>So, for my birthday (which hasn’t happened yet) El 3atal got me a ipod. Yep, I’m finally joining the 21st century. Prior to this, I haven’t really been into getting an ipod. But, I’ve been noticing that El 3atal gets to keep up with 2 things:
- Car talk: in case you haven’t heard of this, these are a couple of crazy guys in Boston who have a call-in car show. Can you imagine, a call-in car show? It’s two brothers who diagnose people’s car problems by having them make the various noises and describe the problems with their cars. I car tell you that my two favorite owner was the one with the Elvis idle (his car went, unh hunh unh hunh just like Elvis).
- Tony Campolo’s sermons: For those of you who have never heard of Tony, he is a pastor in the Philadelphia area. He’s an evangelical in a new mold (I’ve talked about him before). He’s a liberal evangelical. Blows the mind, hunh? He is what he calls a “Red Letter Christian.” And what that means is that they believe in a literal following of the words in red letters in some Bibles. That would be the words that Christ spoke. He challenges each of us to take these words seriously, literally, and live by them. In his book on this topic, Tony has this to say about these Red Letter Christians, “Declaring that there are more
than 2,000 verses of Scripture that call us to express love and justice for those who are poor and oppressed, we promote legislation that turns biblical imperatives into social policy.” What a challenge.
So, one of the first things I did as part of the ipod set up process was download all of Tony’s free pod casts I could find. The first ones (which I started listening to today) hearken back to 1983. Yep, you read that right, 1983. It’s not exactly a sermon (although with Tony it’s a bit tough to tell) but rather a graduation address to students at a Christian college.
I found the message striking in many ways. One of the primary premises of his address is that Christianity is not about power. Christ tells us, very clearly, it’s about love. Power and love and diametrically opposed and as Christians, we are called to love. Radical, hunh? Certainly not necessarily the Christian message that many heard from well-known evangelicals, a fact that breaks my heart. Tony went on to say a few other interesting things (including the prediction I referenced in the title). Please note these are paraphrased but are Tony’s words, not mine. Not intent of plagiarism is intended in any way…:
- If power is the way to change the world, Jesus would not have come as a baby. He would have come with an army.
- The Christian church was doing great as a subversive element in the Empire until Constantine in the 3rd century made it the “official” religion. He made it the “moral majority” of the time.
- When the church is powerful, it always foster crusades. These crusades contradict the gospel of love.
When I heard that last statement, I had to remind myself that he was speaking in 1983, the time of communism not 2003, the time of George W. Bush. I saw such a striking parallel in his words. When George W. Bush made Christianity (self-proclaimed) powerful, it spawned a crusade. The crusade was the mess we are mired in in Iraq. It caused suffering to thousands. Campolo was accused at the time (1983) of being unpatriotic (sound familiar to anyone). He readily agreed that he is unpatriotic. In fact, he noted that his citizenship in the United States is of the second class variety. His first obligation, his first citizenship is in the Kingdom of Heaven. And that citizenship must take priority over anything else.
He makes the concrete point that the God worshipped in churches is often not the God of the Bible. And, we need to strive to find the God of the Bible and ensure we are worshipping him. And, in looking for that face of God, we find the strong message of servanthood. The one with love will overcome the one with power every time. Every single time. Jesus was hung on a cross to die for us. Pilate had the power to put him up there. One of them came out of this better. Jesus is promised everlasting life, Pilate, not so much. The challenge he issue is a valid one. He puts into words things I believe about my faith that I could never express so eloquently. As Tony notes in his inspiring message, “those who are put down shall be lifted up.” Amen.