Observe the following dialogue between two of my students yesterday:
Girl: I hate the fact that women get paid less than men for doing the same job.
Boy: What do you mean?
Girl: For instance, say you have two people working as nurses. The woman will only make 80% of what the man makes.
Boy: Wait… You mean DOCTORS and nurses?
Liberalism brings a complicated mixture of good truths, deeply embedded assumptions, and attractive dangers. And since it does, in fact, offer some good truths, it can be difficult to see its assumptions and dangers. (N.B. As always, I use the term “liberalism” in its original sense, the sense in which Reagan, Bush, Limbaugh and Beck are all liberals along with Clinton, Obama, etc.)
The problem is that here in America, we are all brought up inside liberalism the same way a deep ocean fish lives its whole life in the sea. Such a fish has no concept of anything other than the watery world it knows. The water is its very atmosphere. In fact, as CS Lewis pointed out, fish don’t feel wet. Such a fish does not think, “I love being under water.” It only thinks, “This is the world.” Imagine the fish was intelligent and could understand human speech. If one were to try to explain life out here in the air and on land, the fish would find it very difficult to understand. And if it ever ends up out of the water, it will have no categories for understanding the experience–it’ll just freak out.
That’s what it’s like sometimes, trying to get liberals to imagine a good world beyond liberalism. Of course, they can imagine things outside of liberalism, but only evil, Mordor-like regimes. The only good world they can envision is one where “peace” comes through the protection of superior force, capitalism blesses the industrious with material prosperity, and so on. And since that is the height of their imagination of the good life in a good world, they reason that it must be what God wants. And so the Bible is made to read as a formula for a modern, western, liberal society.
But what if the good world the Bible pictures is not like any of those concocted by the men of this world? What if the kingdom of God really is something wholly different (John 18:36)? Perhaps Isaiah 2:2-5 might give us a better picture:
Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the Lord
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.”
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And He will judge between the nations,
And will render decisions for many peoples;
And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
And never again will they learn war.
Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
‘Ahhhhh,’ says the liberal Christian, ‘But this is talking about the future (millennial?) reign of God over the earth, and does not address our present world. For now, it just makes for a nice inscription on a wall at the UN.’
Fine. Let us say that this Isaiah passage describes the future kingdom to be realized when the Lord returns and sets the world aright. The question is: What is the church to do and to be NOW? Is she to settle for choosing the “best” option among those currently made available by the powers of this world? (This, it seems to me, is what liberal Christians do.) Or is she to be a foretaste of the kingdom to come?
I would suggest that the difference between this world and the world to come is not that the kingdom of God is only to be found in the latter. The difference is that, for now, the kingdom of God is to be found only with the people of God, but in the world to come it will be the whole world. This means that, in the present world, the church becomes an advance outpost of the kingdom that is coming. We are a “colony of heaven,” to use the phrase of Hauerwas and Willimon.
This may be difficult to understand or to envision in precise detail. But the first step is this: Christians in the West have got to stop breathing the atmosphere of liberalism and start letting the Spirit of God’s kingdom fill our lungs. Who knows what kind of pure oxygen might get to our brains, if we did?
Found this while looking for some pics to put in some notes I am writing for one of my History classes.
LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE IT!!!! :-)
Of course, Han says the line that is being parodied here on the Millennium Falcon en route to Alderan, not while in the cantina with Greedo. Still hilarioius, though! :-)
This fall, I am reading The Hobbit with my two English classes at Spring Mountain Christian Academy. For some of the families, there is some question as to whether fantasy is a legitimate genre of reading for Christians. So I have written a document to discuss the idea. It is written with this audience primarily in mind, but obviously, anyone who is interested is free to down load the doc below and check it out! Just click the link!
If you are someone from the school community, welcome to astheneia! Please let me know what you think of the document after you have read it!
Here is a gem from J.R.R. Tolkein’s essay, On Fairy Stories:
“Fantasy can, of course, be carried to excess. It can be ill done. It can be put to evil uses. It may even delude the minds out of which it came. But of what human thing in this fallen world is that not true? Men have conceived not only of elves, but they have imagined gods, and worshipped them, even worshipped those most deformed by their authors’ own evil. But they have made false gods out of other materials: their notions, their banners, their monies; even their sciences and their social and economic theories have demanded human sacrifice. Abusus non tollit usum. Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image of a Maker.”
Sometimes I feel like my local Christian radio station basically tells me this:
“Focus on your family,
Take your vitamins,
Hate your local Democrat,
And love your money!”
And sometimes I think of passages like these and wonder what sort of Bible they’re reading:
Mark 3:31-35 (Just who IS my family, anyway?)
Matthew 6:25 (Is life really all about feeling super because of my expensive vitamins?)
I Thessalonians 2:12 (What are my political allegiances supposed to be?)
I Timothy 6:17-19 (What kind of investment portfolio should I have?)
Well, tomorrow is July 4th, and I’ll be spending the weekend with some family members who think I’ve gone “liberal” or am “left-leaning” because I’ve moved away from my right-wing, conservative, capitalistic, war-hawk roots. (The truth is that my political imagination is no longer restricted to the false dilemma of American left or right wing; rather, I’m committed to the Kingdom of God.) Should be lots of fun hanging around a campfire, walking the beaches, going out on my brother’s boat, and so forth.
Perhaps it’d be good to gather everyone around to play a bit of a Bible trivia game. I was thinking this might be a good question:
Which of the following is NOT found in the Bible?:
A) — Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.
B) — Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.
C) — Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
D) — But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
D!… (As in Declaration of Independence!)