Same as it ever was

What’s the lens through which you view the world?

Christians claim that it’s the teachings of Jesus – that once we commit ourselves to following Christ, that becomes our worldview. But it seems like the political has overtaken the spiritual in a lot of discourse these days.

            Case in point is an interesting interview that the editor in chief of Christianity Today, the major voice of evangelical Christianity, gave to NPR recently. The editor, Russell Moore (pictured), said a bunch of church pastors have told him that when they mention Jesus’ advice in the Sermon on the Mount to “turn the other cheek,” the people in the pews complain, saying some version of “Where did you get those liberal talking points?”

“What was alarming to me,” Moore said, “is that in most of these scenarios, when the pastor would say, ‘I’m literally quoting Jesus Christ,’ the response would not be, ‘I apologize.’ The response would be ‘Yes, but that doesn’t work anymore. That’s weak.’ ”

Part of me is impressed that these churchgoers have the chutzpah to challenge their pastor on anything. But I feel for those pastors, who have the unenviable challenge of persuading their flock that, you know, they really should take Jesus’ teachings seriously. Because if they’re not going to recognize the authority of Christ, they might not give their pastor much credence either.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. If the terms “liberal” and “conservative” had been around in the ancient Near East, no doubt people would have called Jesus a liberal. Because he was that and more – in fact, he was a revolutionary. In a time and place where political and military power had the final say, he spoke hard truths about allegiance to God over the emperor of Rome. And in criticizing the entrenched temple system of Judaism, he put forth a new way of faith – an expansive, inclusive, counterintuitive idea of God’s grace as extending to all of humanity – and a new ethic that challenged his followers to live out a radical love that looks past every boundary that separates human beings from one another.

That faith and that ethic, it seems, doesn’t necessarily play well today. So there’s the question: Are we willing to live our lives as if it’s really true that love eventually wins, that living in love is an effective tool for transforming society? How far do we want to follow Jesus down that risky, progressive road?

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