Monday, July 23, 2012

Real Truth: The Foundation for Real Justice

If Jesus came to proclaim freedom for the captives and good news to the poor, then Passover uniquely belongs to the bottom dwellers.So we cancelled (Easter) service and took church downtown to the corner of 7th and Neches, where our homeless community is concentrated. We grilled thirteen hundred burgers and ate together. Our band led worship; then in a powerful moment of solidarity, we shared Communion. It was a beautiful mess of dancing, tears, singing, and sharing. It wasn't an 'us' and 'them' moment. It was just the Church, remembering the Passover Lamb and celebrating our liberation together. 


I rummaged through the box of books like a kid on Christmas morning. My books from T4G had finally come in. It wasn't the same as actually being there in bodily form, but it was a nice consolation prize. Whoop! I pulled every book out and began labeling the insides. Then a name caught my eye.

Rick Warren.
Rick Warren?!
Hold on a cotton-pickin' minute.
Why do I have a book in my house blurbeb by Rick Warren?
I skimmed the back suspiciously.
Looking about as deep as I might expect from RW.
Okay, it's Christmas. I'll be charitable. I"ll give Mr. Purpose Driven Life one pass.
But, I swear, if I find one book, just one in this pile of wholesome goodness, blurbed by Bill Johnson or Rob Bell...
I swear it's getting burned on the Altar of Insanity.

Some of the books were looking uncharacteristically...shall we say...crunchy.
What the heck?!
Al. Dude. What are you thinking?
I double check with my fellow WOE (wife of elder), Susan, who placed the book order.
"What is up with the books this year? They're looking rather, um, lite. ???"
She nods, knowingly. "Oh, those would be the ones I threw on top. The Band Of Blogger recommendations."
"Phew." I wipe my brow. "I was wondering which of the T4G guys was caving."

But my summer of reading began.
I saw his name out of the corner of my eye. And I was like a moth to flame.
My guy. My theologian. Yes, there are precisely two theologians (of the ones still living) I might just lie, cheat, and steal to meet. (Hyperbole, people.)
Al Mohler. (Ahem, we went to the same university. Just sayin'.)
And D.A. Carson. Drool.

So there it was.
Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson. (And I find out later from Susan that was an independent buy of my husband's. My husband rocks.)
I dig right in. It's an amazing book which, once again. reinforces to me how carefully the Word of God must be handled. God's Word is an awesome thing. And we humans have a way of making an interpretive mess out of it. There are hermeneutical rivers that deserve the Golden Gate Bridge....yet we simply throw a rope across...and put lots of folks in lots of danger.

Yes. The Bible deserves our respect.

No. I'm no preacher. I don't believe in women preachers. But I am a mother. And it hits home how we exegete every day for our kids. We answer questions and interpret and...well, yeah...we kind of our kids. Every day. And we need to be very, very careful how we do that. When our children are young, we may be the only representative of Heaven they ever know. What we say, and what we say Gods says, counts.

I loved it. I loved learning about word fallacies and grammatical fallacies and logical fallacies and historical fallacies.
It fed me. It made me revere God more.
Poof! Finished. Nourished. Growth.
I love growth.

I come back into the study. Circling like a shark around a bleeding seal, I start lapping the room.
"You're looking for your next read," Brett says.
Ah. There it is. Seven, by Jen Hatmaker.
It looks intriguing and silly all at once.
So I pick it next.

Hatmaker is a gifted writer. I hail from Planet Snark (as one person told me), but this chick put It on the map.

Seven is Hatmaker's account of her attempt to shed American consumerism in search of a legitimate Gospel walk. So, she picks seven areas in which she will simplify. Her accounts are laugh.out.loud funny. And she has poignant observations sprinkled throughout. Hatmaker has spunky, passionate zeal. I'll bet she's a riot to live around.

She drew some rather bizarre lines in the sand, like buying locally or at 'living-wage' companies. (Economics, anyone?) But she had some really interesting points, too, like taking seven prayer breaks a day, which really intrigued me.

Unfortunately, though, she makes a couple of really fatal errors. She gives the nod (kinda) to careful study of the Truth. But her gospel, like all social gospels, is about half a bubble off plumb:
Sometimes, the best way to bring good news to the poor is to actually bring good news to the poor...Usually the best news when you're desperate is food, water, shelter.
See what just giving a casual nod to Truth does? It alters the Truth. It moves the bullseye just a fraction of an inch off center, and we barely notice because it seems close enough. What kind of hard-hearted moron wouldn't recognize that desperate people need food, water, and shelter? But what kind of false gospel would adjust trajectory just enough to think that food, water, and shelter is the best news? No. The Cross is the best news for a desperate person. Salvation from our desperately wicked hearts and our subsequent eternal death sentence is the best news.

This is dangerous stuff, Beloved.

Hatmaker again demonstrates where shrugging at scriptural approach can lead you seriously astray. See her quote at the top of this post on communion. But back the bread and wine truck up a moment, would ya? Communion is serious business. It is a sacrament reserved for the Body of Christ. And every careful church will fence the table because Communion done incorrectly causes serious harm. A good-natured, good-time approach to the Lord's Table is not kind; it is cruel.

In the end, there was a lack of testimony. Disappointing. But not shocking, given the kind of gospel she advocates. Lots of stories about people getting hot meals, new friends, and a warm bed. Not one story of anyone coming to the Cross, broken and repentant, and getting a new heart.

Sheep and goats come to mind here.
Notice that when Jesus commends the sheep for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and extending hospitality, the sheep respond with, "Uh, we did? When did we do that?"
But when he condemns the goats for not feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisoned, or extending hospitality, the goats say, "Whoa there. Oh, yes, we did. Weren't you watching?!"

Sounds like there were lots of prison ministries and food pantries and shelters and clothes closets run by goats. Sounds like the goats were into some serious social justice. Probably lots of soup kitchens and non-profits in the goats' gospel. I'll bet they had fundraisers and boards of directors and marches and publicity campaigns and websites. The "LookAtMyCause/IDoStuff/SomeoneDonate" gospel. Otherwise known as the Filthy Rags Gospel. These people make me roll my eyes.

Then they run to the Lord and say, "Dude. Good to see you, man!" (Insert dorky-cool attempt at fist bump here.) And Jesus looks at them and might say something like this. "And you are...?"

Meanwhile..the sheep just do what comes naturally. Hoopla-free.They probably put up a random unwed mom they met at the community college so she wouldn't have an abortion, gave her a room of her own, and shared the Gospel. They probably rescued a trafficking victim, brought her into their family, taught her how to be a better mom, and shared the Gospel. They probably took in kids whose adoptions didn't work--troubled kids--and gave them a home,love, and security, and shared the Gospel, even though it meant virtual loss of all social life. They probably shared a meal (and the Gospel) with a neighbor who is from an 'enemy'  country and grew up in an 'enemy' religion. I know these people. These people make me look at my white bread life and lament my own utter lack of kingdom usefulness.

They bow before the Lord with a woe-was-me-in-the-presence-of-a-holy-God attitude. And Jesus looks at them and might say something like this. "Welcome home, brothers and sisters!"

Might it be that Hatmaker, despite all her delicious zeal, has gotten it wrong? Might it be that goats do causes...
and sheep do Christ?

Poof. Done with Seven. More concerned than inspired.

I was on the prowl in the study again tonight. His name caught my eye. Chandler. Matt Chandler. And his book? The Explicit Gospel. He resides with Hatmaker and me on Planet Snark. But he is oh good. Solid ground again after a weird, wild ride. And it's blurbed by Warren. Dude! What's happening to Rick Warren?! I think he got saved.  ;)


  1. First, I read the quote up top and then reread it. I was a bit concerned when she said that they all took communion together, seeing as it's reserved for the believers only. Taking communion without having obtained the grace of God is tantamount to bungee jumping without a rope!

    Second, I was looking at my college's chapel speaker schedule, and Rick Warren will actually be coming to speak sometime in October, I believe. I'm a bit skeptical, but we'll see how it turns out. :P

  2. And thanks for reading, despite my eight or so typos. Yikes. Maybe I'll drop in for the Rick Warren chapel. :)