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Thread: Render to Caesar and other thoughts on public policy and the Gospel

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Render to Caesar and other thoughts on public policy and the Gospel

    I wanted to put this in Public Policy, but many people here don't follow Christianity or the Gospel. For those of us that do, I found this daily meditation from Fr. Richard Rohr to be quite insightful, especially in light of some of the discussions we've had recently. Bolding is mine for emphasis.

    A Church on the Margins
    Monday,  September 28, 2020


    We’ve tended to soften Jesus’ conflict with the system, or the established powers, but Jesus’ ministry took place on the margins! In the year 313 A.D., with the Edict of Milan, the Church dramatically changed sides and Christians officially became the Church of the establishment. Before that decree, the Church was by and large of the underclass. It identified with the poor and the oppressed, and the Church itself was still being oppressed and persecuted. The early Church read and understood its history from the catacombs—literally from underground. Such a position will always give us a different perspective than that “found in palaces” (see Matthew 11:8).
    I’m sure the Emperor Constantine thought he was doing Christians a favor when he ended official persecution and made Christianity the established religion of the empire. Yet it might be the single most unfortunate thing that happened to Christianity. Once we moved from the margins of society to the center, we developed a new film over our eyes. After that, we couldn’t read anything that showed Jesus in confrontation with the establishment, because we were the establishment, and usually egregiously so. Clear teaching on issues of greed, powerlessness, nonviolence, non-control, and simplicity were moved to the sidelines, if not actually countermanded. These issues were still taken seriously by those who fled to the deserts of Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Cappadocia. Their practices grew into what we now call “religious life” as observed by monks, nuns, hermits, and anchorites who held onto the radical Gospel in so many ways.
    As long as the Church bore witness from the margins in some sense, and as long as we operated from a minority position, we had greater access to the truth, to the Gospel, to Jesus. In our time we have to find a way to disestablish ourselves, to identify with our powerlessness instead of our power, our dependence instead of our independence, our communion instead of our individualism. Unless we understand that, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) isn’t going to make any sense.
    We see in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus intended for us to take the low road. He intended us to operate from the position of “immoral” minority much more than the moral majority. When we’re protecting our self-image as moral, superior, or “saved” persons, we always lose the truth. The daring search for God—the common character of all religion—is replaced with the search for personal certitude and control.
    As soon as people are comfortably enjoying the fruits of the established system, they don’t normally want any truth beyond their comfort zone. Yet those who are not enjoying those benefits, those who have been marginalized or oppressed in any way, are always longing and thirsting for the coming of the Kingdom, for something more. The Gospel always keeps us in a state of longing and thirsting for God. Grace seems to create a void inside of us that only God can fill.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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    Thank you for posting this Catherine, I started using his website after you recommended it, I think. I thought it was you or Razz and was just thinking this morning I should thank whoever sent me there. It has been so helpful. I keep thinking every "Christian" should be reading it. we've gotten very far from where we could be and it reminds me daily that it CAN be better.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nswef View Post
    Thank you for posting this Catherine, I started using his website after you recommended it, I think. I thought it was you or Razz and was just thinking this morning I should thank whoever sent me there. It has been so helpful. I keep thinking every "Christian" should be reading it. we've gotten very far from where we could be and it reminds me daily that it CAN be better.
    Cool, nswef! Yes, I am a big fan of his. Glad you're enjoying him, too.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
    www.silententry.wordpress.com

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    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nswef View Post
    Thank you for posting this Catherine, I started using his website after you recommended it, I think. I thought it was you or Razz and was just thinking this morning I should thank whoever sent me there. It has been so helpful. I keep thinking every "Christian" should be reading it. we've gotten very far from where we could be and it reminds me daily that it CAN be better.
    What leaps out at me about your post is that maybe you could use the word Christian without the quotes.

    Seems pretty judgmental that you are figuring who is a Christian and who isn’t, which is implied by your use of quotes. But maybe that fits in with Christians being a judgmental bunch?


    I’m not Christian, but I’m pretty judgmental. So I don’t know where that fits in this discussion!

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    Thanks, Catherine, for an interesting topic. I was struck by the bolded parts, too:

    In our time we have to find a way to disestablish ourselves, to identify with our powerlessness instead of our power, our dependence instead of our independence, our communion instead of our individualism. Unless we understand that, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) isn’t going to make any sense.
    We see in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus intended for us to take the low road. He intended us to operate from the position of “immoral” minority much more than the moral majority. When we’re protecting our self-image as moral, superior, or “saved” persons, we always lose the truth. The daring search for God—the common character of all religion—is replaced with the search for personal certitude and control.
    As soon as people are comfortably enjoying the fruits of the established system, they don’t normally want any truth beyond their comfort zone.



    I actually do not agree with what he is saying here, as I think he is conflating those in contemplative life and religious life as being somehow more apart from the world than they actually were. Those places existed as a part of the broader society, often funded by the society and serving as a place that operated as a kind of cleansing border to the broader society, rather like a wetland on the shore of a pond--the wetland is still part and parcel of the rest of the land and is seen as somehow being sacrificed to cleanse and save the rest of the land. (Maybe that doesn't work as a metaphor, but that's how I see it.) I also disagree very much with this, "As soon as people are comfortably enjoying the fruits of the established system, they don't normally want any truth beyond their comfort zone." I'm basing that on my personal experiences with people who are in the religious life, either in a Catholic or Quaker tradition, and are on a lifetime road of seeking the truth--as I know many of us here who think of themselves as Christians are.

    Basically, I do not see the Christians I have known, and that does include Anglicans and evangelicals as well as the first two groups I mentioned, as doing any of the things he accuses them of here, or shutting themselves off from truth and communion with the divine.

    I just want to edit this and add that maybe everyone else sees it the way he sees it. I am basing my response on my own experiences with Christians and Christianity. So take my comments as being that, just my own two cents. Thanks.
    Last edited by Tybee; 9-28-20 at 12:22pm. Reason: wanted to point out my thoughts are definitely just my opinion

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    Quote Originally Posted by iris lilies View Post
    What leaps out at me about your post is that maybe you could use the word Christian without the quotes.

    Seems pretty judgmental that you are figuring who is a Christian and who isn’t, which is implied by your use of quotes. But maybe that fits in with Christians being a judgmental bunch?


    I’m not Christian, but I’m pretty judgmental. So I don’t know where that fits in this discussion!
    It's probably your inherited Calvinism, Iris. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

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    Back in 2007 I had the opportunity sit in on a full day of teaching from Richard.

    Background:
    My SO and I helped organize an emerging church conference in the Bahamas in 2007 for a few hundred people. Speakers included Rita Brock, Richard Rohr, NT Wright, among others. After the conference ended, there was one more day with Richard for the 20 or so speakers and organizers and volunteers, hosted in a local persons home. Richard spent the day on the Enneagram (which I had studied a decade earlier from a secular viewpoint and it was instrumental in my recovery from a rough year, emotionally speaking) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My husband also drove Richard a few times to and from meetings so we got to know him a little as a person.

    Funny thing is that we didn’t know any of these important people - hadn’t even heard of them. We were Mennonite and then charismatic and were completely unfamiliar with the more liturgical church leaders. Early in the conference we were relaxing on the beach and NT Wright joined is. As we chatted, my SO asked him “and what do you do?” NT laughed as he told us he was the archbishop (of Canterbury maybe?) and said it was refreshing to just be a regular person with this particular crowd.

    Anyway, re: Richard:

    I loved his incorporation of psychology with religion, and his appreciation for education. Our backgrounds were skeptical of seminary etc.

    I’m more humanist agnostic now, but I agree with what the original poster shared. Being raised Mennonite, we were also skeptical of power. We saw it most likely as corrupting, and we were completely against any combination of, or association between, government and religion.

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    Senior Member beckyliz's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this. I've become somewhat with Richard Rohr as I've been getting my toes wet this past year with the Enneagram. I think he's making a good point and there are some days I think we need to just burn it all down (what Christianity has become in the US in particular) and start over like it was after Jesus ascended (Acts). We all need to be met where we are and discipled to mature in the faith. Perhaps that is why we have so many different churches and congregations.

    Sidebar - I watched the first episode of Filthy Rich last week on Fox. It's about a family who have made big bucks as TV evangelicals. The patriarch presumably dies in a private plane wreck and the family finds out he's fathered 3 other now-adult children. It's pretty funny.
    "Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, your heart is also." Jesus

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    Has anyone read The Sparrow? I thought it was a good glimpse into religion and spirituality. I'm thinking of reading the sequel, Children of God, even though I'm not religious just because I want to see how the character reconciles his faith.
    my angels riley and lucy ~ 💕

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tybee View Post
    Those places existed as a part of the broader society, often funded by the society and serving as a place that operated as a kind of cleansing border to the broader society, rather like a wetland on the shore of a pond
    Exactly. That's the perfect metaphor for living on the margins.

    I also disagree very much with this, "As soon as people are comfortably enjoying the fruits of the established system, they don't normally want any truth beyond their comfort zone." I'm basing that on my personal experiences with people who are in the religious life, either in a Catholic or Quaker tradition, and are on a lifetime road of seeking the truth--as I know many of us here who think of themselves as Christians are.
    I think he is talking about any Christian who does not challenge themselves and instead finds refuge in their own comfort zones... they may be part of a system that supports their comfort zone. Many people in the religious life are "on the margins" that Rohr talks about. But what about the people who have something to lose--money or status or power--by really sticking to the Gospel? I'm no theologian but I think that's what Jesus means when he says "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God"--once you land in that comfort zone of money and power, it's harder to come to terms with life on the margins--in the places where Jesus walked.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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