Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Day Thoughts

A couple of things that I read today struck me and I wanted to share them with everyone. This day is a day in which we remember Martin Luther King’s efforts in the civil rights struggle.

The first quote is from the late, great Mark Twain.  He once remarked, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority it is time to pause and reflect.”  The second was from a friend of mine.  He remarked, “prophets are invariably those people who are called heretics because they call out oppressive powers.  You can lock them up but not shut them up.  You can kill them but not the truth they speak.”

These quotes struck me in light of what’s gone on in my life over the past year, and what I’ve seen in religious institutions as well over the past few years.  I struggle with those who blindly side with churches, pastors, etc. because you’re supposed to, or because they are the religious “leadership.”  If you take a stroll through history, siding with the religious establishment is not a place I would have wanted to be in during most time periods.

The great Abraham Joshua Heschel often remarked how sad and distraught he was that the religious establishment he was a part of didn’t act sooner and take the lead in aiding the civil rights movement.  This lack of compassion (shown by the religious establishment)  often kept Heschel awake through the night.   It seems to me that the religious establishment in our country didn’t learn much from past civil rights struggles as they continue to universally drop the ball in issues of embracing the poor, the minority people groups, and the oppressed.   If you read through the Bible helping the poor and oppressed is probably the topic mentioned most frequently.

In the first century Jesus was constantly butting heads with the religious establishment that was led by the Sadducean priests.  The Sadducees were extremely wealthy and made a lot of money off of a group of people’s guilt and shame relative to the sin in their life.  They took great issue with a sage from Galilee calling their practices into question, particularly when he did it in their backyard (Jericho) and used Ezekiel 34 to shower love on a tax collector named Zacchaeus and level criticism against the Sadducean priesthood.

Almost every great leader who fought against religious and political oppression was at one time called, “heretic, lunatic, etc.”  It’s important to listen to both sides of an issue with an open mind and open heart.  This issue seems to come up with great frequency inside many churches.  I’m reminded of a recent conversation I had where a friend of mine told me they disagreed with a prominent author/theologian that I enjoyed reading, but then said this theologian was okay because said theologian was “endorsed by focus on the family.”  The content of the theologians work was irrelevant to this person, the only thing that mattered was a stamp of approval from an organization that he has apparently outsourced the decision making function in his brain to.

The challenge in today’s society is not knowing what to think, it’s knowing how to think.  This is what lies at the root of the problem in a lot of our countries schools and religious establishments.  It seems that thinking independently and critically is becoming more and more rare each day.  Followers of the Bible are called to “test everything,” so that is my encouragement to you.  Think critically, and think independently.  Just because a pastor, teacher, news anchor, etc. tells you something, don’t take the statement as an absolute truth until you’ve researched it and thought critically about it.

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Tony Campolo on the split within Evangelical Christianity

Excellent article I wanted to share with everyone:

“The Evangelical community, in general, had become overly focused on the theological issues raised in the Pauline Epistles.  Without any desire to diminish the significance of theology, we recognized that the time had come to create some balance to this overemphasis on theology by taking more seriously the things that were written in the Gospels—especially in those red letters which emphasize the words of Jesus.  There was a growing awareness that Evangelicals, with the exception of people like many in the Anabaptist tradition, had sought to escape those hard sayings of Christ in respect to lifestyles.”

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Les Miserables: The Theology of Valjean vs. Javert

My favorite Broadway musical has been Les Miserables since as far back as I can remember.  Last night I got to see the full length feature film version starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfriend, etc.  It was an incredible film from the opening scene in the prison camp to the very last line, “to love another person is to see the face of God.”

I really enjoyed this article my friend Rich sent me that discusses the perspectives on theology according to the film’s two main characters, Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert:

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Why Evangelical Bible Idolatry Sucks and I Go To a Greek Orthodox Church Even Though It’s a Mess Too…

Thought this author made some incredibly good points.  The author Frank Schaeffer is the son of evangelical icon Francis Schaeffer and doesn’t agree much with what he was indoctrinated with anymore. His stuff is always interesting to read (see link below).




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Yeshua Heading Into Battle; Monday Morning Parable

One of the great leaders of the Jewish people was a man named Yeshua, a very common name for the ancient Hebrews.  One day Yeshua was leading his troops into battle and when he was nearing the city they were about to lay siege to he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a sword drawn in his hadn.  Yeshua asked him, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” the man replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”

Then Yeshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the LORD’s army replied “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”

And Yeshua did so.

This story speaks to me in many ways, and one of the main things it teaches me is the need to be aware of the spiritual in every aspect and arena in life.  A lot of times today religion has become a battle of “which side are you on?”  My tradition teaches me that a more important question is, “Are you awake?”  Do you really see what is going on around you at all times?  Thoreau once remarked that he had never met a man who was fully awake.

Hundreds of years after this great leader Yeshua was leading his troops into a battle for the city of Jericho as described in Joshua chapter 5:13-15, a great Jewish sage, also named Yeshua (Jesus), began teaching in the Galilee. He taught his followers about sheep and goats (Matt. 25), and informed them that his followers were those people who fed him when he was hungry, and gave him shelter when he had none.  When the listeners ask him what this meant he informed them that anything they did for the broken, hurting, marginalized, and oppressed they did for Yeshua (Jesus).

The rabbi Yeshua teaches us that his followers are people who are able to see that every encounter in life is an encounter with the divine.  His followers are able to see and celebrate the divine mystery in every single encounter in life.

*See Joshua 5:13-15 for the story of Yeshua leading his troops into battle, and Matthew 25:31-46 for the story of Jesus teaching his followers about the sheep and goats.

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On the Mystery of Incarnation

I saw this on a friend’s Facebook wall yesterday and thought I would share it.

A poem by Denise Levertov: “On the Mystery of the Incarnation”

It’s when we face for a moment the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe cracks the mind’s shell and enters the heart: not to a flower, not to a dolphin, to no innocent form but to this creature vainly sure it and no other is god-like, God (out of compassion for our ugly failure to evolve) entrusts, as guest, as brother, the Word.

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Theology of Superman Part 2: “The World is Too Big Mom…..”

As previously detailed in my post “Theology of Superman,” the Superman story is one that is full of spirituality and Biblical symbolism.  This new trailer (see below) gives an excellent glimpse of what is in store when this story returns to the big screen next summer.  If you are looking for some excellent resources to take a deeper dive into the “spirituality of Superman” I recommend the books Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero (particularly Chapter 3, “A Matter of Faith”) by Larry Tye and also the book Holy Superheroes!  Exploring the Sacred in Comics, Graphic Novels, and Film by Greg Garrett.

For now, enjoy this spectacular trailer (Music is “Elegy” by Lisa Gerrard and Patrick Cassidy, available on I-Tunes):

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