Evolution is a big deal in my community. Just about everyone hates the idea, and if you don't hate it, you'd better not let anyone know you don't. As conservative theists, most of us have problems with evolution because it feels like a threat to religion. If nature can accomplish all this order on its own, then what need would there be for God? Those theists who do cling to evolution, however, argue that it really doesn't matter if evolution is true or not. Evolution doesn't necessarily take God out of the picture, because God would still have had to create all matter, create and fine tune all natural laws, and could still intervene in his creation as he sees fit. There is no problem with believing in evolution and a God who is active in the world. Just as we don't believe that God is literally focusing his power on keeping the earth in its orbit, since God had the foresight enough to create the law of gravity to do his bidding, so it could be with evolution. God gets what he wants out of the process because he front loaded the information.
Photo from scop.io by Jose González Buenaposada
Communion is an extremely important event for Christians, or at least it should be. Jesus tells us that it’s something we ought to do in remembrance of him, and many faith traditions believe that there is a very real, but mystical means of grace which is manifested in the meal. Our church, and many other churches in our denomination, partake of communion weekly, as we strongly value the mystical bond of communion, not only in its binding of us to Christ, but in the way it binds the community together.
The New Testament takes communion very seriously as well. In fact, it is so serious that Paul viewed it as a life and death matter. In I Corinthians 11 Paul declares that some people have “fallen asleep,” (i.e. died) because they participated unworthily in communion. While most pastors don’t go around scaring people away from taking communion with the threat of death, most churches do remind partakers that the matter is considered a very serious one. In light of this, participants are often reminded and encouraged to examine themselves before God and repent of sins prior to taking communion. I think this is a great practice and a somber reminder to reflect on our lives and the work of God. However, it seems quite apparent that this concept of general reflection and general repentance misses much of the weight of Paul’s admonishment.
You won't be involved in mercy ministry too long before you come across this one particular term: "undeserving poor." A great deal of mercy ministry effort, at least in my experience, is often given not simply to help the poor, but in first making sure they deserve our help. Having participated in mercy ministry for some years now, I understand this position. When you have limited resources you want to ensure that you are using them where they will help the most and where they are needed. You also don't want to be known as a soft target - easy pickin'. And trust me, there are many who are out to take advantage of those willing to hand out resources.
Social justice has been on my mind a lot lately, as I'm sure it's been on the minds of many. For some, especially those who are older or from very conservative backgrounds, their ears just perked up. This idea of "social justice" still has connotations carried over from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the gospel of Jesus Christ was distilled down merely to its justice component. In the social gospel, Jesus's life was rightly put on a pedestal as an example for our own lives, but it wrongfully deposed the work of his death and resurrection. Jesus's life became largely an example for us in our world - a motivational speech to move us out to be nice and do good. This social gospel devoid of the divine is not the social justice I'm talking about.
Christians, like any other group of humans, have their pet peeves. For me and my group of Christians, one of those pet peeves is the objectification of others. We recognizes that the objectification of others leads to deeper and more numerous sins, and therefore, we call it out as evil. When we elevate individualism to godhood and diminish a baby in the womb to the status of non-human - when we objectify babies - a baby who gets in our way can be killed. When sexuality and pleasure is elevated to godhood and another's body becomes a mere tool - when we objectify fellow humans for sexual gratification - then we end up with the highly exploitative and damaging pornography, sex worker, and sex-trafficking industries. Christians rightly identify Jesus's teaching that objectification is at the heart of much evil in the world. In Jesus's famous Sermon on the Mount, he declares that it isn't only murder and adultery which are evil, but the objectification of others in our hatred, anger, and lust - the latter vices being the seeds of the former. Jesus is a wise man, and we are wise to follow in his footsteps.
But just as Christians have pet peeves, we also have our pet sins. One of those pet sins is, rather coincidentally, objectifying others. Whereas my group has somehow managed not to buy into the overt acceptance and overlooking of the pleasure/sex pantheon of our culture, a different, perhaps more insidious form of idolatrous objectification has crept its way into our lives. Prosperity. Perhaps Jesus should have warned us a bit more about wealth and prosperity. Maybe he should have called it out directly or told some harsh stories about it. Maybe he should have given us some foreshadowing and foundation for the problem of prosperity in the Old Testament. Maybe he should have exiled Israel for their actions stemming from prosperous indulgence at the expense of justice towards others. Maybe if Ezekiel or some other prophet would have told us that the sin of Sodom was being guilty of idolizing prosperity - maybe that would have been enough for us not to make greed a pet sin and prosperity an idol. And perhaps if Paul had excoriated the greedy more than just a few times in the epistles, or if James, the brother of Jesus would have condemned opulence and unjust labor practices, everything would all be so clear to us now. But alas!
*The views and ideas on this site are in no way affiliated with any organization, business, or individuals we are a part of or work with. They're also not theological certainties. They're simply thinking out loud, on issues and difficulties as I process things.