Recently, the crazed Fox “News” commentator, Glenn Beck, argued that social justice was a foil for Nazism and Communism (see the original clip on his radio show on 2 March 2010, or an extended version on his TV show on 23 March 2010, part 2, 3 and 4).
I don’t want to give his crazy notions more airtime. His fundamental error happens in the first few minutes of his program, when he basically defines social justice in a way that no-one would recognise – in a way that plays completely into his own agenda. In fact, one of the best video responses (see it here), points out how ludicrous it is to see “social justice” as a “progressive” plot. Ronald Reagan was a big supporter of social and economic justice, and I don’t think you can accuse him of being communist or socialist! Another video response (here) comes from Jim Wallis, the man Beck attacks.
It seems to me that it could just be a case of bad terminology and definition. (Although to see the real problem with Beck and Christianity, you need to look at part 3 at about 07:00 – he wants Christianity to be completely internal and unrelated to public policy at all). We’ll see how it plays out.
Over the past weekend a group of Christian film makers started a project to get people from around the world to submit video messages proclaiming their support for social justice. See the campaign website here, and respond to the YouTube video here.
Concidentally, just last week I posted one of the best defenses of Christian social justice I have ever read at this site. If you didn’t read it, do so now – I am sure you will find it very helpful.
For the record: I am a Christian. I am a social justice Christian.
A colleague and friend of mine, Clive Simpkins is a deep thinker and spiritually enlightened all round nice guy (who nevertheless always tells it straight). He has great insights on a wide variety of subjects. Today, on Good Friday, he has posted a reflection on the Roman Catholic Church which is really worth reading.
Clive’s professional work is in communications. He is a great communicator himself, and helps others to improve theirs. He brings these insights to bear on how the Catholic Church has responded to fresh allegations of child abuse by some of their priests – especially in Ireland and Germany. I think his suggestions are spot on.
Read his article here.
Originally posted on 24 February 2008
Recently I spoke at TGIF (Thank God it’s Friday), a Christian discussion group that meets at the (ungodly) hour of 6:30am every Friday morning. I was asked to record it, and make the recording available, so it is available for downloading, by right clicking here and selecting save as. It’s about 8 Mb in size.
The content is a version of my presentation, Hannah’s Rules on the rise of the ethical consumer. It’s since been renamed, “The Future is Now” – see details here.
Originally posted on 1 June 2008
There was such a great response to a recent post of an article written by my father, that I thought I’d post something else by him. Anyone who grew up thinking that the “social gospel” was a problem would do well to read this.
Jesus and the “Social Gospel”
Dr Reg B Codrington
When I was growing up, the denomination of which I was part used the term “Social Gospel” almost as a swear word. We were taught that “liberal” denominations who placed a focus on meeting social needs were guilty of, and I quote, “sending a well-fed sinner to hell”. The focus had to be on “saving souls” and everything else had to be subjugated to that aim.
Now let me make it clear at the outset that I still believe that the most important thing that can happen to a person is that he or she enters into a vital, living relationship with Christ and lives in accordance with His teachings, as revealed in the Word of God. But I have become increasingly convinced that what I was taught as a youngster was just a part of a much bigger picture which, sadly, I only began to understand nearly forty years later! What a serious responsibility lies in the hands of teachers of the Word to ensure that they teach the whole gospel to our young people!
Continue reading Jesus and the “Social Gospel” – by Dr Reg Codrington
This morning at church, we looked at the first six verses of Colossians chapter one. Our pastor titled the sermon, “The marks of a genuine Christian”.
He’s a good communicator and preached well. But this morning did expose a weakness in the evangelical desire to chunk the Bible up into ‘bite size chunks’ and preach verse by verse exposition. The Bible was not written in chapters and verses – and there is a danger that we impose an artificial structure onto God’s Word that distorts its meaning.
I don’t want to sound like a whiner about this, but it really does irritate me when evangelical presuppositions result in glaring omissions from Biblical exposition. To put it simply, I think our pastor got it wrong this morning – not in what he did say, but in what he didn’t.
Today’s sermon gave us three marks of a genuine Christian: Faith in Jesus (v4); Love for other Christians (v4); and, Hope of heaven (v5). But what about verse 6 – that the Good News of the Gospel is bearing fruit? The New Living Translation helpfully translates verse 6 as the Good News “is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives since the day you heard and understood the truth about God’s grace.”
This emphasis on changed lives in the here and now is then reiterated powerfully in verses 10 and 11.
In fact verses 8 through 13 just repeat what was said in the first six verses. The “three marks of a genuine Christian” are repeated again, but it seems to me that there is clearly at least a fourth sign: that our lives are meant to demonstrate that the Gospel has come (I also think there is something there about growing in our depth of understanding of what God has done for us – but I’ll leave that for another day). If everything we believe makes no difference to how we live now, what is it worth? And that does not simply mean some spiritual longing for a better life somewhere else. It means that we strive hard to “make it on earth as it is in heaven” – just as Jesus taught us to pray!
Faith in Jesus, love for others and the saints, and hope in heaven are definitely signs of being a genuine Christian. But they are not enough. The Bible is clear and consistent in its witness that you prove your Christian beliefs by your good works. Colossians 1 itself is clear on this. Why do evangelicals so easily and consistently miss the “good works” theme of the Gospel when it is in such plain sight?
Originally Posted on 23 June 2009
I was sent an email today that contained an excellent manifesto from one of my favourite thinkers and authors, Len Sweet.
It’s titled: “A Magna Carta for Restoring the Supremacy of Jesus Christ, a.k.a. A Jesus Manifesto for the 21st Century Church”
by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola
You can read the original at their blog: http://ajesusmanifesto.wordpress.com/
It really is worth it. Thought-provoking and powerful. I like it a lot, and think we need to take our Christ-centric nature more seriously.
I preached a sermon in March 2007 on the issue of Fear. I was based in Johannesburg in South Africa at the time – a city and country that lives with low level fear of crime pretty much all the time. This sermon deals with what Christians should be doing to deal with social issues that produce the environment in which crime flourishes.
Fear and crime in South Africa is a personal problem, a national problem, a kingdom problem and a spiritual problem. As Christians, we are called to respond in many ways. And ultimately we are commanded by Jesus to “Do Not Fear”. Yes, it’s a command. The sermon focuses in on Jesus’ command in Matthew 10.
Listen to the sermon by downloading it here (3 Mb, MP3 file).
Regular readers of my blog will know that I am a fan of Brian McLaren. I am not sure I buy into every single thing he says (how could I?), but I do like his writings. And I have been privileged enough to get to know him personally over a number of years, and am even more impressed at his humility, his grace and his desire to learn from others. He is eminently teachable, exceptionally approachable and a remarkable Christ-follower.
Brian’s latest book has just been released. It’s called, “A New Kind of Christianity”, and chatting to him about it, he feels this book is one of his best contributions so far. I have had it on pre-order with Amazon.co.uk, and due to some technical issue between Hodder and Amazon, it has not yet been supplied to Amazon.co.uk. But you can order it through Eden.co.uk, pre-order at Amazon.co.uk or Kalahari.net (in South Africa).
Brian’s goal with this book is to deal with ten key issues that are blocking discussions and engagement both within Christianity, and those looking in at Christianity. He wants to help us to deal with these fundamental issues, so we can build a platform for further discussions on some of the details that threaten to divide our churches today. From what I can tell, he has succeeded in getting the discussions going. I have listed the ten questions below. Whether you agree with Brian’s answers and analysis or not, his questions are really good ones, and need to be dealt with.
I hope that fans and critics alike will engage with the content of his book, and not deal in personal attack and ranting rhetoric. What do you think of his questions? How would you answer them? How does that help you think more deeply about your own Christian faith?
Continue reading A New Kind of Christianity – Brian McLaren’s latest book
Originally posted on 2 October 2007, updated on 2 March 2010
Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you” (Matt 26:11).
So, should we try and even solve the problem of poverty? Some people have used this verse to say that it is impossible to eradicate poverty. Others have argued that it is not only possible, it is possible within a decade – you can read Jeffrey Sachs in his best selling book, “The End of Poverty” (buy it at Amazon.co.uk or Kalahari.net) or connect with the Global Poverty Project and see their presentation, “1.4 billion reasons”.
Who is right? If Jesus himself said we’d always have the poor then maybe we shouldn’t even try to get rid of poverty. Is this what Jesus meant? I don’t think so.
Well, Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament. And here is the context:
“There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” (NIV)
So, at very least, Jesus had in mind that we SHOULD give to the poor. He deliberately used a well known scriptural phrase to ensure that his audience would have this particular command brought to their attention, without him needing to make the additional points explicit. This was certainly a style of teaching used often by Biblical writers. It is one of the reasons that interpreting Scripture can be quite difficult, and why we must be open to new understandings and deeper interpretations.
Continue reading The poor you will always have with you
Originally posted on 9 July 2009
My wife, Jane, and I adopted a Zulu orphan in July 2005. Since then, we have discovered hundreds of families who have done the same – responding to the tremendous crisis in sub Saharan African, brought on by the AIDS epidemic.
Often, as Christians, we read the Bible selectively. We’re so quick to claim certain promises, and get hot under the collar about certain instructions and commands. But, then, we feel happy completely ignoring others. My wife and I became increasingly convicted about James 1:27, where it is very clear that “religion that is pure and acceptable to God is to take care of widows and orphans…”. That doesn’t mean adoption, of course – there are many ways of taking care of others. In fact, adoption means that we have reduced our impact because our focus is now on only one orphan, rather than the possibility of caring for many. But, religion that is acceptable to God must include significant amounts of social action and social justice.
In May 2008, I spoke at TGIF in Hyde Park, Joahnnesburg, and told the story of my family’s adoption of our third daughter, Rebecca. I told her story, our story, and gave details on the process of adoption in South Africa. For those interested in the story, it was recorded and is available for download as an MP3 file, by right clicking here (select SAVE AS).