Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ezekiel, Bodily Posture, God’s strange mercy, and cooking with manure…

“Very well” God said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement.” Ezekiel 4:15

Few have a life like Ezekiel, or are called by God to do the strange things God asked him to do.  In Chapter 4 of Ezekiel, God wants Ezekiel to get the point of the seige God is going to let happen to Jerusalem by acting out physically to represent the sin of Israel and Judah.  He is to lay on his side for 390 days “the same number of days as the years of their sin” to represent Israel’s waywardness, and then turn over and lay on his other side for 40 days (Judah hadn’t been in existence long enough to sin as many years).  While he is on his side, he was allowed to eat 8 oz of multigrain bread and 2/3 quart of water.  That is quite a fast, and it wouldn’t allow him to do much else.  This shows us the very important gravity of sin in God’s eyes.  We often don’t take our sin very seriously. 

But these reqired practices also remind us of how God often asks us to use our bodily posture to allign with our hearts.  Sometimes getting into a particular posture can make us feel a certain way.  Crouching in a football stance can make one feel ready to pounce at someone, curling up in a fetal position can make one feel helpless, bowing down on the ground with your face to the ground makes you feel submissive– this is why so many people around the world (especially muslims) pray with this posture. 

We can see this importance of physical in other ways as well– it is important, according to the Bible, to get together with other believers on a regular basis.  That person-to-person contact, and the frustrations and joys it brings, are important to us spiritually.  Singing out loud with our voices can help our heart and head allign in the right way.  Praying together in unison prayers of liturgy allows us to physically display the unity that we know we should be feeling with the Body of Christ (the Church).  Fasting (like Ezekiel) makes our sin real, and makes us discipline our body to be subservient to our wills and spirit. 

So God asks Ezekiel to lay on his side and eat next to nothing for 430 days.  Most of us could already think of reasons to object…but not Ezekiel.  What really gets Ezekiel is how he is to cook his bread in the sight of all the people of Israel: “Eat the food as you would a barley cake’ bake it in the sight of the people using human excrement for fuel.”  The Lord said, “In this way the people of Israel will eat defiled food among the nations where I will drive them.”  But this is just too much for Ezekiel– “Not so, Sovereign Lord!  I have never defiled myself.”  Ezekiel can deal with the laying on his side and eating little barley cakes and little water for over a year.  But please– no cooking with Human excrement!

So, God, mercifully– relents.  He compromises with Ezekiel.  That alone is an interesting fact.  We think that to be Godly is not to compromise, not to relent, not to alter what once we have committed to.  But God here, as he does in other situations (Abraham, Lot, Moses,  David, etc) is willing to give Ezekiel a break and cut a deal– (would that our politicians could discover the godly practice of compromise).  “Very well,”God said, “I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement.”  Sometimes, as the famous popular Poet and Songwriter Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones said, “you can’t always get what you want– but you get what you need.”  Evidently, Ezekiel is happier with this compromise to cook with cowpies instead of the human-kind. 

Stories like these are why I love the Old Testament so much.  If you don’t spend time reading in the first 2/3 of the Bible, I would strongly encourage you to give it a shot.  Its very interesting, and there is a lot to learn here. 

May God have mercy on us all…

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Occupy Evangelicalism: Why Evangelicals Aren’t Occupying Wall Street

 

In an article in the Kansas City Star on Monday it was pointed out that the Occupy Wall Street protest has thus far been mostly secular.  The article reports that while there have been some scattered religiously-inspired protest events, such as the moment “an ecumenical group marched with a golden calf to the camp at Zuccotti Park, turning the Wall Street bull into a biblical symbol of greed and idolatry,” Mark Tooley, of the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy summed it up when he says, “I don’t see Occupation having a lot of appeal for the average suburban, evangelical churchgoer.”

One possible reason is that the movement is widely seen as a movement critical of corporations and capitalism, and so, alligned with a socialist agenda.  Evangelicals are more often than not alligned with the Republican Party, which is traditionally seen as having pro-business pro-capitalism values, and so this movement can be construed as a non-Republican sort of movement, and so by that reason, non-evangelical.  What is interesting to challenge that sense that this is a democratic-leaning movement is some of the recent suggestions that the Occupy Wall Street movement join forces with the Tea Party movement.  Both movements seem to be a bit amorphus and organic, without absolutely clear agendas, but with enough general goals in common that they might find solidarity together. 

There is also the fact that the movement is generally seen as a criticism of the establishment, and since the church is part of the establishment (it is a longstanding institution) perhaps the anti-establishment feel of the movement makes it feel anti-church and so, anti-Christian.   But it seems to me that Christians are currently as frustrated with many aspects of the current establishment (government, corporate misdeeds, etc) and that it isn’t really true that Christians are, on the whole, completely happy with the status quo of the establishment as it stands.

Another suggestion from the Kansas City article was that “It may also be a reflection of wariness on the part of churches to ally themselves with a movement that is not clearly defined and is more than a little scruffy around the edges.”  Certainly prudence would warn one against identifying with a movement which is without clear leadership, purpose and vision, but again, this has not kept many evangelicals from identifying with the tea party movement, and in fact there seem to be some pretty clear agenda items being promoted by the Occupy Wall Street movement as of late.

Again, it may just be the simple fact that people like Michael Moore have identified with the OWS protest that many evangelicals who don’t agree with Moores political views don’t want to allign with a movement he identifies with, even if they are sympathetic to some of the desires and aims of the movement.

In a book which came out about 10 years ago, Christian Smith made some claims about evangelicals which, if true, could help explain why evangelicals might not tend to support the OWS protests.  He said that in their desire to evangelize, evangelicals tend to not be as concerned with society-transformnative agendas, as that political involvement may undermine evangelism efforts.  Their focus is on converting souls, not transforming culture, more often than not.  But second, many evangelicals are insulated enough that they don’t see needs to make them feel society needs a major adjustment:

“This avoidance of boat-rocking unwittingly leads to granting power to larger economic forces. It also means that evangelicals’ views to a considerable extent conform to the socioeconomic conditions of their time. Evangelicals usually fail to challenge the system not just out of concern for evangelism, but also because they support the American system and enjoy its fruits. They share the Protestant work ethic, support laissez-faire economics, and sometimes fail to evaluate whether the social system is consistent with their Christianity.”

Perhaps it is true that evangelicals tend to support the status quo– except that in recent years many evangelicals have supported fairly anti-establishment movements such as the tea-party movement. 

I do not know for sure why evangelicals aren’t occupying wall street.  I know I’m not because I’m busy doing other things like read and write and get driveways poured, windows installed, and toilets fixed.  Maybe I’m too passive.  I know that I tend towards a sort of quietism– avoiding real-world political activism.  Quietism is defined as “A form of Christian mysticism enjoining passive
contemplation and the beatific annihilation of the will” which probably describes much of my Christian spiritual journey, strangely enough.  “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”– but ask me to risk my financial status or place in society or go out in public and do something to take a stand for or against something– and I’ll likely decline.  Even if its for a good cause.  I mean, I may be willing to write a small check, or help out by praying for you, but…I mean… I’m just not an activist…

So it may be that for some of us, really considering the justice or injustice, accuracy or inaccuracy, or overall importance of getting involved in something like the occupy wall street movement may be out of the question more or less because of inertia, busy-ness with other more mundane issues, and a tendency towards quietism.  I believe those are my main reasons…

May God have mercy on us all…