Tag Archives: theology

praying for the poor cannot be tolerated

I have watched the video and have listened to the chaplain’s prayer. It is a theologically-solid prayer, much like I have prayed on many occasions. It was not partisan. It just lifted up the Representatives’ responsibility on behalf of the least of these among us. But, that was far too threatening for that august body.

Paul Ryan fired the chaplain  for reflecting the light of Christ in the midst of darkness. Shining the light of Christ’s love in a den of thieves causes them to flee every time.

Standing up for the poor and hungry, especially to the wealthy and powerful elite, is a good way to shorten your career path. It’s also, however, how you stay on the highway to holiness.

Shame on Paul Ryan, and shame on all those in the U.S. House of Representatives who have not stood up against this action.

Mid-terms are coming.

a new saint for white evangelicals?

LiberalLou (@JerashkimBrown) | Twitter

There seems to be absolutely no limit for Trump’s base. This is especially true for the white evangelicals.

This says far more about evangelical Christianity in our country than it does about the lying sleazebag in the offal office, but it does raise a couple profound theological questions.

Is Stormy Daniels going to be the new saint of the religious right? Is there any connection between white evangelicals and the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Maybe someone could introduce them to the New Testament.

a pernicious doctrine and a totally false gospel

Cathleen Falsani is the religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and the author of “The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers.”

The prosperity gospel

by Cathleen Falsani

In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, we are told that Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money” and, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

The “prosperity gospel,” an insipid heresy whose popularity among American Christians has boomed in recent years, teaches that God blesses those God favors most with material wealth.

The ministries of three televangelists commonly viewed as founders of the prosperity gospel movement – Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and Frederick K.C. Price – took hold in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the oldest and best-known proponents of prosperity theology, Oral Roberts – the television faith-healer who in 1987 told his flock that God would call him home if he didn’t raise $8 million in a matter of weeks – died at 91 last week.

But the past decade has seen this pernicious doctrine proliferate in more mainstream circles. Joel Osteen, the 46-year-old head of Lakewood Church in Houston, has a TV ministry that reaches more than 7 million viewers, and his 2004 book “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” has sold millions of copies. “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,” Osteen wrote in a 2005 letter to his flock.

As crass as that may sound, Osteen’s version of the prosperity gospel is more gentle (and decidedly less sweaty) than those preached by such co-religionists as Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes and the appropriately named Creflo Dollar.

Few theological ideas ring more dissonant with the harmony of orthodox Christianity than a focus on storing up treasures on Earth as a primary goal of faithful living. The gospel of prosperity turns Christianity into a vapid bless-me club, with a doctrine that amounts to little more than spiritual magical thinking: If you pray the right way, God will make you rich.

But if you’re not rich, then what? Are the poor cursed by God because of their unfaithfulness? And if God were so concerned about 401(k)s and Mercedes, why would God’s son have been born into poverty?

Nowhere has the prosperity gospel flourished more than among the poor and the working class. Told that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and favor, followers strive for trappings of luxury they can little afford in an effort to prove that they are blessed spiritually. Some critics have gone so far as to place part of the blame for the past decade’s spending binge and foreclosure crisis at the foot of the prosperity gospel’s altar.

Jesus was born poor, and he died poor. During his earthly tenure, he spoke time and again about the importance of spiritual wealth and health. When he talked about material wealth, it was usually part of a cautionary tale.

 

saved by love

Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. — Reinhold Niebuhr

This is my third and final post in this series on Reinhold Niebuhr.  I began with saved by faith, and then yesterday was saved by hope. So it is fitting to conclude this morning with saved by love.

Niebuhr (1892 – 1971) was an American theologian, ethicist and professor at Union Theological Seminary for more than 30 years. Among his most influential books are Moral Man and Immoral Society and The Nature and Destiny of Man, the second of which Modern Library ranked one of the top 20 nonfiction books of the twentieth century.

Numerous politicians and activists such as Presidents Obama and Carter, Martin Luther King, Jr., Hillary Clinton, Madeline Albright, Hubert Humphrey and John McCain have cited his influence on their thought. Arthur Schlesinger described Niebuhr as “the most influential American theologian of the 20th century” and Time Magazine posthumously called Niebuhr “the greatest Protestant theologian in America since Jonathan Edwards.

Niebuhr’s appeal comes from the way he confronts us with the uncompromising demands of the Christian faith and way of life. He holds up the Christian ideal as the dominating principle in dealing with social problems and then attempts to show the direction Christian action should take. He always connects faithfulness to action, thus keeping Christianity from being remote and unrelated to the way we live.

In genuine prophetic Christianity the moral qualities of the Christ are not only our hope, but our despair. Out of that despair arises a new hope centered in the revelation of God in Christ. Christian faith, is, in other words, a type of optimism which places ultimate confidence in the love of God and not the love of man. It insists, quite logically, that this ultimate hope becomes possible only to those who no longer place their confidence in purely human possibilities. Repentence is thus the gateway into the Kingdom of God.

saved by hope

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. — Reinhold Niebuhr

In yesterday’s post, saved by faith, I shared some of why Reinhold Niebuhr is one of my favorite theologians. I want to continue that this morning.

Niebuhr’s Christian idealism was forged on the anvil of of modern industry. Serving a 13 year pastorate in Detroit taught him firsthand the perils of a pious unreality disconnected from the everyday world of real life. That led him to a passionate concern with the practical bearing of Christianity on the ever present political and economic problems of his day.

The value of Niebuhr’s theology for me is that he shows that no matter how important the church’s work is in saving men and women from the sins of the world, the church still must function in the world. It is a social institution. That means its achievements and its limitations needs the same critical examination as other social institutions.

The church should provide the indispensable resources necessary for the building of a good and moral society. Without the moral foundation provided by the gospel (which has to be a social gospel) we can never hope to achieve the vision of an ideal society where love and justice is fully realized. But, when the church is successful in providing those resources there is real hope.

Whenever religion concerns itself with the problems of society, it always gives birth to some kind of millennial hope, from the perspective of which present social realities are convicted of inadequacy, and courage is maintained to continue the effort to redeem society of injustice.

 

saved by faith

Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. — Reinhold Niehubr

Reinhold Niebuhr has long been one of my favorite theologians. He was a true religious leader. His intellectual power and capacity to realistically deal with the social issues of his day ranks him among the ablest of philosophers, as well. He was a Christian idealist that demonstrated the essential spirit of Christianity.

Through his early experience as a pastor for thirteen years in Detroit, Niebuhr developed his own interpretation of Christianity. He came to understand that the true meaning of the gospel was in direct conflict with most of the customs and attitudes of contemporary society.

Niebuhr finally reached the conclusion that the church cannot save a person’s soul without addressing the kind of life they live in the world. That’s when the Christian gospel became a social gospel for him.

And what is so compelling for me about Niebuhr is that he fully understood that Christianity could not be allowed to be seen only as vague generalities.

That the ministry is particularly tempted to the self-deceptions which afflict the moral life of Christians today is obvious. If it is dangerous to entertain great moral ideals without attempting to realize them in life, it is even more perilous to proclaim them in abstract terms without bringing them into juxtaposition with the specific social and moral issues of the day.

But, as shown by the opening quote, even Niehubr’s passionate concern for Christianity to have a direct and practical impact of the economic and social issues of his day never displaced his deep and essential religious faith. That’s the power of Christian idealism.