Monthly Archives: February 2014

How are the miracles of Jesus to be construed today? Should they be replicated? Or are Jesus miracles/signs to be viewed as foretaste of eternity?

One of my favorite uncles became a born again Christian in the late 70s. He gave his life to Christ through the Scripture Union, which was a movement within the traditional churches to evangelize the heathen and to commit to Bible study, and prayer fellowship. Did I also mention that it was the “King James only” era? Not only was this uncle completely sold out for God, but he was also very bright with a stellar academic record at school.

This man was so dedicated to God that one would literally feel God’s presence while spending time with him. It was his final year in Secondary School (High school), and everyone knew that he will graduate with “highest honors.” It was a given because this man was the cream of the crop academically; and also a born again!

This was during the era of the ostentatious claim of the miraculous. If it is declared, it is bound to happen. If Jesus said it and it happened, then it must happen when declared with authority by Jesus‘ followers. After all Jesus said the believers would do greater things than He did because He was going to the Father (paraphrase). So this uncle declared that if he received any grade lower than “highest honors” at graduation, he would denounce the faith that he has cherished and to which he has committed his whole life.

If faith could be measured by any standard, this man could be said to rank among the highest echelon of the faithful. Then came the graduation, and the results were in. Unfortunately, he graduated two grades below his expectation. He did pass, and many people would be happy with the grade he received, but he asked for the “highest honors.” Because he did not receive it, he abandoned his faith. The news of his rejection of the faith went spiral. People could not believe it. He then began to indulge in lifestyle of sex, booze and partying. It was like he was trying to catch up for the years of abstinence. Thank God that after almost two decades, he turned back to God, but I m not so much sure how he views “name it and claim it” after that experience.

During my first year in ministry, I said that if I declare someone healed or prayed for someone and it did not happen, I will quit the ministry. In the innocence of my faith then, I thought that as ministers we must replicate the miracles of Jesus. My colleagues and I prayed for what we called “slaying” anointing (not knowing that when people are slain they are really dead) but the word “slain in the Spirit” promoted by Benny Hin and the likes then was the real stuff. Well, I never received the slaying anointing (thank God for that, you could imagine the death toll since 1996), nor did I receive everything that I prayed for. This is not to deny being used by God in the miraculous in numerous occasion to meet the needs of others. Thank God I did not give up my faith, because of my unrealistic expectation.

I have been troubled by preachers, and authors that espouse this claim that Jesus’ signs/(miracles?) is a proof of his Divinity or the proof to the unbelievers that we have the gift of healing, or a proof for the unbelievers to come to repentance when we perform miracles. The interesting thing is that miracle is not a monopoly of Christians or God. Heathens perform miracles alike. The idea that Jesus’ miracles ought to be replicated today has led many to people develop formulaic prayers that will command such miracles from God.

People can now attend few weeks of “school” to learn how to “move in the miraculous.” Some Christians are never satisfied until a “shiny shoe” evangelist lays hand on them and push them backward to the ground in pretense of falling under “the power.” (whatever that means). This quest for the miraculous has also led to the reintroduction of the “sale of indulgence,” which Luther, the Reformer gave his life to protest against. Indulgence has reappeared in the form of Tele preachers offering “holy water,” healing handkerchief,” and “holy anointed oil” at exorbitant cost. Yet, these preachers criticize the traditional churches, and characterize them as lukewarm or dead; but yet they are offering “indulgences” for sale to the poor, and also forcing them to “sow a seed” before God will prosper them (I think we are due for another 95 Thesis).

Jesus does not need to prove Himself to anyone. He does not need to prove His divinity. He is the epitome of self-awareness. People around Him recognized and attested to His divinity. We read of pious Jewish religious leaders that came to Him, and were also His disciples secretly. His actions of mercy and compassion to the disenfranchised, and His love for sinners and the outcasts unmistakably attest that He was was not an ordinary man.

In Luke 7:18, we read of an account of the man born blind, whom Jesus healed. His disciples asked Him whose fault it was that this man was born blind to which He replied no one. In stead Jesus said that it was so that God would be glorified. If you are not familiar with Jesus’ narratives, you would think immediately that God is this egoistic, narcist, who would stop at nothing to satiate His ego. For those who really understand how narrative works, they are thrilled because they understand what the miracle in question means. Jesus is utilizing natural occurrence to explain greater realities.

His miracles ought not to be construed as conquering natural obstacles, or a proof of His divinity, they are to be viewed as a pledge of eternity. His miracles are to be understood as surety that God’s promised sovereign reign has begun and will fully arrive in His timing. God has remembered His people, and Has through Christ come to rescue them, and usher them into His eternal reign of shalom! When we view Jesus’ miracles as proof of anything to anyone, and claim that because Jesus performed miracles, His followers must do the same or they are devoid of faith, we are mistaken.

Our faith in Jesus must result in the expression of gratitude, which ought to be evident in what we do in secret, how we treat others, our utterances, what we do with our finances, how we treat our spouses, our children, how we carter to the poor, and how we speak up against injustice.

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“Religion is the opiate of the people”

 

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.”

Karl Marx, Critic of Hegel philosophy of Right.

I am currently recovering from surgery. Prior to my surgery, I had no experience with narcotics or in Marx’s choice word opium. I remember returning home the same day after my surgery and writhing in pain with no one around to help. The pain was so intense that I could not answer phone calls because I had left my phone on the dresser away from the bed. So I took two tablets of the oxycodone 5-325 given to me at the hospital, man did it feel so good after few minutes! The bed felt unusually warm and cozy to the point that I forgot I had just had surgery. I remember narrating this experience to my friend and she said, “Blessing you were high, that’s what was happening to you.” I had no idea that that’s what being high translates to (no wonder it is a controlled substance), man it felt so good!!! But after about six hours the reality settled in as the pain resurfaced.

If you know a little about philosophy, agnosticism, or atheism you must have heard this quote, “religion is the opium of the masses (people).” This quote when read in exclusion of the entire quotation would suggest that Karl Marx was against religion. But was he really? Let’s look at the quote as a whole. “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress.”

It seems to me that Karl admits that people are in distress and religion offers them comfort in the same way people who are physically going through pain from injuries or in my own case surgery receive temporal relief from narcotics (opium). To Karl, religion is the protest against the real distress. What is the real distress that Marx has in mind? Is it not the existing economic and political structures that cause suffering to the masses and disenfranchise the poor in our society?

The second part of the quote recognizes religion as “the sigh of the oppressed creature and heart of the heartless world.” Let’s assume that Karl’s use of the word religion is in the context of organized religion or institutionalized faith (I am arguing that religion could but not solely refer to institutionalized faith). He admits that it is a sigh (of relief?) of the oppressed creature. It seems to me that Marx is saying that the purpose of religion is to create relief for the poor and oppressed through it’s creation of illusory fantasies for these disenfranchised people.

I will argue that he was irate about the political and economic systems in place that hinder the poor from achieving true happiness in this present world of form. Religion then says to the masses; it’s okay, do not worry, this world is not all there is. Do not worry about this transient world, its wickedness and indifference to true virtue and happiness because you will find happiness in the life to come.

Karl concedes that people are in distress and religion provides comfort or alleviates the pain in a similar fashion as narcotics would provide temporary relief to those who are going through physical pain. What I find fascinating is that Karl recognizes that opiates do not heal the physical injury in the same way that religion whether organized or existential does not resolve the underlying causes of people’s pain and suffering. Instead, religion helps them to explore why they are suffering and helps them to look to an imaginary future, where pain and suffering would be completely eradicated. A future where the King of righteousness will return and establish His rule in our world. A future where there would be no more sickness, oppression, war, poverty, and dying. A future, where in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, the shroud that covers all people would be removed.

Although, it would be misleading for me to insinuate that Marx did not have disgust for organized religion, but when this quote is considered in it’s entirety, it seem to me that he inadvertently uses religion as a polemic to the temporary relief obtained from the unjust political and economic system that enslave and constantly keep the less privileged in perpetual poverty by policies which offer them temporary relief. That Marx is not entirely against religion could be seen in the resulting Liberation theology by the Latin American theologians, that utilized Marx’s analysis of religion as a critique of the economic injustice against the poor. What do you think about my thoughts about this quote?

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