I recently came across an article in the August 29, 2013 issue of the Golden Transcript, a weekly newspaper in Golden, CO. The article is titled “A Driving Force” and can be found here. If you are interested in community service projects or anthropology, it is a fascinating read. What I found most interesting, though, is what it reveals about Mr. Thoemke’s theology. This is the same Mr. Thoemke I wrote about last week who is a pastor at Hillside Community Church. The article is essentially about how Mr. Thoemke is a driving force in the Golden community, but his own words reveal more than just what he is doing for people in the community.
As Mr. Thoemke tells the story of his faith journey, whatever that is, he says, “I always saw and read in the scriptures what Jesus did and he was really into helping the poor.” I am not sure where Mr. Thoemke has been seeing this or what scriptures he has been reading, but the Jesus I read about in the Bible never did anything for the poor, whoever they are, much less was he “really into helping” them. I am not kidding. Go and read all four gospels and try to find an instance where Jesus actually does something for a person who is described as “poor.” You won’t find it because it is not there.
It is true that God commanded the nation of Israel to provide for the orphan, widow, and alien in their midst through the tithe. It is also true that the church should continue this practice, the practice of providing for those within the church who, for whatever reason, cannot provide for themselves. This is, of course, something completely different than providing goods and services to strangers in the community free of charge.
It is also true that Jesus healed some people who may have been poor, but the fact that their economic situation is not something that any of the writers chose to include tells us that it was not important. It tells us that Jesus did not look at and treat people based upon how much money they had. He treated people based upon two things, their spiritual condition and their spiritual need. Even when he healed people, he did it in order to demonstrate his power and authority. Every single person he healed eventually got sick or old and died. The healing did not last. It was merely a sign that pointed to the full redemption of our souls and bodies that we will see in the eternal state.
Mr. Thoemke does not stop there. He goes on and gives us more insight into what he actually believes. While talking about his personal struggle with feeling the need to spend time in the city and also spend time in his church, he says that Jesus “spent very little time in the religious community.” This was apparently the evidence Mr. Thoemke needed in order to “finally give up the hat of being in the church all the time and just [move] into the city.” There are two things that are horribly wrong with this statement.
First, if Jesus spent very little time in the religious community, where exactly did he spend his time? I am dumbfounded that Mr. Thoemke, a pastor of at least 13 years, does not realize that the nation of Israel was a religious community. I would be willing to bet that every single individual who Jesus spoke with would have considered himself to be religious. They all celebrated some sort of religious festivals. They all adhered to or knew when they had broken religious behavioral standards. All the Jews were members of a local synagogue, which was at the center of their social and cultural lives. I would say that the society in Jesus’ time was more religious than the religious sectors of modern American society. To say that Jesus spent very little time in the religious community is simply bizarre.
Second, Mr. Thoemke’s thinking that giving up on being in the church full time and moving into the city, whatever that means, indicates that he has no idea what his role as a pastor in the church actually is. Why would a pastor be thinking about spending time anywhere other than the church? An evangelist may want to spend time outside the church, but isn’t a pastor’s job to care for the flock? Is the flock not found exclusively in the church? What would we think of a shepherd who left his flock of sheep on the hillside, no pun intended, so that he could go out and look for other people’s goats to feed and water with the food and water that should be going to his sheep? This would be a terrible shepherd who should not be allowed to care for sheep, but Mr. Thoemke does the same thing and thinks he is doing what Jesus would do.
When a person reads the Bible and concludes that Jesus is something he is not, it is a sign of reprobation. It is not foolhardy proof of reprobation, for we were all once just as blind and unable to see God for who he is. Still, it is a frightening sign. For Mr. Thoemke to lack the ability to see the Jesus of the Bible or to comprehend with any sort of accuracy his own role as a pastor is sad and pathetic. If you ever find yourself listening to the dribble that comes from Mr. Thoemke’s mouth, I would encourage you to stop up your ears. If you choose to listen, though, I urge you to at least think critically and ask lots of questions.