The Resurrection Heresy De Jour
I happened across a copy of the Easter Sunday edition of the Seattle PI this morning. The name of our Lord God and Savior “Jesus” caught my eye and I decided to give the “Focus” section a read on the bus.
The “Social Justice Gospel” abounds, and it was present in at two of the several Easter related OpEds that I read. One was from a United Church of Christ Pastor and was entitled “Easter is about life here and now” to which I would offer a hearty amen...but the article further explains.
The Resurrection – according to the pastor – is about life, here and now because it demonstrates that God’s peace, justice, and righteousness prevails against “callous…unjust…and tyrannical powers” Why, yes, indeed it does…but I wonder if he and I are thinking about the same callous, unjust, tyrannical powers? The author never says specifically who or what he is writing about, saying only that such powers were responsible for killing Jesus. In one poignant sentence he refers to these powers as a “system” and also references this connection with the hope we have against “death systems at work in our own world.”
He also sets up a dichotomy between two things to be found in the Resurrection: immortality and justice and he claims that we need to have both and that indeed there is room for both. But, he states that an Easter without the notion of justice is an Easter that has been “domesticated” and has lost its “subversive memory.” (subversive???? You wanna see subversive? Go to your local Orthodox Church this saturday and watch and listen...the greatest subversive act in all history will be shown to you - and it doesn't involve bombs or protests!) The author says: Immortality is about heaven, justice is about earth – the here and now. This is a completely false dichotomy, for the Orthodox heaven is brought to earth and the Kingdom is here and now – just as Jesus said: it is within you, not outside of you.
The callous, unjust, and tyrannical powers that killed Jesus Christ is indeed a death system and is indeed at work in our world today, but it is NOT the Roman or American Empire, it is NOT capitalism, it is NOT communism, it is NOT Islamic Jihad, it is NOT the military industrial complex, and it is NOT corporate America. It is sin.
And herein is the problem with the social justice gospel: Jesus never preached it – at least not in the way that it is being preached today. How many times have I written this before: Jesus never once had a critical thing to say about the oppressive and imperialistic slave trading Roman Empire…not a single thing! Roman soldiers would come to Him and he would not launch into a tirade about social justice and “death systems”…instead He simply told them to be good in their work. And after Jesus gave his rousing “Beatitude” speech, the thousands or so who were present did not march off to protest the unjustices of the Roman Empire. Jesus was not a politician, and He was not an “activist” and the liberation He taught was not one that involved revolutions.
We will never find and fix the “death system” by looking at governments or corporations, because the most callous, unjust, tyrannical, and powerful death system is found right here in my heart and I suspect if you look hard enough it is in your heart too. This is the danger of the social gospel – we are looking for and protesting so hard against external systems, that we may neglect the means by which Jesus brought change to the world: He examined individual hearts and opened them to His sometimes painful love. No, an external social “system” did not crucify Jesus – we did. But Glory to God, He has trampled down death by death and THAT is what makes Pascha about “here and now” and unto ages of ages, amen.
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The Resurrection Heresy De Jour