Ignoring challenging passages in the Bible is perfectly fine. We have to be realistic. God understands that we will never be able to live up to some of the Biblical expectations. Knowing that we are human, God understands that we will fall short of the mark. Therefore, its best to just embrace a practical Christianity.
Convenient Christianity runs amuck in the Unite States. This is partly due to the reality that, in the US, we are continuously made to feel that in highlighting certain passages from the Bible, we demonstrate our “unAmericanness”. Committed Christians in the U.S. long for courageous individuals like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Mahalia Jackson, Harper Lee and Coretta Scott King. Yet our Church communities and other Christian institutions don’t always reflect our yearning for truth tellers. Nor do these spaces typically cultivate or encourage prophetic voices.
In thinking of prophetic voices, one naturally thinks of the prophets as well as Jesus. Both Jesus and the prophets put a major emphasis on the Spirit of YHWH giving them a deep desire for peace, justice, mercy and concern for the marginalized.
The prophet Micah was unafraid to speak out—despite the opposition of the priests, preachers, patriots and pundits of his day. Micah proclaims (Micah 3:8-11),
8 But the LORD has filled me
with power and his Spirit.
I have been given the courage
to speak about justice
and to tell you people of Israel
that you have sinned.
9 So listen to my message,
you rulers of Israel!
You hate justice
and twist the truth.
10 You make cruelty and murder
a way of life in Jerusalem.
11 Your leaders accept bribes
for dishonest decisions.
You priests and prophets
teach and preach,
but only for money.
Then you say,
“The LORD is on our side.
Nor harm will come to us.”
“God Bless America.” “In God we trust.” “One nation under God.” We’ve all heard these sorts of mottos before. If we don’t manage to see one of these patriotic slogans slapped on the back of a car sometime during our week, we are not surprised to hear a prominent Christian leader endorse one of the aforementioned statements in a book, a sermon or an interview. Indeed, many believe us to be a Spirit filled nation—a city on a hill!
But are we? If the litmus test for one’s fidelity to YHWH is embodying justice then the United States falls short of truly being a “Spirit filled nation.” Rather, the U.S., as well as the majority of churches located in the U.S., seem to be perfectly content to sit idly by while the innocent are taken advantage of by the powerful. But it can’t really be that bad, can it be?
It’s pretty bad when corporations are treated like people yet these same corporations conveniently figure out ways to avoid extending the same favor to their sweat shop workers throughout the globe.1 It’s pretty bad when the U.S. military budget exceeds ten other nations combined. It’s pretty bad when there are more African American’s under correctional control today then there were slaves in 1850. It’s pretty bad when the U.S. affirms and promotes an adversarial posture towards “illegals” and “Jihadists.” It’s pretty bad when U.S. churches rally together to protest the possibility of their favorite “Christian” fast food place losing capital, but balk at criticizing the ungodly economic disparity between the rich and the poor.
But does it have to be this way? Do Christians simply have to throw their hands up and exclaim, “Well, we can’t beat ‘em, so let’s join ‘em”? Are we, as Christ’s disciples, powerless when it comes to criticizing the perpetual cycle of repression that permeates our world?
Hell no! Too many of us have forgotten that the same Spirit that was in Christ is now in us (Rom 8:11). Christ has this to say about this Spirit (Luke 4:18-19),
18 The Lord’s Spirit
has come to me,
because he has chosen me
to tell the good news
to the poor.
The Lord has sent me
to announce freedom
to give sight to the blind,
to free everyone
19 and to say, “This is the year
The Lord has chosen.”
If this radical, feisty, upstart Spirit that was in Christ is now in those who follow him, Christians have no choice but to align themselves with the ethos of Christ’s liberating mission recorded here in the gospel of Luke.
Through the Spirit, we can advocate for fair wages and less of an emphasis on unbridled economic expansion at the cost of the poor.
Through the Spirit, we can sow seeds of peace in hopes that we will reap a harvest of justice.
Through the Spirit, we can say no to mass incarceration and promote programs of community based reconciliation.
Through the Spirit, we can disobey laws that would have us view strangers and foreigners as enemies instead of guests.
Through the Spirit, we can imagine a counter economy where we willing share our possessions and create alternative business models.
Through the Spirit, we can live out the challenging passages of the Bible.
For more on this, see George Kalantzis and Gregory W. Lee’s Christian Political Witness, ch. 7 “Are Corporations People?” authored by William T. Cavanaugh.
Picture: Upside Down U.S. Flag by The Psalters.