What Jesus calls us to do as followers is to create a world in which family is not a matter of blood, but of spirit. This more expansive view of family sounds lovely in theory, but is absolutely radical in practice.
SOURCE: The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus (Meyers, Robin)
Archives For Jesus
What do we do as Christians when confronted with these harsh realities? The Bible urges us to “remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself!” (Hebrews 13:3). Jesus knew what it was like to have a loved one incarcerated. His cousin, John the Baptist, was falsely accused and arrested (and eventually executed). Perhaps this is why Jesus, in Matthew 25, tells his disciples “when I was in prison, you visited me.” As a victim of false imprisonment and injustice, Jesus entered into solidarity with the incarcerated and exposed the flawed justice system of his day. Of all people, Christians should be the most skeptical of prisons. A simple survey of prisons in the Bible will reveal that prisons were mainly used to oppress minorities, exploit the poor, and silence the prophets. And the prison system today continues to do so.
One of my favorite Christians and author is Shane Claiborne. Several years ago he established and still lives in a strong Christian community in a very poor neighborhood in Philadelphia. He definitely takes the words of Jesus to heart both physically and mentally. He also has a very unique sense of humor which makes his books and writing very appealing to me. One of his books entitled Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals is much in the line with the words above.
Lets face it if Jesus were around today he would very likely be shunned by almost everyone including, and maybe even especially, the current Christian religious establishment and especially the conservative evangelical variety. He would be thoroughly trashed by the likes of Fox News Channel as being one of those dying heart liberals who care too much for those lazy people who won’t lift themselves up by their bootstraps. He would simply be too radical for most in those groups. He would be called one of “those” people. You know what I mean. This simple but obvious fact saddens me greatly. When did taking care of the poor and visiting prisoners go out of style with many of my conservative friends?
“Mixing religion and politics is like mixing ice cream and manure. It doesn’t do much to the manure but it sure does ruin the ice cream”, my friend Tony Campolo likes to say.
No one would vote for Jesus.
Seriously. Firstly He’s one of those boat people. Well, at least one of those “donkey people”.
According to the second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel his family were refugees who in the middle of the night had to flee and seek asylum.
He’s also a Middle Eastern man. Oh, and he’s not Christian. (Yep, he’s Jewish) He was involved in repeated seditious civil-disobedience and the religious right of his day repeatedly accused him of partying too hard and with all the wrong people.
Politicians and religious leaders today still find it convenient to scapegoat, alienate and demonise all the people Jesus loved hanging out with.
What is even more amazing it that Jesus turned those ten into just two. Love God and Love each other. How could it be simpler than that.
April 15, 2013 — The rise of the so-called “Nones”—the increasing percentage of adults who claim no religious affiliation—has been a much-discussed trend in American religion. Is the nation moving away from Christianity and other forms of conventional faith?
To provide insight on this topic, Barna Group analyzed 42,855 interviews conducted in recent years, looking at 15 different measures of non-religiosity. In other words, the research explores the emerging post-Christian landscape of the nation.
The above words are from an email I recently received from the Barna Organization. For those of you who might not know Barna is a Christian oriented research/polling organization. The trend away from Christian religious denominations is getting almost to be a panic with them. They are now researching and reporting on the top ten Christian cities and the bottom ten. I debated whether to put this post on this blog or my other one that addresses spiritual stuff. For some reason, maybe because this blog gets more attention, I decided to post it here.
This trend has been going on for some time now. Long enough to have been given its own moniker “Post-Christian”. Anyone who has been reading my blog over at RedLetterLiving knows that I have been reporting about this trend for some time now. To me most Christian denominations are “shooting themselves in the foot” so to speak. We have splintered into 39,000 different versions of Christ’s church. Could that be one of the causes for us becoming a post-Christian society? As fractured as we are there is just no credibility anymore.
It is utterly a shame that the messages of Jesus Christ have always been lost on younger generations to one degree or another but now the trend is also moving to those who are older. They are just not coming back to the church as they have in the past. This trend is very likely to increase until the church either implodes or comes to its senses regarding its message. When we say “come to us as we are the only ones who have it right” most can see through this veil of hypocrisy.
One of my favorite boat-rocking followers of Jesus is Shane Claiborne. Check him and his books out on Amazon or Wikipedia if you are not familiar with him. Shane seldom minces words and here is what he says about the church losing it younger generations:
I remember asking in disappointment, “What happened, bro? What went wrong?” He just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I got bored.” Bored? God forgive us for all those we have lost because we made the gospel boring. I am convinced that if we lose kids to the culture of drugs and materialism, of violence and war, it’s because we don’t dare them, not because we don’t entertain them. It’s because we make the gospel too easy, not because we make it too difficult. Kids want to do something heroic with their lives, which is why they play video games and join the army. But what are they to do with a church that teaches them to tiptoe through life so they can arrive safely at death?
Claiborne, Shane (2008-09-09). The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Kindle Locations 2024-2032). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
The statistics show that not only are we losing the younger generations but all generations are starting to fall away in numbers never seen before. If the church hopes to survive this proclaimed “post-Christian” period they must move outside of the ultra conservative political realm and address the troubles of the world today. It needs to get out in the world more instead of hunkering down in their often lavish cathedrals waiting for the end-times.
But I am just a simple guy who happens to be an avid follower of Jesus but not particularly religious right now so what do I know….
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. — 1 Corinthians 13
Looking back on my life Gandhi’s quote above inspires me with its wisdom and the second quote from the Bible mirrors the same message. Being able to see the circumstances and the facts and then making changes is where the greatness lies.
This seems to be a very tough message in today’s world where gridlock and stubborn instance of being right is the norm. There are just too many in the world who are consumed by their current worldviews and are totally unwilling to even consider that they just might not have all the answers. Continue Reading…
It is terrible to think what the churches do to men. But if one imagines oneself in the position of the men who constitute the Church, we see they could not act differently. The churches are placed in a dilemma: the Sermon on the Mount or the Nicene Creed–the one excludes the other. If a man sincerely believes in the Sermon on the Mount, the Nicene Creed must inevitably lose all meaning and significance for him, and the Church and its representatives together with it. If a man believes in the Nicene Creed, that is, in the Church, that is, in those who call themselves its representatives, the Sermon on the Mount becomes superfluous for him. And therefore the churches cannot but make every possible effort to obscure the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount, and to attract men to themselves. It is only due to the intense zeal of the churches in this direction that the influence of the churches has lasted hitherto.
The quote above seems pretty radical! It must be from one of those new age thinkers! Guess again. It was from the Author of War and Peace Leo Tolstoy in 1894. Although he says it much more bluntly than I ever would I can’t say I disagree with most of it.
The Nicene Creed which was authored under the Roman ruler Constantine is mostly what we are supposed to believe about Jesus Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is what Jesus himself told us how we are supposed act if we are his followers. Tolstoy saw that the church even during his time put much more energy in maintaining man-made beliefs about Jesus rather than just following Him. Not a lot has changed in that regard. I think almost all clergy are well-meaning men who have simply bought into a tilted system based on beliefs about Jesus instead of lessons from Jesus.
Tony Jones a hundred years later also speaks of this in his book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier
In the twenty-first century, it’s not God who’s dead. It’s the church. Or at least conventional forms of church. Dead? you say. Isn’t that overstating the case a bit? Indeed, churches still abound. So do pay phones. You can still find pay phones around, in airports and train stations and shopping malls-there are plenty of working pay phones. But look around your local airport and you’ll likely see the sad remnants where pay phones used to hang-the strange row of rectangles on the wall and the empty slot where a phone book used to sit. There are under a million pay phones in the United States today. In 1997, there were over two million. Of course, the death of the pay phone doesn’t mean that we don’t make phone calls anymore. In fact, we make far more calls than ever before, but we make them differently. Now we make phone calls from home or on the mobile device clasped to our belt or through our computers. Phone calls aren’t obsolete, but the pay phone is-or at least it’s quickly becoming so.
Churches are like pay-phones? That is a very interesting analogy. God is not dead. It is only the man-made institution built in his name that is on life support. I have hopes that this new emergent movement will prove to be a worthy substitute for fast dwindling church structures of today. We have to return to doing what Jesus says….
But what do I know…
Ayn Rand was not only a schlock novelist, she was also the progenitor of a sweeping “moral philosophy” that justifies the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only the slothful, undeserving poor but the lackluster middle-classes as well.
Her books provided wide-ranging parables of “parasites,” “looters” and “moochers” using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes’ labor. In the real world, however, Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O’Connor (her husband was Frank O’Connor).
As Michael Ford of Xavier University’s Center for the Study of the American Dream wrote, “In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.”
This is an ongoing study of the new vice presidential candidate in the Republican party. It is well-known that Mr. Ryan, like several others in his party, is a huge fan of Ayn Rand. He says when his loses his focus he picks up her books to rejuvenate his path in life. So, I wanted to learn a little more about his hero. I knew from hearing about her in college in the 60′s that she was a radical and an enthusiastic McCarthy supporter. But what I have learned about her since is even more telling.
One of her most famous quotes is:
Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. – Ayn Rand
I don’t know if, being an avowed atheist, she was mocking Christ who basically said the opposite or just what were the circumstances of this quote but I just can’t put a benevolent spin on it in any circumstance .
A final quote I want to present of Ms. Rand is her beliefs about altruism. For those of you who might not know what an altruist is the definition is person unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others. Here is the quote:
If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.
I know Ayn Rand is also a hero of an elder in the Lutheran church where I was a member a few years ago. He prided himself in his beliefs that he got from her that there are two types of people in this world ”makers” and “takers”. The makers produce things and the takers are just a drain our society. He included everyone in government service as a “taker”. His philosophy, which seemed to be agreed upon by several others there, was one of the reasons I decided to not challenge my expulsion from that congregation due to theological differences (I think the earth is more than six thousand years old and the Bible contains stories that are not always literal and without error).
Ayn Rand seems to almost be the anti-thesis of Jesus Christ who she loathed so much. It seems totally ironic to now see Ms. Rand as a hero of the political party who deems themselves to be so Christian. How can this be?
So, here I am looking for reasons why a very good clergy friend of mine from the past has such a high regard to Mr. Ryan. Could my friend be one of those one-issue voters? Paul Ryan is very consistent in his opposition to abortion even in the case of rape and incest. Could that be the sole reason for my friend’s endorsement? I hope not….
I am thankful to all those who said NO to me. It’s because of them I did it myself. –Albert Einstein
After collecting a number of Einstein quotes he is becoming one of my favorites and this is one of the best ones. I know in my life I have always asked “Why is this like ….” I often get the equivalent of “no” as a reply or maybe more accurately “this is the way we have always done it…” or some such as that.
Those refusals to take seriously my “why” has made me stronger over the years. It is one of the things that has enabled me to cope with my deafness. I won’t fall into the box that people want to put those who cannot hear. The “deaf and dumb” label is still alive today.
My asking why and then having to go about finding out why myself has made me stronger. One case in point is when I questioned my religious leaders about why we seem to ignore Jesus’ words today I was pretty much told that we are just worthless people who can’t do that but he loves us anyway. That answer just didn’t play with me. Since I could get no answer that made any sense I went about finding out the answer myself. I spent years studying the words of Jesus and the history of religion. As a result I now have my answer that my religious leader either didn’t want to tell me our just didn’t know himself. What is the answer? To find that out join me on the journey of the history of the church over at RedLetterLiving in the coming months to find out. The answers just might surprise you
Don’t ever stop asking questions and don’t ever take “no” or “that is the way we have always done it” for an answer especially in todays political environment. Thomas Jefferson’s quote the “a democracy depends on an informed electorate” is more urgent today than it has ever been. Continue asking questions and seeking answers; don’t just sit back and accept the spin that others put on the story.
But what do I know….
“We are seeing head-snapping generational change,” notes conservative columnist Michael Gerson. “The model of social engagement of the religious right is increasingly exhausted.”
Thank God. A distinctive way of being Christian in the public square — a softer, less partisan way — is emerging. And this cultural change could be the very thing our faith needs to survive.
This article is inspiring indeed! Even when I used to call myself and Evangelical Christian I was totally embarrassed by the extreme political turmoil caused by the so called “Moral Majority”. Their morals were limited to pretty much hating everyone and everything they did not agree with. They were one of the reasons I quit calling myself a Christian and moved to being a “follower of Jesus Christ”. They had drifted so far eschew from the teachings of Jesus as to being almost the opposite of him. They become much more about “empire” than they were about the kingdom.
Jesus had only a few harsh words for anyone outside of the religious establishment, so it is heartening to see as the article says a “softer, less partisan way” is being practiced by the current crop of millennials. According to almost all statistics church membership is drying up and will soon die off if nothing is done. But real change cannot happen as long as the empire seeking judgmental voices are heard from the weekly pulpits. I can only pray that this change mentioned in the article will eventually occur in the pulpits as well as the pews.
When all Christians go back to the words of Jesus and away from extreme partisan empire politics of today the pews begin to once again begin to fill up. But it will no happen before then. Some have shown that every five hundred years Christianity has had a major shake up to restore it to its roots. Many are saying that is what is happening right now with the “emergent” church movement. I will have more to say about the emergent church in coming posts both here and in the RedLetterLiving blog…..
When Jesus was on this earth he told us numerous times to be one as he and the father were one. If only we had listened and taken his words and life’s lessons seriously.
I read recently that the very popular Christian author Ann Rice is giving up on all current Christian denominations. In the interview she stated that she is not giving up on Christ, just the present day organizations that espouse to follow him. She also said that there is just too much of a tie between Christians and worldly kingdoms; particularly those in the U.S. I personally went through much the same search that she has. I have searched and searched for a group of Christians who can separate their political beliefs from the Christian principles. Far too many entangle them together to the severe detriment of both.
As mentioned before I spent four years studying scores of denominational theologians to try and discover if any of them strictly followed the actual words of Jesus as recorded in the Bible. To my dismay I found almost the opposite to be true. Some prominent religious authors from today’s largest Christian denominations believe that every word in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments were the direct words of God and therefore are literally true and without a single error. They go on to say that none of the words in the Bible more important than any other. When I talk about the words of Jesus I frequently get the same mantra, “all the words are the words of Jesus”. But in studying the words of Jesus, he himself showed us that that is just not the case. He frequently used the comment “You have heard it said (meaning it is in the Jewish bible) but I say to you”. In other words Jesus was saying the their current bible was wrong and he was about to set them right. He had his harshest words for the religious establishment of his time. I think he might have similar words about much of the religious establishment today. I’m sure he is truly saddened that we Christians have divided into over 35,000 separate groups/denominations since his time. I take the Bible seriously, at least the New Testament part, and I believe those who meld the words of Jesus with all the others do more damage to his teachings than they realize. The words directly attributed to our creator must take precedence over even the most fervent followers that came after him.
If only we were one as Jesus told us to be. This saddens me greatly.
And the journey goes on…..
- I believe that each of the 39,000 Christian denominations believe that they most faithfully follow Jesus. Each believes Jesus imagined the church as looking just like them.
- I believe that it is arrogant for any of us to suggest that we alone have most accurately discerned the true intentions of Jesus.
I believe that we tend to root around in Scripture until we find a verse that supports our preference, then crown our view the only biblical one, even when other verses contradict it. This is why theological claims purporting to be biblical must always be given a very careful examination in light of the whole gospel and especially the words and commands of Jesus.
- I regret to believing at one time that the sole value of Jesus rested in his ability to usher me into heaven.
- I believe the principles Jesus articulated, summarized in the Sermon on the Mount, is the critical foundation for His true church
- I believe that the fullness of the Holy Spirit is my inheritance. I daily reflect on Jesus’ words to be filled with the Spirit.
- I believe that religious institutions committed to communal uniformity seldom ask questions. The risk of straying beyond conventional answers is too great.
And the journey goes on…
With this post I am going to start a new Sunday thing related to what I believe in regards to spiritual matters. I spent the last sixty years trying to understand just who God is and why he put me on this earth. I have also spent the last four years diligently studying about one hundred books on theology and of other faiths beliefs. At this point in my life my beliefs and understanding of God are finally somewhat solidified. In these posts I will only tell you what I believe. I am in no way trying to persuade you one way or the other. It is up to you as it was for me to find your own path to knowing God. After a long and arduous journey I believe I have found mine. But if my words even slightly open your eyes to something different then that just might be a good thing.
I Believe that God sent Jesus of Nazareth to earth to accomplish three things:
- To die for our sins
- To defeat death
- To teach us how to live
- I Believe that most Christian churches recognize the first two purposes and some do a pretty good job of explaining them.
- I Believe that many Christian churches do a very poor job of recognizing the third purpose.
- I Believe that the third purpose is of at least of equal importance to the first two.
- I Believe that God sent prophet after prophet before Jesus to teach us how to live but we ignored them and murdered many of them.
- I Believe that God truly loves us so he sent his Son to convince us to change the way we live and relate to Him. But it seems that most Christian organizations are ignoring his words and commands in this area. This greatly saddens me.