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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]: Jesus Christ on the Economic Crisis (An Interview)

[Note: I had originally written this partially as an interview with Jesus. I had misgivings about that from the beginning and should have heeded them, for the resulting blog came out akin to an 8 year old trying to prepare an omelet and ending up with a “scramble.” The substance might be the same but the presentation and style were certainly not what I want to put up for posterity. I’ve edited this and kept the title because I believe blogger uses the title to create the links.]

There are all sorts of sites offering to explain the economic crisis (if it is a crisis), and how it occurred. While politicians have been happy to blame the meltdown on greed, some Christian writers (perhaps in deference to their tendency to support free markets?) have shied away from that view (though some have not), blaming people who could not pay their loans (while pointing out most of those are minorities), or taking a page out of Jerry Fallwell’s playbook and blaming gays, abortion, and other selected aspects of American culture.

It’s funny how people always choose easy targets for blame. [What’s also funny is this video on the Credit Crunch, but that’s neither here nor there.] But what does blaming “greed” or one’s enemies teach us? We already know greed causes problems. We already know democrats/republicans eat kittens. There’s no lesson there.

I think if we asked Jesus about this, He would perhaps bring our attention to something no one is really discussing: the American Imperative to own your own house, even if it takes going into debt for 30 years to do so.

Christians should avoid debt in general, as Paul tells us in Romans 13:8 and God prohibits lending money at interest to your own countrymen, at high interest, or to the poor. Jesus might remind us that even when the Jews did have to borrow, it wasn’t for anything as elective or massive an entire house [and American homes are more like mansions compared to what most people live in comfortably around the world.]

In particular, I think Jesus would call into question the appeal, allure, or motivation behind buying a house. Many people buy for stability or security so they do not have to worry about rising prices or their house being sold, etc. Going into massive debt just to stave off those concerns appears to contradict

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Perhaps a more common reason people buy is that they are told it makes more financial sense, the renting is just ‘throwing money away.” But in the end they almost always pay more in rent [for the same space/location, etc.] than they do to rent [when cost of ownership/maintenance] is assumed. Since when is craftiness toward money our desire?

When someone buys a home either by outright purchase or through paying more per month than rental costs, it seems they are putting interest in storing up and acquiring persona property, which goes against a vast raft of Christ’s teachingsDo not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal?

Not only does acquiring of personal possessions stop us from ministering to those God calls us to help, but our interest in possessions is a block against following Christ (So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple; For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God)

There’s this idea that it is “reasonable” for us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, but I would point out the rather hard response Jesus gave to the Jew who made the “reasonable” request of asking Jesus to tell his brother to share his inheritance with him. ( Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.)

Some might call it “legalistic” to exhort fellow Christians to renounce their interest in worldly possession, perhaps even using that ultimate put-down, “legalistic.” But Jesus, who was well aware of how hard His commands were would be exasperated at those people…just as He was exasperated by His own followers: Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]: What is a Christian?

A lot of energy is spent by Christians trying to tell one another what a real Christian is. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s eerily similar to political mouthpieces trying to say who really represents the beliefs of one party or another.

Were you to ask people What does it mean to be a Christian? or What are the minimal requirements for someone to qualify as a Christian? You could get any number of responses. Some common essential properties of being a Christian you might hear are:

A. Believes the Bible (Or some variation on in what way someone “believes the Bible.”)

B. Goes to Church (For Catholics, I would enlarge this to include certain practices like eating fish on Fridays, etc.) C. Believes “Jesus died for my sins.” D. Believes Jesus was/is God E. Believes only Christians go to Heaven F. Believes “You cannot make it to Heaven on your own.” G. Believes in the Resurrection

H. Is a member of my denomination

I. Believes God created the world in 6 days (What answer would people you know give?) It seems to me that most, if not all, the above have serious problems. For example, “E is self-referential…saying that a Christian is someone who believes that only Christians go to Heaven does nothing to define who a Christian is. If I believed I was a Christian and believed I was the only one going to Heaven, then “E” would apply to me…but yet I have done nothing to explain by that belief what it means to be a Christian. Many of the above make no sense historically. We have to assume that the early apostles and their churches should count as “Christians,” yet they did not have “The Bible,” (indeed, the Church disagreed among itself for centuries as to which books belonged in the Bible and which did not) so one could hardly say that a requirement for Christianity is that you believe the Bible [though one could draw the conclusion that the Old Testament, at least, was accurate, as we see no account of Jesus suggesting otherwise.] Similarly, the doctrine of atonement in its current state didn’t even exist until the 11th century, and early believers did not have the trinitarian formulas the modern church holds so dear. Indeed, Origen, the most important Christian theologian of the 2nd century, would not even be allowed in the church today by that standard.

In addition to historical problems, significant biblical problems stand out from the above list as well. Where do we see early evangelists stressing to non-believers any of these things? If you want to see what makes a Christian a Christian, I think you should look at what the early apostles preached to non-Christians in an effort to have them join the Faith.

A study of acts can be rather revealing here. I’ve put together the following chart to illustrate what teachings you find in Acts regarding Christianity. I’m focusing on Acts because that is the only book where the focus is on Evangelism to non-believers and new believers.
in Acts
Jesus is
is King
Jesus will
Judge All
Repent! Believers go
to Heaven
go to Hell
2: 14-41 x x x

3: 12-26 x x x

4: 8-12 x x

5: 30-32 x x x

5: 42 x

7: 1-53 x

9: 22 x

10: 34-43 x x x x

13: 16-41 x x x

14: 14-17


17: 2-4, 6-7 x x x

17: 18-31
x x

18: 5 x

18: 28 x

20: 20-22


22: 1-21 x x

26: 1-29 x x

Based on the above, I’d say that other than emphasizing the Resurrection, the church has rather struck out when it comes to defining who or what a Christian is. It seems, at least if Paul, James, Peter, and Stephen are good sources, that a Christian is someone who has chosen to follow Christ’s practices, repenting of unloving acts that God hates, and believes Jesus is the Christ (as shown by his Resurrection) who has been given power over Heaven and Earth, including the office of Judge.

While none of the above are things that most Christians would disagree with, they are also unlikely to be the first thing out of their mouths when asked What does it mean to be a Christian?

I think Christians in general do not like the idea that repentance is an absolute requirement as opposed to a goal. I would further say that merely believing Jesus is the Christ who sits in power over Heaven and Earth would strike many as “too easy,” allowing too many fringe groups in. And in particular, the idea that “Christians, and only Christians, go to Heaven” is such a basic tenet to many that seeing it as not a required one just seems odd. The truth is that the word for Hell does not even show up in all of Acts. One wonders what that says about modern day evangelists and missionaries who start off their message with “Do you know where you are going when you die?”

But what do you think? What does it mean to be a Christian? Are there any passages you believe suggest there is some aspect fundamental to being a Christian that is missing from the message given by the apostles in Acts?