# Resident Aliens
- Author: [[Stanley Hauerwas & William H. Willimon]]
- Full Title: Resident Aliens
- Category: #books
- North America is a place where people have absorbed just enough Christianity to inoculate them against the contagion by the real thing.
- Now, after the Obama administration (whom we thought we were electing to get us out of war in the Near East) has expended billions of dollars and thousands of lives dragging on a war that has produced little but greater Islamic hostility, has deported nearly two and a half million undocumented immigrants, and has pioneered the use of drones thereby making modern warfare even more questionable, is it now time for UMC bishops to stop offering deferential advice to Obama and start attempting to rebuild our church?
- Then one day we Wesleyans woke up to find that George Bush thought he could be both a Methodist and a president. We Methodists had become the establishment, in bed with the Empire, and hating ourselves in the morning.
### CHAPTER ONE
- The world was fundamentally changed in Jesus Christ, and we have been trying, but failing, to grasp the implications of that change ever since.
- we could convince ourselves that, with an adapted and domesticated gospel, we could fit American values into a loosely Christian framework, and we could thereby be culturally significant. This approach to the world began in 313 (Constantine’s Edict of Milan) and, by our reckoning, ended in 1963.
- The demise of the Constantinian world view, the gradual decline of the notion that the church needs some sort of surrounding “Christian” culture to prop it up and mold its young, is not a death to lament. It is an opportunity to celebrate.
- When the modern pastor stands up to preach to a modern congregation, the pastor is the bridge that links the old world of scripture to the new world of modern people. In our view, the traffic has tended to move in one direction on that interpretive bridge. Modern interpreters of the faith have tended to let the “modern world” determine the questions and therefore limit the answers.
- Apologetics is based on the political assumption that Christians somehow have a stake in transforming our ecclesial claims into intellectual assumptions that will enable us to be faithful to Christ while still participating in the political structures of a world that does not yet know Christ. Transform the gospel rather than ourselves. It is this Constantinian assumption that has transformed Christianity into the intellectual “problem,” which so preoccupies modern theologians.
- So the theological task is not merely the interpretive matter of translating Jesus into modern categories but rather to translate the world to him. The theologian’s job is not to make the gospel credible to the modern world, but to make the world credible to the gospel.
- Right living is more the challenge than right thinking. The challenge is not the intellectual one but the political one—the creation of a new people who have aligned themselves with the seismic shift that has occurred in the world since Christ.
- What had begun as the acts of ruthless Fascist dictators had become the accepted practice of democratic nations. Few Christians probably even remember that there was a time when the church was the voice of condemnation for such wantonly immoral acts
- The project, begun at the time of Constantine, to enable Christians to share power without being a problem for the powerful, had reached its most impressive fruition. If Caesar can get Christians there to swallow the “Ultimate Solution,” and Christians here to embrace the bomb, there is no limit to what we will not do for the modern world. Alas, in leaning over to speak to the modern world, we had fallen in. We had lost the theological resources to resist, lost the resources even to see that there was something worth resisting.
- Our aim is to challenge those assumptions and to show what a marvelous opportunity awaits those pastors and laity who sense what an adventure it is to be the church, people who reside here and now, but who live here as aliens, people who know that, while we live here, “our commonwealth is in heaven.”
### CHAPTER TWO
- Christianity is mostly a matter of politics—politics as defined by the gospel. The call to be part of the gospel is a joyful call to be adopted by an alien people, to join a countercultural phenomenon, a new polis called church. The challenge of the gospel is not the intellectual dilemma of how to make an archaic system of belief compatible with modern belief systems. The challenge of Jesus is the political dilemma of how to be faithful to a strange community, which is shaped by a story of how God is with us. In this chapter we will challenge the assumption, so prevalent at least since Constantine, that the church is judged politically by how well or ill the church’s presence in the world works to the advantage of the world.
- We believe both the conservative and liberal church, the so-called private and public church, are basically accommodationist (that is, Constantinian) in their social ethic. Both assume wrongly that the American church’s primary social task is to underwrite American democracy.
- Note: ...democracy
- The primary entity of democracy is the individual, the individual for whom society exists mainly to assist assertions of individuality. Society is formed to supply our needs, no matter the content of those needs. Rather than helping us to judge our needs, to have the right needs which we exercise in right ways, our society becomes a vast supermarket of desire under the assumption that if we are free enough to assert and to choose whatever we want we can defer eternally the question of what needs are worth having and on what basis right choices are made.
- Our economics correlates to our politics. Capitalism thrives in a climate where “rights” are the main political agenda.
- Both so-called conservative and liberal theologies begin with the assumption that, since we American Christians are fortunate enough to be born into a constitutional democracy where we have rights, we Christians have no fundamental quarrel with the powers-that-be.
- On the one hand, the democratic state modestly claims to be a mere means toward an end. On the other hand, the same state needs to convince its citizens that it can give them a meaningful identity because the state is the only means of achieving the common good.
- We are quite literally a people that morally live off our wars because they give us the necessary basis for self-sacrifice so that a people who have been taught to pursue only their own interest can at times be mobilized to die for one another.
- Most of our social activism is formed on the presumption that God is superfluous to the formation of a world of peace with justice.
- The moment that life is formed on the presumption that we are not participants in God’s continuing history of creation and redemption, we are acting on unbelief rather than faith. Does not the Bible teach that war and injustice arise precisely at the moment we cease testifying that our world is in God’s hands and therefore set out to take matters in our hands?
- We argue that the political task of Christians is to be the church rather than to transform the world.
- The church is the dull exponent of conventional secular political ideas with a vaguely religious tint. Political theologies, whether of the left or of the right, want to maintain Christendom, wherein the church justifies itself as a helpful, if sometimes complaining, prop for the state.
- The loss of Christendom gives us a joyous opportunity to reclaim the freedom to proclaim the gospel in a way in which we cannot when the main social task of the church is to serve as one among many helpful props for the state.
- The church does not exist to ask what needs doing to keep the world running smoothly and then to motivate our people to go do it. The church is not to be judged by how useful we are as a “supportive institution” and our clergy as members of a “helping profession.” ... We are not chartered by the Emperor.
- “Culture” became a blanket term to underwrite Christian involvement with the world without providing any discriminating modes for discerning how Christians should see the good or the bad in “culture.”
- Niebuhr failed to describe the various historical or contemporary options for the church. He merely justified what was already there—a church that had ceased to ask the right questions as it went about congratulating itself for transforming the world, not noticing, that in fact the world had tamed the church.
- When the church confronts the world with a political alternative the world would not otherwise know, is this being “sectarian”? The early Anabaptists had no desire to withdraw from the world, nor do we. They were murdered by Calvinist, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic societies because they attempted to be the church. Their withdrawal came in an attempt to prevent people opposed to them (most of whom also call themselves Christian), from killing their children. The Anabaptists did not withdraw. They were driven out.
- Today, the new universal religion that demands subservience is not really Marxism or capitalism but the entity both of these ideologies serve so well—the omnipotent state.
- The church need not worry about whether to be in the world. The church’s only concern is how to be in the world, in what form, for what purpose.
- More helpful than Niebuhr’s typology in Christ and Culture is that of John Howard Yoder (”A People in the World: Theological Interpretation,” in The Concept of the Believer’s Church, ed. James Leo Garrett, Jr. [Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1969], pp. 252-83). Yoder distinguishes between the activist church, the conversionist church, and the confessing church
- Tags: [[inbox]]
- The activist church is more concerned with the building of a better society than with the reformation of the church
- Tags: [[definition]]
- The difficulty, as we noted earlier, is that the activist church appears to lack the theological insight to judge history for itself. Its politics becomes a sort of religiously glorified liberalism
- On the other hand we have the conversionist church. This church argues that no amount of tinkering with the structures of society will counter the effects of human sin.
- Tags: [[definition]]
- Alas, the political claims of Jesus are sacrificed for politics that inevitably seems to degenerate into a religiously glorified conservatism
- The confessing church is not a synthesis of the other two approaches, a helpful middle ground. Rather, it is a radical alternative. Rejecting both the individualism of the conversionists and the secularism of the activists and their common equation of what works with what is faithful, the confessing church finds its main political task to lie, not in the personal transformation of individual hearts or the modification of society, but rather in the congregation’s determination to worship Christ in all things.
We might be tempted to say that faithfulness rather than effectiveness is the goal of a confessing church. Yet we believe this is a false alternative
- Tags: [[definition]]
- The confessing church seeks the visible church, a place, clearly visible to the world, in which people are faithful to their promises, love their enemies, tell the truth, honor the poor, suffer for righteousness, and thereby testify to the amazing community-creating power of God
- The confessing church has no interest in withdrawing from the world, but it is not surprised when its witness evokes hostility from the world
- The confessing church moves from the activist church’s acceptance of the culture with a few qualifications, to rejection of the culture with a few exceptions. The confessing church can participate in secular movements against war, against hunger, and against other forms of inhumanity, but it sees this as part of its necessary proclamatory action
- This church knows that its most credible form of witness (and the most “effective” thing it can do for the world) is the actual creation of a living, breathing, visible community of faith.
- The cross stands as God’s (and our) eternal no to the powers of death, as well as God’s eternal yes to humanity, God’s remarkable determination not to leave us to our own devices.
The overriding political task of the church is to be the community of the cross.
- We would like a church that again asserts that God, not nations, rules the world, that the boundaries of God’s kingdom transcend those of Caesar, and that the main political task of the church is the formation of people who see clearly the cost of discipleship and are willing to pay the price.
### CHAPTER THREE
- What we got was not self-freedom but self-centeredness, loneliness, superficiality, and harried consumerism.
- In the Christ, God refuses to “stay in his place.” The message that sustains the colony is not for itself but for the whole world—the colony having significance only as God’s means for saving the whole world. The colony is God’s means of a major offensive against the world, for the world.
- Tags: [[favorite]]
- The Good News, which we explore here, is that the success of godlessness and the failure of political liberalism have made possible a recovery of Christianity as an adventurous journey.
- In this chapter we argue that salvation is not so much a new beginning but rather a beginning in the middle, so to speak.
- Early Christians, interestingly, began not with creedal speculation about the metaphysics of the Incarnation—that is, Christology abstracted from the Gospel accounts. They began with stories about Jesus, about those whose lives got caught up in his life. Therefore, in a more sophisticated and engaging way, by the very form of their presentation, the Gospel writers were able to begin training us to situate our lives like his life. We cannot know Jesus without following Jesus. Engagement with Jesus, as the misconceptions of his first disciples show, is necessary to understand Jesus. In a sense, we follow Jesus before we know Jesus
- The little story I call my life is given cosmic, eternal significance as it is caught up within God’s larger account of history.
- We have children as a witness that the future is not left up to us and that life, even in a threatening world, is worth living—and not because “Children are the hope of the future,” but because God is the hope of the future.
- Christians are free not to have children not because of most contemporary rationales (“I don’t want to be tied down.” “I would not bring children into this messed up world.”), but because we believe in the power of God to create a people through witness and conversion rather than through natural generation.
- For the church to be a community that does not need war in order to give itself purpose and virtue puts the church at odds with nations. Yet the church knows that this observation alone, and no other reason, puts it in the middle of a battle, though the battle is one we fight with the gospel weapons of witness and love, not violence and coercion. Unfortunately, the weapons of violence and power are the ones that come most naturally to us, so now we must ponder how we maintain the qualities needed to stay in this adventure called discipleship
- Christian ethics, as a cultivation of those virtues needed to keep us on the journey, are the ethics of revolution. Revolutionaries, whose goal is nothing less than the transformation of society through revolution, have little patience with those among them who are self-indulgent, and they have no difficulty disciplining such people. The discipline they demand of themselves is a means of directing the others to what is true and good. Having no use for such bourgeois virtues as tolerance, open-mindedness, and inclusiveness (which the revolutionary knows are usually cover-ups that allow the powerful to maintain social equilibrium rather than to be confronted and then to change), revolutionaries value honesty and confrontation—painful though they may be.
- Tags: [[favorite]]
- To the outsider, particularly the outsider who is part of the powers-that-be, the ethics of the revolutionary may appear harsh, uncompromising, even absurd. But given the world view of the revolutionary, the ultimate vision toward which the revolution is moving, revolutionary ethics make sense.
- we are invited to see ourselves and our lives as part of God’s story. That produces people with a cause.
- Our worst sins arise as our response to our innate human fear that we are nobody.
### CHAPTER FOUR
- Whether they think of themselves as liberal or conservative, as ethically and politically left or right, American Christians have fallen into the bad habit of acting as if the church really does not matter as we go about trying to live like Christians. That is the great misunderstanding we are out to correct in this chapter.
- The way most of us have been conditioned to think about an issue like abortion is to wonder what laws, governmental coercion, and resources would be necessary to support a “Christian” position on this issue. The first ethical work, from this point of view, is for Christians to devise a position on abortion and then to ask the government to support that position. Because we are fortunate enough to live in a democracy, we Christians can, like every other pressure group in this society, push for the legislative embodiment of our point of view.
- Christian ethics are church-dependent. More is at stake than simply the hypocrisy of the church—the church legislatively demanding the state to do what it cannot do even among its own members through persuasion and conversion alone
- Christian ethics only make sense from the point of view of what we believe has happened in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Practically speaking, what the church asks of people is difficult to do by oneself. It is tough for ordinary people like us to do extraordinary acts as Jesus commands.
- The habit of Constantinian thinking is difficult to break. It leads Christians to judge their ethical positions, not on the basis of what is faithful to our peculiar tradition, but rather on the basis of how much Christian ethics Caesar can be induced to swallow without choking. The tendency therefore is to water down Christian ethics, filtering them through basically secular criteria like “right to life” or “freedom of choice,” pushing them on the whole world as universally applicable common sense, and calling that Christian.
- Tags: [[favorite]]
- While Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel honors that Torah and demands obedience to it, in the Sermon he intensifies it, drawing the obedience demanded of Israel into sharp relief, and thus depicts again for Israel how really odd it is to be a people called by God.
- Jesus was not crucified for saying or doing what made sense to everyone.
People are crucified for following a way that runs counter to the prevailing direction of the culture.
- Our God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish, makes his sun to rise on the good and the bad. This is the God who is specifically, concretely revealed to us in Jesus, a God we would not have known if left to our own devices. Our ethical positions arise out of our theological claims, in our attempt to conform our lives to the stunning vision of reality we see in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
- For the Sermon on the Mount to push a life-style based on the assertion that we merely mortal human beings are to act like God borders on the absurd. How is it possible for human beings who are vulnerable, finite, and mortal to be nonviolent, utterly faithful, and perfect even as God is perfect? What sort of gargantuan ethical heroism would be required to foster such an ethic? ... what impresses about the Sermon is its [[attention]] to the nitty-gritty details of everyday life. Jesus appears to be giving very practical, very explicit directions for what to do when someone has done you wrong, when someone attacks you, when you are married to someone. It is clear that Jesus certainly thought he was giving us practical, everyday guidance on how to live like disciples.
- The Sermon is not primarily addressed to individuals, because it is precisely as individuals that we are most apt to fail as Christians. Only through membership in a nonviolent community can violent individuals do better. The Sermon on the Mount does not encourage heroic individualism, it defeats it with its demands that we be perfect even as God is perfect, that we deal with others as God has dealt with us.
- The Christian claim is that life is better lived in the church because the church, according to our story, just happens to be true. The church is the only community formed around the truth, which is Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life. Only on the basis of his story, which reveals to us who we are and what has happened in the world, is true community possible.
- The Western democracies tend to have a problem with meaning. They promise their citizens a society in which each citizen is free to create his or her own meaning—meaning which, for most of us, becomes little more than the freedom to consume at ever higher levels.
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- Merging one’s personal aspirations within the aspirations of the nation, falling into step behind the flag, has long been a popular means of overcoming doubts about the substance of one’s own life.
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- Christians must be very suspicious of talk about community. In a world like ours, people will be attracted to communities that promise them an easy way out of loneliness, togetherness based on common tastes, racial or ethnic traits, or mutual self-interest. There is then little check on community becoming as tyrannical as the individual ego. Community becomes totalitarian when its only purpose is to foster a sense of belonging in order to overcome the fragility of the lone individual.
- Tradition is a function and a product of community. So all ethics, even non-Christian ethics, make sense only when embodied in sets of social practices that constitute a community. Such communities support a sense of right and wrong
- the corporation needs workers who are suitably detached from communities other than their place of work, people who are willing to move at the beck and call of the corporation
- Unable through our preaching, baptism, and witness to form a visible community of faith, we content ourselves with ersatz Christian ethical activity—lobbying Congress to support progressive strategies, asking the culture at large to be a little less racist, a little less promiscuous, a little less violent
- The Sermon on the Mount cares nothing for the European Enlightenment’s infatuation with the individual self as the most significant ethical unit. For Christians, the church is the most significant ethical unit.
- Through the teaching, support, sacrifice, worship, and commitment of the church, utterly ordinary people are enabled to do some rather extraordinary, even heroic acts, not on the basis of their own gifts or abilities, but rather by having a community capable of sustaining Christian virtue. The church enables us to be better people than we could have been if left to our own devices
- So our response to an issue like abortion is something communal, social, and political, but utterly ecclesial—something like baptism. Whenever a person is baptized, be that person a child or an adult, the church adopts that person. The new Christian is engrafted into a family. Therefore, we cannot say to the pregnant fifteen-yearold, “Abortion is a sin. It is your problem.” Rather, it is our problem. We ask ourselves what sort of church we would need to be to enable an ordinary person like her to be the sort of disciple Jesus calls her to be. More important, her presence in our community offers the church the wonderful opportunity to be the church, honestly to examine our own convictions and see whether or not we are living true to those convictions. She is seen by us not as some pressing social problem to be solved in such a way as to relieve our own responsibility for her and the necessity of our sacrificing on her behalf (for our story teaches us to seek such responsibility and sacrifice, not to avoid it through governmental aid). Rather, we are graciously given the eyes to see her as a gift of God sent to help ordinary people like us to discover the church as the Body of Christ
- Our ethics do involve individual transformation, not as a subjective, inner, personal experience, but rather as the work of a transformed people who have adopted us, supported us, disciplined us, and enabled us to be transformed
- The most interesting, creative, political solutions we Christians have to offer our troubled society are not new laws, advice to Congress, or increased funding for social programs—although we may find ourselves supporting such national efforts. The most creative social strategy we have to offer is the church. Here we show the world a manner of life the world can never achieve through social coercion or governmental action. We serve the world by showing it something that it is not, namely, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers
- The Christian faith recognizes that we are violent, fearful, frightened creatures who cannot reason or will our way out of our mortality. So the gospel begins, not with the assertion that we are violent, fearful, frightened creatures, but with the pledge that, if we offer ourselves to a truthful story and the community formed by listening to and enacting that story in the church, we will be transformed into people more significant than we could ever have been on our own
- Vision is the necessary prerequisite for ethics. So the Beatitudes are not a strategy for achieving a better society, they are an indication, a picture. A vision of the inbreaking of a new society. They are indicatives, promises, instances, imaginative examples of life in the kingdom of God
- In Matthew 5, Jesus repeatedly cites an older command, already tough enough to keep in itself, and then radically deepens its significance, not to lay some gigantic ethical burden on the backs of potential ethical heroes, but rather to illustrate what is happening in our midst. This instance is not a law from which deductions can be casuistically drawn; rather, it is an imaginative metaphor, which hopes to produce a shock within our imaginations so that the hearer comes to see his or her life in a radical new way. It is morality pushed to the limits, not so much in the immediate service of morality, but rather to help us see something so new, so against what we have always heard said, that we cannot rely on our older images of what is and what is not
- What if all this is not new and more stringent rules for us to observe but rather a picture of the way God is?
- We seek reconciliation with the neighbor, not because we will feel so much better afterward, but because reconciliation is what God is doing in the world in the Christ.
- The Sermon is eschatological. It is concerned with the end of things—the final direction toward which God is moving the world
- There is no way to remove the eschatology of Christian ethics. We have learned that Jesus’ teaching was not first focused on his own status but on the proclamation of the inbreaking kingdom of God, which brought an end to other kingdoms. His teaching, miracles, healings indicate the nature and the presence of the Kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount begins as an announcement of something that God has done to change the history of the world. In the Sermon we see the end of history, an ending made most explicit and visible in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, Christians begin our ethics, not with anxious, self-serving questions of what we ought to do as individuals to make history come out right, because, in Christ, God has already made history come out right. The Sermon is the inauguration manifesto of how the world looks now that God in Christ has taken matters in hand. And essential to the way that God has taken matters in hand is an invitation to all people to become citizens of a new Kingdom, a messianic community where the world God is creating takes visible, practical form
- The eschatological context helps explain why the Sermon begins, not by telling us what to do, but by helping us to see. We can only act within that world which we see. So the primary ethical question is not, What ought I now to do? but rather, How does the world really look?
- What is “practical” is related to what is real. If the world is a society in which only the strong, the independent, the detached, the liberated, and the successful are blessed, then we act accordingly. However, if the world is really a place where God blesses the poor, the hungry, and the persecuted for righteousness’ sake, then we must act in accordance with reality or else appear bafflingly out of step with the way things are
- through this eschatology, becomes extended training in letting go of the ways we try to preserve and give significance to the world, ways brought to an end in Jesus, and in relying on God’s definition of the direction and meaning of the world—that is, the kingdom of God. Our anxious attempts to preserve ourselves lead to violence, whether we say our self-preservation is in the name of peace-with-justice or national security. So the first step to peace is letting go of ourselves, our things, our world
- The world of nations has no means of being at peace other than means that are always violent, or at least potentially violent
- Our hope is based not on Caesar’s missiles or Caesar’s treaties but on the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. People often work for peace out of the same anxieties and perverted views of reality that lead people to build bombs
- Even as God promised to form a new, unusual people from the children of Abraham, so in Christ, God promises to form a peculiar people through the cross of Christ
- The Sermon, like the rest of scripture, is addressed neither to isolated individuals nor to the wider world. Rather, here are words for the colony, a prefiguration of the kinds of community in which the reign of God will shine in all its glory. So there is nothing private in the demands of the Sermon. It is very public, very political, very social in that it depicts the public form by which the colony shall witness to the world that God really is busy redeeming humanity, reconciling the world to himself in Christ. All Christian ethical issues are therefore social, political, communal issues. Can we so order our life in the colony that the world might look at us and know that God is busy
### CHAPTER FIVE
- From a Christian point of view, the world needs the church, not to help the world run more smoothly or to make the world a better and safer place for Christians to live. Rather, the world needs the church because, without the church, the world does not know who it is. The only way for the world to know that it is being redeemed is for the church to point to the Redeemer by being a redeemed people. The way for the world to know that it needs redeeming, that it is broken and fallen, is for the church to enable the world to strike hard against something which is an alternative to what the world offers.
- So much modern theology continues to presuppose the deistic assumption that the first step in theology is to convince modern people that God exists.
- Idolatry is probably a much more interesting dilemma to biblical people than atheism.
- Jesus put a child in the center of his disciples, “in the midst of them,” in order to help them pay [[attention]]. The child, in Jesus’ mind, was not an annoying distraction. The child was a last-ditch effort by God to help the disciples pay [[attention]] to the odd nature of God’s kingdom. Few acts of Jesus are more radical, countercultural, than his blessing of children.
- All rationality, more than Kant realized, depends on tradition, is based upon a view of the world, a story and way of looking at things.
- Our selves are shaped, our thoughts arise out of a tradition. In our world, where so many feel rootless, detached, and homeless, many people are out shopping for a “tradition.” And this trend, wherein people search for their roots, recover their past, and affirm a tradition, is often seen as good and healthful. But just as the Christian faith has no stake in people being a part of just any old community, so we have no stake in people affirming any old tradition. Traditions can be less and more true. They can also be false and lead to the false security, the arrogant claims of those who presume to be different from others on the basis of shallow pronouncements about an often false memory.
- An ethic claiming to be “rational” and universally valid for all thinking people everywhere is incipiently demonic because it has no means of explaining why there are still people who disagree with its prescriptions of behavior, except that these people must be “irrational” and, therefore (since “rationality” is said to be our most important human characteristic), subhuman.
As Christians, we can fully understand why others may disagree with us. When they disagree, it is not a sign that they are irrational, less than human, or evil, because we do not claim that Christian ethics is about rationality, humanity, or goodness in the abstract or the general. Their disagreement may be explained in that they may not happen to know or to follow this Jew from Nazareth.
- We are claiming, then, that a primary way of learning to be disciples is by being in contact with others who are disciples. So an essential ethical role of the church is to put us in contact with those ethical aristocrats who are good at living the Christian faith. One role of any colony is to keep the young very close to the elders—people who live aright the traditions of home. There is no substitute for living around other Christians.
- In his teaching and preaching, Jesus was forever calling our [[attention]] to the seemingly trivial, the small, and the insignificant—like lost children, lost coins, lost sheep, a mustard seed. The Kingdom involves the ability to see God within those people and experiences the world regards as little and of no account, ordinary.
- “saints”—palpable, personal examples of the Christian faith
- Tags: [[definition]]
- We said we already have too many people who know something about Jesus, about the church. What we need is people who will follow Jesus, who will be the church.
- Recent studies suggest that, in most mainline, Protestant churches, our congregations have become the last stop for youth on the way out of church.
- We shall have to break our habit of having church in such a way that people are deceived into thinking that they can be Christians and remain strangers.
- Tags: [[favorite]]
### CHAPTER SIX
- We do not need clergy who claim to possess some clerical trait not held by the rest of the baptized—special training in psychotherapy, special meditative techniques, special empathy for sufferers, special awareness of social issues, and so on—as if “servant of the servants of God” and building up the congregation were not vocation enough for pastors.
- All Christians, by their baptism, are “ordained” to share in Christ’s work in the world. There is no healing, counseling, witnessing, speaking, interpretation, living, or dying the clergy can do that is not the responsibility of every other Christian. Whenever the clergy claim some “specialness” for their praying, witnessing, or caring, this serves to confirm the deadly, erroneous concept that clergy are the only real ministers and that the laity exist only to support and feed these real ministers—the clergy.
- The seminaries, like the clergy, depend on the congregation for direction. Seminaries, like the clergy they are producing, have no significance other than what needs to happen in the congregation
- The young pastor had been conditioned to assume that real ministry was about “helping people.” Of course, Jesus helped people and commissioned us to do the same. The trouble begins when we assume that we already know what “helping people” looks like, that helping people is a simple matter of motivating the church to go out and do what everyone already knows ought to be done.
Yet we have argued, earlier, that Christians define “what ought to be done” on the basis of our peculiar account of what God has done and is doing in the world. That account teaches us to be suspicious of all proposed solutions until they are placed under the scrutiny of God’s story.
- most of us professing Christians, from the liberals to the fundamentalists, remain practical atheists in most of our lives. This is so because even we think the church is sustained by the “services” it provides or the amount of “fellowship” and “good feeling” in the congregation. Of course there is nothing wrong with “services” and “good feeling”; what is wrong is that they have become ends in themselves. When that happens the church and the ministry cannot avoid sentimentality, which we believe is the most detrimental corruption of the church today.
Sentimentality, after all, is but the way our unbelief is lived out. Sentimentality, that attitude of being always ready to understand but not to judge, corrupts us and the ministry. This is as true of conservative churches as it is of liberal.
- In fact, we are not called to help people. We are called to follow Jesus, in whose service we learn who we are and how we are to help and be helped. Jesus, in texts like his Sermon on the Mount, robs us of our attempts to do something worthwhile for the world, something “effective” that yields results as an end in itself. His is an ethic built not upon helping people or even upon results, certainly not upon helping folk to be a bit better adjusted within an occupied Judea.
- the basic, communal, ecclesial, social questions that are fundamental to the church’s staying the church; namely, what sort of community would we have to be in order to be the sort of people who live by our convictions?
- Because the church is not a place to worship God, but rather a therapeutic center for the meeting of one another’s unchecked, unexamined needs, the pastor is exhausted. Only a few months into his or her first pastorate, the new pastor realizes that people’s needs are virtually limitless, particularly in an affluent society in which there is an ever-rising threshold of desire (which we define as “need”).
- People who intend to be friends of God—to speak the truth, to reprove, correct, witness, interpret, retell, remember God’s story—can expect to be lonely from time to time. But here is a loneliness which can be exhilarating because it is a loneliness evoked by the adventure of being faithful rather than a loneliness produced by merely being overly accessible.
- Our society tends to respond to the problem of lack of meaning and purpose by telling people that they will feel better if they more fully develop their egos.
- Biblical interpretation is a political, ecclesial problem before it is an intellectual problem.
- For us, possessions are a life sentence of involuntary servitude. We cannot imagine any means of breaking out of our materialism, so we dare not risk truthtelling like that in Acts 5.
- Nothing the gospel asks of us—compassion, promise-keeping, childbearing, healing—is expected of us as loners. We exist as family, as a colony who enabled ordinary people like Tom to be saints.
- to many people, church becomes suffocatingly superficial. Everybody agrees to talk about everything here except what matters. If confronted, Ananias and Sapphira are apt to tell their fellow Christians that, “This is none of your business. It’s my own life,” and so on. The loneliness and detachment of modern life, the way we are all made strangers, infects the church too
- If Christendom is still alive and well, then the primary task of the pastor is to help us with our aches and pains (using the latest self-help therapies, of course) to challenge us to use our innate talents and abilities. But if we live as a colony of resident aliens within a hostile environment, which, in the most subtle but deadly of ways, corrupts and coopts us as Christians, then the pastor is called to help us gather the resources we need to be the colony of God’s righteousness.
- The problem is compounded because our church lives in a buyer’s market. The customer is king. What the customer wants, the customer should get. Pastors with half a notion of the gospel who get caught up in this web of buying and selling in a self-fulfillment economy one day wake up and hate themselves for it
### CHAPTER SEVEN
- The pastoral ministry is too adventuresome and demanding to be sustained by trivial, psychological self-improvement advice. What pastors, as well as the laity they serve, need is a theological rationale for ministry which is so cosmic, so eschatological and therefore countercultural, that they are enabled to keep at Christian ministry in a world determined to live as if God were dead. Anything less misreads both the scandal of the gospel and the corruption of our culture.
- Perhaps we forget, in a time of tame churches, toned down preachers, and accommodationist prophets, that there was a time when the church believed that though there was nothing in Jesus we needed to kill for, there was something here worth fighting for, dying for.
- No ethic is worthy that does not require potentially the suffering of those we love. Nothing cuts against liberal ethical sentimentality more than this. We wish that there were some means of holding convictions without requiring the suffering of our friends and families. We try to make “love” an individual emotion that does not ask someone else to suffer because of our love. Of course, such thinking makes activities like marriage or child-bearing incomprehensible since these practices inextricably involve those we love suffering as part and parcel of our joint endeavors.
- Any ethic worth having involves the tragic.
- Luther once commented that idolatry involves a question of what you would sacrifice your children for. The church has no quarrel with the sacrifice of children—except when such sacrifice is made to a false god
- The gospel gives us something worth dying for and sacrificing our loved ones for as opposed to the nation’s attempt to give us something for which it is worthy killing
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- Although there may be no particular virtue in the church being small and insignificant (as the world measures size and significance), the church ought to have the honesty to admit that we don’t seem to do too well when we are the dominant majority or when we are invited to have lunch with the President at the White House. We Christians have never handled success very well. We seem to be at our best as salt
- We counter that the tribalizing of Christianity is done by those who identify Christianity with the liberal, Enlightenment notion of individual rights given by the modern nation state. Tribalization comes about when people take their loyalty to the United States, or the Roman Empire, or Cuba, or South Africa more seriously than they take their loyalty to the church. __Tribalism is the pinch of incense before the altar of Caesar__
- We admit that we are quite openly political, but not as that term is usually understood. The conservative-liberal polarity is not much help in diagnosing the situation of the church since, as presently constructed, we can see little difference between the originating positions of liberals or conservatives. Both assume that the main political significance of the church lies in assisting the secular state in its presumption to make a better world for its citizens. Which position
- Our grandest illusions about ourselves led to the greatest horrors of our history: We killed the native Americans, we bombed the North Vietnamese for the very best of American reasons. That does not mean that those who served were dishonorable, but it does say that they heroically did their duty for a dishonorable war. Honorable people can be used dishonorably. It happens all the time. Until our society knows how to admit that, it has no chance of being truthful.
- If war preparations are wrong, then do we United Methodists want the offering of our members who work in defense industries? Should United Methodist pastors admit to the Lord’s Table those who make a living from building weapons?
- questions related to ministry tend primarily to be social, political, and ecclesial rather than arising out of the modern penchant to reduce all knowledge to the scientific and the historical and all research method to the individual and the private
- The very act of reading and preaching from scripture is a deeply moral act in our age, a reminder of the source of pastoral authority. When the preacher uses the lectionary, the preacher makes clear that he or she preaches what he or she has been told to preach. That is important because it makes clear that the story forms us. This is the church’s way of reminding itself of how it subverts the world
- So, to a rather embarrassing degree, preaching depends on the recovery of the integrity of the Christian community. Here is a community breaking out of the suffocating tyranny of American individualism in which each of us is made into his or her own tyrant. Here is an alternative people who exist, not because each of us made up his or her own mind but because we were called, called to submit our lives to the authority of the saints.
- Theology, to be Christian, is by definition practical. Either it serves the formation of the church or it is trivial and inconsequential. Preachers are the acid test of theology that would be Christian. Alas, too much theology today seems to have as its goal the convincing of preachers that they are too dumb to understand real theology. Before preachers buy into that assumption, we would like preachers to ask themselves if the problem lies with theologies which have become inconsequential.
- Undoubtedly, people come to church for a host of wrong reasons. But the pastor is able to help them find the words to acknowledge, sometimes to their own surprise, that they are here because God has willed them to be here, despite all their wrong reasons. People may come to church to get their marriages fixed, or for help in raising chaste, obedient children, or simply to be with a few relatively nice people rather than to be alone. The pastor is essential for helping us cut through our wrong reasons for being at church and helping us to see that God is a relentless, utterly unscrupulous, infinitely resourceful god who is determined to have us, good reasons or bad
- The biggest problem facing Christian theology is not translation but enactment
- no clever theological moves can be substituted for the necessity of the church being a community of people who embody our language about God, where talk about God is used without apology because our life together does not mock our words. The church is the visible, political enactment of our language of God by a people who can name their sin and accept God’s forgiveness and are thereby enabled to speak the truth in love.
- One of the reasons I continue to find what we wrote in Resident Aliens satisfying is that the book exemplifies Maclntyre’s contention in After Virtue that every philosophy presupposes a sociology. We think that also is true of theology. Yoder’s work exemplifies that contention by his refusal to separate Christology and ecclesiology. That contention is at the heart of Resident Aliens. And that perspective shapes our contention that the most influential theological positions developed in recent times, alternatives associated with names such as Tillich, Bultmann, the Niebuhrs, and Fletcher, reflected as well as legitimated the sociology of Christendom. Nowhere is that more apparent than the emphasis these theologians put on the importance for Christians to be “political,” but the “politics” Christians underwrote ironically had the effect of depoliticizing the church
- theology does not “have” political implications; rather, theology “is” essentially and inherently political.
- No doubt, our accusation that the church continued to presume a Constantinian or Christendom establishment needed refinement. Constantinianism suggests the privileging of the church by the state. That mode of establishment is by no means at an end, but more troubling from our perspective is the establishment of the church as an institution to legitimate the presumption that the way things are is the way things have to be.
- In particular, Hunter argues that we demonize the state and the market in such a manner that the identity of the church is constituted by what we are against rather than what we are for. Our identity depends on the state and the other powers being corrupt, and the more unambiguously corrupt they are the clearer the mission of the church (164).