When Christians love theology more than people

http://sojo.net/blogs/2014/01/22/when-christians-love-theology-more-people

I really wish that I could claim writing this particular blog. (I also wish I knew how to make the link clickable, sorry for you having to copy/paste in the browser) It is insanely insightful and relevant to the practice of a lot of Christians in this day and age. Oddly enough, my evangelical and conservative Wesleyan brothers and sisters would say that this is a very liberal approach etc. I would say that it is actually the very nature of who we are called to be, and the very tradition that we sprang from. This is how I try to deal with people in general, and I think the point the above piece is trying to make. If someone doesn’t know Jesus, that is all I am going to try to show them. After all, theology didn’t die on the cross, Christ did.

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12 Replies to “When Christians love theology more than people”

  1. Allegiance of dogma is an all too common expression of hubris. The spirit of this sentiment is evidenced in Luke 18:10-13.

  2. Curt Day, good stuff man. It makes me feel a little better that it is not just me who feels this way. I am beginning to think I am one of like 3 conservatives who feel this way though. Absolutely amazes me how a group of Christians founded on personal and social holiness can be so harsh toward each other and people.

  3. On one level there Mattson’s point is indisputable. All the best theology without love is a clanging gong. I would never argue that intellectual assent trumps actual action. However, on a different level, at least one portion of this post reveals some logical inconsistency. If one’s theology “should inspire us to emulate Christ — to selflessly, sacrificially, and holistically love others…” one would at least have to believe those things are true. Not every Christian I know believes they are called to emulate Christ. Some explicitly reject that notion. Others quibble over whether or not “emulating Christ” entails emulating Christ’s nonviolence. All I’m saying is that how one conceptualizes the love of Jesus, and our responsibility to follow Jesus’s example, has radical implications for how one actually lives. If every Christian agreed with Mattson’s conclusions 1) That we’re called to emulate Jesus; 2) Jesus loved selflessly, sacrificially, and holistically—then the witness of the church would look a lot different.

  4. I am not certain how Christianity without the emulation of Jesus would actually work theologically, so it is difficult for me to grasp in truth. I would make the broad statement that either putting any theology as more important than how people are treated, or putting how people are treated ahead of any theology is a dangerous extreme. As for any Christian theology, it should be pushing us toward treating people well and not be causing us to alienate anyone in our everyday dealings.

    1. “I am not certain how Christianity without the emulation of Jesus would actually work theologically, so it is difficult for me to grasp in truth.”

      I have heard Christians bypass their responsibility to emulate Jesus by appealing to his divine nature. It sounds like this: “I can’t be like Jesus, Jesus was God.” This almost exclusively comes up when that person is asked to give of themselves sacrificially (you know, like Jesus did), and the person is unwilling. So, then “emulation” becomes a superfluous part of “Christianity.”

      1. OK I have heard some similar things, but not really widespread. Then again I have only recently been going to an established church as opposed to helping with church plants and street level ministries. Maybe this attitude and thought is most present in established churches?

  5. “As for any Christian theology, it should be pushing us toward treating people well and not be causing us to alienate anyone in our everyday dealings.”
    I couldn’t agree with this more! Jesus told us to love even our enemies and to treat them in such a manner as to satisfies their physical needs; perhaps because Jesus did not want us to hurt any of God’s elect and God has not endowed anyone with an “electometer”. Treat all well, period! That’s the call of the Christian!
    However I do not think such command includes sacrificing theology if I understand the definition of theology correctly (and I don’t think the original post implies that we should sacrifice theology for a shallow definition of love). There is a point when we will bid a “loving” farewell to those who will be forever lost; that doesn’t mean that God needs our help pushing them deeper into their pitfalls. Treat all well, period! That’s the call of the Christian! (repetition intended).
    I would say that loving theology demands loving people of all sorts! As properly mentioned “theology without love is just a sounding gong”. It doesn’t mean tolerance for what we see in theology to be sinful and off God’s plan.

    I am, nonetheless, really concerned when some consider the preservation of traditionally accepted biblical concepts to be equal to being a Pharisee as the one in Luke 18; perhaps these current Pharisees should be included in the love we proclaim to have as Christians; this text is not against theology or theological knowledge for the Pharisee apparent had very little of it; but the text teaches us that it is sinful for one to deem himself religiously superior for holding on to these traditional biblical concepts for it bluntly disregards the Grace of God as the only distinction between a wretched unsaved sinner (based upon these concepts) from a wretched saved one.

  6. Milton Almeida, you summed this up beautifully. I am not sure when it was that many (maybe most, or at least the loudest) of my conservative brothers forgot that love and compassion are a part of the tradition and history of the church going back to Christ Himself. Even Irenaeus, who dedicated most of his christian life to stamping out heresies, recognized that love of God first and of man second were the culmination of the commandments. No, he never said that one should endorse any sin, but that love should be shown despite sin, not because of a perfect life. He went so far as seeming to say that salvation hinged on the ability to do this.

    “As in the law, therefore, and in the Gospel [likewise], the first and greatest commandment is, to love the Lord God with the whole heart, and then there follows a commandment like to it, to love one’s neighbour as one’s self; the author of the law and the Gospel is shown to be one and the same. For the precepts of an absolutely perfect life, since they are the same in each Testament, have pointed out [to us] the same God, who certainly has promulgated particular laws adapted for each; but the more prominent and the greatest [commandments], without which salvation cannot [be attained], He has exhorted [us to observe] the same in both. (Against Heresies, IV.12.2-3)

  7. To slightly alter the topic, by looking beyond the church walls, there is a practical purpose for giving theology a decided preference over people. As I pointed out in an early post on the subject of fundamentalism, one of the reasons – if not the primary purpose – of fundamentalism was, indeed is, to control the workforce.

    Anyone familiar with the inner workings of a company town in a late 19th or early 20th century coal mining region or old textile belt knows what I’m talking about. For the uninitiated, the scheme was thus:

    The mill or mine owner(s) built the church, school, and even the town of necessary.
    He or they packed the relevant governing boards (board of deacons, school board, town council, etc.) with cronies.
    The relevant boards then hired the preacher and schoolmarm to groom the minions.

    The whole purpose of this arrangement was absolute control of the hearts, minds, and very souls of the workforce. Not surprisingly, the hand of God was quite consistent with the will of the principal employer(s).

    Within the relatively isolated confined of the company town, preachers and teachers extolled the virtues of obedience. To question authority was either sin or amounted to a criminal act. Punishments were swift, sure, and severe. God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. And, damnit, it had better stay that way!!!

    Now, fast forward to the early 21st century. Imagine the WHOLE COUNTRY running on the above scheme! That’s the future of the United States. Today, corporate money dominates the political process – essentially the governing boards. Elections often go the highest bidder. Housing, essentially the equivalent of company town coal holler or mill hill, is controlled by banks.

    All that’s left is to reinvent public education into a for-profit brainwashing enterprise. For more on that story, follow the link below.

    http://www.politico.com/story/2014/03/education-creationism-104934.html

    If this above linked scheme is carried into fruition, the late 21st century United States will most likely resemble Iran – only without benefit of oil reserves. It will have all the trappings of a banana republic without any bananas to export.

    As with the case with late 20th century China, India, and Mexico, America’s principal commodity will be cheap labor. Much of that will be child labor. That, too, was the story of coal mines and textile mills. (Research photos by Lewis Hine for a back to the future look at child labor.)

    Poverty will be a crime from which profits can also be extracted. There are actually hints of this in the current bail bondsman system and for-profit prison schemes.

    Oh, and by the way, as Archie Bunker might phrase it: Won’t need no welfare state ’cause everybody’ll pull his weight.. The primary reason being because people will simply work ’til they drop. Consequently, there won’t be any need for Social Security either! In the end, the American dream will be reduced the the status of The Brementown Musicians.

    In God we trusted; now we’re busted!!!

  8. The end of the second paragraph in the post should read:

    ……the scheme was thus:

    [asterisk] The mill or mine owner(s) built the church, school, and even the town of necessary.

    [asterisk] He or they packed the relevant governing boards (board of deacons, school board, town council, etc.) with cronies.

    [asterisk] The relevant boards then hired the preacher and schoolmarm to groom the minions.

  9. Some of that is taking place even in bible translations and such. (This is nothing new really). The denomination sponsoring the translation includes subtle emphasis on the points that they wish to emphasize as a whole to continue institutional control on the theology of it’s adherents. As an example, if you look to the KJV you see a decidedly Anglican bias in thoughts and if you look to the HCSB you will see a decided conservative protestant bias. I’m not suggesting any translation over another, but the bias is evident in comparisons. I assume other denominational translations have the same biases. I assume that this is most true in denominations who are more politically active. I do not think that is coincidence myself.

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