Monday, 20 July 2009

The Bad News of the Gospel

The gospel, the euangelion, is often interpreted as the good news. It's the good news from outside the human situation, good news from God. Under the traditional evangelical worldview it's good news concerning the Final Judgement. The question about heaven or hell as an everlasting destination is resolved through a confession of faith. But this is a simplification, because the good news is about moving from death to life, from sin to holiness. In other words, it has application in the here and now.

And let's take it further. Suppose that Zizek is right that the crucifixion is the death of the Big Other, taking away the need for a Final Judgment. The gospel is still the good news of being able to move from death to life, from sin to holiness. For those who are in lack, the gospel is good news because life in the kingdom of God means that their needs will be met. It is, as Luke records, a time for good new for the poor.

It's also time for the rising and falling of many. Simeon proclaims over the infant Jesus that Jesus will be responsible for the rising and falling of many (Lk 2:34). It's a kind of cosmic rebalancing in which those who have fallen will be lifted up, and those who are high shall be brought low.

And this is the part of the gospel that disturbs me, and if you live in an OECD country it should disturb you as well. Take a look at the Global Rich List site. Enter an approximation of your income and find out where you sit on the global scale. For interest, try to find the median point - the income required to be at around the 50% mark.

Now even with the approximations of this calculation, the lesson is clear. The gospel is not always the good news. Many of us have already been comforted in our wealth. We have more than enough to survive. The gospel, for us, is bad news. Sell what you have and give it to the poor. Give to anyone who asks of you. Lend and expect nothing in return.

But it is always, no matter your income, the movement from death to life. It is the movement out of perpetual accumulation of wealth into the kingdom that shares wealth. In the kingdom of God the hungry are fed... by the fed. In the kingdom of God the poor are made rich... by the rich. In the kingdom of God the homeless are given shelter... by the sheltered.

The gospel is the message from God. It is good news for all because it is the movement from death to life. But in that movement, the price is always material; a material act that confirms a verbal confession of faith. And for some of us, we will always receive that as the bad news of the gospel.
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