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Bishop S. I. Newman at the Gate of St. Peter

 

Guest article by Dr. Livingston Greystoke

Bishop S. I. Newman stood at the Gate of Heaven.  There Saint Peter met him.  We are privy to their conversation which I report just as it occurred.

St. Peter: Who are you?

Bishop Newman: Who are you? Where am I?

St. Peter: I am Peter, the Lord’s apostle.  You are at the very entrance of heaven. I can tell, Mr. Newman, you are surprised to see me.  Did you think that what we now see extending out through that Gate to eternity was a myth?  You did teach, quite consciously, the Lord Jesus was a mental projection of the needs and hopes of us disciples.  Certainly, you did not expect to meet Him – or me – here, did you?  I assure you, Mr. Newman, we are quite real.

Bishop Newman: You can understand why I made such an assumption.  Our most brilliant scholars in the most esteemed academies using the most contemporary historical analysis convinced me.   I was just using my God-given reason to consider the texts.  God would not want me to commit ‘intellectual suicide’ in reflecting on what people wrote about him – or her – or it- whoever.

St. Peter: Reason is one thing, prejudice another.  And, isn’t reason exercised together with faith?  After all, ‘without faith it is impossible to please God’.  Let me ask you.  Why should you be admitted through these gates?

Bishop Newman: Since you asked, all modesty aside,  I rose to the top of the clergy ranks; colleague among colleagues; leader of leaders; most devout of the devout, esteemed by clergy and lay; viewed to have an unusual set of leadership skills; an apt expounder of relativizing the Scriptures for our day; and passionate for the issues which oppress.  What might have been my most important attribute, I was recognized as having the gift of being able to make myself acceptable to all.  I strove to fulfill Jesus’ greatest passion – unity in the Church!  This was no easy task.  Glory be to God what God inspired in me!

St. Peter: Were you not like brother Paul?  He regarded ‘everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord?’  He determined to ‘never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’.  Didn’t you hold back from preaching the cross? You thought it foolishness so you didn’t preach it! Though it is foolishness to the pagans brother Paul preached it anyway! You should have known the cross is the power of God to those being saved.  You thought talk of the cross as a necessary, objective substitutionary sacrifice for sin a crass antiquarian throwback to medieval days. 

Bishop Newman: But I was so moved when I administered the Eucharist and passed the cup, saying, ‘The blood of Christ given for you. Amen’.  It was a numinous experience.

St. PeterBut you lived as an enemy of the cross.  You promulgated the rejection of the authority of God’s Word by urging persons to indulge their lusts and make their god the belly. You, of all people, the ecclesial leader of God’s people, have led the weak into licentious ways.  You have encouraged extra-marital sex by advocating the right to homosexual practice.  You ought to know unrepentant ‘fornicators’ will not be at home here!  You promised freedom but gave slavery!

Bishop Newman:  I was extremely passionate on behalf of those upon whom the shadow of the cross falls.  I stood with the oppressed and the ‘have-nots’ against ‘the haves’.  I challenged systems of discrimination and injustice.  I politicked for the care of creation and climate justice.  I struggled against the criminalization of abortion.  I supported the absolute right of a woman to choose to abort a fetus at any stage in her womb.  I fought hard against the erection of structures of homophobia and heterosexism.  I have protested against discrimination based on gender identity – transvestites should be welcomed in every pulpit! Prejudice against any chosen, loving sexual practice must not be indulged.

St. Peter:   Bishop S. I. Newman, your compassion for the humble, the lowly, the poor in body and spirit is admirable. Nonetheless, for you, what is bitter is sweet; what is dark is light; what is false is true. You have the form of religion but not the power.  You know the politic but not the Person.  You are a teacher of the law without understanding either what you say or the things about which you assert.  You have come to the wrong Gate.  Your own words speak against you.  You will neither fit nor be happy here. Adieu.

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Onward, Christian Satirists!

Kansas City, MO—In a hopeful move for the future of quality religious writing, scores of contemporary Christian wordsmiths have rallied behind what promises to be a whole new way in which the kingdom of God can irrupt into this fallen world: satirical blogging.

This week marked the launch of The Leek, a radically iconoclastic Christian website that loftily aspires to lampoon evangelical foibles, hoping to root them out and make way for a fresh move of the Holy Spirit in congregations across America. In this bold endeavor, The Leek’s writers and editors have assumed the mantle passed on by church luminaries through the ages. Through incisive pieces that aim to prick the church’s conscience over its potluck obsession and turn our collective hearts to repentance about hokey email sign-offs, these social-media visionaries are natural heirs to the Basils, Augustines, Anselms, and Pascals of past eras.

Finding little audience for and feeling creatively restrained by the strictures of drab discursive analysis or dense literary fiction, these modern-day Christian Juvenals have chosen instead the sarcastic path less traveled.

In an age bereft of entertainment and saturated by abstruse deliberation and punctilious analysis, these courageous countercultural writers embody the Apostle Paul’s charge to resist conformity to this world. They are jumping headlong into the humor void to remind American evangelicals that there are, indeed, a plethora of quirky aspects of our subculture that we must recognize and publicly mock.

Citing the challenges of retaining hope in this fallen world, editor Seth Brown explains that the purpose of The Leek is to seek out elements of the evangelical subculture that are already farcical but that have not yet been roundly ridiculed, bringing eschatological irony to bear on those aspects of our world in most desperate need of it.

Well aware of Christ’s charge in Matthew 28 for his followers to provide hope and light to a dying world, these writers have decided to answer the need subversively—by not addressing it at all. “I know people are spiritually starving to death,” said Jane Lassiter, who recently left her post at Wycliffe Global Alliance to become a modern-day prophetic purveyor of levity. “But I think what they need even more than illuminating truth is a good belly laugh. The peccadillos and idiosyncrasies of the Christian subculture provide a veritable treasure trove of resources to do this impeccably. A merry heart does good like a medicine, after all!”

Thinking along these same lines, other believers have jettisoned their university press contracts for the exciting opportunity to have a by-line at The Leek. “What?” defensively asked John Small whose previous tomes weighed heavily in academic debates against naturalism and scientism. “More people will read my blogs than my books anyway.” Readers of The Leek agree. “The apostle Paul was a good writer; he’d have killed at this kind of thing,” expressed Sam Sawyer who relishes seeing insufferable derogation transmogrified into an art form.

But does the satire do much good, reaching its intended target? “Sure! Good satire is an effective way at providing social commentary,” another enlightened virtual-Jonathan-Swift-wanna-be who’s seen the light added. “For example, the other day my article was like, ‘So what’s up with people always sitting in the same pew in church?’ And a few weeks ago, I offered compelling implicit commentary on how many times worship songs get repeated in services. And recently a friend ripped on Christians who are bad tippers. That’s golden, man! Christians really need to learn to laugh at themselves.”

At press time, Thomas Nelson was increasing its Bible-production-output in preparation for the imminent nation-wide revival The Leek’s launch is bound to spark.