I just read a random blogger's profile. He identified himself as "Jewish, atheist." Okay, I don't mean this to offend anyone, but how can someone seriously call himself a Jewish atheist? Now, I know that 'Jewish' describes an ethnic group and not only a religion. But you have to admit that calling yourself a 'Jewish atheist' is an awful lot like calling yourself something like a Catholic witch. The two words just don't belong together. Now that I've offended several ethnic groups (as have many old country Baptist sermons I've heard in my life) I'll go on to my next idea.
Ray Nagin is at it again, but this time he's taking a page out of Pat Robertson's play book. He is aligning himself with such religious zealots as Robertson and Michael Markcavage of Repent America by saying that Katrina was God's Wrath. But he says that instead of God punishing the city for its corruption God is mad at all of America for invading Iraq. Oh, boy. He goes on to say that God is upset with black people for not taking care of themselves and that New Orleans will again be a 'chocolate' city.
"It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans- the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," the mayor said. "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."
Hmmm, how well would we tolerate the mayor of a predominantly white city saying that God wants that city to be majority white? Not too well I think. However, I don't think that Nagin's heart is completely in the wrong place. I think he ultimately would like for blacks to be more supportive of each other so that they would have strength in unity to help solve their conflicts within their communities. But I'm always trying to find the positive in things and I might just be wrong.
Sometimes when I'm flipping through the channels on TV I'll watch a little of the Christian stations if they are airing a church service. I like to hear what the sermons are about. I've noticed that most of them lately have been Old Testament based and often about God's Wrath. I'm kind of tired of that. I'd like to hear some good sermons on the New Testament, except for Revelations which gets thrown into these Old Testament sermons. What ever happened to the sermons of my Lutheran upbringing that took something that Jesus said or did and applied it to our modern life? Is that not sensational enough these days? Is that not enough to keep people's attention?
I'd like for Nagin, among others, to read this passage from the New Testament. I think it says much that needs to be heard...
1 Corinthians 2 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"—
but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
"For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
So why do I think this is relevant? Well, I think it means that people must be very careful about proclaiming that they know what God is thinking or what God's intentions are. Discernment comes from the Spirit, not "human wisdom." I think Nagin, as well as everyone else (myself included), should keep this in mind when spouting off about what we think God wants or why something happens. Before they speak and say that they know the mind of God they should be sure that what they say really does come from the Spirit and not from their own ideas, prejudices, and conclusions.
And by saying all of this I'm in no way suggesting that I understand God better than anyone else. Far from it. I'm no Bible scholar. I can't even name the books of the Bible by memory. And honestly, the way I found the scripture above was by 'randomly' selecting a Book to read on http://bible.cc/. It was the first one that I clicked. Funny how that worked out. Odd coincidence or guidance from above? I don't know. Do I really need to know? Maybe not. But I am tempted to think that perhaps this is part of my 'calling' as a lowly hoe. The hoe is used to dig and loosen the soil so that the weeds and rocks and other chaff is easier to remove.
And another thing that comes to mind is the way that all these TV evangelists present themselves. There's an awful lot of vanity there in the guise of 'glorifying God.' But who am I to question whether $1000 suits and immaculate hair and makeup and multi-million dollar settings aren't what God wants from these people? But I have to admit that it bothers me. That and the way that they all seem to sell their books, offering all their 'God-given wisdom' at a price. I know that people have to support their families and that it is the American way to make a buck, but I have serious issues with people who sell the word of God, or at least their understanding of it. I really believe that if someone has been enlightened by God with some wonderful wisdom then they should be giving it away. I don't recall reading anywhere in the Bible that Jesus charged a fee for people to hear him speak. I'd like to ask someone like Joel Olsteen if it's really biblically based for him to profit from the word of God. Sure, God promises that he'll provide, but Jesus also said, "How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!" (WEB) Mark 10:23, Luke 18:24. And another, Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." (WEB) Matthew 19:21. Even if a portion of Olsteen's profits go to charity it seems that might not be enough.
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.