Sider’s work was one of my Lenten books. Daniel Clendinin writes in sum of the book:
Drawing upon scientific polling from groups like Gallup and Barna, Sider takes the measure of American evangelicals on five data points: divorce, care for the poor, sexual infidelity, racism, and physical abuse in marriage. He is appalled. People who claim to be born again divorce at a slightly higher rate than the general population. Evangelicals give a meager 4% from their income. The most likely people to object to neighbors of a different race are white evangelicals. Sexual promiscuity among evangelical kids is rampant. Is it any wonder that “a mere 22% of people have a positive view of evangelicals” (p. 28)? Sider contrasts these findings from Chapter 1 with an overview in Chapter 2 of the Biblical vision of what God’s kingdom on earth ought to look like, with successive paragraphs full of Scripture quotations from the Gospels, the book of Acts and the Epistles. In stark contrast to our current reputation, Sider notes that the early Christians had a well-known and well-deserved reputation for integrity and care for the weak. Tertullian (AD 155–220), for example, wrote, “Our care for the derelict and our active love have become our distinctive sign before the enemy…See, they say, how they love one another and how ready they are to die for each other.” Even the pagan emperor Julian the Apostate (ruled AD 361–363) acknowledged the radically counter cultural life of the early Christians: “The godless Galileans feed not only their poor but ours” (p. 52).
I was reared in evangelicalism and still consider myself evangelical, so this was not a ‘point the finger’ read for me. The book made me wonder what progress has been made by creating a ‘Religious Right’ and a ‘Dittohead’ culture over the last couple of decades if we cannot get our own house in order. Are we ‘gaining the world’ at the expense of our souls?
I long for a ‘third way’ in the way the church can engage culture, perhaps it is being the kind of polis that the Scripture describes–a holy and loving people. A people who love God, neighbor, and each other. A people who are attractive to the culture because of their holiness, wholeness, and love.
NT scholar Marcus Borg says,
“I think of the great Easter hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” with all its soaring hallelujahs. And I see that hymn as profoundly true even though I don’t think its truth depends upon the tomb having been empty or something happening to the corpse of Jesus.”
I’m not exactly sure what he means. Without going into the ‘proofs’ for the resurrection, Borg’s perspective is a pretty boring take on the whole thing. Last night at our Easter Vigil, 12 Burundians were baptized. Amidst the clouds of incense and the ringing of bells, a group of them sang in thankful celebration to Jesus for what he had done 2000 years ago and what he did among us.
All of the Burundian children baptized last night were born in refugee camps. The living Lord Jesus has been their companion and has brought us to our parish. Should I tell them that the empty tomb is ‘irrelevant’ (as Borg says elsewhere) and that the corpse of Jesus may be lying around somewhere? If Christ is not risen, I pity us all for the sham we are a part of!
Stealing from my boy Chris Martin,
who is the real St. Patrick and when did St. Paddy’s become an excuse to drink ’till you puke? George Hunter provides an exceptional work in which he says that Patrick’s ‘way of evangelism’ is possible to imitate even and especially in our day.
What was Patrick’s ‘way?’
Patrick took a group of men (and women), clergy, seminarians and others to live among the ‘barbarian’ Celts (who had previously enslaved Patrick years earlier) to plant ‘holy communities.’ In these communities, Patrick’s folks would live in community to pray and work together, as well as to invite the locals to participate–to ‘come and see’ what Christians were all about. They built churches, prayed, partook of the sacraments, fed the hungry and healed the sick. These so called barbarians discovered that Patrick’s communities were ‘thin places,’ holy places where the presence of God penetrated space and time in an unusual, palpable way.
The Celts found their own experience of the world, with its violence, fear, and degradation, could not hold a candle to Patrick’s holy and peaceable communities. Violence, killing and idolatry ceased wherever Patrick’s communities took hold.
Perhaps people use March 17th as an excuse to drink themselves senseless because Patrick’s story has never been told by his spiritual descendants. Perhaps they don’t know that Christ can actually change people en masse, transform people groups and neighborhoods and that Kingdom living is possible to find–if you look in the right places.
We got a new puppy named Coconut. I don’t think there is anything more fun to watch than a boy and his dog. My little ‘Jedi Knight’ loves to roughhouse with his new puppy and it’s as if they’ve known each other for years already. Of course they like to chill together.