No aspect of any kind of God-wants-you-to-be-rich prosperity Gospel or America-as-a-divinely-sanctioned-entity-preserved-by-God-for-these-Last-Days gets it right.
The Bible says three things:
My thoughts are higher than your thoughts,
believe in me
and love each other.
The rest is 6000 years of personal opinions.
Private interpretations of the Bible are all we can make of what is written. To construct theological formulas out of a collection of historical narratives relating how earlier human beings perceived and related to God in order to get a reservation to God’s “country club in the sky” is not religion practiced but theorized.
Believe in me and love each other. Everything else will take care of itself.
In that regard, Bishop Spong was right on the money. Christianity must change or die. Online Religion and Spirituality communities illustrate this as clearly as any venue where life, spirituality and human interaction are discussed. There are entire choirs of like-persuasion where preaching to each other, justifying and validating each other in some theological conforming way is all that seems to happen – in every “choir room”.
In those same “choir rooms” you will not find
Efforts to bless the poor or poor-in-spirit,
Good Samaritan Activities,
Refraining from judgment,
Real hungering after righteousness through social activism.
John Danforth, in a NY Times Op-Ed 6/17/05 wrote:
“It would be an oversimplification to say that America’s culture wars are now between people of faith and nonbelievers.”
Rather than act like persecuted victims straining to right imagined wrongs and imagined dangers in venues elevated above the highest commandment of loving neighbors, the most influential Christians ought to be involved in Jesus’ most powerful declaration:
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you.”
and affirmed by Paul:
“For God is not the author of confusion but of peace as in all churches of the saints.”
Christians find themselves in a situation of having to respond to conflicting spiritual views that reflect disagreement as to what their religion stands for, what values are most important and what methods should be used to work for the common good.
If part and parcel of Christian activism today includes an aggressive evangelical effort then I see liberal Christians empowered to counter the evangelizing of questionable theology and priorities of the Christian Right with an evangelical effort that builds rather than destroys,
that seeks peace rather than attempts to justify war,
that, like God, encourages awareness of every sparrow that falls
– leaving no child, no adult, no family, no culture, no nation or race and no society behind
… or left out of God’s “neighbor” venue.
Liberal Christians must, as Danforth wrote, bring their values to bear if they are going to participate in politics and insist that any responsibility to live a Christian life is a private matter between God and man and not something to be “codified by legislators.”(Danforth)
Liberal Christians must publish and proclaim that Christianity does not possess a monopoly on the truth of God:
… That most Americans are not in favor of and are resisting a societal shift into something resembling a Christian Taliban.
… That most Americans are opposed to government interference in personal lives.
… That most Americans and Liberal Christians are not opposed to scientific advances, scientific knowledge and an understanding of the real world, its environment and how things work.
… That scientific advances for human good are not to be limited by blind and willful faith in an inerrant Bible and religious dogma.
… That Liberal Christians are opposed to establishing a constitutional law that denigrates minorities or creates a definition of human relationships that is exclusive in nature; limited to definitions established by a misguided legislative activism in a country dominated by one religious point of view.
America’s so called “core values” are not something recently created or recently modified by the outcome of elections. Those core values, many of which are spiritual in nature, include an understanding the there is always much to be learned and in a free America;
that liberty allows all to learn and the direction of learning is not restricted to a specific religious belief system.
American core values have included a psychology that religion is a private matter between a person and God and that everyone is at liberty to believe and belong to any spiritual system.
American core values do not include the notion that the Christian God is supreme and legitimate while all “other Gods” are false or evil.
American core values emphasize humility and the idea that anyone who gets “to big for their britches” will be put in their deserved place by the wiser majority. The biggest sharks are not at liberty in this country to pick on the tiniest minnows regardless of their wealth or political majority.
American core values emphasize that church is a place for spiritual nourishment and not political manipulation or excommunication for political disagreement.
American core values include patriotism with an understanding that dissent and participation is patriotic. Although it rears its ugly head from time to time, jingoism is not the American way of supporting troops and letting presidents get away with the slaughter of innocents by bringing God into the equation.
Liberal Christians must reach out and extend their hands of fellowship to any and all neighbors. They must proclaim peace, actively work for peace, oppose injustice to any neighbor, and work for relief to all who are oppressed and suffering.
Liberal Christians do not encounter victims on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and pass by on the other side.
Nor do they stop and point out that a victim was in some way acted upon by God as a punishment.
Nor do they consider any victim as unworthy, undeserving or sinful in not meeting certain standards.
Rather, liberal Christians are ready to not pass by, but to stop and have compassion, bind wounds, pour in oil and wine and carry the victim to shelter and tender care.
Liberal Christians can evangelize the Gospel of Christ to any and all without the objective of conversion or bringing non-Christian souls to Christ. The objective of God is love of one’s neighbor and compassion for all.