Thursday, November 16, 2006

Have it your way

I'm back good folks! Some of you didn't know I had left. It's okay if you didn't miss me. I was at Walt Disney World. Again? Yes, again. This time I went by myself. Partly for fun and partly for a conference.

As I was doing some research for a project I am working on, I found this item of news:

Controversial new Bible cuts out difficult gospel passages -18/10/06

A new Bible translation is causing controversy after it cut out difficult parts surrounding economic justice, possessions and money.

The new bible version, released by the Western Bible Foundation in the Netherlands, has created a storm by trying to make the Christian gospel more palatable.

According to Chairman Mr. De Rijke the foundation has reacted to a growing wish of many churches to be market-oriented and more attractive. "Jesus was very inspiring for our inner health, but we don't need to take his naïve remarks about money seriously. He didn't study economics, obviously."

According to De Rijke no serious Christian takes these texts literally. "What if all Christians stopped being anxious, for example, and started expecting everything from God? Or gave their possessions to the poor, for that matter. Our economy would be lost. The truth is quite the contrary: a strong economy and a healthy work ethic is a gift from God."

The foundation wanted to "boldly go where no one else has gone before" by cutting out the confusing texts.

“We don't use them anyway! There's no single Christian selling his possessions and giving them to the poor."

The Western Bible is published – in Dutch only so far – by the well-known Christian publisher Buijten & Schipperheijn. IN it, some of the most important passages of the Bible: the Ten Commandments, sections of Isaiah, Proverbs, and the Sermon on the Mount, contain holes where the original translation urged radical actions around money, justice or affluence.

Hundreds of Western Bibles have been sold in the first few weeks, whilst anxious Christians filled newspapers and web logs with their doubts.

Sometimes Christians seem to have more anger than humour, however. The names of the board, ‘De Rijke’ (meaning ‘the rich’) and ‘Fortuijn’ (meaning ‘fortune’), as well as the holes in the pages of the Western Bible hint to the truth: the Western Bible is a joke.

It is published by Time to Turn, a network of Christian students and young adults in the Netherlands "who want to choose a sustainable and just way of life, based on their faith in Jesus Christ."

They do not believe in a new legalism, or in a utopian state, but in a God who is willing to deliver the world from materialism and injustice. Time to Turn is linked to the international student movement Speak.

Frank Mulder, chairman of Time to Turn, is surprised by the commotion.

"Many Christians accept the Western lifestyle, including the degradation of creation and the injustice of our trade, and they only take the easy parts of the gospel. But it isn't until we publish this gospel with holes, that they get confused!"

Time to Turn are soon to publish a bible study about the holes.

IF you read this all the way through, then you see the point. I have encountered "Bible believing" people who call themselves Christian who say things like:

"We don't need to hear that social action stuff."

"The only thing that matters is preaching Jesus."

"The Bible didn't mean that for us."

"Jesus eliminated those Old Testament requirements for Christians."

These comments are exactly the same as cutting portions of scripture "out" of the Bible. Essentially, these comments are saying that the parts of scripture that calls ALL followers of Christ to a life of social justice, mercy, and action are worthless, irrelevant, and can be discarded in favor of more satisfying passages.

One of the things that was re-emphasized in my life during this conference is the biblical and spiritual mandate that followers of Christ are to be actively pursuing justice and mercy for all persons. Oh, then I must be a liberal/progressive/socialist. Yeah. I probably am. But let me tell you about being a liberal/progressive/socialist.

Liberals exist to challenge the long held beliefs and traditions that may have become a set of chains binding people from expressing the faith in outward directions. They call conservatives to stop being so caught up in their entrenched religious practices that focus on self-devotion, self-confession, and self-edification. They have eyes that are opened to the needs of others. They see hear the cry of the hurting. They feel compassion for the pains of those who suffer. And they decide to get out and respond to those needs. Jesus was a liberal in this sense. He busted the traditionalists' chops for making their religious observance. He shook the traditions and the accepted interpretations of scriptures. He saw, heard, felt, and responded to the ones who needed help around him.

Progressives are moved to change the world around them. They believe that they can actively be a part of changing society. They can see a future that is better if people work together in harmony to effect change. Isn't that was Jesus was doing when he said, "The kingdom of God is among you?" Jesus brought together a group of people who would stand together and become a transforming agent in the world.

Socialists believe that wealth is an instrument used to control and express power. They believe in the sharing of resources and wealth so that more people can live better. The presence of Jesus in believers' lives convinced them that sharing resources was a valid way of life.

So, as I see it, Jesus was just as likely to be a liberal/progressive/socialist as was a conservative/traditionalist. And we in the 21st century church may want to reevaluate how we are living. Especially when we say that we are Bible believers. Because if we say that, we may want to make sure we mean it.

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