Apr 072010
 

Easter Sunday afternoon me and Lay went to his parent’s farm down in Ruskin to hide Easter eggs and eat. At one point, I was running to a nearby Walgreens to pickup a couple of items. I was stopped at the traffic waiting to turn in and noticed a young man on the corner holding a large sign and his Bible.

He had a nice PVC frame and the sign must have been about five feet wide by four feet high. On it was a gruesome picture of a person in tattered and burned clothing standing in a pool of blood dripping from all over him. Sitting in the foreground of the picture on a raised seat was an image of Jesus, a stern look on his face with an outstretched finger pointed accusingly at the other figure.

There were, as you can imagine, some words about hell and damnation, but I can’t remember them specifically. Having grown up in the funeral business (and having been a funeral director in the past), I spent my fair share of time in churches of every description, and I’ve certainly heard hell-fire and brimstone sermons. I even remember some “revivals” in my day with some pretty strong and damning language.

For some reason I was really struck on this day by this man’s sign. I realized I felt sorry for him. Sorry that his experience was one where one becomes a Christian (is saved) out of fear…where Jesus is the Grand Inquisitor. Unfortunately, that is the experience of so many people, especially those on the extreme Christian right. If you listen to their theology and their sermons, and get them to admit their real reasons for professing Christianity, it’s not because they want to live a better life. It’s not because they believe it’s a way to help them be better more caring people. It’s because they have been scared into believing that not believing sends one to a hellish afterlife, sentenced by an angry God.

The Prophet MicahThey have this apocalyptic theology based primarily in the book of Revelation, but it is also in that book we find in Chapter 3 Verse 20 these words, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (New Living Translation) My personal favorite verse is Micah 6:8, “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” And this from a book in which the prophet warms of the wrath of God on the Jewish people.

Where was God’s anger directed in Micah? The prophet sums it up for us in chapter 3, verse 11: “Its heads [its rulers] give judgment for a bribe, its priests teach for hire, its prophets divine for money; {Mic 3:11a RSV}..” Throughout the Bible, God’s anger was directed at leaders who fail to care for their people, and see to their well-being. And his condemnation for the rest of us is directed at those of us who turn a blind eye to “the least of us.”

Read the two verses above. The angry God of the Old Testament invites us to walk with him, and the Jesus of the New Testament gently knocks, and asks to share a meal as a friend. This is not the God of the ultra-conservative right-wing Christians. They live in fear of God and possible condemnation, and soothe themselves not by caring and sharing, but by trying to make everyone else appear even less worthy than they.

What a sad state of affairs for those people, and what a sad state they create in our world with that view. Me, I prefer the idea of a Jesus who is a friend. Someone who cares about others, and calls us, as he did, to take care of one another. It is the piousness that usually brought about the wrath of God.


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