First of all, I really do apologize, to anyone who may happen to read my musings, for the long silence. I'm still getting used to this blogging business. Furthermore, I think my supposed readers should understand that my blog may meander from its original "intent." Most of the time it will probably pertain to culture in some way--and perhaps even a foreign culture--because the subject just holds my fascination so well. But, all things considered, maybe I should just be smart about it and say que sera, sera.
Sigh... on to bigger and better thoughts. Awhile ago a friend asked if I believe in a social gospel. Hmmmm... about the best thing I could come up with at the time was, "That is not a three-minute conversation." :) (We were a little limited on time) Perhaps I could do a bit better now though.
Do I believe in a social gospel?
Well, isn't it interesting... one time (quite a while ago)I read a book (can't remember the title or author's name right now) wherein the author observed the Bible's seemingly blase acceptance of slavery. He pointed out that this is surprising to many modern thinkers, who would have expected Jesus (and any of His disciples/current followers) to violently oppose such an obviously inhumane and unjust institution. "Humans can be the property of other humans" doesn't seem to fit with other messages in scripture. Just a couple of examples--in Galatians 3:28 Paul writes, "There is no longer Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians--you are all one in Christ Jesus." Psalm 12:5 reads, "Because of the oppression of the weak and groaning of the needy, I will now arise, says the Lord. I will protect them from those who malign them." Amos 5:22-24 addresses some people who assumed and promoted a strong religious identity but in actuality offended God by taking advantage of and oppressing the poor. It says, "Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream."
Don't those verses sound a little more like what we would anticipate from a God who claims to embody love??
A worthy question. As justified as it is, though, I think it misses the point.
The point is this: God's [primary] concern was never to emancipate man from the yoke of slavery, or to deliver man from unfair discrimination or the very real abomination of ethnic cleansing. Although it is certainly not God's desire for man to suffer under any of those circumstances, His [primary concern] was always [to save man from his sin.]
The point is that the [gospel's effective power] is such that a man's arms and legs may be locked in iron chains--while his soul is free indeed. The power of the gospel is such that men can willingly and even happily go to their tortures and deaths--because they have already died to everything but Christ. And simultaneously, in Christ [alone], they live forever.
Let's look at it from the other side of the coin though--through the lens of society. Let's say it is absolutely wrong for genocide to exist in a society. Oppression. Injustice. Apartheid--any of these things are just obviously unacceptable. Someone has to do something about this... and if God won't, men will.
One such man was Kwame Nkrumah. His entire life centered around liberating the African country of Ghana (Gold Coast) from Britain's rule--and in doing so, he hoped to generate a movement of liberation across the entire African continent, from various world powers (mainly Britain and France) whose presence had become a widespread source of disdain.
In the extremely transient climate that typifies many parts of Africa, Nkrumah was an overnight celebrity. Literally. One day he was in prison, and the next he was elected prime minister of the Gold Coast.
And I think it took me reading this to really, truly appreciate the importance of necessary order with regard to societal reform--(in other words, the gospel must come first) see, most of Africa (in addition to being continuously washed over with change) is preoccupied with spirituality. Every movement that can be perceived as good or hopeful has spiritual overtones, most of them not at all subtle. Nkrumah, in his sprint for independence, was given titles like "Man of Destiny" and "Star of Africa." People began to believe he was a prophet and that he possessed super-human abilities. Nkrumah himself was quoted saying, "Seek the political kingdom and all else will follow." Like, woah. Blatant biblical allusion, yes???
In his single-mindedness, after years of tireless work, Nkrumah received his reward. The Gold Coast was liberated from Britain's control on March 6th, 1957, and became the African nation of Ghana. It exists under the same name today. But one thing should be noted: Kwame Nkrumah made Ghana independent. [Not free.]
So once again, the point is this: History has seen many Nkrumahs. But [there is only one Christ.] Victory on the political scene cannot and does not compare to spiritual salvation.
Like a space heater radiating warmth, the gospel transforms individuals and societies from the inside out. That order is absolutely critical.
If you put the cart before the horse... well, things are just backwards. Plus. Good luck getting where you're trying to go.