On Monday evenings the BREW discussion group at the University of Ottawa often reflects on quotes from different sources. Last Monday we discussed three quotes that were not unrelated and led the group to land on a central thought.
The first quote we discussed came fromRichard Rohr a Franciscan Friar who founded the Center for Action and Contemplation. He wrote:
“I sincerely hate to say it, but I fear that Platonic philosophy has had more influence in Christian history than Jesus. The Jesus and Christ event says that matter and spirit, divine and human are not enemies, but are two sides of the same coin. They, in fact, reveal one another. For Plato, the body and the soul are mortal enemies and largely incompatible. Our poor sexual theology and our lackluster history of care for the earth and its resources, our disrespect for animals and all growing things, show that Christians have not seen matter and spirit as natural friends. Much of our history, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, has created Platonists much more than Incarnationalists or Christians.”[i]
Does the Christian church in North America promote a platonic worldview? It can certainly be argued that we have often had an escapist view of the earth. Our theology of salvation has often led us to focus on “saving souls” or being “heavenly minded” and neglected the fact that our souls are not disembodied realities. Our physical presence is not something to be despised but a gift from God. The resurrection was not just a spiritual event but a physical event leading us to an understanding that through Jesus “all things” are a part of God’s redemptive work. In our discussion we agreed that we need a “heaven and earth” not “heaven or earth” mindset.
Our next quote came from Chiheb Esseghaier, one of the men arrested because of his plans to derail a VIA train. After being arrested he said the following about the Criminal Code of Canada,
“All of us we know that this Criminal Code is not holy book, it’s just written by set of creations and the creations – they’re not perfect because only the Creator is perfect so if we are basing our judgment … we cannot rely on the conclusions taken out from these judgments.”[ii]
What is the relationship between a Holy Text and a nation’s criminal code of conduct? Esseghaier inferred that the Koran gave him permission to ignore the rule of law in the nation he resided. History has shown that Christians have often fallen into this sort of thinking with regards to the Bible. Although we’ll talk about Jesus words to render unto Caesar what is Caesar, we still often posture a position of “separateness” from the society we live in. Far too often people who follow a Holy Text view their position within a society as though they stand outside of it. But if we believe in a sovereign God, then we must not simply view ourselves as being outside of the context we are in, but importantly positioned (ordained) where we are as God’s image bearers called to serve the society we live in. At times our interpretation of the Holy Text may come in conflict with the law of the land, but that does not give us permission to “write it off,” it means we have a job to do. There will be a tension involved in this work, but not a tension that can ever be solved by simple dismissal of the culture we live in.
Finally we discussed the following quote from Martin Luther King Jr.
“A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”[iii]
Why is it that the same commitment exhibited in the heroes of justice also appears in terrorists and religious fanatics? The Bible tells us that to follow Jesus is to take up the cross and follow him. The Bible tells us that if we find the kingdom of God we should be ready to sell everything to own it. There’s no denial that some of the people we admire the most in history as having had some of the greatest faith impact are those who sacrificed greatly. But there must be great care involved in our commitment. We can easily become like the disciple Peter who was ready to cut off ears to protect Jesus; willing to sacrifice innocent bystanders with little thought or care. We may note well that Peter’s denial of Jesus later that same evening shows how zealousness can be selfishly motivated and shallow in nature. We must be ready to die for what is right, but what is right must be entrenched in a love of God AND a love of neighbour.
All three of the quotes we looked at led to a final conclusion of the importance of a theology and worldview that is, to borrow from Walter Brueggemann’s book of prayers, “Awed to Heaven, (AND) Rooted in Earth.
May it be so for all of us.
Prayer – Yes – by Walter Brueggemann (Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth)
You are the God who is simple, direct, clear with us and for us.
You have comitted yourself to us.
You have said yes to us in creation
yes to us in our birth,
yes to us in our baptism,
yes to us in our awakening this day.
But we are of another kind,
more accoustomed to ”perhaps, maybe, we’ll see,”
left in wonderment and ambiguity.
We live our lives not back to your yes ,
but out of our endless ”perhaps.”
So we pray for your mercy this day that we may live yes back to you,
yes with our time,
yes with our money,
yes with our sexuality,
yes with our strength and with our weakness,
yes to our neighbor,
yes and no longer ”perhaps.”
In the name of your enfleshed yes to us,
even Jesus who is our yes into your future. Amen
[ii] Taken from Globe and Mail Article written by TIMOTHY APPLEBY AND ANN HUI April 24, 2013
[iii] The Moral Centre – MLK