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Posts Tagged ‘justice’

by Jordan Hathcock

When we haven’t earned the right with our blood, sweat, tears, and time, truth-telling is most often received as judgment. Jared Byas

What a no holds barred match of viewpoints we find ourselves in, within our current culture climate. With so many voices being echoed through all available chambers—social media being the main sphere—how do we know truth? Beats me (haha). But I do believe there is something to an experiential encounter with a “quality or state of being true”, that holds more tangible weight than other voices. In other words, how does our experiences inform us about whether or not an specific idea or act is the actual essence of truth?

Maybe by “walking in another’s shoes”, we reach a firmer grasp on what is true or false? Look, I get the importance of doing your own research and the importance of peer reviewed articles. We read articles, try to have an open mind, listen to experts (a lot of conspiracy with this at the moment…good lord), and attempt to listen to both sides. This is good advice and has helped me tremendously. But I cannot help to hear the saying of Jesus: “Love your neighbor as yourself” when trying to pursue *the* truth. Yes, we can’t forget the other saying of Jesus: “I am the truth”. Amen! But you know we are part of his body so we can’t dodge the responsibility of being part of that truth ourselves. To embody a reality of authentic truth, we get there by self-giving love. And to love is to put ourselves in other’s perspectives, which in turn, enable us to “see and hear” the truth that sets us ALL free.

Don’t get me wrong. Critical thinking skills are needed to get us to a place of factual analysis (Critical Theory for example). The point of any cognitive critique is to bring in a set of ideas and push them to the forefront of discovery. These are all good and much needed steps to find truth. What I am proposing is when we are pursuing the truth we must do it in love. Yes yes yes; love love love is all we need, blah blah blah. Listen (or read? hehe) here, alright?! The only love I am talking about is the love that “lays down her life for a friend”. Capeesh?

This love is a movement of action where all eyes can see. Or, how Dr. Cornel West puts it: “Justice is what love looks like in public”. Speaking truth to power is the gateway of experiencing healing and liberating truth. This is the gospel that Jesus preached. He was “living” this truth, no matter what the cost. It’s an inner truth that Jesus couldn’t deny. Folk rock band The Avett Brothers songTell the Truth say (sing?) it best:

Tell the truth to yourself and the rest will fall in place

I can make my mother, my father, my sister, my brother, my lover, my neighbor, my friends all happy

Give of myself whatever they ask

But without this single truth it is only emptiness that I cast

A happiness that will not last

But I’m not here for that for what does happiness help without this single truth given to thyself

Tell the truth to yourself and the rest will fall in place

When we come to a point of a moment of truth, we must embrace the love of self and others to really accept it. Inner truth always will pour out onto others. Hear me out on this: This isn’t the same as weaponized truth, where we just have our weapon of choice—locked and loaded—ready to beat the shit out of any who dare not to comply to our truth claims. I believe we have come to a point in our current social dialogue that all we want to hear is our reasoning biases in the voice of the other. If it isn’t there, bombs away!

We all should be passionate and prophetic when we are looking to carry out our truths to implement change. A little anger helps but when it is the most thundering sound and drowns out love, that’s when we get nowhere. Yes, we need to hear the voices of the oppressed, the sick, and the poor at this current time of history (and all of history past). I mean, this is what Jesus did all day long during his ministry. But we cannot forget how he redeems, reconciles, and resurrects it all: By a cross of forgiveness and love. Author and podcaster Jared Byas says it like this:

We live our lives feeling that there is a tension between truth and love. But there’s only a tension if we believe truth and love are equals and opposites. They are not. Love is the bottom line. When we pursue a life of love, we will find truth along the way. When we pursue truth, we do not always find love along the way. When Jesus tells us the greatest commandment, it’s not truth-telling, it’s not fact-based, it’s not doctrinal. It’s love.

So, can we really know truth? Yes and no. But we definitely will never get there if we do not show the love, people! What if truth is not a belief to be held but an experience to be shared? I like that possibility. Let’s step into that realm of trusting love and see where The Truth leads…

As for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part. For love is the end. — 1 Corinthians 13:8-9,13

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by Jordan Hathcock

To be a Christian is to live dangerously, honestly, freely – to step in the name of love as if you may land on nothing, yet to keep on stepping because the something that sustains you no empire can give you and no empire can take away.—Dr. Cornel West

How are we (I.e., American “Christians”) supposed to *act* in our current climate where the pandemic reigns, systemic racism runs rapid and the economic state is at its worse sense the Great Depression. 2020 has been a mix of 1918, 1930s, and 1960s all wrapped up in one “apocalyptic” year and it seems to be no end in sight. The unveiling of the principalities and powers (corrupt institutions) are now in the forefront for all citizens to witness. The term “viewer discretion advise” has never been more relevant.

We are hearing from both world views (conservative and liberal) advice and warnings in what the “right” strategy is when it comes to the current world crises. The polarization has come to a boiling point and you better take cover! Masks vs. no masks, black lives matter vs. all lives matter, all coming to a dualistic head, about to explode. The American political landscape has been experiencing a tug of war (no pun attended) regarding ideals which in-turn is hindering an actual plan of action. Thus, we have the never-ending cycle of us vs. them that only brings violent unrest.

This is not a denial of the actual current damaged systemic realities (white supremacy, racism, pandemic health crisis, police brutality, etc.) that this country is experiencing. I understand that some are living in denial of these issues (and it is not getting us anywhere). Alas, what I am trying to manifest is Christ-participants response to all of this? It cannot only be a conservative view of just letting the old ways be preserved no matter how many lives are harmed and oppressed along the way. It also cannot be a regulated liberal view, espousing a non-stop shame culture in where people are ostracized and scapegoated, no matter what the price. Is this American binary platform, in which we have two sides to choose from, all there is? The issues with our two-party system, plurality voting rules, winner take all voting, gerrymandering, (to name a few) is not helping when it comes to a more just (love in action) social system.

When leave social restorative justice (it cannot be an eye for eye kind of justice here, peeps) in the hands of the elite, what we get is an Empire. If we are living in the 21st century United States, we are living in an Empire (bold statement I know but stay with me). There are a few interpretations of Empire (hey, is post modernity baby haha), but I find this one fitting when it comes to defining Empire with our current state in Murica:

Conglomerates of power that are aimed at controlling all aspects of our lives, from macropolitics to our innermost desires.― Joerg Rieger, Christ and Empire

What does Empire involve? All types of “power over” institutions from education, to government and religion. When our systems become an economy of exchange where the mighty dollar reigns, the result is imprisonment. From a Christ-participant perspective, what we have seen since the fourth century is Civil Religion: the Christendom of Empire, reigning down with an oligarchy thumb. Since that time, the supposedly Jesus Community has been entangled with the State. This might be the deadliest mixture when it comes to corrupt power. Christians have become the Roman occupiers―plundering and destroying all that gets in their way―instead of Jesus followers being eaten by lions and burned at the stake. When we became more about geo-political dominance and less about serving “the least of these”, the distinction between the Jesus-Way and Empire are unrecognizable. Palestinian Christian, author, and Lutheran pastor Mitri Raheb puts it this way:

Empires create their own theologies to justify their occupation. [Just as the early American empires chose to overlook its mistreatment of the Native tribes who already lived here and then justified a slave holder form of Christianity in much of the Americas. —RR] Such oppression generates a number of important questions among the occupied: “Where are you, God?” and “Why doesn’t God interfere to rescue [God’s] people?” When, under various regimes, diverse identities emerge in different parts of Palestine, the question arises, “Who is my neighbor?” And finally, “How can liberation be achieved?” is a constant question.

I think this is what we have in our current state of affairs. Are we (I.e., White American Christians) as claimed participants in the Jesus way, going to see ourselves as the Roman occupiers? Are we finally go to repent (change our way of thinking) and really set out to be a people who wash feet, serve the poor, and set the captives free? That is it, really. Breaking free to liberate others. This is what privilege is all about. We cannot let the ways of Empire cloud our minds with this “America first” attitude. Its movements that change things, not rusted-out institutions. It is power under not power over that brings about resurrection (Jesus on the cross, anyone?).  So, regardless if you see masks as not needed, or black lives as a neo-Marxist communist organization, what do you do for the least of these? For your enemies?

I think it’s time that we truly see that “our citizenship is in heaven- Philippians 3:20 “ which includes “every nation, tribe, people and language-Revelation 7:9”. It’s time to let go of our egos and be humbled. We need to listen and educate ourselves through and by the voices of the marginalized in order to bring about the liberation and healing that sets all of God’s creation free…

Only the oppressed can receive liberating visions in wretched places. Only those thinking emerges in the context of the struggle against injustice can see God’s freedom breaking into unfree conditions and thus granting power to the powerless to fight here and now for the freedom they know to be theirs in Jesus’ cross and resurrection.― James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed

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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s understanding of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different.  Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others? God surely isn’t a hellish, sadistic torturer!

The Old Testament says nothing about Hell.

The Hebrew word Sheol in the Old Testament is wrongly translated as Hell. Sheol was used to describe a place of darkness occupied by the dead regardless of beliefs, not a torture chamber for unbelievers. Job, an extremely righteous man in God’s eyes, desired to go there to escape his tremendous suffering (10:21-22). God only warned Adam and Eve about death, not Hell, if eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Noah failed to warn evildoers about Hell before their death by Flood. The popular understanding of Hell is not in the OT. Recent translations simply translate Sheol as “Sheol.”

Jesus said nothing about Hell.

One reason many may not believe God eventually convinces all about Heaven is because Hell supposedly exist. Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna, that has been translated into the word Hell, maybe 3-4 unique occasions to disciples or religion leaders and never to a big crowd. Gehenna was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem that was filled with garbage and even dead bodies. Fires were set to get rid of the garbage and smell. We don’t normally translate names of valleys with a different name. Gehenna should be translated as Gehenna. Jesus used the word Gehenna symbolically to illustrate what kinds of lives here on earth lead to hellish living, not what happens to people in the afterlife. Hell’s non-existence allows hope for heaven for all.

The Apostle Paul, who wrote a lot of the New Testament, never once warned this dire fate! 

But, the Book of Revelation speaks of a Lake of Fire!

The Bible only suggest that believers and unbelievers will face some kind of judgment after death. Fire in the Bible is used more metaphorically than a literal fire where people are tortured forever after death. The Book of Revelation is the only place Lake of Fire is mentioned, but if dragons with seven heads are considered figuratively why wouldn’t the Lake of Fire be a metaphor? Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Hitler was condemned for torturing millions of Jews for a brief time; God is said to torture billions not briefly but forever. A moral God can’t be a hellish, sadistic, torturer!

Don’t people need the fear of God to change?

Fear only leads to trying to avoid getting caught. God’s continual encouragement and mercy, not the fear of Hell or gloomy uncertainty of God’s favor, is our necessary nourishment for lasting changes of the heart. One may argue if certain beliefs aren’t required for Heaven, people will do whatever the hell they want on earth. Fearing God in the OT was the same as respecting God’s ways to avoid personal heartbreak and the destruction of others. How real is faith if only to avoid Hell? Genuine changes result when knowing you are deeply loved by a parent or God empowering you to reflect such love to others.

Can there be justice there is no hell and all go to heaven?

Punishment doesn’t bring back a victim’s robbed memories of the future due to the murder of a loved one. Real justice is understanding your victim’s pain and accepting the harmfulness of your actions. After death God may bring to memory every action of betrayal and how it felt to their victims. The cleansing and educative effect may take longer for some than others. Humans like God may forgive their enemies if they truly regret their actions and seek forgiveness. Justice from a fair, merciful God is possible despite people being given a second chance after death.

There are many reasons to doubt Hell is real other than because not in the Bible!

  • Hell opposes our created moral sense. Most don’t want to believe or act as if Hell is real. Wouldn’t we all be yelling like lunatics to family, friends and strangers to avoid Hell? Hell only exist because interpretations of a supposed infallible Book are alleged infallible.
  • Hell encourages hidden agendas in relationships which we despise. If Hell is true, we must always have a hidden agenda to convince friends to accept our beliefs to avoid destruction.
  • Hell can lead to a violent view of God. God’s justification of violence to be appeased has led to excusing our own violent solutions in the name of justice.
  • Hell makes it seems as if we humans are better lovers than God. Most of us would not treat our enemies, much less our children, the way God supposedly treats unbelievers and their creations.

Why I Doubt God Is An Excluder Of Religions!

Why I Doubt Heaven Is Closed  To Anyone After Death!

 

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By Mike Edwards

I am convinced there are beliefs claimed about God that lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s understanding of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different.  Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others?

A Universalist believes God welcomes all to spend eternity in Heaven after death here on earth. Some may make a choice here on earth to have a relationship with their Creator and continue on after death. Some may not believe in God here on earth but misconceptions about God will be cleared up when meeting God. Some believe in Purgatory where some exist until convinced of God’s true love for them. The truth is only God knows what happens after death. Be open-minded!

Hell, as a place for unbelievers, doesn’t really exist according to the Bible.

One main reason many don’t believe in universalism is because Hell supposedly exist. A Book may be the only place one would think such a place exist. Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna that was translated into the word Hell in some of our Bibles. Gehenna was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem that was filled with garbage and even dead bodies. Fires were set to get rid of the garbage and smell. We don’t normally translate names of valleys with a different name. Gehenna should be translated as Gehenna. Jesus used the word Gehenna symbolically to illustrate what kinds of lives here on earth lead to hellish living, not what happens to people in the afterlife. Hell’s non-existence allows hope for heaven for all.

The Bible suggests that believers and unbelievers will face some kind of judgment after death. Fire in the Bible is used more metaphorically than a literal fire where people are tortured forever after death. The Book of Revelation is the only place Lake of Fire is mentioned, but if dragons with seven heads are considered figuratively why wouldn’t the Lake of Fire be a metaphor? Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Hitler was condemned for torturing millions of Jews for a brief time; God is said to torture billions not briefly but forever. A moral God can’t be a hellish, sadistic, torturer!

Eternal life in the Bible isn’t about one’s destiny after death.

Jesus didn’t think of eternal life as something after death but a quality of life that begins here on earth to avoid future regrets. Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life. Jesus simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). No one is going to Heaven if such actions are required according to God’s standards. If entering Heaven depends on certain beliefs or saying the sinner’s prayer, wouldn’t Jesus have responded differently? Jesus talked about how true living begins on earth by knowing how much your Creator loves you. Such knowledge can empower one to be the unselfish person we desire to be deep down.

Can there be justice if all go to heaven?

Punishment doesn’t bring back a victim’s robbed memories of the future due to the murder of a loved one. Real justice is being forced to understand your victim’s pain and accept the harmfulness of your actions. After death God may bring to memory every action of betrayal and how it felt to their victims. The cleansing and educative effect may take longer for some than others. Humans like God may forgive their enemies if they truly regret their actions and seek forgiveness. Justice from a fair, merciful God is possible despite people being given a second chance after death.

A loving God would never determine one’s destiny on chance encounters.

Did the thief on the cross get lucky while others were out of luck because they didn’t sin enough to get a Cross next to Jesus. Believing our destiny depends on a set of beliefs has led to some wacky baptizing practices or hoping your skeptical child hasn’t reached that age of accountability before being thrown into Hell. Do you really think God is going to judge all based on their beliefs during a short time here on earth influenced by so many random factors?

  • Why would God pretend that every reason for a person refusing God in this life is equal? Does God really forgive a serial killer who may have warning of their last breath but not others, who commit far less heinous actions in this life, but were killed suddenly in a car accident? Some rightly despise their Heavenly Parent because of the abuse suffered by their earthly parent. Some have numerous opportunities to respond to God while others have very few times. Is God’s grace dependent on circumstances or God?
  • Our beliefs are often determined by where we were born or the family we were born into. Our destiny cannot be based on certain beliefs about Jesus in the Bible when the majority of people born into this world died without any knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. Those with a Bible may have misunderstood God either because of poor role-models or what others taught about God. God is not going to let one final destiny be controlled by others. Meeting God will clear up any confusion and remove any causes that led to erroneous thinking.

A loving God can’t all of a sudden stop being forgiving at the moment of one’s last breath.  

Thinking an eternal God can stop being forgiving is doubtful, even according to the Bible. We are told to forgive our enemies as many times as necessary but God doesn’t do the same? God can’t stop being God somehow after our last breath by refusing to forgive any offense. I cannot imagine even imperfect human parents ever cutting off a child when finally accepting responsibilities for their actions. There isn’t a deadline or time limit on God’s love.

Even the Bible possibly suggests all go to Heaven eventually.  

Why wouldn’t one want to believe God is a Universalist where all are allowed to have eternal life if freedom and justice can be defended in such a scenario? Several biblical passages can be plausibly interpreted to suggest all enter heaven one day: “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22, i.e. Rom. 5:18-19, Philip: 2:10-11).  God is obviously full of second changes. Heaven may be more populated than many people imagined. I doubt any reading this or their loved ones would deny such an invitation by God. If the Bible can possible be interpreted this way why can’t the possibility be entertained.

The one main reason Universalism may not be true.

Some people, even if they were given infinite chances in eternity, may still reject God forever. Sometimes our choices made for a long period of time define who we are. Others may argue no one in their rational mind would not want to live with a God truly loving. But, how can universalism be true unless God’s love in the end is coercing or controlling?

The truth is we cannot know for sure what happens after death when we meet our Creator in person. Bible scholars have used certain verses to lean on either side of the fence about whether God gives second chances or not. I suggest therefore we take a stance based on an understanding of a loving God. All have some inclination what a good God would do when it comes to second chances after death just as we think how a loving parent should respond to a child in such circumstances.

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