Fatal Distraction.

This past week, this post has been circulating around the more evangelical corners of the interwebs.

While I understand the desire to focus on holy week (trust me, liturgical seasons are big in the Anderson household), I think it’s complete BS. For those of you who didn’t read the post, it essentially says that the “paint the internet red” campaign by HRC is Satan’s way of distracting us from holy week.

Seriously? That is some of the most transparent BS I’ve seen ever since the “women’s bodies can stop unwanted pregnancy from happening” thing occurred a few months ago. I shouldn’t need to write a post on this. But yet, here I am.

Try to stop me from talking. I dare you. DENIKA NEVER STOPS TALKING.

This whole thing seems like a not-so-clever ploy for conservative Christians to not have to deal with the world that is changing around them. A massive social movement of solidarity with the GLBT community has swept the internet; marriage equality is a-comin’, and they don’t know how to deal with it. So, they either fight back (enter Pat Robertson & co.), or they try to write it off as a “distraction,” and so they don’t have to deal with it–in fact, it would be better if they ignored it completely so as to not give in to Satan’s temptations.

But let’s back up a bit. 2000 years or so. There was a man wandering around Galilee with a ragtag group of the not-so-elites, the working class, the terminally ill, the unclean, the outcasts, the sinners, the unloved. He talked about some crazy ideas like unconditional love and self-sacrifice and radical inclusiveness. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, touched the untouchable, loved the unlovable.

But the people in charge didn’t like this. They had a system that had been working for hundreds of years. They didn’t want to change, because they liked the way things were.

But they let him play around for a while. At first, he was just another crazy person in a sea of misfits. Soon, though, he started to have too much influence. A movement was rising like a tidal wave, imminently bound to crash over their perfect little world. He was too strong.

So they killed him.

But this man, the man who was love embodied, wasn’t going to let that be the end of the story. Death only held him back for a weekend–I’ve had colds that have kept me out of commission for longer. He rose again, stating once and for all that love is stronger than anything else, even death.

That, dear friends, is what we celebrate today. That is what holy week is about.

And I dare say, if Jesus were on earth today, his facebook profile picture would have looked a little something like this last week:

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This campaign was not a distraction from holy week. Actually, I think it was one of the most well-timed social campaigns I’ve ever seen.

In the week when we remember his life, death, and resurrection, Jesus would not want us to ignore what is happening in the world around us. Not once did he put on blinders to the social situations surrounding him; neither should we. I believe this has been a call for us as people who follow Christ to rethink our systems, to see where we have tried to impose an archaic and oppressive set of social standards on a world that no longer fits within them, and to be advocates for those who are still fighting for rights that most of us take for granted.

Jesus didn’t die for your sins. Jesus lived to show us how to be beacons for God’s love on this planet. That’s what holy week is about.

So today, as we celebrate the blessed life of Jesus, the one who was love embodied, let us take a good look around us and see where we perpetuate injustice. Let us stand for the people Jesus stood for. Let us pour ourselves out so that others might be filled.

For Christ’s sake, let us be love.

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Beautiful Terrible Reckless Love.

It is once again time for a #progGOD challenge. Tony Jones called all us emergent-y types to write on the meaning and, potentially, necessity for the crucifixion. This time, he’s rewarding the person whose post gets the most likes, shares, and whatnot, so if you like what you read here, please, share it so I can get free books. You can read my other #progGOD posts here (nature of God) and here (incarnation).

Today is Ash Wednesday.

This is my first Ash Wednesday since I began practicing an active faith in which I will not be going to a church service. No, instead, Doug Pagitt (more likely, his wife) is going to make me tacos. For real. But, this is a very strange feeling for me. I don’t know if this is good or bad.

Similarly, I’m not sure if it is very timely or horribly inappropriate to write about the crucifixion today. We’re in the right season (sort of), but we’re also not. Lent is a process.

I’m going to go ahead and write anyway, if for no other reason than that Tony posted the challenge today.

First, I must begin with my atonement theology history.

I recall writing a paper roughly two years ago for a theological controversies class I was taking. The class was instructed to write on the nature of the atonement, based on a book our professor had written. This book contained expositions of four (really three) atonement theories: Ransom, Penal Substitutionary, Christus Victor, and Kaleidoscopic. I remember writing my paper and affirming the Kaleidoscopic theory, which claims a multifaceted understanding of the atonement, simply because none of the other three really seemed to accurately depict what I thought happened on the Cross.

Probably because there are many more major atonement theories than the three/four listed in that book. Talk about limited atonement (ba dum shhhh).

A few months later, I read Love Wins by Rob Bell. I had to rethink my atonement theology as a result. I came out basically agreeing that love does indeed win.

Last spring, I wrote my senior thesis on my emergent systematic theology, and had to rethink not just the atonement, but all the related theological issues. It was at this point that I rejected the idea of original sin.

I have since realized that, without original sin, there is no express cosmological need for the crucifixion (or the resurrection).

So then, if all this is to be assumed, Tony rightly begs the question–why a crucifixion?

If Jesus didn’t die to break some cosmological sin-curse, why did he have to die? Why couldn’t he have just “ascended” like Elijah (physics and historicity aside)? Why is this violence central to Christian theology?

I think this requires a quick reworking of the associative property:

  1. God is love.
  2. Jesus is God incarnate.
  3. Therefore, Jesus is love incarnate.

Ha. Mrs. Eldredge was right after all–I would need to use math in real life.

So, if Jesus is love incarnate, then the reason for his life is to spread and teach the ultimate  αγάπη love. This is a radical movement on his behalf. While there might not be such a thing as original sin, we can think of sin as a disease that spreads throughout all humanity–namely, selfishness–and thus we can understand that we are all chronically, but not terminally, ill. Jesus is our great healer. His radical, completely selfless love is the means by which humanity is redeemed. He invites all creation in, even the sickest people, and loves them recklessly.

However, if this love is our medicine, it surely is not one that goes down easily.

Because this great love can move us to do wonderful and amazing things, but it can also make us furious, jealous, or even vengeful when we can’t seem to look past our own selfishness and let love abide. It is especially threatening to those of us with great privilege, as this love requires us to let go of the things that have given us power over others, power which we rather like.

So, forsaking humility, we take that love and we dominate it. We arrest it, strip it, scourge it, and mock it. We pin it down and nail it to a tree–where we can keep an eye on it and be assured it won’t get out. We starve it of food, drink, rest, even air. We push it to its breaking point. We let it die.

And the beautiful, yet incredibly terrible thing about this love is that it submits to it all.

This love chooses to die. Because if it chose not to, it would be going against its very nature and choosing self over others.

But do not let submission read as giving up. Because this love does nothing of the sort.

Beautifully and terribly, this love rises from the ashes. This love is so strong that not even the worst thing we can do to it can overcome it. Our very worst–the depths of our selfishness–are nothing in comparison to the depths of this love.

Tony asked why a crucifixion is necessary. Ontologically speaking, it isn’t. Even considering the pervasiveness of sin, it still isn’t necessary. But, presented with the choice between being crucified and saving himself, Jesus shows us why choosing the crucifixion is the only choice, and why the resurrection is the only possible outcome.

Because, dear friends, in the end, love wins.