So, at the end of the first part of this little document, I was discussing Jesus, and how he seemed to place discussion and outreach above the excluding of supposed sinners. He offered the living water to a woman who obviously had a living arrangement he wouldn't agree with.
And so, we return our gaze to modern churches. Have I portrayed wrongly what the Bible says? If the answer is no, then ask yourself- do the churches I see all around me act more like Jesus with the samaritan woman at the well, or the Pharisees with a woman they'd caught in the act of adultery? Answer honestly.
And when we
start to think about other similarities with the Pharisees, it gets even
more disturbing. The religious leaders of Jesus' time had scriptures
too. But those weren't always the most enforced rules. They were too
busy with the "Traditions Of The Elders".
Rules added by other Pharisees, before them. Not scripture, but rules made
by people. Sound familiar? This is where Jesus' words about swearing
on the gold of the temple are directed, as quoted at the start of this
little essay. The gold is more holy than the temple itself?! For a more modern example, ask yourself is it worse to pass by someone in need, or to have sex before marriage? Is it more sinful to see someone hungry and not feed them, or to smoke cigarettes? Worse to curse your neighbors in your heart, or to say swear words? To quote Tony Campolo: “...while you were
sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related
to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is
that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that
30,000 kids died last night.” I agree wholeheartedly with Campolo, and- for now, at least- simply can't side with the 'shit-upset' any more.
We seek to emulate a God/man who
was semi-nomadic, who traveled with a small group of close
friend/disciples. Who said he had 'no place to lay
his head' (Luke 9:58). Yet in following Him we build huge buildings, cathedrals, and
worry so much about the church grounds that the piano can't even be
moved a few inches in either direction without causing conflict? (true
So, if we go back to justice, love, and caring for the poor, how
is the church doing? When you hear the word Justice, who do you think
of? Amnesty International? The Supreme Court? Martin Luther King,
Jr.? The Occupy protests? I'll bet you don't think about organized religion.
caring for the poor, we/they do a little better. There are certainly
soup kitchens and shelters that help the poor. The closest one to us
here, though, is housed in an Elks Lodge. And I'm not clear if it has
any religious connection at all.
And love? What about good old love of our neighbor? Remember what a Samaritan was? Check out Jesus talking about the Good Samaritan. Or his answer to the the question of what was the greatest commandment. Who is the most loving person you know? Are they in a church? I hope and pray the answer is yes, but I'm no longer sure it will be. In fact, you might say I doubt it. And I've got so far to go to be like that good Samaritan, I have no more time to waste worrying about an organization that seems bent on making me exactly the opposite.