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July 16, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Update: the Christians, Faith, and Freedom Question:

It Isn’t About Control: Looking at the New Testament through Jesus:
Following the Christian faith isn’t about controlling others or someone else controlling you. Certainly, anyone with a bully pulpit, a microphone, or a media outlet can abuse power. We have a history both good and bad of that in America from most all sectors of society. Thats just a sign of weak humans and our inability to achieve perfection, not a failure or criticism of the faith.

It Isn’t About Control: Looking at the New Testament through Jesus:
In fact, however, if it were meant for power, it makes no sense why Christianity is an upside down kingdom. Tim Keller’s church website points out Jesus’ kingdom was upside down an utter reveral of power politics:

He contrasts the pattern, power, and product of two kingdoms: the old one which we are currently under, and the new one which is to come. Jesus’ teaching goes against every natural instinct, and represents a reversal of the world’s values.

In fact he preached against those who abuse power (i.e. those who neglected love). He saw the Pharisees abusing theological power and used questions and parables to melt their motives and legalisms away. Moreover Galatians 5 turns upside down traditional interpretations of Christian faith which have echoed across the centuries. :

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh[a]; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

In one sense, Galatians 5 flips the script on our assumptions and how we think about Biblical law and following God. Its a rejection of the command and control and hierarchical ideas we can apply to living under a set of principles. For instance, love of your brother, love of your wife, or love of God isn’t about control. Its from a place much deeper, meaningful, purposeful, and ironically incredibly human in the fuller sense of the word.

It Isn’t About Control: Metaphors for “Control”
Following a faith or specifically the Christian faith isn’t “controlling.” Its more analogous to one of the following in which you set your sites on a goal and you decide how you will live in order to best achieve that goal:

Following a fitness regimen to reach the Olympics or your top fitness
Respecting people in relationships by following the Golden Rule (ie general rule of honesty)
Following your fathers recipe for backyard grilling
Forgoing high fructose corn syrup, Tab, and collard greens
Not watching American Idol or Jersey Shore to build your latest web application or to learn about passion
Following the coaches guidance to achieve higher performance in life or sports

Following a map, following a recipe, setting out to achieve the objective of making the world better or achieving something better is hardly an issue of control. If it appears to be, its likely a conflation of tradition and institutional practice vs. fundamental Christian principles.

Christian Faith and Human Dignity.
And it is the case that 90% of Christian principles are about respecting others. (i.e. giving, serving, helping, loving, comforting, and not letting your ego get out of check). Moreover, its about the core of what it means to be human.

Practical Terms and the Christian Faith.
Short vs. long term thinking (or act vs. rule utilitarianism if you prefer more philosophically grounded). Taking the high road now can save people from other worse forms of control (like addictions, which can utterly throttle your autonomy and freedom).

I shouldn’t lie about my investments, neglect my children, cheat on my wife, betray my family and friends, or leave the world worse off than when I got here. It may require some hard decisions and dedication on my part, but character, responsibility, and ultimately love compel me to make those decisions.

Finally, the question itself asks the wrong question. It misses the 3 core question at the center of history and the universe: Why are we here? Is Jesus a historical figure? Did he raise from the dead? What does that mean for my way of life and character?

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