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The Extraordinary Elite Privilege at Union Theological Seminary

I really enjoy Nicholas Kristof’s interviews with theologians and this one is no different, but I am struck by the extraordinary privilege claimed by Serene Jones, the president of Union Theological Seminary.

The interview went to print the day before more than 200 people, mostly Christians, in Sri Lanka were murdered for their faith in a terrorist attack. Those people had gathered to worship in churches celebrating the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Serene Jones simply rejects the claim of Christ’s resurrection. In answering Kristof’s question about the resurrection, Jones says, “When you look in the Gospels, the stories are all over the place. There’s no resurrection story in Mark, just an empty tomb. Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves.”

But that is contrary to what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15. He writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” This is the foundational belief of Christianity. And before we get to those who say Paul perverted the faith, remember that Peter himself according Paul’s epistles the authority of scripture.

Consider what Paul has written and juxtapose it with Serene Jones, who says, “For Christians for whom the physical resurrection becomes a sort of obsession, that seems to me to be a pretty wobbly faith. What if tomorrow someone found the body of Jesus still in the tomb? Would that then mean that Christianity was a lie? No, faith is stronger than that.”

Yes, Ms. Jones, yes. If someone tomorrow dug up Jesus Christ’s body, Christianity would be a lie.

We know Jesus from scripture. We know the stories and lessons of Jesus from scripture. It is an amazing amount of elite privilege to claim you can know Jesus from something other than the scripture.

The 200 people who died in Sri Lanka died holding on to the beliefs of scripture. They held on to their scripture. In parts of the Middle East and China, people have died because they refused to renounce Christian belief or abandon their scripture.

It is amazing privilege for Ms. Jones to be able to pick and choose what she wants and know she will never be persecuted for it because she rejected all the parts that might put her at odds with the worldliness around her while people in Africa and Asia are dying because they cling fast to all of the Christian faith, not just the parts they like.

Then there is this from Ms. Jones on the question of what happens after death.

I don’t know! There may be something, there may be nothing. My faith is not tied to some divine promise about the afterlife. People who behave well in this life only to achieve an afterlife, that’s a faith driven by a selfish motive: “I’m going to be good so God would reward me with a stick of candy called heaven?” 

To call herself a Christian and not even know the basics of the faith is staggering. We don’t go to Heaven because we did good in this life. We are all sinners. None of us are worthy. We go to Heaven by accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and believing that he died and rose again from the dead.

Serene Jones calling herself a Christian is like a steak eater calling himself a vegetarian. She cannot embrace the concept of sin because her privileged position tells her she is worthy.

200 people were murdered in Sri Lanka for their faith. Serene Jones will sleep well tonight assured in her privilege that she’ll never be treated to the scorn of the elite because she’s rejected all parts of Christianity, including Jesus himself, who might make the elite feel uncomfortable.

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