Posted by: minnow | July 24, 2010

The Top 5 Percent

I found this post by Julie Clawson and the following comments by Jeff Young an interesting point and counterpoint on the topic of liberation theology and sub-topic of social justice.  Both were apparently responding to this rant by Glen Beck.

Not knowing the ins and outs of liberation theology I hesitate to weigh in on any particulars of that debate.  Yet I can not help but echo much of what Clawson said in her post with regard to the tendency on the part of those who focus so strongly on personal salvation and a personal relationship with Jesus to use that focus as a way to discount social justice issues.  In several recent FB conversations I have noticed the Us VS Them (personal salvation advocates) mentality go so far as to say things like: “people who work for justice without first acknowledging Jesus aren’t rightly motivated (and therefore what they do is not of much consequence).”  Oddly, these same people (at least in the groups I have seen) are often the ones to pray for miraculous signs and wonders, “like” reports of gold dust and angel feathers falling during services, or call for the quick return of Christ. 

Without focusing on the specifics of what Julie or Jeff had to say (you can read that for yourself) I  suggest the love story of the Old Testament that culminates in the birth of Jesus, and the Gospel story which is Christ’s walk and witness as well as His birth, death, and resurrection are actually focused a lot on liberation and social justice.  I would further like to say that the American version of Christianity is more closely related to the American Dream than the Kingdom of God. 

I do not usually quote a lot of scripture but I would like to point out a few passages for those who are not exactly inclined to agree with God’s heart for social justice.  Begin with Deuteronomy 24:17-22:

“Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge…When you are harvesting your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back and get it.  Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands…”

Then read Isaiah 58:

“…Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter…If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing fingers and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday…”

And, Zechariah 7: 8- 10:

“And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.”

Keep in mind the passage in John 14 where Jesus claims that if we have seen Him we have seen His Father then read some words from Jesus such as Matthew 25: 34-40 where Jesus so closely identifies with the poor and oppressed that He tells His listeners whatever they have done for the least they have done for Him.  Examine the impact Jesus had on those around Him such as Zacchaeus in Luke 19 who gave half his possessions to the poor and paid back four times to everyone he had cheated.  And, think about the early believers in Acts 2 who sold all their possessions and gave to anyone who had need.

After reading from Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus declared, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  If this is not a statement of purpose I simply do not understand what is. 

Just to stir the pot a little, here are a couple of reality checks.  If you made 25 thousand dollars last year you are among the wealthiest 10.8 percent globally.  Want to see where you rank more precisely?  Go to the Global Rich List.  According to a study done by Barna, less than 5 percent of the average church budget ever goes out the door to missions or para-church organizations.  Nearly 50 percent goes to the purchasing and maintenance of a building and another 30 plus goes to staff salaries.  How do these figures reflect the heart of God?  While Americans may contribute more real dollars to charities the fact remains that we have more to give and if you compare percentages of income we are certainly no longer on top.

I believe the way to the Father’s heart is to model the behavior of the Son in whom He was well pleased.  I further believe that much, if not most, of American Christianity has so distorted the message of the gospel that it is barely recognizable.  I do not doubt that a few individuals and even a fellowship here and there, like the one Jeff Young mentioned in his comment on Julie Clawson’s post, are authentic Christ followers.  At the same time, having little exposure to thinking outside the American box I was born into, I recognize how truly difficult that path can be to find, let a lone follow.

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