Fuller Seminary, Sarah Palin And The Podvig

A lively and diverse collection of USA church workers spent the week at Holy Island's St Cuthbert's Centre as part of a Fuller Seminary study course. They had input from five island Christians. I explored the ancient Celtic and today's emerging church with them.

As a Community we are open to all strands of Christianity, and at our Open Gate Retreat Centre we welcome Americans from all political parties. I learned from one, untypical ,student about some of the thinking behind the USA Tea Party movement, which sometimes focusses on Sarah Palin. 'George Bush was clear about good and evil. Nations that are hostile to USA are evil. Churches that get involved in justice are part of evil because they distract Christians from saving lost souls for Jesus'.

I would like to join a tea party with Sarah Palin. I would point out that the primary purpose of the Old Testament Books of Law is to establish a godly basis for a good society, and that much of the Books of the Prophets are about promoting a just and condemning an unjust society. But perhaps she only takes the New Testament seriously. In that case I would point out that Jesus taught that it is not those who call him Lord but those who meet the needs of the poor in his name who shall enter God's kingdom (Matthew 25: 31-46). But perhaps she might reply that here Jesus is asking individuals to be kind to other individuals, but Jesus does not wish us to be involved in corporate affairs. In which case I would point out that a significant number of Jesus' parables are about good corporate management (e.g. Luke 16: 1-13), that in his last parable he likens care of the planet to people who tend a vineyard (Luke 20: 9-16a), and that he expects people who join him after death to take on corporate responsibilities - his twelve apostles would be in charge of communities, or tribes, Luke 22: 30.

Don't worry, one student named Todd took me seriously. He asked me for a sleeping bag so he could sleep on Cuthbert's Isle on his last night. Unfortunately, he did not tell his B&B host, slept too long, and got back after the coach had left. His hosts raced him in their car and caught up the coach. I had told Todd that a Russian Orthodox Christian might call his act a Podvig - an ascetic act of devotion that pleases God alone and serves no utiliatarian purpose. Very counter-cultural. That's why he did it. We prayed in our chapel that Todd's grandchildren would benefit from his Podvig. Bless him.

Posted at 12:32pm on 25th September 2010
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