Friends, this blog was intended to stay away from controversy and simply point us to purpose. This week, I found myself literally in the middle of a controversy, getting smacked from the right and the left, and for once, I’m going to get pretty opinionated.
On the right is a book I’ve been reading about “The Family,” as dubbed by journalist Jeff Sharlet. He contends that this group is a fundamentalist power center that is comfortable breaking bread with anyone, even genocidal dictators, as long as they can agree on “the person of Jesus.”
On the left is a new acquaintance who says she has a “personal relationship with Jesus” and strongly urges grieving friends to seek out a medium so they can get comfort directly from their lost loved one.
Neither of these represents a new direction for people who think they are following Jesus. But neither of them represents faith in Jesus, the son of God, member of the Holy Trinity, worshipped by Abraham and Sarah, Mary and Joseph, the apostles and many women followers of their time.
“The person of Jesus” to whom Sharlet’s subjects testify seems to have one primary interest: supporting and guiding those who hold positions of power. Any kind of power, anywhere. Authority, prayerful support for authority, and submission to authority are the key characteristics Sharlet ascribes to this movement, which he claims flows through the highest levels of our government.
My new acquaintance values the special knowledge that comes from consulting spirits in addition to God. Her personal relationship to Jesus belongs to her alone, and its character is to be determined by her alone. It offends her to suggest that the Bible describes part of the faith called Christian, or that the God who is also known to us as Jesus demands that we forsake all other gods.
As Sharlet describes “the Family” (and I’m not saying he’s right, but as he describes it) the “person of Jesus” they know is a god, but not the one they think they worship. He’s the god Avaritia, Greed, who seeks wealth, status, and power by whatever means, including violence and manipulation of authority.
My new acquaintance also knows a god. My guess is that it’s Gnosis: mystical enlightenment. I suspect that having been given a spiritual experience at one time by the God of Abraham and Sarah, she’s now seeking them from all comers – forgetting, if indeed she ever knew, that God brought Abram out of the land of many gods and told him that he and Sarai and their descendants would bless many nations as a result of choosing to be in relationship with one God only.
Now I’m not saying I’ve got the corner on the names of all the false gods on the planet. You might have different names for these particular gods, which is fine. But understand, these are not the God that Christians are called to love with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul, and all our strength. And when God says we are to have no other gods before him, he’s not talking about abstractions like “He just worships the ground she walks on!” He’s talking about real gods, real spirits. And you have to choose.
But one good thing you can get out of reading the Bible is a pretty comprehensive picture of who our God is. That makes it easier to know when you’re hearing from who-our-God-isn’t. And it also reminds you that our God is a God who gives second chances. God forgives.
So if you suffer from a yearning for that special experience of God you had once and you think that it could maybe come again through Gnosis … Tell God you just miss how things were back whenever. And then do the next good thing.
And if you experience Avaritia, greed … Don’t beat yourself up. We live in the United States. Avaritia, thy name is advertising. And television. And real estate marketing.
Still, as one of the great saints said, it’s one thing to have birds fly over your head; another to let them nest in your hair.
God made Christians for: Choosing today whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Who are you serving? And how do you know?
- Sharlet on NPR Talking About The Family [Dispatches from the Culture Wars] (scienceblogs.com)
- The Family: Secretive Christian Group of Conservative Lawmakers Building a ‘God-Led’ Government (alternet.org)