It is the unjust lynching of an innocent man. This is precisely how the Apostles spoke of the crucifixion of Jesus in the book of Acts.

“This Jesus…you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” –Acts 2:23

“You killed the author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” –Acts 3:15

“God raised up Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.” –Acts 5:30

“The Righteous One you have now betrayed and murdered.” –Acts 7:52

The Bible is clear, God did not kill Jesus. Jesus was offered as a sacrifice in that the Father was willing to send his Son into our sinful system in order to expose it as utterly sinful and provide us with another way. The death of Jesus was a sacrifice in that sense. But it was not a sacrifice to appease a wrathful deity or to provide payment for a penultimate god subordinate to Justice.

Let me suggest that when we say Jesus died for our sins, we mean something like this: We violently sinned our sins into Jesus, and Jesus revealed the heart of God by forgiving us. When Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them,” he was not asking God to act contrary to his nature. When Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them,” he was, as always, revealing the very heart of God!

Most oddly, the film doesn’t seem to be aware of the myriad ways it debunks itself. It’s important to note that this is not a criticism of religion or anyone’s personal beliefs. Whatever your faith or lack thereof, whatever your beliefs about the spiritual truth of divine contact, or the theology of the afterlife, you really should be able to integrate the idea that a four year old raised in a religious household might have a dream about Jesus while he’s under general anesthetic. It wouldn’t be baffling or disturbing, no matter what you think of the underlying truth.

We retell this Gospel Story every year. And it never ceases to sound crazy. The Divine in flesh. A King who refuses a heavenly throne and then an earthly one. Blood covered sins. Resurrection from the dead. Resurrection from the dead. But we believe the impossible. We believe in salvation through blood. We believe in heaven, in a prepared place. We believe in the Trinity. We believe in God with us. We believe that the proclamation “Hosanna!” was just too small. Salvation in the most imaginative and painful way. We believe that souls live on.

And as wild as it sounds, this is sometimes the easiest to believe. In eternity. In forever. But my faith believes in other impossible things. 

I believe in the death of injustice, in the life of hope, grace, mercy, and love. I believe in the impossible. I believe there can be healing where there is violence. I believe reconciliation is possible- hearts can be moved, minds can be changed, politics broken. I believe that justice can roll down like a river and we can all taste its sweetness. I believe in the impossible. I believe we can treat people- all people- with dignity; we can recognize their humanity; recognize the divine within. I believe we can do more. Create more jobs. Build more homes. Turn food deserts into promiseland harvests. Subvert racial and gender hierarchies. Consider others more important than ourselves. Slay preferences that lead to exclusion. Set captives free. Welcome the stranger. I believe in impossible things. I believe in death because I believe in life. I believe in the death of -isms. I believe in the life of love. I believe humanity can change because I believe in the impossible. 

I believe in life, in death, in resurrection. Not just for me. Not just for my salvation, for God so loved the world.     

Though the world often feels like Saturday- silence. death. frustration. fear. Though the earth often feels like Saturday- disease. hunger. pain. violence. Though our communities often feel like Saturday- barnabas wreaking havoc on us all. Though our hearts often feel like Saturday- heavy. embarrassed. shamed. sad. I believe in the resurrection. I believe in life, in healing, in fullness. I believe in light, in joy, in peace. I believe in mercy, in second chances, in surprises. I believe in resurrection. 

I believe the impossible. 

Happy Easter, All.

He rode into town on a donkey to shouts of praise. Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel. Palms wave in the air and scatter the road as he clunks along. This is no powerful steed, so the entrance is slow and the praise long. “Hosanna! Save us,” the crowd cries. They are desperate to be freed, desperate to become a nation unto themselves, freed -no- saved from the tyranny of the Romans. Surely this is the new David, the promised one. After all, he has already done the impossible. He raised a man from the dead. Everyone heard. Surely this is the new king. With disdain the Pharisees watch the growing fervor of the crowd. Shaking their heads, they throw shade at Jesus, “Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Once the crowd has made way for Jesus to pass, he and the disciples enter a home and eat. Much to their dismay, Jesus washes their feet. This seems like a hard turn of events following the excitement and emotion of the crowd. But Jesus insists on loving them to the end. As if this were not confusing enough, Jesus then speaks of betrayal and denial. And none of it makes sense. Who would betray the next king? Why would anyone deny a king? Then comes another bomb, “My children, I will only be with you a little longer.” What? What does that mean? Is this another parable, Jesus? Where could you possibly be going at a time like this? People are waiting for you. Expecting you. Hoping for you. You can’t leave!

Jesus gives them all the wisdom, all the instruction he can muster: 

"I go to prepare a place for you." 

"I am the way and the truth and the life." 

"If you love me, keep my commands."

"Because I live, you also will live."  

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you."

Jesus just keeps going. The disciples can’t figure out what he means. Is he being figurative? Is this a puzzle. Or is he saying what we think he might be saying. Is he talking about death? The disciples desperately grasp for meaning, as Jesus goes on and on and on. Revealing more about what’s coming next. And then, they come to the garden. 

Kiss. Arrest. Swords flash in the light of torches. Jesus bound. Questions and answers. Questions and answers. Lies and Questions. High priest. Roman governor. Flogging. Nakedness. A purple robe. A crown.made.of.thorns. “Crucify! Crucify!” A Cross. Nails through flesh. “It is finished.” Death comes heavily.

Darkness. Pain. Confusion. Frustration. Fear. Silence.

Then resurrection comes. Resurrection comes! He is alive!

Anabaptists also often find a continuation of this Spirit through post-Reformation communities across the globe, including movements like the MCC, Christian Peacemaker Teams, The Mennonite Worker, ReKnew, Kingdom Builders and more.

Additionally, theologians, pastors, and activists continue to bring Anabaptist theology and praxis into conversation with modernity regardless of denominational affiliation.[4] Thus we are influenced by post-modern, post-liberal, liberationist, feminist, and post-fundamentalist theologies. Although little scholarly work has been done on the subject of so called “neo-Anabaptist” thought, there are those of us who run in the same circles but there are important distinctions.[5] Although different Anabaptist communities may add to the following list, none would detract from them. Unique among this emerging Anabaptist movement are these convictions, largely influenced by historic Anabaptist theology:

Jesus Centered- Jesus stands as the lens by which we read the entire Bible, and the exemplary by which we engage all theology. Jesus takes all precedence in matters of faith and life for us. He is the exact representation of God and the King of our Kingdom. His example, teaching, and identity matter more than anything. His values, example, and commandments often put us at odds with the laws, values, and expectations of Christendom and State. Responding to the ways of this world in a Jesus-like manner, Anabaptist communities operate as alternatives to the systems around them. Its is the centrality of Jesus above all things that defines every other particularity within Anabaptism. Free Church of Confessing, Baptized Believers- For the Anabaptist, community is essential to follow Jesus–and this practice often places us at odds with the Church-State. Although individuals choose to respond to this calling, or not, we enter into community with others through baptism. Salvation is realized in community, but so is sin.  As a matter of intersection, some Anabaptist groups draw from the Wesleyan and Liberationist wells that are also aimed at communal and economic reform in light of the Kingdom of God. Although not unique among (mostly white) post-liberal groups, post-colonial theologies continue to influence this new wave of Anabaptist expression as historically rooted Anabaptist theology has influenced them. Building upon the movement of the God through the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt, the Jews occupied in the time of Jesus, the religious, cultural, political, and social identity of Jesus in the Gospels, and the history of persecution of Anabaptists during the Reformation period and beyond–Anabaptists choose to minister in, of, and amongst the marginalized. We see this as a natural expression of our commitment to discipleship in the Kingdom which stands against Christendom and the State. Agents of God’s Shalom- More than merely being non-violent on a personal level (a measure that all Anabaptists will not flinch from) we are dedicated to producing God’s Shalom in our communities, and standing against violence in all of its forms (Empire, oppression, poverty, war, etc.). Shalom is more than the absence of conflict (Pax Christi), it is the peace that surpasses all understanding, as God’s Reign fosters wholeness through reconciling the hierarchies of class, race, ethnicity, age, sex, gender, sexuality, and ableism. Although there are tensions within the Anabaptist movement as to the Church’s relationship to possible political responsibilities, Anabaptists reject Dominionism in favor of persuasion. Thus Anabaptists can responsibly engage the Powers and Principalities through prophetic and non-violent witness.


thememegeneration:

Here we have today’s surprise snow represented by Donna Noble and my reaction represented by The Doctor.