“The Truth I have now come to realize is that God has no favorites, but that anybody of any nationality who has respect for God and is committed to justice is acceptable to God.” -Acts 10:34,35
One cannot begin to understand ‘Jerusalem NOW’ without re-thinking ‘Jerusalem THEN’ and recalling last week’s observation of John Dominic Crossan that “Christianity began as a sect within Judaism” before becoming “a distinct religion,” with contentious debates erupting, something clearly exemplified in ‘The Gospel of John.’ But isolated from any historical context, its narratives lead to notions that it was ‘the Jews’ who were the ‘Christ killers,’ an assumption leading to a scapegoating of Jews throughout the history of a Christendom beginning in the 4th Century under Constantine.
So what’s the historical context for a better understanding of The Gospel of John? Whether it’s ‘history remembered’ or ‘memories historicized,’ the legendary stories of the Jewish people are rooted in two basic narratives: Exodus and Exile. The first is still remembered in Passover Seders. [cf Exodus 1-14] The second remembers a Babylonian exile described in 2 Kings 23 & 24; but it’s the story of a return from exile [cf Ezra & Nehemiah] and the restoration of a temple in Jerusalem marked by a spirituality of patriotic religious devotion [of Zionist proportions] that is the primary context for understanding the debates in The Gospel of John. Replace ‘the Jews’ with ‘the Zionists’ in its narratives and you’ll discover more authentic historical (and spiritual) dimensions.
At a recent National Prayer Breakfast run by a ‘Christian’ organization called The Fellowship President Barack Obama spoke about a time of global anxiety over Islamist terrorism and noted, quite pointedly, that Christians, who make up a vast majority of Americans, should not be the ones casting the first stone, and went on to say:
“Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history… and lest we get on our high horse and think (acts of terrorism are) unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”
There were of course reactions, one coming from former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore saying, “He has offended every believing Christian in the United States.” One has to ponder: Just what does it mean to be a believing Christian?
On March 9, 1965, Pastor Don Prange nervously approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama.
Although he was in the middle of a throng of about 2,500 marchers on their way from Selma to Montgomery, he couldn’t help but feel the angry stares of the sheriff deputies and bystanders along the way, many armed with batons and whips.
Just two days before, police had attacked 600 marchers who had tried to cross the same bridge. Dozens of marchers on that “Bloody Sunday” were beaten so severely they had to be hospitalized.
I must confess that I am committed to a liturgical tradition of reading regularly designated portions of the scriptures from Sunday to Sunday. It’s a reminder that, as so-called Christians, we are, after all, a Jewish sect. So reading the scriptures in a methodical way is like unrolling the scrolls, and we’re always reminded of the unrolling of the scroll in Nazareth when Jesus was invited to be the reader. And this is what he read..
By John P. Flannery The Rev. Don Prange, Pastor of Lovettsville’s St. James United Church of Christ, appeared outside the Loudoun County Circuit Courthouse to witness love, the love of same sex couples, committed to a union that the court…
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