Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God – like Jacob – and risk being transformed?
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It came most recently from Rick Santorum. In 2008 he supposedly said, “There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian.” And although some debate whether he actually said that,* his sentiment is hardly new.
There was for example the 1952 song by the Louvin Brothers, “That word, ‘broad-minded’ is spelled s-i-n.” (As shown in the image at the bottom of the page.)
One strange thing? Ira Louvin was “notorious for his drinking, womanizing, and short temper.” (Or maybe it wasn’t so strange after all.) Ira ended up getting married four times, and his third wife Faye ended up shooting him six times. (Four times in the chest. And that was after one time he allegedly beat her up. See On broadminded, spelled “s-i-n.”)
And then of course – more recently – we’ve seen the saga of Judge Roy Moore.
But we’re digressing here. The point is that in the interest of turnabout is fair play, it’s time for someone to say, “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…'”
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As noted previously, my brother and I recently hiked the Camino de Santiago. (From September 13 to October 12, 2017. See “Hola! Buen Camino!”) And one thing you definitely have time for – on such a long and arduous pilgrimage – is a lot of thinking. (In mile after mile of hiking.) And one thing I definitely thought about was: Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle!
As in: Maybe I’m being a bit too subtle about what this particular blog is all about…
Which brings up the question in the caption above: Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God … and risk being transformed? (See also On arguing with God.)
(In Jacob’s case he got transformed significantly, He had his name changed – from Jacob to “Israel” – and then became “Father of the 12 tribes of Israel.” See Genesis 32:22-32. If he’d been a conservative, Jacob would probably have been content to stay Jacob…)
So anyway, the answer is probably not. (A conservative Christian wouldn’t think of wrestling or arguing with God.) But an FYI: The link to the definition of “transformed” in the caption above leads to the King James Dictionary. (And you can’t get any more “old school” than that. As I’ve noted, the King James Version is the “Bible God uses.” See Bill Tyndale [left] – who[se] Bible you could actually READ!)
In turn, the King James Dictionary defines “transform” – in one sense – as “to metamorphose; as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.” Using that definition, it would seem most so-called conservative Christians would prefer to stay caterpillars.
Another definition is in the field of theology, where it means to “change the natural disposition and temper of man from a state of enmity … into a disposition and temper conformed to the will of God.” (The KJ Dictionary even provided a Bible quote, from Romans 12:2: “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.”) And that leads to another observation: That one thing conservative Christians hate – and/or can’t handle – is change.
Which raises a question: “Is God really a bloated, sanctimonious old white guy in a pin-striped suit?” And that leads to another definition of “transform” from the KJ Dictionary:
Among the mystics, to [“transform” is to] change the contemplative soul into a divine substance, by which it is lost or swallowed up in the divine nature.
And if there’s another thing so-called conservative Christians hate, it’s the term “mystic.” (Or mysticism.) Which led me to note previously: “The terms ‘mystic‘ or ‘mysticism‘ seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy. (‘Try it sometime!!!‘)”
All of which leads to the question: Should “real” Christians be narrow-minded or broad-minded? To me, the best answer to that question comes from Luke 24:45: “Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”
Which brings up the Daily Office Readings for Monday, November 13. They included Matthew 15:1-3:
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”
And incidentally, the image at right is by Gustave Doré, “Dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees.”
Another note: The “DORs” are the Daily Office Readings. (See What’s a DOR?) And that brings up the DORs for this morning, Thursday, November 16. They included Matthew 16:12: “Then they understood that he” – Jesus – “had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees.” And that’s a problem we’ve had ever since…
That is, at least initially the “relationship between Early Christianity and Pharisees was not always hostile.” (Paul the Apostle was a Pharisee, at least initially.) But as the term has evolved – and as it is now used in the lower case – the term pharisee has come to mean a “sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.”
So it seems to me that a lot of “Christians” who say they’re conservative are actually pharisees.
For example, when I just Googled the phrase “negative Christians,” I got over 500,00 results. And when I Googled “hypocritical Christians,” I got 189,000 results. But to me, real Christians aren’t negative, self-righteous, sanctimonious or hypocritical. Real Christians work every day to make the world a better place, plowing ahead, while the pharisees get all the negative press.
Which of course leaves the rest of us with a heavy cross to bear. And that leads to a final note:
“It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun. It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of Scripture…”
And that’s another problem that we’ve had since the time of Jesus…
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Would the Louvins let Jesus “open their minds,” per Luke 24:45?
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The upper image, courtesy of Wikipedia, is Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Alexander Louis Leloir(1865). Leloir (1843-1884), was a a French painter specializing in genre and history paintings. His younger brother was painter and playwright Maurice Leloir. For more on the idea of “struggling with the idea of God,” see On arguing with God (posted May 2014) and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella (posted April 2016).
Re: Rick Santorum. See also The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…
Note also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section. Thus as to debate about Santorum’s supposed comments, see e.g. Liberal media shamelessly twists comment from Rick Santorum. And aside from the Louvin Brothers’ sentiment, see also The Heresy of Liberalism | Christian Forums:
Liberalism (or to give it its proper name, heresy…) is about individual freedom. Freedom from tradition, freedom from institutions, freedom from authority, freedom from dogma. The freedom to be and do as you choose… Thus where Christ offers freedom from sin, Liberalism offers freedom to sin. In short, it is anathema to God and should be recognised and treated as such by all who consider themselves Christian.
And an FYI: I Googled the phrase “there’s no such thing as a conservative Christian” and got some 17,500,000 results, including the following: Santorum’s Wrong: There Is Such a Thing as a “Liberal” Christian. His name was Jesus (HuffPost), Rick Santorum In 2008: There’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian, No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian – tgm.org, and Article on: There is no such thing as a conservative-Republican Christian: Jesus is a small-c communist. Thus it seems the title was designed to be deliberately provocative, as was this thought in the main text: “consider now that you have been led to associate ‘Jesus’ with the views of those who are not really Christians.” Which is pretty much the theme of both this blog and this particular post…
Re: “Conservative Christians” and mystics: See The Bible and mysticism, or The Christian repertoire.
Re: Jacob being transformed. See 9 Famous Fathers in the Bible, and also Genesis 32:22-32:
Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
Re: “Narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading.” See On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”
The lower image is courtesy of The Louvin Brothers – Wikipedia.