Archives For Jesus

On August 20, 2013

Good and Evil: Crazy Right

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Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. -St. Paul in 1st Corinthians

One of the more interesting moments in the Gospels is when Jesus is teaching and his mother and brothers interrupt Him because they think he’s gone crazy.

Now if you are new to Biblical criticism, it might surprise you to know that this is actually something that helps to prove the Bible is telling the truth about Jesus. Most scholars think that whenever the Bible includes the negative stuff that people thought about Jesus, it lends more credibility to the idea that they are telling the truth about Him in other places.

But I think this little story adds credibility in other ways as well.

The Sanity of Evil

When I was a junior in college, I toured the concentration camp Auschwitz with a few other friends. It was one of the most profound and heavy days of my life. It was looking at evil in its purest form.

Several decades ago, Thomas Merton (a Catholic Mystic from Kentucky) wrote about one of the most disturbing things I’ve read about the Holocaust. It was about Adolf Eichmann, the man who engineered the death camps and who was ultimately responsible for the efficiency of the murder of millions and millions of Jews.

But that’s not the worst part. The worst part, according to Merton, is that when Eichmann was on trial for his crimes against humanity, they did extensive psychological testing on him. They wanted to see what was broken inside of his mind to make him doing such heinous things like this. But one of the most disturbing things about his trial is that when they examined him to see just how crazy he was, they discovered….

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Eichmann was perfectly sane.

Which is so much worse isn’t it?

Because Eichmann, wasn’t just a crazy man going around killing people. He was an organized businessman/leader who had a desk job. He didn’t have trouble sleeping at night, or problems eating. He was in fact a real family man, a community oriented civic leader. He was proud of his job and loved kids. He was someone we would have considered normal. Maybe we would have even been an elder in our churches.

He wasn’t crazy, and that is the problem.

Here’s what Merton says:

The sanity of Eichmann is disturbing. We equate sanity with a sense of justice, with humaneness, with prudence, with the capacity to love and understand other people. We rely on the sane people of the world to preserve it from barbarism, madness, destruction. And now it begins to dawn on us that it is precisely the sane ones who are the most dangerous.

Which brings me back to Jesus. I would think that if Jesus is who Christians think he is, then we would constantly think he sounded crazy. Since the beginning of history, we have developed ways to justify our sin and call it normal. If the world really is upside down, than if Jesus is revealing the way God created the world to be, he is always going to sound a bit…crazy.

So back to Thomas Merton. Here’s what he says about a world that calls genocide sane:

What is the meaning of a concept of sanity that excludes love, considers it irrelevant, and destroys our capacity to love other human beings, to respond to their needs and their sufferings, to recognize them also as persons, to apprehend their pain as one’s own? Evidently this is not necessary for “sanity” at all. It is a religious notion, a spiritual notion, a Christian notion What business have we to equate “sanity” with “Christianity”? None at all, obviously. The worst error is to imagine that a Christian must try to be “sane” like everybody else,”

Every culture puts immense pressure on the individuals within that culture. We are taught to think of the world in certain kinds of ways. We are constantly being tempted to think succumb to group think. The problem is just how unaware we are of this.

Have you ever noticed just how easy it is for us to think that Jesus endorses the same wars, every politician, every tax cut, or tax increase that the news shows you watch endorse. Jesus tends to care about the same things that we do.

And that Jesus is perfectly sane.

I’ve noticed over the years, that we religious people have the imagination to call anything Christian that fits with the world we need to exist.

Unless we read the Gospels. In which case we begin to have uneasy realization that Jesus is crazy.

No mater how we try to spin the story, the Bible is filled with dozens of irrational people. From Moses to David to Abraham to Mary and Paul, people who see what God sees don’t act like everyone else. They are the ones who think differently about the world. And they tell stories about talking donkeys and pregnant virgins and people raising from the dead.

They are insane, but they have a faith about the way the world will one day be.

They believe that one day their crazy will be right. 

On August 28, 2012

The Agony of Judgment

Almost everytime I see a brother or sister who is doing something that I think they are going to regret in the long run, I have a kind of internal dialogue. Should I tell them, should I just be present to help them pick up the pieces when they crash? Should I lovingly confront, or just do damage control after the fact? And the reason that I sometimes don’t approach them is because I am terrified. There have been times that I was about to talk to someone and started having a near panic attack. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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On July 26, 2012

The Bricks We Build With

We must never forget that the breath of God is what sustains our speech and one day each of us will breath our last. We build our lives with bricks, one word at a time. And when we are gone, the better words we use, the more life-giving, God-honoring, Jesus-like words, those words just might leave something that will last forever.

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On May 24, 2011

Risk

Institutions, by their very nature, don’t like risk. But Faith, by it’s very nature, is risk. So what does the Church, an institution that tries to form a risk-taking people look like?

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On February 3, 2011

Sean Dorrance Kelly

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Sean Dorrance Kelly
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I’ve been a fan of Steven Colbert for a long time. Something a lot of people don’t know about him is that he is a devout Catholic. He teaches a Bible class every Sunday at his local congregation. And has a deep love for the God who was revealed in Jesus.

He also has a funny way of showing it.

Actually, all of Colbert’s humor is satire. He makes points about reverent things, in irreverent ways. And while that may not be for everyone, most people will have to admit that he reaches a group of people that no preacher could get an audience with. For example, in this clip, you have a Harvard professor saying there is something unique about Jesus as compared to other gods of history. In the words of the professor Sean Kelly, “Jesus’ way of understanding what it is to be a human being was so radically different than everything that came along before it, that it really transformed the world and showed us a new possibility.” Continue Reading…