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On Christian Culture (a half homily)

August 2, 2011

Text: Matt 14: 13-21

Anders Breivik, Norway’s political terrorist…regarded himself as a Christian… That’s hard to deal with isn’t it.? It’s no comfort to know he wasn’t the fist Christian terrorist. The crusades, for instance, produced thousands of them.

Here is what he wrote about his Christianity…

“If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God then you are a religious Christian. Myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God. We do however believe in Christianity as a cultural, social, identity and moral platform. This makes us Christian.”                                           – Anders Behring Breivik

In short, he sees himself as a “cultural Christian”, but not a “Jesus Christian”. That’s the distinction I want to think about.

But I need to be careful here, …

Just because he did these horrendous things doesn’t mean that every thing he believed was wrong

And not everyone who believes these things is going to go out and murder people.

And a lot of people who claim to have a so-called personal relationship with Jesus do horrendous things too.

But there’s something to learn here… the interesting thing in his statement is simply the idea that … what makes us Christian is a belief in Christianity as a set of cultural values rather than Jesus.

He separates his Christianity from Jesus. It’s not about following Jesus… In his own words it’s a source of his “cultural” and “social identity”. It’s his ‘moral platform’.

And as we now know he was prepared to do anything at all to defend this culture from those who thought were threatening it. And that’s where I begin to wonder whether his willingness to separate his cultural Christianity from Jesus allowed him to be prepared to do anything at all. It hardly explains his actions… But did it permit them?

If you look at what he wrote, he saw himself as a warrior for Christian culture… He lived with a profound anger and fear of Islam. He despised what he called ‘cultural marxism’. He hated multiculturalism. He wanted his country to be a bastion of Christian culture. He wanted it to be established by law… and if the law didn’t do it, then I guess he would symbolically take the law into his own hands….

He was basically committed to a kind of cultural absolutism, a cultural purity… keeping ourselves pure from these alien invaders.

What has this got to do with out text today? Jesus has been teaching in the countryside. People of all strata of society can gather and they have gathered. But Jesus was teaching at a time of heightened cultural anxiety about purity laws. Getting your diet right, and eating with the right people was the flashpoint issue of the time. You can see it throughout the gospel.

So you can gather in the country to listen to Jesus teaching, but the last thing you can do is eat with just anybody. Anxiety levels were high when it came to dinner time. And the guy stirring up all the dust on the matter was famous for sitting at table with all the wrong people.

And what does he do? He provides one enormous table at which they all eat together. He takes the bread. He blesses it, i.e. he gives thanks to God for it is a gift. He doesn’t own it, he receives it. And what do you do with what you receive from God? He gives it away to all regardless of their cultural acceptability.

And all the little boundaries, of self-contained purity between all the little groups of people sitting and standing around are broken down. Nobody can worry whether they are purer than the next guy. To eat with someone is to be a brother or sister… So the little family groupings merge, the various religious tribes merge.

It’s a kingdom feast … a sign of God… a culture of multiculturalism perhaps. It’s so disturbing… it’s enough to get a man crucified.

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