Foundation

ImageSo, the foundation of a new Christianity has been laid, incorporating both ancient concepts from Pelagius and Job, to more recent relational theologians like Larry Shelton.

Okay, you might say, but if I didn’t quite dig deep enough to understand the core of the foundation you’ve laid here, what exactly is it you are trying to say, and what makes it so different from the Christianity I find in church every Sunday?

Excellent question! First, the foundation of all Christian moral activity in the world is love. Not the love that appears in popular movies or trashy novels, but the love of God as he reveals to us in others and in Jesus Christ. This love is so deep and so viscerally understood as unconditional in all of us, that I feel safe claiming that God is not only love, but unconditional love. This is not to say that unconditional love is clear in scripture, but rather that unconditional love is clear within each of us. We know what is true and right about God, and when anything other than unconditional love occurs, we know that something isn’t right about it.

If God is unconditional love, there are some basic assumptions that the church has made about original sin, and about sin and general that don’t quite fit that paradigm. For instance, why would a God who loves unconditionally create a world, and indeed His children, so that they were temporarily perfect, only to live the remainder of their existence regretting and mourning that they could never be again? This seems well outside of the realm of love, let alone unconditional love.

What story does fit then? That is the first three entries of this blog, the story of how God loved us so much that He created a world in which we could choose to reject Him. When we did so, He honored that choice, but we, in defense, blamed Him, and created a story which blames Him. There is plenty of historical proof, indeed history itself, that those who survive will blame those who cannot or will not refute the blame. Ancient humans were no different.

This idea that we are unfit, horrible, depraved, wrong, broken, etc. beings has drilled into our brains for so long that we have forgotten what it means to be beloved, exalted, chosen, anointed, and blessed. We have come to believe that we are so disgusting that nothing can save us; not ourselves, apparently not even God, despite what scripture says to the contrary, because we continue to act as if God has done nothing for us, not forgiven us, not claimed us, and not created us. Are you beginning to see how these things are in contest with each other?

One last point before I move onto the next difference. If God is as powerful as we can possibly imagine. As graceful, good, perfect, and just; why do we have such a hard time accepting that maybe; just maybe, he created us in an image that He can be proud of, from the beginning, and for eternity? Proud does not mean happy with, it does not mean approving of; it means proud of our ability to choose, love, laugh, and live. Yes, we can make mistakes, yes we can hurt others, but if we were incapable of doing these things, would we be any better than furniture? Don’t you think God knows all of this? And yet still, here we are, in the world, being loved, no matter what we do. Reality should trump imagination. The reality is, this is who we are, loved. Once we can accept this our perception of life changes, the nature of scripture changes, and who God is changes. You are perfectly imperfect, exactly as God made you, and that is very good.

Well, that sounds all nice and comforting there, emotional even, but what about scripture? Surely you can see there is an angry God, killing God, threatening God, etc. This is where the story of Job comes in, and what it was trying to say, and what it tells us about the ancient Hebrew way of life…

The Defeat

ImageA year has passed since Samuel was placed in the dungeons. He’s thin and sickly, he’s not sure he will live much longer considering the lack of proper nutrition. None of that matters now though, he holds a copy of something which has killed him already; his story has changed.

Who could do such a thing? Why doesn’t anyone see what they have done? They left my tale of defiance and questioning, but they added these book ends which nullify the entire purpose of what I wrote! What is this great whirlwind? God is not some angry demanding storm to force His children this way and that. And what is this about not questioning the Lord? This is what David knew all along, that we must question God, we were created to be like Him, which means we have the right to question good and evil as we perceive it. Does any good parent hate when their child begins to think and question on their own? Or do they rejoice and praise their child for thinking freely and find hope for their child’s future in those words? How much more so with our heavenly Father?

With this one alteration the temple has won. People will continue to believe that physical wealth and well-being are related to blessing. The poor will go on being trampled on and forgotten.

Oh Father, you must send someone stronger than me who can show them the way. I have done what I thought right, but they have simply rejected me as they reject all prophets who speak your true word. Send someone who will show that kindness and love is who you are, that anger and hatred are propaganda and perception. Show them that we were meant to be in relationship with you, not slaves to you. Send someone who will show them the good parent, the good Father that you are, and who can represent what a caring and responsive child looks like.

They have not listened to me, but they will listen if you tell them, I just know it.

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Crying himself to sleep, the author of Job was forgotten and lost from history, but his story remains. His story, but not as it was originally written. It continues to be undermined by the additions made to it. No one questions the ancient perspective of retribution, because they have the whirlwind of God to hold them back from it. It has become accepted by many scholars that Job was written in protest to retributive theology, but due to the later additions of the first and last chapters, represents the opposite of the message held between those two chapters.

Who are we to question Him? We are not the creators of the universe. We are not the all-powerful, all-knowing God. We are simply His beloved children. Chosen by Him to be loved by Him, and to live and die exemplifying His love for us. We are simply His creations, gifted with all that He desired for us, with the capacity for both great good and great evil. We are simply human, strong and soft, right and wrong, loving and afraid to love. We are perfectly imperfect, just as He made us, just as He loves us, just as he wants us to be, and just as He wants us to choose; to choose love, life, kindness, goodness, and simplicity. He wants us to choose Him, but He won’t make us. He won’t yell at us, or threaten us, or add insult to injury. We do that enough for ourselves. Let us remember that God is love.

The Controversy

ImageIt’s been so lonely without Aliza. I should never have let her go. I just got so caught up in the moment, and she kept indicating that I had done something, like she didn’t trust me, I just wanted to show her for betraying me like that.

One month has passed since our author began discretely leaving copies of his narrative around town for people to pick up and read. The whole city was in an uproar. The temple responded exactly as he had expected, they immediately declared the writing unclean. Religious police have been trying to go door to door to pick up copies to burn, but they haven’t been able to stifle the response.

It has been the poor mostly, those who have been the victims of retributive theology. The rich and comfortable can be happy with it, because their ruthless ways keep them rich and happy, which according to retribution means they must be pious and good people, coincidental to say the least. The poor though, they know the truth when they see it, because they are like me! They haven’t done anything wrong, but they are kicked and ridiculed for it, while the so called “righteous” take our measly earnings and land to reinforce their own holiness. It’s disgusting!

Suddenly there is loud banging on the door.

“Open up by order of the king of Jerusalem!”

Oh God! They’ve found me at last! Just stay calm, you don’t know that, they could just want more taxes.

“Coming!”

Opening the door, he sees two members of the religious police, as well as a Pharisee. The religious police speak first,

“Sir, is your name Job?”

“What? No! My name is Samuel, I have never heard of this, ‘Job’ person.”

The two officers share a look of skepticism before stepping across the threshold.

“Sir, you are under arrest for treason against the temple.”

“What!? What are you doing! Let go of me! I haven’t done anything wrong! It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along.”

“Tell it to the judge, pal”

“No! Don’t you see how far we’ve strayed from God? You’re more upset about offending the temple than you are of offending God! We have to change our ways! We have to repent and renew our loving relationship with Him before it’s too late!”

“Sir, making threats isn’t helping your case.”

“Oh bother, you’ll never understand… We are all doomed…”

At least my work is out there. It will make a difference. I have friends, supporters; they’ll get it to the countryside where the city will never find it. It will last, I know it. My message will get through to future generations! It’s done. What happens to me now doesn’t matter…

The Seed of Rebellion

Image“I just can’t take it anymore Aliza, I haven’t done anything wrong and they know it.”

“But honey, you must have, you know that’s the way God works. He doesn’t punish us unless we’ve done something wrong. If we have faith, He will be faithful to us.”

“What are you talking about? You’ve been with me! You know I love God and have done nothing that would displease Him!”

“Well I haven’t been with you all the time, so clearly during one of those times you must have done something.”

“No! Stop! I won’t listen to this from you too, of all people, my beloved. I know plenty of good people whose children have died of sickness, and God Himself knows there are horrible men who live up on the hill closer to the temple doors! I mean, they spit at us!”

“I know, but they have a right to because they are more beloved by God than us, that’s what the temple teaches, that’s what our history teaches us.”

“No! I refuse to believe it! I’ve tolerated it up until now because I had no reason to doubt it, or more like it never affected me directly, but I won’t stand for it anymore, I’m going to prove it to them if it’s the last thing I do.

“Now, it can’t be simply me ranting and raving at the city gates, the people in power would just throw me in jail for being a false prophet.”

“Wait… now you’re a prophet!? Honey, what has gotten into you? Just listen to yourself! This is crazy, just go to the temple and sacrifice some doves for forgiveness…”

“Forgiveness!? Forgiveness for what!? I. Haven’t. Done. Anything. Wrong. This is what I’ve been trying to tell you. Why won’t you believe me? No, I have to do something, I have to prove that I’m innocent, and I have to convince everyone that this whole system of good deeds and bad deeds just isn’t realistic. I know it’s what our ancestors taught us, but how long can we hold onto something that is simply, and blatantly, wrong?”

“But it’s not wrong, they always discover something in the person’s life to justify why God punished them.”

“That’s crap and you know it. They make this stuff up. You knew Levana, she was you’re friend, do you really believe that she cheated on her husband!?”

“Well… she didn’t seem like the type, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t!”

“Ugh! Come on! I have to think of something, some way to change the way people view God or we are all going to end up in exile or worse!”

“Oh, so now you do believe that if we don’t follow your understanding of God, something bad will happen!?”

“No… well that is how I meant it, but dangit it’s so hard to stop thinking that way. What I mean is that we must be falling further and further from God, because I refuse to believe this is how He acts toward us, His beloved children.

“No, no, no… I need something… something big enough to turn heads, but not so easy to track to me, or to get rid of…

“Wait… I think I have something… I’ll write something, it’ll be perfect. No one will know who wrote it, so they can’t just get rid of it, and if I make enough copies of it, they won’t be able to suppress them all. Yes!”

“WHAT!? Do you have any idea how expensive writing is? The parchment alone would cost us a week’s worth of food!? I swear if you do this I’m leaving you, I’ll go live with mother; this is insane. You sinned, just admit it, and don’t ruin our lives!”

“My life is already ruined! According to the temple God hates me for something I didn’t do! What could be worse than that!?”

“AARGH!! I give up! Do what you want, squander our livelihood! But don’t bring me down with you! I’m out of here!”

“Fine! Whatever, it won’t matter in the end anyway. Once she reads it, once everyone sees the truth they’ll all come back apologizing to me. Now, I have to find someone who can write and who won’t just run to the temple and snitch on me…”

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­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­It’s a little known fact that the Jewish theological concept of retributive justice was ever questioned. It’s more commonly known today as “the prosperity gospel” as it focuses more on the rewards of behaving, rather than on the punishments of misbehaving. The writer of Job wrote it in protest against such theology, hoping to change forever the way that the world viewed God, but it didn’t have quite the impact they were hoping for. People today still hold it, but they stopped reading the Old Testament through its lense. It makes all the difference, and it allows us to reconcile the seeming contradictions between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the God of Jesus Christ. Simply wait and see.