2013 Favs: God Made In My Image

I want God; not my idea of God. C.S. Lewis

My god doesn’t …

I don’t believe in a god who …

How many times have we heard this?

I ask you, if God is God; if He made everything, everywhere, including us, then what does it matter what we think of Him? All these quippy little assertions are at base the expression of an underlying belief that God is the clay and we are the potter. They lead directly to what George Barna jokingly described as a nation of “310 million people with 310 million religious expressions.”

I believe this is the root of the “I don’t believe in religion; I believe in Jesus” phenomenon. If you can subtract Jesus from 2,000 years of Christian teaching, why then, you can create a Jesus who fits you and your prejudices, your wannabes, and your wannados right down to the ground. You can create a phony, basically useless Jesus who doesn’t demand conversion, never asks for repentance and would not think of chiding you for your “understandable” little sins.

You can create your own personal feel-good Jesus, who inevitably will be a Jesus without the cross. The only problem with that, of course, is that this jesus is not god. He is not Christ. Jesus without the cross is not Christ. Jesus without the cross was a First Century itinerate preacher and miracle worker who died 2,000 years ago. He’s the shorn and nonsensical little nothing that the film-flammers who attack Christianity try to make Him out to be.

Dietrich Bonnhoefner had a phrase for this. He called it “cheap grace.” Here’s what he said:

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

The Christian culture in which so many of us live is a sham and a flam, a product of cheap grace gone wild that is drummed into our minds by the steady beat of media promotion. Today, we not only have cheap grace, we have competing cheap graces whose followers are focused on defeating one another in the culture wars rather than following Christ.

We have the cheap grace purveyors of the right who tell us that all that stuff Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, and indeed, throughout the Gospels, doesn’t mean what it so plainly says. They create a morality-free zone surrounding anything to do with business and commerce, exempting the most egregious assaults on the common good from any application of 2,000 years of Christian teaching.

Then, on the other side of the cultural divide, we have the cheap gracers who proclaim that any standards of personal morality are in fact violations of personal freedom and assaults on tolerance and love. They carry this to the point that simple disagreement with such actions as abortion, serial marriage, same-sex marriage, and the commodification and sexualization of women and children is attacked and labeled “hate,” “homophobia,” and, bizarre as this sounds, sexism.

These competing versions of cheap-grace, god-made-in-my-image faux christianity have become the public face of Christian teaching. Their followers attack one another with a ruthlessness worthy of Caiaphas, and a pragmatic amorality that would be the pride of Machiavelli. Their total lack of respect for Jesus Christ and the Gospels is only equaled by their pretentious self-righteousness.

These are mean people. They are mean with the meanness that any thinking person would expect of someone who has turned their back on Christ in order to twist His message into a club to beat their political opponents with.

Why they do it is obvious: To gain power, fame and money.

How they manage to succeed at it is more subtle. Anyone who honestly read the New Testament would pick up on the fact that what these people are giving us is the stone, not the bread; a snake rather than a fish. Yet millions upon millions of “Bible believing” Christians not only fall for this crass twisting of the Gospels in the name of self-justification, they abandon the real Gospels to follow and teach it themselves.

Why?

Are they that stupid? Can’t they read the Bible for themselves and see that these are lies?

I think the answer rests in the fact that they can read the Bible; they just don’t like what it says.

The story of the Gospels is not built around some “follow me and I’ll make you into little Ceasars” sort of promise. It is in fact quite the opposite. When Satan tempted Jesus, he offered Him all the kingdoms of this world and Jesus turned him down. What Jesus did instead was set Himself on the path that led to the cross.

These sham teachers of phony gospels of their own devising are offering us the same deal that Satan offered Jesus. The difference being that many of us are taking the deal. Follow them, and you can have any kind of sex you want with whomever you chose. Follow them and you can kill your own children, reduce other human beings to things to be destroyed for your pleasure and feel holier than thou for doing it.

Set your foot on the broad and smooth path of the phony jesus these liars give us and you can lie, steal, cheat, hoard, destroy whole economies for your personal gain. You can push most of the world into death-dealing poverty and back it up with armies you supply from your factories and go to church on Sunday and be honored as great people of a phony god.

Wide is the way that leads to perdition, and it seems that in today’s world it is most often paved by the self-righteous hypocrisy of following false gods of our own creation that we have cast in our own image.

This is cheap grace, and it always seems to end up giving those who choose it a license to kill.

Bonnhoefner also talked about another kind of grace. He called it “costly grace.” I tend to call it “real grace,” but that’s just me and my simple-minded way of looking at things.

Here is part of what he said:

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.

Cheap grace is a sham and a phony. It is a lie we tell ourselves. Costly grace, the grace that comes from following Jesus even if it’s unpopular, even if it means picking up your cross and following after Him, is what can and will heal our culture and save our world.

According to a survey conducted by the Barna Institute, America is drifting more and more toward the cheap grace of God Made in Our Image; the ultra personal god who follows our teachings instead of asking us to follow his.

God made in our image will never ask us to do anything costly. He will always understand our transparent justifications, even of the most heinous crimes. What he can never do is cleanse us, re-orient us and change us into what we were meant to be when God first made us. What we will never see by following him is eternal life. There is no redemption in making an idol out of yourself, in worshipping a self-made, all-agreeing comfortable little kitchen god that you create out of your longing to never be wrong, never sacrifice, never make a tough choice.

Only God, the real God, can redeem us, make us new and lead us into life everlasting. The price of following Him is the same now as it has always been. It is the costly grace of the cross.

My Husband and I Sleep in a “Master Bedroom.” Does that Make Us Sexists or Racists or Some Kind of ist?

This falls into what my grandmother would call the if-that-don’t-beat-hens-apeckin’-on-a-hot-griddle column. 

Evidently, homebuilders are moving away from labeling the main bedroom in a house the “master” bedroom.

Why?

They think it’s sexist. Or maybe it’s heterocentric. Or … maybe they’re nuts.

Personally, I’m leaning toward nuts.

If you want to see some sexism, take a gander at a post I put up this morning called Where are all the good people dead: In the Heart or in the Head? Now that’s sexism. Also misogyny, and hatred of women, and deadly deep sinful hatred of humanity, all rolled into one.

But … “master bedroom??????” I don’t think so.

However, after all that grimness in the earlier post, it is kind of fun to talk about, isn’t it?

From Yahoo Homes:

Has the “master bedroom” ruled the roost for long enough?

Evidently so, according to Washington Business Journal writer Michael Neibauer. His informal survey of 10 major D.C.-area home builders found that six of them are instead using phrases like “owner’s suite” or — and this one just slays me — “mastre bedroom” in their floor plans.

“Why? In large part for exactly the reason you would think: ‘Master’ has connotation problems, in gender (it skews toward male) and race (the slave master),” Neibauer writes.

He found evidence of a trend among listing agents too. The vice president and managing broker of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., Lorraine Arora, told him that her office is split on the issue. Younger agents “want to be more politically correct,” she said, whereas older agents generally stick with “master.”

I asked the National Association of Realtors about this apparent shift. Spokesperson Sara Wiskerchen told me: “While this hasn’t become a widespread trend, we have heard that some real estate brokerages have shied away from using certain phrases that may carry negative connotations. Realtors are strong advocates for homeowners and strive to be respectful of and sensitive to the needs and concerns of their clients.” (Read more here.)

Pope Francis: Mothers, go forth with this witness to the living Christ!

Pope Francis reached out to women in a powerful way during Holy Week. 

First, there was his wonderful action on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of two young women. He spoke of women as the first witnesses to Christ’s resurrection during his Easter vigil homily and then on Tuesday, he spoke again about Mary Magdalene.

Yesterday, he delivered a powerful reflection on unique role of women as mothers.

Feminists have thrown motherhood over in many ways. I have sympathy for the reasons they did this. Pregnancy and motherhood was used as an excuse to limit women and to discriminate against them. This is true in some respects even today. However, instead of demanding change in this regard, they ended up settling for the horrible quick fix of abortion. In this way abortion became an accommodation to and an extension of misogyny.

Motherhood has always been degraded, or I should say, it always has in my lifetime. Women themselves degrade motherhood. We try to deny the demands it places on us for fear that we will be given short shrift in other areas of our lives. What too often happens because of this denial is that we end up doing the all-important job of mothering our children less well than we should.

In truth, motherhood is uniquely female. We are the life-bearers of humanity. We are the nurturers and shapers of each succeeding generation of people. Women are equipped for this work by temperament and talent. Yet our society has gotten so turned on its head that we not only devalue motherhood, we challenge women who do it.

“You are wasting your life,” I was told when I was a stay-at-home mom. “Your kids are too dependent on you,” I heard when my toddlers clung to me in strange situations or ran to me when they skinned their knees.  These sentiments are ubiquitous throughout our society.

Back when many mothers stayed home with their children every mother had a built-in support group, right there in her neighborhood. Now, stay at home moms are isolated islands, all alone in seas of empty houses while everyone else is off at work. What that means in practical terms is that stay at home moms have it harder now than they did in any generation before. They do not have the coffee klatches and the over-the-fence conversations that mothers in earlier generations had to sustain them emotionally during the long days alone with small children. Their husbands, who are poorly equipped for it, have to meet this need for human interaction and girl-talk all by themselves.

We have isolated our families with moves and chasing jobs so that many times the husband and wife are going it alone in a big city just as much as a pioneer family living in a soddy out on the prairie ever was. In a fractured society which has lost its sense of community, children need to be more tightly bonded to their mothers and their homes, not less. We live in a society that is hell bent (I meant that literally, by the way) on its on deconstruction and moral unraveling. Our media pushes it on us. Our schools teach it to our children.

Without families, without mothers and fathers, children will be raised by this dishonest, sick, larger culture. They will themselves become sick and dishonest.

It is not enough to shuttle our children from one lesson, one activity, to another. It most certainly is not enough to live in the “right” school district and dress them in the latest fashions. Children need their parents. They especially need their mothers. They don’t need chauffeurs. They need mothers who read to them, talk to them and are with them.

Pope Francis spoke of this during his reflection Wednesday. At one point, he departed from his prepared text to say, “Mothers, go forth with this witness to the living Christ.” I didn’t hear it, but I like to think that he was referring to the fact that women were the first messengers of the risen Christ when Mary Magdalene took the news of His resurrection to the disciples and that the pope is urging mothers everywhere to be the messengers of the risen Christ to their families, in particular their children.

The Holy Father gave a beautiful reflection on women and the value of mothers in the world.

Here is part of it from Vatican Radio, emphasis mine:

Today, however, I would like to dwell the second, on testimony in the form of the accounts that we find in the Gospels. First, we note that the first witnesses to this event were the women. At dawn, they go to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, and find the first sign: the empty tomb (Mk 16:1). This is followed by an encounter with a Messenger of God who proclaims: Jesus of Nazareth, the Crucified One, he is not here, he is risen (cf. vv. 5-6). The women are driven by love and know how to accept this proclamation with faith: they believe, and immediately transmit it, they do not keep it for themselves. They cannot contain the joy of knowing that Jesus is alive, the hope that fills their heart. This should also be the same in our lives. Let us feel the joy of being Christian! We believe in the Risen One who has conquered evil and death! Let us also have the courage to “go out” to bring this joy and light to all the places of our lives! The Resurrection of Christ is our greatest certainty, it is our most precious treasure! How can we not share this treasure, this beautiful certainty with others! It’s not just for us it’s to be transmitted, shared with others this is our testimony!

Another element. In the professions of faith of the New Testament, only men are remembered as witnesses of the Resurrection, the Apostles, but not the women. This is because, according to the Jewish Law of the time, women and children were not considered reliable, credible witnesses. In the Gospels, however, women have a primary, fundamental role. Here we can see an argument in favor of the historicity of the Resurrection: if it were a invented, in the context of that time it would not have been linked to the testimony of women. Instead, the evangelists simply narrate what happened: the women were the first witnesses. This tells us that God does not choose according to human criteria: the first witnesses of the birth of Jesus are the shepherds, simple and humble people, the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women. This is beautiful, and this is the mission of women, of mothers and women, to give witness to their children and grandchildren that Christ is Risen! Mothers go forward with this witness! What matters to God is our heart, if we are open to Him, if we are like trusting children. But this also leads us to reflect on how in the Church and in the journey of faith, women have had and still have a special role in opening doors to the Lord, in following him and communicating his face, because the eyes of faith always need the simple and profound look of love. The Apostles and disciples find it harder to believe in the Risen Christ, not the women however! Peter runs to the tomb, but stops before the empty tomb; Thomas has to touch the wounds of the body of Jesus with his hands. In our journey of faith it is important to know and feel that God loves us, do not be afraid to love: faith is professed with the mouth and heart, with the word and love.

After the apparitions to women, there were others: Jesus becomes present in a new way: He is the Crucified One, but his body is glorious; He did not return to an earthly life, but a new condition. At first they did not recognize him, and only through his words and deeds were their eyes opened: the encounter with the Risen Lord transforms, it gives new strength to faith, an unshakable foundation. The Risen Christ also reveals Himself to us with many signs: Sacred Scripture, the Eucharist, the other Sacraments, charity, these gestures of love bring a ray of the Risen One.

Let us be enlightened by the Resurrection of Christ, let us be transformed by His power, so that through us the signs of death give way to signs of life in the world! I saw that there are many young people in the Square! Young boys and girls, to you I say bring forth this certainty the Lord is Alive and walks beside us on our life’s journey! Bring forth this hope, be anchored in this hope, the hope that comes from heaven! Be anchored and bring forth the hope! You witnesses of Christ bring forth hope to this world that is aged by wars and sin! Go forward young people! (Read the rest here.)


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