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Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 21 May 2015

CHRISTIANITY lite

By Jim Jordal

 Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

Deuteronomy 4:5-8, KJV

Remember the beer commercials touting their product as “less filling,” or “lite”? We could easily apply this phrase to much of American Christianity today, since that’s mostly what we’re getting: lite, less-filling religion that flagrantly ignores, as the prophet Hosea bemoaned, the great things of God’s law.

In the Bible passage above Moses told his people that the law of God was their wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations. He wasn’t speaking of the sacrificial and ceremonial laws superseded by Christ, but of God’s everlasting and universal principles for the successful operation of nations. These principles are still in effect, and in breaking them we only smash ourselves and our nation against the rocky shores of history.

These principles that God said would be our wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations are the moral, ethical truths that combine to produce our national character or ethos. They include justice, truth, mercy and compassion for others. They serve as the foundation for more recently developed values of democracy, individual freedoms, primacy of law, limited government, equality under law and so on.

These essential components of successful nationhood come from the Mosaic law, including the ethical principles of biblical Jubilee comprising respect and rest for the earth and its creatures, an equitable distribution of wealth, protection for debtors, restrictions on the use of usury, and prohibition on involuntary servitude of all types.

In this crisis period of international unrest, America often finds itself vilified and attacked by terrorists and those disagreeing with our values, or more accurately, the ways  we attempt to impose them on others. We have substituted human wisdom for the eternal wisdom of God. We have allowed our thirst for economic markets to overcome the rights of indigenous peoples to drink clean water and breathe clear air. We have used our awesome military power to browbeat and smash other independent nations. And we have often justified this mayhem as ordained and destined by an “American” God who blesses whatever unjust and high-handed actions we undertake.

But much of American Christendom retains a spiritual posture seemingly unable to either comprehend or apply the great things of God’s law, with the awful result that we dare not fulfill our prophetic calling by speaking truth to power. Instead, we pray for our leaders, but fear to speak God’s word to them. We pray for peace, not realizing that, as protesters claim. “There can be no peace without justice.” And we call for parishioners to support truth, justice, and mercy without ever explaining what these are, and what we would be doing if we practiced them.

National political leaders worry continuously about how the world views our nation, yet we continue to export idiocy and filth in our entertainment, death and destruction in our military actions, financial domination in our economic and trade policies, ecological destruction in our commercial endeavors, and an almost hopeless indecision and ineptitude in our political actions.

But God said that our “wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations” lay in our adherence to the statutes and judgments of his law. These principles of justice are included in our legal structure, if we would just obey them. They are found in our political institutions if we only knew it. And they pervade the oracles of real Christianity, if we could but find them amid the present morass of ritual, tradition, and repetition that so often substitutes for freedom of religious practice and spiritual enlightenment.