Almana Ger Yatom

Widows, Strangers, Orphans: Journeying with the Poor

when praying and the bible is a sin….

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The call of evangelicals to their flock to come to prayer at the height of the election campaign is often a call to further their political lethargy and escape from reality. It is a move to further isolation from the world. Often it comes at a time when the frenzy of politics has become too unbearable for small minds and people with narrow visions who fear the unknown and who fear the dissension and conflicts as destabilizing elements that need to be suppressed in order to preserve the unity of the body.

Their call to prayer is then more to control their members to make them behave properly in order that their members will learn to do the right thing (orthodoxy) instead of learn how to do what is right (what would Jesus do).

The interest is the preservation of the status quo and not the growth and maturity of their members which naturally will take them along a bumpy road full of instability. Their children of course will grow up docile and obedient and will never learn how to take the cudgels for the weak and the poor. Their voices can never have any practice in the streets for again that would be destabilizing, contrary to when the prophets spoke in the wilderness amidst turmoil and persecution, a practice that is supposed to strengthen the church.

The church has always been doing the unusual and the unorthodox. For centuries the church has always been identified with prison persecution and poverty. Modern orthodoxy is at the opposite end, identified with the rich with success and with material prosperity.Their goal is to survive and to maintain their distinctive no matter how far away they have strayed from Holy Scripture.

Orthodoxy’s main interest is controlling their members and preserving their institution and promoting their survival.

I also wished sana that evangelicals stop quoting verses, chapter and texts from Scripture. Often, it is their only way to sound biblical but alas it is often not biblical. It is taken out of context or is just mere proof texting. It is making the poor kawawa because the poor do not read (not that they are illiterate) and if they do read, they read Tagalog or Bisaya which would not be popular in the social media.

The poor do not quote bible verses and when someone quotes verses to them it makes them feel like second class citizens. In the past, the church has always been aligned with the poor but now the church look down on the poor.

I just wish evangelicals would speak biblically but not let their hearers or readers know that it came from the bible, because they have totally integrated their scripture in to their logic and arguments that no one would guess it came from the bible.

This bible quoting is a way to bash people on the head, to make them behave and to make oneself higher than the others but the content of the scripture is totally ignored and made immaterial. What those who quote verses then want is that they have the upper hand.

Quoting verses to justify a political action is the worse of its kind. We need to speak into the world with reason and logic that comes from scripture but not quote scripture as though that would put a final end to the debate because scripture is supposedly the almighty logic that no one can argue against. we are afraid to enter the arena of the world and fight them in their game and under their rules. by quoting verses, we change the rules and relocate the arena in our favor.

God would challenge the world to debate but it would not be rigged to make the odds work in his favor. It would be done within the arena of the human reason, and may the best reason win.

Lawyers are supposedly models of that, having given up force and violence in favor of reason as the mode of changing people and society.

The thing that the Jews could never understand was what it meant to be salt and light. They could not figure out how they could be in the world but not of the world. There was always a tension between wanting to avoid the world and escape the world or being immersed in the world so that one is swallowed up completely by the world and become worldly. There was no place in the middle.

The middle is a dangerous place and Christians are called to live dangerously. Jesus thus reassured them that they are already clean by the word he had spoken to them, their immersion in the world will not contaminate them nor make them unclean. How do we become a people in the world but not of the world? how do we grow Christians who are not averse to the world?

This is the challenge for us. The fear of division and conflict is secondary to the fear that we might no longer be salt anymore to the world. The desire to be clean and uncontaminated is cowardly. The teaching of Jesus that the Jews become salt and light was actually a slap on the face so hard and violent that it gave them a headache. Jesus said it to a people so obsessed with avoiding contamination and Jesus in saying they need to be salt was in effect telling them to jump into the dirt and get dirty. a nation so afraid of getting dirty is commanded to get dirty.

how do we deal with conflicts and oppositions? first, we must realize that politics make for strange bedfellows. Politics is the art of compromise, the art of the possible. When Naaman was finally healed and about to leave for home, he took the prophet Elisha aside with tears in his eyes and said in a soft voice (even though he was general of the mightiest army in the world): sir, when i go home and i am with my Emperor and he takes me to the temple of his god and puts his arm around me to worship, i want you to please ask our God, the true God, to forgive me.

Daniel in the midst of the most pagan empire, would not eat food offered to idols. He and his companions contented themselves with what would not be offered to idols, vegetables, and God honored their stand.

When we are in politics, when we are in Congress, it is inevitable that we are standing side by side with people diametrically opposed in belief and morality from us but who may voting like on on a specific issue or bill.

the growing polarization has made politics doubly hard. we have constantly spoken out against it. we are not anti duterte or pro duterte. we are first and foremost, pro Jesus. If Duterte does something contrary to Christ in the Bible, we condemn it. If he does something good and in conformity with what Jesus commands, we also praise it and we align ourselves with him.

Truly, being in the world but not of the world was and continues to be the most complex and vexing of all of Jesus’ teachings. To be salt is always challenging our deepest beliefs. it is always a slap on the face each time.

Jesus even warned them that when salt had lost its saltiness how can it be made salty again? This was a double bind. They were salt only as long as they were in contact with the world. By avoiding contact (the Jewish obsession avoiding the unclean and the Gentiles) they had ceased to become salt.

It was that avoidance that made them not salt anymore. The Jewish nation had become an introverted ingrown toenail instead of one that would bring all the nations and tribes and tongues to come to worship God. God chose the Jews to bring the whole world to salvation. They thought instead that they were the chosen and the elect and they should not mingle anymore with the world and they should avoid getting dirty.

Today, what we need to do is help the church to jump into the dirt and get dirty and not worry about getting dirty because they have been made clean by the Word God has spoken to us. Our evangelism is not just about throwing a bunch of bible verses and platitudes to the world and immediately retreating back to our safe fortresses to wash up. Instead, the church must exist in the midst and within the bowels of the world, in the worldliness and be salt and light for it is only within the dirt that we can be real salt and light.

The church during Jesus’ time was mobbed (dinudumug) by the poor, the prostitutes, and the corrupt. Today, these same people cringe when they hear the word church and will avoid the church at all cost. How do we make the church attractive to sinners? Even without saying a word, our hearts immediately repel them because we have this belief inside our hearts that we must avoid contamination (subconsciously). Our spirituality is so elitist and super judgmental. We immediately judge and condemn people who smoke and drink. We don’t associate with people of unsavory character. Our only friends are all born again.

We need Christians who will be salt, who will immerse in the world, who will reason and argue with the world regarding politics, who will believe it is more important to be politically relevant than be afraid of division and dissension within the church. We need Christians who will help our people grow and mature in the arena of the contests of ideas and reasons, in the contests of varying and irreconcilable ideologies.

We need Christians who can bring the Word into this arena and to make the Word come to bear upon the contests of reason and ideas in the world without quoting verses from the bible, by men who have so totally integrated bible into their being that they smell and emit and exude Scripture without having to quote scripture literally (we have this wrong belief that the literal word in the text has power by itself. The word or the text does not have power. It is the meaning of the text that has power). Just look at the Egyptian Christian bible. The word for God is Allah. Does that mean they are Muslim?

Let us then call our people to pray by not hiding but instead by being in the precincts as poll watchers or others and doing it prayerfully but fully engaged with the world. let us use the bible to come to the same frequency intellectually as the world in their own turf and in their own terms and in their own language with our reason and logic honed by scripture to engage the world to a debate.

for we have reason and arguments able to tear down strongholds!!!

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