Call for Biblical Transformation Obscured by Leftist Policies

on May 5, 2015

Last week, the downtown DC campus of Wesley Theological Seminary hosted Transform Network’s 2015 Nation Gathering. Transform Network is a progressive missional community formation network that also develops collective action models for justice. Many of the speakers began with excellent ideas based clearly in Scripture, but then misappropriated them in order to support the progressive policies currently in vogue.

Some of the session topics were laudable, such as examining the problems of homelessness and sex trafficking in the District and the measures being used to alleviate them, the difficulties of family detention and unaccompanied children within the immigration system, and the issues surrounding mass incarceration.

Others, however, were more obscure and questionable, privileging progressive political activism over traditional Christian teaching. One session, entitled “Enacting Intersectional Justice by Displacing Whiteness,” addressed checking privileged assumptions, creating “brave spaces where we can speak into a space with the tools we have,” “resisting imperialism,” and resisting the logic of white supremacy, capitalism, and hetero-patriarchy. This session was led by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, an “anti-oppression, anti-racist, Trans*gressive [sic.] genderqueer” and the Transform 2015 Theologian-in-Residence.

Drew Hart, an “Anablacktivist” led a session entitled “White Jesus, Good Intentions, and Our Racialized Hierarchy.” Participants were encouraged to “follow Jesus into a clash with the racialized social order.” A panel discussed how seminary graduates can check “educational privilege.” Judy Esber, a union activist with UNITE HERE!, discussed the early church’s collective organizing and it’s relation to today’s labor movements. Shane Claiborne discussed and showed slides of his Simple Way community in Philadelphia, including their protesting in front of gun stores and forging guns into garden tools.

Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners’ explained how the first chapter of Genesis’ statement, “it was very good,” is a statement of just and peaceful relationship between all created things, not merely a statement about the things themselves. An interesting insight but then she quickly attacked the idea that Genesis was historically factual or written by Moses. Instead, she asserted that it was written by priests after the Babylonian exile who crafted it to express their hopes and ideas of justice after the injustice they had experienced in Babylon. While the Babylonians believed that only the king bore the image of God, she argued, the priests wanted to democratize power by asserting that all humanity was made in God’s image. The fastest and surest way to limit people’s God-given dominion, according to Harper, is through poverty and oppression. Harper argued that inequality in education, health care, transportation, and food distribution systems were part of this oppression. She called for the Church to rise up and protest in the streets against injustice from the police, courts, and laws, from the rising housing costs and impoverished schools, from air pollution, and from fast food and liquor stores. “Is heaven good news?” Harper asked “It’s not good enough!” she replied.

Lutheran (ELCA) pastor Alexia Salvatierra spoke on faith-rooted organizing for community change, basing her arguments off Micah 6:8 and Psalm 72. Her session spent significant time on the Old Testament system of the year of jubilee, a theme of Lisa Sharon Harper’session as well. Salvatierra and Harper held this system up as a model for today. This seemed an overly simplistic equation of modern and ancient borrowing levels. Should lenders be required to forgive the debts of students who borrow $80,000 (or more) to attend college? Was ancient Israeli borrowing more likely tied to financial destitution and survival rather than fostering an unsustainable lifestyle? The Israelites did not have to forgive the debts of foreigners, only the covenanted people of God. This fact would seem to preclude any exact comparisons to the secular financial systems of today.

Too often we are content with starry-eyed big government fixes that alleviate our guilt but not the actual suffering. The Scriptural message of human equality is not one of material equality, rather – as Pastor Salvatierra noted, it is seeing every person, and their genuine needs, as infinitely precious. Such a mandate calls us to respect all life – the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, and the gravely ill included. Such a mandate also calls Christians to have eyes open to see the suffering around them and to give sacrificially to alleviate it.

Prudence and experience tells us that simply throwing money at a problem is neither a solution nor effective means to a solution; the Christian call to love tells us that such an approach does not respect human dignity. The ability to effect change made available to Christians is an opportunity to try to achieve biblical justice in the system with which we live, rather than to engage in ham-fisted attempts to warp Old Testament law to justify progressive ideology

  1. Comment by Mark Brooks on May 5, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    The blind leading the blind, and both fall into the ditch. Thanks for the details on this very weird conference of hopelessly lost people. Looks like a mission opportunity.

  2. Comment by Anita Webster on May 5, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    I find it fascinating that someone who was not there would find it appropriate and necessary to judge the conference as “weird” and the people there as “hopelessly lost”. I was in attendance alone and FYI, I left with many saints as new friends because of the kindness of strangers. “Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’ Matthew 25:40

    God’s love is something like mother-love. God loves the people he makes. That’s the way God is. In fact, God made us so that he could love us. We are called to love our neighbor like ourselves and sadly I am left wondering if you are experiencing God’s love first hand or you would not be able to make such harsh comments so flippantly. Instead of seeing people as an “opportunity”, how about seeing us as fellow suffering humans in need of your open heart?

    God Bless your journey with peace of heart and mind my brother in Christ.

  3. Comment by Mark Brooks on May 6, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Anita, do you believe that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men? Do you believe that there is no name we have been given than that of Jesus to save us from that wrath?

    These are important questions, if you claim to be my sister. Do you believe that anyone who does not believe in Jesus, and Jesus alone, to be saved from God’s wrath against sin is eternally separated from God and subject to destruction?

    Answer those questions for me, if you can.

  4. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 8, 2015 at 9:58 am

    I’m not capable of answering for Anita Webster, but I must question the supposedly exclusivity of Christians to think that the only way to “Heaven” is to believe in Jesus.
    So I guess Jews and other religious followers aren’t included in the ‘Heaven Club’ rolls?!

    Some of you Christians are so territorial about such things…Sheesh! The “I got mine” attitude isn’t very Christ-like.

  5. Comment by Mark Brooks on May 8, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Oh, so you know What Jesus Would Do?

    Here is what Jesus said:

    Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

    Here is what Peter, a sent-forth-one, a chosen messenger of Christ, said:

    This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

    If you don’t know what Jesus said, you have no possibility of knowing what Jesus what or wouldn’t do, or what is or isn’t Christ-like. Were Jesus and Peter triumphalist?

    I can’t help but notice how much time you spend trolling this website MarcoPolo. A person doesn’t spend so much time denying things that he actually believes aren’t real. However, I won’t claim to know your mind in the same way you evidently believe you know the mind of Christ. Rather, my insight is based on what God said through Paul:

    For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

    And God, MarcoPolo, knows your mind, and the mind of people like you. I think you know that Jesus was God, and that the God of the Bible is the only true God. You deny out of sin, out of pride, out of a simple desire to spite the God you deny. It like the old joke about an atheist. The atheist knows two things: (1) There is no God and (2) he hates God.

    If you are interested in knowing the answer to the question, “What Would Jesus Do” I suggest you spend time reading the Bible and praying. You can hold the “fax from Heaven” in your hands, and there are good quality editions of the Bible available for little money. You can even get it from your local library branch in many places. You won’t get the full benefit without being a believer, but that can be done as well. You just have to make the right choice. You have to give up the idea that you can be saved from wrath by the choices you’ve made in such matters. You can only be saved by the choice God has made.

    What is Christ-like is to tell the truth about Jesus, just as Jesus told the truth about Himself.

  6. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 8, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    You’re right! I never claimed to “know” what Jesus would say!

    As being Buddhist in nature and principle, I wouldn’t dare attempt to tread water in that end of the pool.
    Nirvana is the same thing, with no patriarchy relations to deal with.

  7. Comment by M Didaskalos on May 6, 2015 at 10:27 am

    “Just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.”

    Jesus’ words also include preborn babies, the most voiceless and choiceless and defenseless of “the least of these.”

    The Bible is clear about the barbarous practice of abortion. Preborn babies are known, loved, and knitted together in the womb by God (Psalm 139, among other passages), and the shedding of their innocent blood is an “abomination” to God (Proverbs 6).

    What are the “progressive” churches doing to save some of the 1.2 million babies who lose their lives to abortion in the United States every year (that’s equivalent to emptying 164 kindergarten classrooms every day) and to make churches sanctuaries of healing for women (one in three of whom will be affected by abortion) and men wounded by abortion?

    The answer: nothing. The progressive churches have capitulated to many of the Christ-rejecting world’s anti-biblical demands, the most grievous of which is the sacrifice of God’s precious preborn lambs on the altar of “choice.” The Apostle Paul testified, “And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I [then Saul] myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.” The progressive churches have become a present-day type of Saul, approving — and even abetting [ ] — the killing of the preborn innocents.

    When will the progressive churches open their hearts to “the least of these,” all of them preborn creations of God, and start obeying the Bible’s command to “rescue those who are being taken away to death”?

    “When we have left in tatters the tents God wove for Himself, how shall He dwell among us?” [ — “Attacking the Tabernacle”]

  8. Comment by MarcoPolo on May 8, 2015 at 9:53 am

    “…Men wounded by abortion…” ? Really?!

  9. Comment by Straight Shooter on May 6, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Seriously? “God’s live is something like mother-love.” Are you aware that Jesus constantly referred to God as “Father,” and never as Mother? People are free to call God whatever they like, they can call him the Giant Talking Head if they want to, but there are 2000 years of Christian history, starting with the NT, of “Father” being the chief name of God.

  10. Comment by Anita Webster on May 6, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Yes and then when God was revealed to us in human form as Jesus, He embodied many of the maternal qualities of Grace, compassion, forgiveness, beauty and hope. “As a Mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you, thus says the Lord.”

    The fourteenth century English Christian mystic and anchorite, Dame Julian of Norwich, wrote down her powerful visions of Christ which included — in impeccable, and unassailable, theological exegesis — her sense of His maternal qualities. In her Revelations, or “Showings”, she writes:

    “And so I saw that God rejoices that He is our Father, and God rejoices that He is our Mother….as truly as God is our Father, so truly is God our Mother. What do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, Love was His meaning…”

    And in Julian’s vision, Christ made a promise to humankind, when He said:

    “All shall be well,
    And all shall be well,
    And all manner of things shall be well…”

  11. Comment by ken on May 6, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Liberals often use that Julian quote as “proof” of universal salvation. If Julian believed in universalism, she was going directly counter to Christ, who most assuredly is a higher authority than Julian. If all will be saved, there is no point in being Christian or trying to live a moral life. I would not worship a vile God who would put Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa in the same location. A God who doesn’t hate sin isn’t much of a God, nor is a God who forces people into heaven against their free will.

  12. Comment by Jason P Taggart on May 5, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Oh, brother. Just that phrase “missional community formation network” tells you all you need to know, even without adding “progressive.” Leftists love things like this, all those polysyllabic words sound important and they give the impression that the religious left is doing something other than losing members.

  13. Comment by the_enemy_hates_clarity on May 5, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    I would wager 98+% of the conference attendees also favor a right to abortion. Those who would allow abortion lose the moral grounding for a call to alleviate the suffering of the living.

    In Christ,

    The enemy hates clarity

  14. Comment by John S. on May 20, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Remember, pro abortion is the official stance of the UMC. Therefore supporting abortion is upholding the Book of Discipline.

  15. Comment by Chris on May 5, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Regarding the Theologian-in-Residence mentioned in the article, a picture is worth a thousand gasps.

  16. Comment by Namyriah on May 5, 2015 at 5:11 pm

    Oh my, that is so scary.

  17. Comment by Anita Webster on May 5, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    That is quite unkind. I hope you do not call yourself a Christian. Please check your heart

  18. Comment by Namyriah on May 6, 2015 at 7:28 am

    Did you click the link and read it?
    I quote: “what I have to say is not a pile of sh*t.”

  19. Comment by Anita Webster on May 6, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Just like I tell my teenagers– when someone else is deemed classless or rude in our human eyes, you are to ask God to see with the eyes of Jesus

  20. Comment by Schrödinger's cat on May 5, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    “Enacting Intersectional Justice by Displacing Whiteness,” addressed checking privileged assumptions, creating “brave spaces where we can speak into a space with the tools we have,” “resisting imperialism,” and resisting the logic of white supremacy, capitalism, and hetero-patriarchy. This session was led by Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, an “anti-oppression, anti-racist, Trans*gressive [sic.] genderqueer” and the Transform 2015 Theologian-in-Residence.”

    An exegetical tour de force covering 1st Confusions 1-5.

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