Thursday, February 7, 2008


I received this wonderful email the other day and Andrew Wilson kindly gave me permission to post it. To say that I'm grateful for his kindness is an understatement, but the most important thing is his trenchant explication of the Christian life and how far most of the institutional Church falls short of our obligation to be agents of God's grace in this world. As St. Augustine wrote, one of the mandates of a Christian is to help make earth "a colony of heaven." The unfortunate fact is that most of the institutional Church has historically made this earth a veritable hell for assorted minority groups such as women, Afro-Americans and, of course, LGBT people. The following is Andrew Wilson's email:


I stumbled across your website [Radical Christianity] while looking for alternative Christian views upon the internet. I just wanted to thank you for addressing some core concerns I have with many strands of "mainstream" Christianity. Thank you for pointing out that Jesus was a man of peace, preached pacificism, and would be horrified by the war mongers that have appeared from the pulpit of Christianity and politics. I've even heard someone tell me that it is okay to go to war with Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries as well as bomb them because they have rejected the US (which some Christians view as a magical Christian/Church/body of Christ). One guy told me that the violence is okay because the Jesus told the apostles that if any town or city rejects your message, then you should
shake the dust of your feet towards them or something!

Similarly, it is clear in the gospels that Jesus clearly told people to re-distribute their wealth to the poor and the first church had a communal structure with all property held in common so that those in need were taken care of. This is again in opposition to the majority of christians, especially those who follow certain hyper conservative political policies which help the
rich, not poor.

Third, many times throughout the gospels Jesus presents "counter-cultural" and "radical" views, admonishing the bondage of empty tradition people of his time were in, which completely has parallels today. Similarly, he told people not to worry about what they wore or the future, or money. This has applications for a focus on money, careers, being well dressed, "professional," and many of things our society focuses on. Basically, I have found out time and time again that the vast majority of Christians, and other religions, not only do not follow any of these things, but also have will argue with me that this is not the message in part of Jesus' ethics or the spiritual part of religion.

It is humorous to me that many people I know who are not Christians at all but are hippies or total free-spirits often embody the ethics described far more than those who follow the man who explicated them. For example, many of my "hippie" or counter culture friends are pacifists, dedicate their education and careers to social justice, civil rights, and helping others, do not focus on "looking good" or stylish, and try to live in the present moment! It is a strange paradox and one that has serious implications because I believe it shows that the "organized" church as it stands does not always effect by itself the transformation of consciousness that is outlined in the bible, meaning that something is missing. Instead, it seems that individuals inside and outside the church realize these truths from within or from god.

Thank you,

Andrew Wilson
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John said...

"It is humorous to me that many people I know who are not Christians at all but are hippies or total free-spirits often embody the ethics described far more than those who follow the man who explicated them"

This old hippie enjoys that comment immensely.

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi John: There's nothing wrong with being a Hippie if God is at the center of one's life! What makes Andrew's email so poignant is the fact that he's right. Most of the institutional Church and its inhabitants seek to justify and serve the status quo rather than adhere to Jesus' Commandments for us to love each other, and not judge anyone. Many in the institutional Church can learn a lot from the Hippies that Andrew writes about.!

John said...

I think I understand Andrew to be saying that even those who don't have God at the center of their life are still closer to Jesus's message in deed, if not in faith.

I am not much the hippie anymore, and I admit my early flirtation with that lifestyle (spiritually) was inspired more by Transcendental Meditation than by Christianity.

But as part of that philosophy, I leaned a love of nature, respect for the earth, disdain for worldly treasure and commitment to peace.

I am not a good Christian, yet. You and Don are helping to move me back, but it is slow going.

Which really makes me wonder, what is the best path.

Will people like me, who walk the walk as best I can, if you will, but struggle with faith get there sooner than the Christian whose faith (albeit stronger than mine) leads them astray?

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi John: We all struggle with faith; none of us is in any way righteous. And that's the point of the Gospel, the Good News. God reckons us as righteous due to the finished work of His Son on the Cross, and we are not "righteous," "justified," "good Christians," or in any way deemed "holy" by any other means.

This is undoubtedly what Paul means when he writes in Galatians 2:20 that he has been "crucified with Christ"; in Colossians 3:3 we are considered dead men and women.

Jesus paid it all and God does it all! There is nothing we have left to do except follow Jesus' direction that He has appointed for our lives.

The Christian has already exhibited sufficient faith to appropriate the grace (Romans 5:1-2) that God has lavished on us, and God promises to NEVER cut us loose (John 6:37).

So, there's no such thing as a "good Christian" or a "bad Christian." One is either in Christ or is not, and that defines who belongs to God and who doesn't belong to God! God does it all, and that is what is meant by "grace" (the Greek word "charis," from which we get the word "charisma.). "Grace" means "unmerited favor."

Therefore, God has given us a free gift; as it is free, there is nothing we have to "work" for or do. Otherwise, it's not grace but works, and the gift is not free.

The gift of eternal life is freely given by God to those whom He chose from the foundation of the world (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4) to be His own possession, part of His "called out ones," His "ecclesia."

So, whether at this time they know it or not, or acknowledge it or not, some Hippies (and others) have been called out by God to be His own possession because of the same grace that God has lavished on you, Don, and me who do recognize our being "in Christ."

God is far more forgiving, ecumenical, and gracious than are mere human beings. His sovereign choice of those who will be His own possession due to the free gift of His grace, without us having to do anything to earn it or keep it, is best seen in the Scripture verse Romans 9:13 where before they were even born and had any chance to do anything at all, God says,"Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated."

Such a statement shows both God's sovereignty; God's grace; our impotence and inability in our being able to do anything to merit God's favor.

So, to make a long story short, you are as much of a Christian as anyone else who has been chosen out from the world by God to be His own possession.

Justice MH said...

@Jerry: I personally felt that what is the need of a bible???

Why not just follow Jesus' teaching and beautitudes??? I mean really, a book that took three hundred years to be formed?

Personally, man and religion have always wanted a rule book for themselves and to keep followers in check.

I agree hippes are more spiritual and Christ-like, then Christians, and I'm a Christian.

When will Christianity finally act like it's really Jesus' Christianity? I might not live to see it! Anyway, I love the post.

Jerry Maneker said...

Thanks so much, Justice MH. As I wrote on my post today (2/12), I am not optimistic that we will see the Christian life being articulated and lived out by most within the institutional Church. Rule-bound bureaucracy, with its attendant legalism, has largely come to replace "grace," and hierarchy and the quest for power and control have largely trumped the message of Jesus within most of the institutional Church that has wittingly or unwittingly aligned itself with reactionary secular forces that feel quite comfortable with excluding others.

Just like with all civil rights causes, "Jesus' Christianity" will, in my opinion, come from decent people as well as those followers of Jesus who have left the institutional Church and have either formed their own worship communities, joined worship communities and intelligent Bible studies, attend churches that embrace all of God's children, or who worship and intelligently study the Bible alone.

When bureaucracy, power, and control encourage the institutional Church to enmesh itself with the most reactionary forces within secular society; when it becomes rule-bound and tradition-bound rather than allow the Holy Spirit to direct the operations of Jesus' Church, we have no reason to be encouraged that their inhabitants will be agents of God's grace in this world.