I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Nor the lights or its decor.
But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp–
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.
Bob, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a mistake.
‘And why is everyone so quiet,
So somber – give me a clue.’
‘Hush, child,’ He said,
‘they’re all in shock.
No one thought they’d see you
Traditionally, the Christmas season brings out the best in people… or it’s supposed to at least. This is the one time of year that differences should be put aside, between individuals and within families, between and within communities… regardless of religious and political beliefs, despite one’s social standing. Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you have any religious beliefs or not, the hope of “peace on earth and good will towards all men, women and children”, if not something you care about during the year, it should at least be at the forefront of our minds (if not hearts) this time of year.
However, today we live in a society where being callous, cold-hearted, judgemental, mean-spirited and self-righteous is celebrated and revered… AND nowhere are these attitudes celebrated and revered more than among those who claim to be politically “conservative” and profess themselves to be “christian”.
The comments of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson in the January GQ magazine about homosexuals (here) is one case in point. He and his supporters claim that his comments are based on biblical principles. I’m a Christian, but Robertson’s Christianity isn’t my Christianity. The Jesus I worship and who is the example of how I should treat others is shown in the biblical story of the woman accused of adultery and brought before Jesus by the religious leaders of his day. By the law of Moses, which was the religious law of the day, her punishment was to be stoned to death. Jesus who knew the law, didn’t dispute what her punishment should be. He simply told the religious leaders that whichever of them where “without sin among you”, they should cast the first stone. After they had departed and He was left alone with the woman, Jesus… who was without sin… stated to her: “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”. (here)
Phil Robertson and those professed christians who think like him, are much like those religious leaders in that story. What they have failed to comprehend, due to their self-righteous arrogance, is that the Law or Word of God is not to be used to condemn or judge others, but to be used as a blueprint for our lives to be a testimony of the compassion and love of God.
Canada isn’t immune to these callous, mean-spirited “conservative christian” types either. Recently federal Conservative minister James Moore was asked what the government planned to do about the high rate of child poverty in his home province of British Columbia. He answered: “Well, obviously nobody wants kids to go to school hungry. Certainly we want to make sure that kids go to school full bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast? Empowering families with more power and resources so that they can feed their own children is, I think, a good thing. Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” (emphasis mine)
Canadian conservatives are proud to profess their unapologetic and unashamed Christian beliefs. Moore obviously missed this message of Jesus when He was asked by the religious leaders what was the most important commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (here) Would Moore allow his own child to go hungry? I would say, “not!” Then why does he feel no obligation, as a government leader, or as a Christian, or even just as a human being, to ensure that his neighbor’s child doesn’t go hungry!?
I believe if Jesus was around today, he would be demonized and accused by so-called “conservatives” of being a liberal, progressive, socialist radical. If todays so-called “christians” like Robertson and Moore were around in Jesus’ day, they would be among the religious leaders leading the people in their chants for Pontius Pilate to “Crucify Him!” Jesus constantly referred to the religious leaders, not the sinners, as hypocrites, vipers and the children of the Satan. This was due to their callousness, mean-spiritedness and judgemental attitudes towards those they considered “sinners”, which included the poor and the sick. Jesus stated clearly that His ministry was not for those who considered themselves religious, nor was it to judge or condemn sinners: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (here).
In the GQ article Robertson paraphrases 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, in which he lists those who will not inherit the kingdom of heaven: “the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers…” More importantly, both Robertson and Moore… and other professed christians of their ilk… should study in their Bible Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus himself identified those who will inherit the kingdom of heaven… the compassionate: those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give shelter to the stranger, cloth the naked, care for the sick and visit those in prison. Hopefully during their bible study, they will also be enlightened that Jesus doesn’t mention any rewards for those who condemn homosexuals or are so callous that they feel no responsibility to feed a hungry child.
During this season, we hear those who profess to be Christians say this phrase: “Remember the reason for the season”. I always wonder what this truly means to them. Speaking for myself, the purpose of the birth of Jesus was to bring all people into a relationship with a compassionate, loving and merciful God. We Christians are suppose to be an example, a “light to the world”, of this compassion, love and mercy. Robertson would be more an example of this light, if his biblical beliefs led him to spend his time and money supporting a hospice for people suffering from AIDS, instead of making disgusting comments condemning homosexuals.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Ghandi.
Op-ed submission by Project 21
How did radical Islam become a legitimate threat in sub-Saharan Africa?
Should we care? Perhaps, because one possible reason stretches beyond the African continent. It may eminate from our own houses of worship.
After the recent shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya by the Muslim terrorist group Al Shabaab, counterterrorism experts fear increased collaboration among the growing ranks of religious radicals in Africa operating across borders in vast, poorly-policed regions.
While terrorism experts are concerned with expanding radicalized Islam, my own leadership role in the Christian community has me preoccupied with how historically Christian areas and formerly majority-Christian countries are now under constant threat from al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islam Maghreb.
It’s too soon to declare African Christianity dead, but it’s certainly ailing — and the West is to blame.
Christians went to great lengths to “civilize” Africa, and part and parcel of that process was bringing Christianity to sub-Saharan Africa. But since then, the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. ostensibly have abandoned proselytizing in Africa. Most mainstream Western Christian denominations, in fact, now look with disdain on those still adhering to the very same faith churches once taught.
The Episcopal Church, for example, no longer adheres to the doctrine of the Bible as the inspired word of God. The Western evangelical church in particular proclaims an overly-feminized form of Christianity in which men cannot act as men and women assert a theology that gives them dominion over men. This “enlightened” West no longer honors the God-given roles and distinctions between men and women. Actually, it demonizes them. This is why Christianity lost its appeal in, and it’s hold on, Africa.
The Western church no longer builds up men for the Body of Christ. When the church prefers to place women in masculine roles, while discouraging men, the blessings of God vanish and it creates a vacuum. When the Christian ministry becomes an occupation for those liking pretty buildings and beautiful vestments rather than a vocation to serve God, it’s no wonder serious Christians scoff and look elsewhere.
The Christian church in Africa and around the world has left a gap that Islam is filling.
Men clearly need the civilizing influence of women, but they also must remain men. The church is too involved in a feminizing process. Wanting to love and serve God should not be at the expense of God-given manhood. I am an unapologetic Christian, but I know that nothing in Islam requires or expects men to deny their manhood. Islam does quite the opposite — encouraging separate manhood and womanhood.
Almost 100 years ago, English writer and lay theologian G.K. Chesterton said that most men in his day were reduced to Victorian lapdogs when it came to Christianity. What might he say today? There are now Christians who change the word of Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer to “Our Father and Mother who art in heaven” and the nature of Jesus in the Holy Trinity. Is there little wonder why there aren’t more men in church and why men seeking God might turn away from modern Western Christianity?
Why would a man want to be part of a faith in which they are to be seen and never heard? Couple this with the general depiction of Christ as sort of a pansy with well-manicured nails and a perfectly-trimmed beard. It is not is no surprise men are uncomfortable with this, and subsequently are unwilling to become churchmen.
In my lifetime, Ethiopia, one of the most storied Christian nations, took the path of India. Once majority-Christian, it is now divided into Eritrea, which is majority Muslim, and Ethiopia, which may be at least half-Muslim.
If people are genuinely concerned about the spread of Islam and subsequent radicalization, they should consider the Christianity they practice and teach. Pastors no longer proclaim the Gospel, but instead favor of gay marriage or the prevailing populous cause de jure.
Don’t worry about Islam. The imams are doing their job. It’s the pastors and priests who aren’t doing theirs.
Archbishop Council Nedd II, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network. He is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Missionary Church in the United States and the Archbishop of Abu Dhabi.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Gandhi
Pastor Jeremiah Steepek transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member church that he was to be introduced as the head pastor at that morning.
He walked around his soon to be church for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for service, only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him.
He asked people for change to buy food – no one in the church gave him change.
He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back.
He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.
As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such.
When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation.
“We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.
The homeless man sitting in the back stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping stopped with all eyes on him.
He walked up the altar and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited,
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame.
He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples?”
He then dismissed service until next week.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ should be more than just talk. It ought to be a lifestyle that others around you can love about you and share in.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1: 18
The great Bishop Noel Jones, discussing the intersection of business and church, the practical and the spiritual, the dialectical and the liturgical. Bishop Noel Jones is considered a profound Christian theologian and intellectual. He has a way with the Word of God that leaves no room for doubt about God’s existence, His mercy, and His love for us all.
When he recently visited in South Africa and sat down to speak on the SABC network, the good Bishop met his intellectual match in his interviewer, Mbulelo Rakwena. Watch as the two intellects argue the points of how black Christians ought to approach Christianity–how we black people ought to bring Christianity to bear on our history, including our enslavement and the effects of it, so that God’s Word and God’s love breaks the bonds of economic and mental slavery that we are still suffering worldwide.
One thing we know, God has given us Free Will to choose our paths. We see how the slavers made their choice to twist Scripture. We see how they brought Christianity to bear in their desire to conquer and vanquish black people, and by extension, the world. The imperialists and slavers reinterpreted scripture to support their desires for domination. This reinterpretation still rings in the ears of many people who have decided that they can’t relate to the “white man’s religion”. The imperialistic misinterpretation of God still holds sway over most black agnostics and atheists to this present day. But what we as black Christians must do is to begin the reinterpretation of scripture that works for us in our practical lives here on earth. We can never accept the imperialists racist interpretation of scripture as God’s unchanging truth, even if those imperialists would have us to believe this profound lie!
God’s Omniscience, Omnipresence and Omnipotence is too big to equate with the european slavers, or their fallacy ridden, eurocentric interpretation of HIM!