Saturday, December 17, 2011

wallis attacks fox with bad theology

Continuing the tirades against Rick Perry's statements about the War of Christmas, head Sojrone himself Jim Wallis weighs in with a hit piece.

The Real War on Christmas ... by Fox News

Fox News’ “war” is designed to criticize the “secularization” of our culture wrought by atheists, agnostics, liberals, leftists, progressives, and separation of church and state zealots— i.e. Democrats. This irreligious coalition force is allegedly waging a strategic offensive on Christmas, trying to banish the sacred symbols of the season, denying our religious heritage, and even undermining the spiritual rubrics upon which our great nation is built.

Well, at least Wallis has the list of usual suspects correct. But, in typical liberal fashion, it's the perpetrators who are the actualy victims, while the people crying foul about it are the ungodly oppressors.

But, on to the bad theology.

What is Christmas? It is the celebration of the Incarnation, God’s becoming flesh — human — and entering into history in the form of a vulnerable baby born to a poor, teenage mother in a dirty animal stall. Simply amazing. That Mary was homeless at the time,a member of a people oppressed by the imperial power of an occupied country whose local political leader, Herod, was so threatened by the baby’s birth that he killed countless children in a vain attempt to destroy the Christ child, all adds compelling historical and political context to the Advent season.

Now, as you man know, the most convincing lies contain a bit of truth in them. Some parts of the first part of that paragraph are fine, as far as they go. Christmas is the celebration of God becoming flesh, of the birth of Christ. After that, well...

I'm trying to remember where in the biblical accounts of the birth of Christ it is said the Mary was a teenage girl. I know the popular depictions--young, pretty, and all that. And maybe they're right. But I can't remember it being said, that way or this. At the risk of sounding like McLaren, what if Mary was actually in her twenties or thirties, and rather on the homely side? Would that add or take away anything from the account?

Now, concerning the economic status of Joseph and Mary. From the account Matthew 1, where we are told that after the dream Joseph took Mary as his wife, are to we assume that they were a homeless couple? It seems to hint rather that he had a place for his wife and family. They may not have been very wealthy, as some have hinted at concerning the sacrifice in Luke 2, but they were not homeless, as Wallis wants us to think.

When Wallis starts going about Jesus being "...a member of a people oppressed by the imperial power of an occupied country...", we can see his own politics coming in. It's a true enough statement, Israel was under Roman rule and occupation, and that seems to be almost a non-issue in much of what Jesus said and did in the Gospels. It does seem that the people were expecting the Messiah to come and liberate them from people like the Romans, but Jesus had a much more serious thing to liberate them from--their sins.

This is important. Jesus was not leading some kind of Occupy Jerusalem nonsense. He was not interested in trying to throw down Herod. When asked about paying taxes, He said that they should pay to Casear was is due to him. Some at Sojo try to read a dismissive or sarcastic tone into Jesus' statement here, but that is not hinted at in the text.

And, finally, Herod did indeed kill many children in trying to kill Jesus. Later, the Israelites were the ones wanting to kill the adult Christ. Roman and Jerusalem, Jews and Gentiles, all stand condemned for the unspeakable crime of rejecting the Messiah.

It is theologically and spiritually significant that the Incarnation came to our poorest streets. That Jesus was born poor, later announces his mission at Nazareth as “bringing good news to the poor,” and finally tells us that how we treat “the least of these” is his measure of how we treat him and how he will judge us as the Son of God, radically defines the social context and meaning of the Incarnation of God in Christ. And it clearly reveals the real meaning of Christmas.

Wallis is not the first person I've heard make a big thing about Jesus not being born in a palace, or being born in a rural area, or whatever. I remember a few years ago watching a church's Christmas play, where a character depicting the innkeeper mad a speech about the gift he was giving the Christ child was indifference. I don't know it that innkeeper was indifferent, busy, or what have you what not. Angels appeared to the shepherds, though I would guess none came to the innkeeper to tell him who was to be born that night near to him.

Later in life, Jesus did claim the prophecy in Isaiah to Himself, saying it was fulfille that day in their midst. The sick were to be healed, and the poor were to have the Gospel preached to them. We would be wrong, though, to say that this was some statement of class warfare on His part. Many people of means and power, like Nicodemus and Zacchaeus and Lazarus and the rich young ruler and the Roman centurion, seem to have heard His message and found it at least interesting, even if at least one went away saddened by His demands for him. It seemed the materially well-off had the Gospel preached to them, too, along with the poor. Because, ultimately, all of us are paupers in spirit, dead in sins, helpless to help ourselves, and in need of forgiveness through Christ's sacrifice.

And, finally, Wallis tries to throw in the social gospel--that "the least of these" are somehow all the poor or prisoners or whomever is suppose to be, in the eyes of ones like Wallis, that least. It's always funny how context is never brought in here, for example that Jesus' statement was "the least of these my brothers". If any are brothers of Christ, it is those who believe in Him. Many Christians are in hard situations, persecuted for their faith in Christ while living in cultures that are actively against those beliefs, in prisons, denied jobs and forced into poverty, sick for various reasons. In one of the epistles, we are told to do good to everyone, but especially to those of the household of faith. The Church is to look after it's own first, while not neglecting the needs of those outside.

The theological claim that sets Christianity apart from any other faith tradition is the Incarnation. God has come into the world to save us. God became like us to bring us back to God and show us what it means to be truly human.

There may be a good bit of truth in Wallis first couple of sentences there, except that I wonder about what he means by some of the words he's using. But Christ came to "show us what it means to be truly human"? What does that mean? Rather, as Paul said, "Christ Jesus came to save sinners".

Last year, Americans spent $450 billion on Christmas. Clean water for the whole world, including every poor person on the planet, would cost about $20 billion. Let’s just call that what it is: A material blasphemy of the Christmas season.

Well, let's go here, shall we? What, for example, is Sojourners' budget? How much do they spend on, for example, their magazine? How much during the year do people donate to them? How much to they pay their staff? How about the head Sojrone himself? He doesn't look like he's struggling, and he's had a few books that have sold big. How much have people like Soros donated to Sojo? Maybe Sojo can release their books, and Wallis his own, so that we can stand and be amazed by their amazing generosity as they condemn Americans of spending to give gifts during Christmas?

Whether Americans, or anyone else for the matter, are as generous as they could or should be, is an interest question, and perhaps one impossible to answer. But it does seem that, whenever a disaster happens in the world, Americans by and large are generous in trying to help--donating to send aid to those places, sending the aid themselves, even going their themselves to work. No doubt people from other nations do the same things, I've no wish to hint otherwise, but Wallis' claim that Americans are somehow unspeakably greedy among all the peoples of the world seems to fall flat.

I am not judged by Wallis' standards and shoddy interpretations. Before God, I am condemned as a sinner, but in Christ I have forgiveness of sins.

No comments: