Pharaoh, The Nazi Gospel, and The Lupton Center (Seeking Shalom)

According to THE BIBLE, when God first created people (and, well, everything, for that matter), “it was good”.  Day 1 came and went, and God held Judgment on it, and the verdict was “good”.  Day 2, the same.  Day 3, and so on.  “It was good”; “it was good”; “it was good”.

Think about that a minute.  Every day of Week 1 is Judgement Day, and every Judgement Day, the verdict is “Good”.

Hmmm… You know what?

Those of us among the ranks of Bible-believing Christians might oughta consider carefully what makes a Judgement Day so “Good” to God.  Just what is going on there to create and sustain such a beautiful shalom?

And before sin and death come on the scene, God has the man and the woman naked and unashamed cultivating a garden with no sweat of the brow anywhere to be found!  Just what does it look like when a naked man and a naked woman PLANT SEED???

(This sounds almost like the euphemism and innuendo of a bad country song!)

Well, according to Genesis 1:26-27, this is what God LOOKS LIKE – God FULL FRONTAL!  And, it would seem, creation is counting on the humans bearing this image so that it can maintain proper order – SHALOM.

Hmmm…

No sweat.

Cultivating with no sweat.

Hmmm…

How does that work?

Let me confess a shocker here: Agent X does not have all mysteries worked out.

But I do know some things.  And one of those things is that just a few chapters later God comes to Egypt to find his son toiling away by the sweat of his brow in Pharaoh’s brickyards and crying out for mercy.  And one thing is sure: God doesn’t call that a “Good” day.  There is something wrong here.  The people of God are working their tails off, and God is not pleased about it.

Hmmm…

Do I sound like I promote laziness?

Well, that is possible, but it is not the only possibility by any stretch.  So if you are stuck with only that alternative, then FREE YOUR MIND.

Let’s just stick with THE BIBLE here and see where this goes.

God sends Moe to Pharaoh with a message: “That’s My Son you are picking on.  Let My people go!”

And Pharaoh, not being one to let God’s people sit around being lazy all day says, “No”.  And not only that, but it occurs to him that if these Hebrews have enough time to cry out to their God, then they should gather their own straw for the bricks and keep up the quota too.

And so “the world” tells us: MUST MAKE BRICKS!

Does this sound familiar to you?  I think Amazon should sell an alarm clock that wakes you up really early every morning shouting, “Must make bricks!… MUST MAKE BRICKS!! … MUST MAKE BRICKS!!!

Are you tired of the daily grind?  Got bills to pay? … kids to get off to school? … piano lessons & soccer practice? … a long commute? … a deadline to meet?… a double shift to cover? … dental work to pay for? …are you taking a “working vacation”?  SUCK IT UP, BUSTER, You MUST MAKE BRICKS!

Yeah, at 5:30 in the morning, let’s be honest, you want to smash that alarm clock, but you have the American Dream to live.  It’s not shalom, but you can’t imagine God’s world any gooder.  And so you listen to old Pharaoh, and you do what he says.

But that’s not what God says.

Fast forward to the Jews in Nazi concentration camps eons and millennia later.  The people of God toiling away at killing themselves just as fast as the murder industrial complex can muster.  And what do the Nazi taskmasters tell God’s people?

“WORK WILL MAKE YOU FREE!”

Yeah.  It’s Pharaoh’s gospel come back with a vengeance!  And all these people see is death and destruction, as they are tasked with killing themselves for the sake of killing themselves as fast as they can.  It is an urgent work.  Lot’s of sweat of the brow!  And just to put a little pep in the step, the Nazi’s tell them that work will make them free!

How’s that for Judgment Day”

How’s that for shalom?

I mean, as long as we are sitting around seeking shalom, why not Nazi shalom, huh?

So here we are talking about shalom on a homeless ministry blog.  And I now come to the “Seeking Shalom” class put out by the Lupton Center where our old friends Corbett and Fikkert have found “work” instructing Christians not to do for the poor what they can do for themselves as a means of God’s care in their lives.

Lupton calls this “Seeking Shalom”, but it sounds to me like its Seeking The American Dream, like a baptized Egyptian brickyard, like a precursor for Nazi propaganda.  And though they pepper their offerings with Bible quotes here and there, it is alarming how much they say with no reference to Scripture at all.  And then of the places where they do offer reference, matters like context and relevance to the subject are generally up for grabs.

Shalom.

We have some real and deep biblical insight into God’s shalom.  His Gospel message offers us Jesus, a Lord who does for us what we should have done for ourselves, but failed at.  He bears the image of God, utterly naked and unashamed on a Roman cross.  And he takes a wife, his church, to be faithful to him so that together they can sustain the shalom God gives by cultivating together in the garden of God.

How about we tell our homeless friends about that shalom?

Turns out, we would have to be seeking it ourselves.

Hmmm…

Advertisements

7 comments

  1. clashofcashntrash · June 22

    Do you really think it’s fair to lump Nazis in with Lupton? And if you think it’s fair, do you think it’s wise? Isn’t this kind of criticism too brash and alienating?

    If I were a Lupton enthusiast and I saw this post, I would find it just too overthetop to really give it a hearing. I think I would not give it a fair shake, even if you are right (and I think you are actually)

    I just want to see your message succeed and this is really harsh. If Lupton is sliding off into hard heart, this post could really give him a push down the slope, and it slams the door on his heart and puts a lock on it. I don’t think he would be able to hear, to really listen. He would just be all out offended at the suggestion that he is like Nazis.

    I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 22

      Larry,

      Thanx for challenging this. I want to speak to the tough parts of this stuff, and if nothing else, this post seems to do that… with you at least.

      Do I think it’s fair?

      Yeah. I do. Just the fact that I posted it says as much. Could I be persuaded otherwise? Possibly. Make your case against it. I will listen. I recognize the harshness here. I am not insensitive to that. But then I have spent the night on the cold concrete in front of locked up church houses with homeless people. And that is REALLY HARSH too, but it gets NO attention almost ever. I think if my potential discussants were to join me there in those harsh conditions, I don’t doubt for a second that their imagination for ministry would be deeply affected. So bringing concepts, which have logical validity, to this blog, harsh though they are, is a way of highlighting that kind of urgency.

      Am I saying Lupton is a Nazi?

      No. Lupton is not a Nazi. I have no sense of that at all. On the contrary, I think Lupton and friends see themselves as serving God and wanting to serve God, but indulging in some disastrous ideas as part of that. If they look more carefully at what they are saying and advocating, they will find it has some very deep commonalities with very evil ideals. And pointing that out is fair.

      Do I think this post alienates these potential discussants?

      Yeah. Probably. But that presumes they are reading here already. And that they might engage me in discussion. But in three years of posting on THIS blog, they have yet to engage, and if they are looking, they have made a point not to engage.

      Church leaders alienated me waaaaaaaaay back years ago when they kicked me out of church after volunteering to chaperone for the emergency shelter ministry that was already in place, but which they arbitrarily decided to shut down amid cold weather, and I persisted and protested this very unchristian decision. I wasn’t saying anything about Nazis then. But I was told, “It’s a leadership decision, [X], and you just have to accept it”. Eventually they told me I had to leave.

      So… alienation?

      Yeah. Been there done that. We are way past that now.

      And anyway, one thing Pharaoh and the Nazis have in common besides their message (which is not exactly the same anyway) is that they hold “these people” in contempt. Only contempt lets homeless people sleep outside your church house door in the freezing cold of night. And you are not likely to reason with contempt. Look at Moses and Pharaoh. Its not like Moe is going through ten good reasons to change the way you deal with God’s people in some logical discussion. On the contrary, God hardens Pharaohs heart and hits him with 10 judgments! And then does what he wants despite Pharaoh.

      So… I don’t think there’s much answer for the contempt of the church until God softens hearts and brings conviction.

      Meanwhile, I have you and other readers reading here, and I can reason with you. Perhaps you will be armed with information when your church encounters Lupton’s influence. Perhaps you and people like you will not lean on the garbage and junk theology that keeps people locked out of church.

      I hope, anyway.

      Like

  2. Agent X · June 22

    Anonymous comment sent in says:

    If you remain within the context of Creation, as did NT Wright. He spoke of the Sabbath saying, “It appears to be about (among other things) a call to humility and hope–the humility of recognizing that work (which for most meant working the land) was not the be-all and end-all of life, a frantic, relentless greed…the keeping of the Sabbath was a stepping back from the idea that Israel, or any human beings, actually owns or runs the world.
    Further, overwork – working seven days a week, correlates with a loss of faith in God the creator and provider”.

    Like

    • Agent X · June 22

      I really appreciate this comment.

      Yes, there are dynamics and directions we can explore from this point which the post does not. And I think your words about “frantic, relentless greed” are very important.

      It seems to me that we have a church that tries to be arbitrator between a world of greed and spirituality of a gentle life… between Empire and Kingdom of God… between the American Dream and Shalom.

      Brueggemann suggests we work at “the shape of shalom we affirm”. This suggests to me that we manipulate our understanding of shalom to suit agendas that may or may not be God’s. I think Pharaoh had an idea about shalom. I am sure he had a different word for it, and I am sure it had a different shape than God’s, but it was his brand of utopia, and it made almost perfect sense to his hard heart.

      We could say that about Nazis too.

      What makes us think we automatically have God’s shalom (or God’s shape of shalom) in mind when we seek it? Perhaps we should do a much more thorough study of shalom instead of studying the meeting of needs (or not) as a means of seeking the ill defined shalom we slap that holy word on in vain.

      Like

  3. I will try to get back o you..

    Like

  4. Agent X, I think this is right on target. The truth is the truth. Jesus compels us to address it, not ignore it.

    I think Jesus has lots of opinions about elite religious leaders who cause others to stumble. Woe to them …

    Be blessed!

    Like

  5. T. F. Thompson · July 22

    I’d like to meet the guy who invented the entire idea of waking up and going to work. Heck, most days, I have to wake up and kick the roosters in the butt to make them crow and for the cows to go moo. Leave it to man to mess things up with inventions.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s