Tag Archives: servanthood

What Are Those Judo-Christian Values?

According to “Talking Points” in The Week (February 10, 2017), Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart.com, is the power behind the throne of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Named as the President’s key advisor, he “has described Christian civilization as under mortal threat from unassimilated immigrants and radical Islam.”

Judo-Christian values are under threat, many fear. They go further: they must be defended by any means possible.

What are Judo(Jewish) Christian values?

Hebrew writings became the Christian Old Testament. They stressed care for the aliens and the poor. Landowners were told not to reap their fields to the very borders but to leave gleanings for the less well off. In other words, to care for the poor rather than squeeze every last bit of profit from their holdings.

As the Jewish religion developed, prophets became even more concerned with justice and right dealing with the poor. “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:24, NRSV)

Another prophet distilled the teachings into three things God required of his people: “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NRSV)

As for Christians, they were a powerless minority in their early centuries, but their lives and practices attracted others.

The early Christian missionary, Paul, sent a letter by a slave to one of Paul’s friends to remind the friend that the slave was, in fact, a brother. Eventually, slavery died out in European lands, unable to exist among brothers and sisters.

Christ himself told his followers, “. . . the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.” (Luke 22:25-26, NRSV)

As Christianity grew and attracted even those in power, the story is told of one European tribal chief who was baptized into the Christian faith. However, he held his sword out of the water, signifying that it was not under Christ’s lordship.

Such an outlook has warred with the servanthood taught by Jesus through the centuries. The Crusades of the Middle Ages, whose atrocities reverberate to this day, were an outgrowth.

One of the greatest values Christians have given the world is servanthood. When Christians ally with power to favor their religion, they risk losing their souls.

Our Hopes Versus the Hopes of ISIS

One reason some young people are attracted to radical Islam is the promise of hope for those who lack it. For years in too many Middle Eastern countries, corrupt elites have run governments like personal fiefdoms. They became rich while throwing crumbs to their citizens, imprisoning and torturing any who disagreed with their policies.

While the actions of ISIS repulse civilized people, ISIS has a reputation for cleaning up corruption. (They could hardly do worse.) It also offers a sense of purpose through the ISIS-inspired belief in a spiritual kingdom, bizarre though its practices may be.

Why are youth from Europe and North America attracted to ISIS, despite the greater freedoms, chances of material success, and more open governments of those countries?

Perhaps we have too often stressed freedom but have forgotten to emphasize the discipline and servanthood that partner with any successful freedom. Freedom has become a means to power and wealth, not an opportunity for meaning through service and community and an inner life of the spirit.

Logic and Feeding Multitudes

We can’t even predict the weather accurately beyond a few days. The logical world we know as manageable by our current knowledge—math, physics, and so on—represents only a tiny part of the universe, according to something called chaos theory.

But chaos, so I understand, is not really chaos. It’s part of an order we don’t yet understand, like how to predict the weather.

That’s the way I look at Jesus’ teachings. They sometimes seem against our known wisdom. Giving up to have. Serving instead of accumulating. Putting our trust in what we cannot see rather than in this world’s material objects.

I see Jesus’ miracles in a new way, like the feeding of the five thousand. The disciples studied the crowd and wondered how they were going to feed the people, far from homes and fast food restaurants.

Jesus asked them what they should do.

They answered within the context of the world they knew. The money they had wouldn’t buy what they needed, even if they could find something to buy. They had the lunch a small boy had offered, but how ridiculous to think that could do anything.

Jesus had something else in mind. No one went away hungry.

Surely God knows of powers and systems, of universes and infinities for which we have no inkling.