Friday, November 07, 2008

What would Jesus Do ... you might be surprised ...

Yesterday, yet another anonymous reader left the following comment on one of my postings:

"It makes sense to me that people comment anonymously to your blog because you get so angry and nasty about most comments that raise any question about your vision of the world."
As I read these words I thought about a couple of things. The first is that frequently, what I have said is regarded by others as angry, and as the writer has said - "nasty" because their point of view and mine are different. I grew up in a world milieu where critical thinking was not only accepted it was encouraged. From my home, to my home congregation, through all levels of schooling I was surrounded by people who were not only willing to offer critical reflection on events and happenings around them, they actively engaged in the process.
So, yes dear reader, my words may be regarded by the insensitive and the thin-skinned as angry and nasty when they raise questions about my "vision of the world" particularly when they are questions based on what could be easily dismissed as ignorance.
Having said that though, I think the anonymous commenter, and many who regard my reflections and musings as "angry and nasty" are missing a wide swath of Church tradition that is largely overlooked in the modern era.
I would invite the anonymous posters (ALL OF THEM), and any one else to spend some time today with the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are, just to be clear - the first FOUR books of the New Testament. That's the piece at the BACK of the Bible ... You know, that's the big black leather bound book on the shelf that YOU likely NEVER READ!!
Open the Bible today and READ - really read - the Gospel accounts of Jesus life and take note of HOW he deals with those who do not share, or who actively work against, or who our right OPPOSE his vision of the world ...
There is NO "gentle Jesus meek and mild" in the Gospels.
The Jesus you find there curses a fig tree for not having fruit - the fact it was the WRONG season is somewhat overlooked ...
The Jesus of the Gospels calls those who oppose him a nest of vipers ...
The Jesus of the Gospels calls down one of his closest friends, calling him "h'satan" for failing to grasp the message he is offering ...
The Jesus of the Gospels calls the religious authorities of his day "white washed tombs that look clean on the outside but are filled with rotting stinking flesh ..."
The Jesus of the Gospels rebuffs those who will not engage in active self-sacrifice to follow him ...
The Jesus of the Gospel welcomes the children, placing them on his knees while offering a resounding verbal back hander to those who would question him ...
The Jesus of the Gospels is the guy who was almost thrown over the cliff in his HOMETOWN for offering a sharp tongued commentary on the text of Isaiah one sabbath morning in temple ...
The Jesus of the Gospels is the one who kicked over the tables in the Temple and proclaimed that the TEMPLE was not to be a market place filled with deception and deceit ...
The Jesus of the Gospels is the guy who was anything BUT meek and mild ...
Yet for some inexplicable reason, the radical transformative movement that he founded with a cluster of a dozen of so men and women who stood firmly on the out side margins of society has been transmuted into an flaccid, insipid social club that is more concerned with niceties and comfort than it is with dealing with the very concepts Jesus spoke about AND DIED FOR!!
Let's NEVER lose sight of why Jesus died.
He was a rabble rouser and a rebel.
He was not killed because it was simply the "will of God that he died for our sins." He was KILLED by one of the most horrid means imaginable BECAUSE he pissed off the authorities of his day and the ONLY way they could deal with him was by beating him, mocking him, then hanging him on the cross as a warning to anyone else who might try to emulate him.
He died a criminal - and his crime was insubordination against the RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES of his day.
The greatest sin of the modern Church is to have BECOME the very religious authorities that our founder once railed against !!!
So, my dear reader, if my words are regarded as angry and nasty - GOOD !!!!
Ask yourself - WHY ??? Why do these words strike you as angry and nasty??
Ask yourself if you were in ancient Jerusalem when this wandering ascetic rabbi named Yeshua and his followers from Galilee were about - where would you stand???
Would you stand with the outspoken, caustic Jesus? Or would you cast you lot in with the safety of the Sadducees, Pharisees and the others who were trying to maintain the status quo ???
Let's be realistic ... no where in the Gospel material do you find Jesus responding to his opponents - those who do not share his "vision of the world" in a soft way that offers a warm pink fuzzy hug and a gentle - "there, there" pat on the head ... His words were sharp and harsh and the comfortable people of his day used anonymity to destroy him.
Seeing a parallel here???
I'm not comparing myself to Jesus. I have no visions of grandeur that I am a modern Jesus. But I do see my ministry firmly in the tradition of the prophets who dared to share the Kingdom of God despite the opposition of the powers that be ... it's a LONG and honourable tradition ... one I'm proud to be CALLED by God to share in ...
Remember that the final condemnation of Jesus did NOT come from his opponents standing in the full glare of scrutiny, but rather it was the MOB - the collective anonymity of a large group manipulated by a few key individuals - who chanted - "CRUCIFY HIM!! CRUCIFY HIM!!"
Just because the MAJORITY said - "CRUCIFY HIM!!!" with passion, doesn't make the outcome justice nor right ... Mob rules leads only to anarchy and chaos ...
Over the last three years the supposed "majority" within the United Church have had their opportunity to chant their cry "CRUCIFY HIM!! CRUCIFY HIM!!" ... and it doesn't make THEM right.
The time for the Church to operate with warm pink fuzzy hugs has passed ... the people I talk to day in and day out are tired of empty hallow platitudes that are meaningless ... they are tired of Church leadership who are pale reflections of REAL people ... they are tired of the Institution of the Church ... They want something MORE ... They want TRUTH ... they want consistency between the words proclaimed from the pulpit and the actions engaged not only on the Street, but behind closed doors ...
To be blunt and harsh - over and over, I have heard people not only in Minnedosa, but across Western Manitoba and indeed across the world saying clearly - "we want something MORE than the modern Church is offering ..." and regrettably, NO ONE in the Modern Church cares enough to listen ... instead we keep shuffling the deck chairs and kicking the ice aside while we watch the beautiful iceberg recede into the distance and think about what it will be like when the Titanic we're sitting on makes it to port ...
We're closing our eyes to REALITY.
So, yes, dear anonymous reader - MY WORDS can be regarded as angry and nasty when someone doesn't share my vision of the world ... but that interpretation is in the eye of the proverbial beholder ... Jesus and many who have followed in the prophetic tradition were just as "angry and nasty" - reread the writings of Gandhi, King, Mandela, Tutu ... go back and read (REALLY READ) the Old Testament Prophets (is 'fatted cows' a pleasant term to you???) AND THEN ask yourself - WHY ???? WHY are these words harsh to me ???
The answer will likely surprise you ...
I'm not saying I'm perfect, or that I'm always right - far from it ... but I am willing to raise the questions no one else dares to ask - and in the Modern Church, the true MAJORITY (those who have abandoned the ship to make it to the Carpathia) want those questions asked and they want the warm pink fuzzy BULLSHIT abandoned ...
The United Church and it's leadership ignores this reality at its peril ... and the outcome of this ignorance is what is being felt in the pews across Canada today ...
and I for one refuse to tolerate it ...
We're called to a better way ... and to some who are closed to the transformative vision of this way it is a harsh, angry and nasty place ...


Anonymous said...

"I would invite the anonymous posters (ALL OF THEM), and any one else to spend some time today with the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are, just to be clear - the first FOUR books of the New Testament. That's the piece at the BACK of the Bible ... You know, that's the big black leather bound book on the shelf that YOU likely NEVER READ!!"

I suspect that the above paragraph is an example of lack of respect you have for your readers and commentators about which the anonymous commentator was speaking. Critical thought and speech should not depend on demeaning your readers or commentators or include the condescension that is reflected in this post.

Anonymous said...


You seem like a fairly intelligent person. The sarcasm of this post on your blog seems to me to be below you.

shawn said...

Reinhold Neibuhr once said:
"Humor is a prelude to faith and Laughter is the beginning of prayer."

My quip about the big black leather bound book that is never read was a sarcastic comment meant to be funny ... hmmm ... guess it wasn't taken that way - NOT that that should ever surprise me. I have found the Modern Church to be devoid of humour and a sense of irony - two things I revel in ...

SO - am I to understand that we are not to be sarcastic, attempt to be funny, critical or anything that may ruffle feathers??? Particularly if we are in a place of leadership??

Perhaps THAT is exactly what is wrong with our world - we've lost our ability to be HUMAN ... we want things to remain forever the same and NEVER have our feather ruffled ... we want to deny change and maintain the status quo ...

Oh, and Neibuhr also wrote:
"The prophet himself stands under the judgment which he preaches. If he does not know that, he is a false prophet."

I remember well what my grandfather once said ...

MY OWN WOMAN... said...

Ok..let's get things straight...

1. My leather bound Bible is Burgandy not black. I do have a black one as well, but the one that is worn and marked is Burgandy.

2. I'm not sure that Shawn meant this post for all his readers, just the ones that perhaps don't have the testicular fortitude to disagree with him openly; but they choose to disagree with him behind the cloak of invisibility.

3. Let's admit it. Jesus wasn't well liked. He wasn't well liked because his words convicted those that only knew the letter of the law not the spirt of the law.

Having said all of that, which may or may not be garbage to most or all of you, there is one fact that remains. Take comfort in this... If Shawn is wrong, God will judge him. If Shawn is right, God will judge him. So, let God do his job and judge and let us do the job God asked us to do...which is love one another as He has loved us.

Anonymous said...

Why can't they see? What is going on here is exactly what you speak of, what you encourage, and what needs to happen.. People balk at the thought of rocking of the boat, calling to task, challenging one another to think and speak freely... and yet, they are doing it. The anonymous posters who so oppose the ideals, are, unknowingly taking part.. it's fabulous!

What you do, what you say, what you challenge your readers to do and say and think about just makes sense! But sense and sensibility are too often confused. Someone like you makes someone like me think about and face the questions and thoughts I have.. and that's what I want from someone in a ministry position... I don't want to sit in the middle of a congregation, like a statue among a hundred other statues, hearing the same old tunes, the same scripture, the same do's and don'ts. I want to leave a service feeling "wow..that was different, that was good" and I want to go home thinking about what I heard, how I'm going to process it, and what I can do differently...

I don't want a dress code, I don't want to have to be a member, I don't want to have to conform to the ideals of everyone else in worship around me. I want to be able to show up as me, with all my uncertainties, my doubts, my questions, my fears, my weaknesses. And i don't neccessarily want answers, but I want someone who will listen, who will challenge me to voice my opinions and not feel judged because they don't like what I say or I don't feel the same way they do.

The best experience I had was long ago in a Unitarian church.. Where the service was not about hymns and the stated word of God; but it was about people, all kinds of people and the differences between us and at the same time, the bonds that unite us. The service was about discussion, and questions, and was filled laughter and honesty. The poorest of the poor were there, the richest of the rich were there.. and yet on that day....we were all a family, united by the same burdens and joys.

We need more churches like that, and more preachers like YOU.


yourownpersonal said...

American Heritage Dictionary
sar·casm (sär'kāz'əm) Pronunciation Key
A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.
A form of wit that is marked by the use of sarcastic language and is intended to make its victim the butt of contempt or ridicule.
The use of sarcasm. See Synonyms at wit1.

[Late Latin sarcasmus, from Greek sarkasmos, from sarkazein, to bite the lips in rage, from sarx, sark-, flesh.]

I see that nothing has changed over your whole ordeal shawn. People poke the bear, and instead of letting it go, or reconsidering your words, you fight back. I'm sure Jesus also said something about a cheek, and turning it, but damned if I know where it is..maybe in that big black book I don't open.

And shawn, I don't agree with you that our leaders need to be sarcastic. Read that definition again. "Often intended to wound." "Making the victim the butt of ridicule." Seriously, this is what we want in a leader, let alone a church leader? Grow up. Those that hide their true feelings behind humour and sarcasm are afraid of who they'll be when they let their defenses down.

And I get the irony with my anonymous comments hiding behind a nice safe barrier, but they've already damned me to the sixth circle of hell and all, so I'm unconcerned.

Criticism and ruffling feathers is important. To hold up the mirror to society. But that's all it takes. Holding the mirror is enough without adding our own comments.

While we need more churches and preachers unafraid to tackle the difficult questions, we don't need more bullies. The church has enough of them.

yourownpersonal said...

I get it! I finally get it! shawn your capital words are to make a poem, aren't they? Here's the poem I made.

WHY ???



now THAT's sarcasm!

Anonymous said...

Holy sh*t (you buy the vowel)! A wee bit of a temper tantrum? Have you ever met Shawn? I'm guessing no, and neither have I actually.. But he seems to be someone I'd like to meet.. Someone who tells it like it is, and isn't afraid to do just that or accept the responses he gets.

Why can't he add his own comments, what the hell do you think a blog is for? And obviously by your words, you keep coming back and reading his... So there may be an answer to your frustration--don't drop by..

ps..Shawn... sorry for using your blog to vent.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and f.y.i. Merriam Webster seems to agree with Shawn's take on it:

a: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect
synonym: Wit


a: astuteness of perception or judgment : acumen

b: the ability to relate seemingly disparate things so as to illuminate or AMUSE

c (1): a talent for banter or persiflage (2): a WITTY utterance or exchange

d: clever or apt HUMOR

4 a: a person of superior intellect : thinker
b: an imaginatively perceptive and articulate individual especially skilled in banter or persiflage


shawn said...

Thanks Kara ... vent away ... I don't mind !!


yourownpersonal said...

1: a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain
2 a: a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual b: the use or language of sarcasm

funny, looks like we've got different Miriam Websters as you immediately went to wit..and it seems like there's a proper definition of sarcasm on their site dealing with the prime focus of tearing down another to cut, give pain, or be bitter or caustic and is directed AT an another.

This IS a temper tantrum, because I have met him beyond the cyberverse, and someone so smart shouldn't be acting so dumb.

And if shawn doesn't like the comments he can just make the board so you can't post! Otherwise, let the sh*t flinging fly. One more thing to drive the hits up!

Anonymous said...

Wow...the difference between the people posting is the direction of their comments. While Shawn may be being critical of "those in the church" or groups of people he sees doing wrong, or his opinion of current practices, the negative comments back are directed solely at him and his character, with little actual commentary on the topic itself. I agree with Kara... Shawn's views are refreshing and they are his own, and you have the freedom to read it or not. I do not believe that personal attacks are overly useful for a constructive conversation...


Anonymous said...

You make a good point "my own.." my point of the dictionary was to do exactly what you've done..point out what you feel the interpretation of sarcasm was.. And while is it primarily defined in a negative way... that is not its' sole definition--and that's the point I was making. It was also the point that Shawn tried to convey..

But the bottom line is in how we perceive someone's words, how we choose to take them or let them affect us. You appear to be taking them personally, that's your perrogative; I choose not to.

"l" said it best, personal attacks aren't overly useful in a constructive conversation". I apologize if anything I might have posted was inappropriate, in a personal way... But I do find this blog refreshing, enlightening, entertaining, thought-provoking, intelligent and often a breath of fresh air in a sometimes stale day.

thank you Shawn for sharing, I'll enjoy coming back.


shawn said...

Thank you Kara for your kind words ...

I find that instead of engaging the issue, the conversation too often degrades into a personal attack. I cited the Big Black Leather bound book that no one reads as a typical phenomena within the Church - I used sarcasm in my statement to stress a point - a point I remember Amy Grant making 25 years ago in a song in a similar way - too often when we encounter something that cuts a little too close to the bone, instead of owning the self-criticism that is generated by OUR response, we go on the attack.

Over the last three years I've experienced attack after attack after attack that were highly personal ... calling into question my character, my intelligence, my judgement, my parenting, my morality ... YOU NAME IT - it was fair game - and 99% of the attacks were done secretively and covertly by toxic anonymous folks who were to cowardly to own the falsehoods they were perpetuating ... and that extended into the leadership of the Church on many levels ...

The bottom line for me is simply this: Oppose and question my ideas ... criticize my thoughts and opinions ... but if you're going to attack me as a person - sign your damned name, otherwise shut the hell up !!!

I will post anonymous comments that are worth posting - the rest get deleted. But having said that, I will add that this exchange has been a pleasure to experience - it's getting a conversation flowing, and conversation and respectful debate is NEVER a bad thing ... this beats the vitriolic nonsense I've had to endure around here in the past - atleast this is written clearly, concisely and thoughtfully ... Please feel free to carry on.

Peace my friends, I value your input and opinions more than you know.