Jesus in Alabama…

Posted by Troy Day in Facebook's Pentecostal Theology Group View the Original Post

Jesus in Alabama
Let us begin with a visit to Alabama, starting with an episode from contemporary politics that poses my question in the concrete. Imagine Jesus showing up, uninvited—remember, as often as we say “come” he is always uninvited—about two thousand years after his birth, in 2003. That was the year Bob Riley, the governor of Alabama, was born again—from my point of view—although it nearly killed his political career. Governor Riley wanted (in effect)
to make that year what the Bible calls a year of the Lord’s favor on
the poor. A long-time fiscal and social conservative, Riley abruptly
reached the conclusion that the political and social priorities of
the Alabama Republican party did not reflect the New Testament,
which shows a preferential option for the poor and a special affirmation
of children. The poorest children in his state attend
one of the nation s most poorly funded public school systems—
effectively one of the few ways out of ignorance, poverty, and
crime for most black children—while wealthier and mostly white
children go to private schools. So Riley proposed Amendment One,
an aggressive revision of a regressive tax system that would have
raised the money needed to begin repairing Alabama schools by
requiring the wealthiest Alabamans to cough up their fair share.
This turnabout was risky business for Riley, but he thought he had
the New Testament on his side, where this is known as metanoia,
being of a new heart, the madness of and for the kingdom of God
(which has a counterpart in Paris, where it goes under the name
of the madness of the gift, of the impossible). The occasion of
Riley s reversal was a book by an Alabama law professor—Susan
Pace Hamill, The Least of These: Fair Taxes and the Moral Duty of
Christians1—

Riley’s story is not a typical one—American politicians are
.largely too spineless, too worried about reelection, and too terrified
of their financial backers to do anything that bold—but it is
an instructive one. Surely, our Alabama Christian brothers and
sisters have noticed that Jesus specifically singles out children as
embodying the kingdom, and surely they admit that we are repeatedly
called to help the poor. Surely they have noticed a trend in
the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament—it really does keep
coming up!4—not to mention the prophets in the Jewish Scriptures, which was the very point that Sheldon was emphasizing by asking
“What would Jesus do?” in In His Steps:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God/’
(Luke 6:20)
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”
(Luke 6:24)
(You may remember, if I may butt in, that this is described in
deconstruction as the “strategic reversal” of poor over rich.)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to
bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to
the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed
go free, to proclaim the year of the Lords favor/’ (Luke 4:18)
The year of the Lord’s favor is the Jubilee year, the fiftieth year,
a “sabbatical of sabbaticals” (the year after seven-times-seven
years), in which all debts are released and land redistributed more
equitably. That idea, which, if he had thought of it, Derrida might
have called “the year of the gift,” is not to my knowledge found
in Adam Smith or John Locke, but it has unassailable scriptural
credentials. Even if you spend most of your time going over your
stock portfolio, it is hard to miss both the letter and the spirit
behind this sort of thing in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures.
But the Christian Coalition of Alabama thinks gifts are a private
matter and any such counsel is the duty of private charity, not the
government. They even think that in this high-tech information
age public education is a gift, not a public responsibility.5
At this
point they suddenly become eloquent in defense of keeping the
church and state separate. This fine constitutional point seems to
slip their mind on other occasions, like their resistance to removing
Chief Justice Roy Moore’s monument to the Ten Commandments
from the judicial building in Montgomery. To this we might also
add the irony of the evidence gathered by Ronald Sider in The
Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience and other works that shows
that as evangelicals have become more upwardly mobile their
charitable giving has decreased, which is not exactly the sort of
reversal recommended by the New Testament.6
Can we see the
figure of Jesus here? Is this what he meant? Or do we find him weeping,
not only over Jerusalem, over which he would be weeping today
more than ever, but over the long robes who devour the houses of
widows under the name of contemporary Christianity?

18 Comments

  • Reply May 12, 2017

    Varnel Watson

    Thought that Steve Phifer / Terry Wiles may appreciate this approach

  • Reply May 12, 2017

    Street Preacherz

    1. Tithing ten dollars a week is easier than tithing a hundred dollars a week.
    2. If folks had to go to God or church for charity there might be a little less hedonism. Than what the government provides.
    3. Self Righteous bigots is hell bound
    4. Calling out hypocrisy is good. Humble pie not so good.
    5. ….
    6. I used to live in Hunstville. Lots of red clay and sun. A few frauds but mostly God fearing folks. In the church anyhow. What I met.
    7. Charity has many forms…

  • Reply May 12, 2017

    Varnel Watson

    Steve Phifer Constitution of the Kingdom of God only if include 1) prayer 2) fasting and 3) alms

  • Reply May 12, 2017

    Varnel Watson

    Good questions Steve Phifer Now let’s see what Terry Wiles thinks

  • Reply May 12, 2017

    Steve Phifer

    Looked Terry up. Interesting ministry. Need a worship teacher who specializes in the biblical study of worship. StevePhifer.com

  • Reply May 12, 2017

    Street Preacherz

    How ’bout biblical application. You know when it’s kinda dark and you got no friends. but, One I mean.

  • Reply May 12, 2017

    Steve Phifer

    I’ve known that darkness. “The Lord puts the solitary ones into families.”

  • Reply May 12, 2017

    Street Preacherz

    Nice. The families of mercy grace comfort assurance and my favorite uncle victory over sin!

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Nathan Glenn

    Making Scripture fit our politics seems to be fashionable today. No where did Jesus command Caesar(the government) to care for the poor. Wealth redistribution aka socialism has not ever helped in American politics. The poor have gotten poorer and the rich just get richer & richer. The giant welfare state of codependent Americans who are in good mental & physical condition is at a staggering high today while the wealthy are paying a higher percentage of taxes than they ever have. Identity politics and categorizing people in their separate victim groups does not serve the democrats or the country well any longer. Another common principle of Scripture is hard work, saving and living right. Shouldn’t this very American principle be applied to American society again? Vote & believe however you wish but don’t guilt trip the rest of us for living and voting our beliefs as well. I do give to the poor, to the Church & to charities which do a much better job of managing finances than the crooked government that embezzles money out of my pay every week to support ideas & bureaucracys that I for the most part disagree with. If you think Washington will ever fix America you are terribly misguided. The ideas of John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and others have historically helped the poor much more than the failed philosophies of Carl Marx, Lenin, Stalin & the many other tyrant socialist.

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Varnel Watson

    Nathan Glenn How did you gather all that from the conservative Christian proposed Alabama amendment, which is actually a true story?

    Jesus’ cousin, John the baptist spoke directly to the issue at hand when tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” Should the BIBLE not be rule for governing of ALL spheres of our lives – politics, economix and social issues including?

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Jim Price

    I remember reading the story of Gov. Riley some years ago and he found like other southern gov.’ners who ran into the old southern attitude; that if God wanted those people to be educated and have enough to live on then He would have provided it from heaven. The only way to get the typical southern to give to the poor is to somehow tie it in with guns, four door pickup trucks and bass boats. We spin our theology in a dozen different ways to keep from following the directives of our Lord.

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Nathan Glenn

    Whose version of the Bible do you suppose we use, which translation, which denomination? I vote my conscience and my morals but I do not think that I have a corner on the market. There are good people and even Christian people on both sides of the aisle. I don’t think the government entitlement programs help the poor. They more often times prop up low living& generational cycles of poverty & dysfunction. The side claiming to care for the poor and social justice then support every antiChristian social issue out there and do everything in their power to weaken and undermine the Church. So which side is right, we all make our own decisions on that. I just don’t like hearing a guilt trip to good conservative people without showing both sides of the proverbial coin.

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Varnel Watson

    Nathan Glenn What does this have to do with this post on the Beatitudes? Why are you going all political on us today brother?

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Nathan Glenn

    I didn’t write the original post, I only responded

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Nathan Glenn

    This isn’t a political post????

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Varnel Watson

    OP came from discussion with Steve Phifer on downward listings of social classes in the Beatitudes. Keep it real! Can we see the figure of Jesus here? Is this what he meant? Or do we find him weeping, not only over Jerusalem, over which he would be weeping today more than ever, but over the long robes who devour the houses of widows under the name of contemporary Christianity?

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Nathan Glenn

    I never saw the original discussion, only this thread. Just giving both sides of the argument & keeping it real.?I think both parties have lost their way truthfully, you gentlemen have a nice day. ?

  • Reply May 13, 2017

    Varnel Watson

    Just wondering when Biblical care for the pure became socialistic, political and non-church related Jesus still cares for the poor #pureGospel

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