Facilitator: Denise Diaab, Intern
Where: In sanctuary except for July 15 and Aug 5 when downstairs
What: Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5-7
Join this vital study and discussion to see how the Bible sheds light on the crisis facing our nation. What can we draw about the politics of Jesus? How do we apply his teaching to the public issues of our time?
Below is Rev. Burklo's blog on why this Bible Study is needed now!
"... and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:32, NRSV
"To abandon facts if to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights." Timothy Snyder in On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century. (To keep track of the shocking number of lies uttered daily by President Trump, stay tuned to The Washington Post.)
The Bible bears good news for us and for our time. It is not "fake news". While much of it is not factual, even its mythical stories deliver enduring truths. How does the Bible cast light on the crisis facing our nation today?
This study of the Bible seeks inspiration in it for the defense of American democracy. Our approach to the biblical texts will model the resistance required to stop our nation's current slide toward totalitarianism. Just as we must interpret our present crisis without dogmatic preconceptions, we'll read the Bible without a doctrinal filter. We'll read it meditatively: letting it lift us above fear and frustration and direct us into deliberative action. We'll read the signs of our present times in historical context, and read the Bible in the same way. We'll be listening for echoes from the Bible resonating from the US Constitution.
The people of Israel clamored for a king in a time when the country was under threat of invasion. The prophet Samuel's eloquent and prescient warning to them against the dangers of tyranny (I Samuel 8:4-20) rings as true today as it did then. In the mythical story in Mark 5:1-3 of the "legion" of demons that Jesus drove out of a man and into a herd of pigs, which were being raised to feed the Roman legion occupying Israel, we find another example of the deep disdain for oligarchy that is fixed in the DNA of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The Bible was an inspiration to the founders of this nation to embed checks and balances against tyranny into the US Constitution, and today the Bible inspires us to preserve them.
"If the main pillar of the system is living a lie, then it is not surprising that the fundamental threat to it is living in truth." So wrote the avant-garde playwright and anti-communist activist Vaclav Havel, who went on to become the first president of the Czech Republic after the communist system there was overthrown. In America, Christianity has become a tool of a dominant political system built on lies. One need look no further than at Attorney General Jeff Sessions' abuse of Romans chapter 13 to persuade Americans that the Bible says it is right to separate refugee children from their parents at the US/Mexico border. We must resist this perversion with a search for truth about the Bible itself, revealing how its stories can give us strength and hope.
Should it be surprising that many of the folks who claim to take the Bible literally also claim that climate change is a Chinese hoax, Obama was born in Kenya, and the poor will get richer if the rich get richer? "Alternative facts" in religion are directly related to belief in "alternative facts" in politics. There is a direct causal link between the Reagan era in the 1980's, when fundamentalist Christianity allied with the Republican Party, and the current President's denial not just of facts, but of the existence of factuality itself. Republicans manipulated fundamentalist/evangelical Christians into supporting their anti-tax, anti-regulation, anti-immigrant, anti-government agenda by pandering to the worst instincts of nativism, racism, and paranoia - the very opposites of the message and example of Jesus. Now our country is reaping the resulting bitter harvest of hatred and mendacity.
Christianity is part of our country's problem.
But it is also part of the solution. Faithfully following Jesus' law of love inspires us to stand up for full LGBTQ equality, immigrant rights, women's rights, environmental protection, and robust social insurance and universal health coverage for all - especially for the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens. Studying the historical roots of the Bible, without supernaturalistic presumptions, primes us to promote scientific and social progress and fact-based, compassionate public policies.
Christianity suffuses American culture in profound ways. So the ways we interpret the Bible have serious political consequences. Here we'll look fearlessly and critically at both the Bible and the daily news, and prayerfully seek guidance for our activism to preserve our endangered freedoms.