(WS) I’ll Tell You What the Bible Says…

While waiting for my car to be serviced recently I browsed a Barnes & Noble store.  I don’t do that often anymore as most of my purchases are now e-books. When I came upon the Bible section it suddenly caught my attention as to the number of books by people who propose to “tell” me about what the Bible says.

all-saints-2887463_640.jpgFor those who are unfamiliar with my history in this area, I spent several years diligently reading the Bible from cover to cover desperately trying to glean everything I could from it. Of course, before I even started that task I had to sort through the dozens of different version of the Bible. It has been written and revised so many times throughout its history as to make that task difficult onto itself. If you are interested in the details of what I found go to RedLetterLiving.net.

Some prefer the King James version which was written 400+ years ago under the tutelage of a British king. I chose the NIV version because it was used modern day language, not the “thee” and “thou” of the KJV.

After an extensive year-long study, I would say that I had trouble seeing how at least 90% of the text might be even remotely applicable to today.  Much of the old testament was written as a historical account of the Jewish nation and was almost gibberish to me. One king begot another… etc, etc.

The conclusion that I came away with at the end of the study is that the Bible is a very difficult document to fathom. Yes, there are snippets here and there where taken out of their context, might be seen as a reflection of what life today is supposed to be about but they are far and few between. Of course with over 2,000 years of parsing most of those snippets have been claimed by one theologian or another much like Luther latched onto the “faith without works” idea to prove is disagreements with the Catholic church.

Coming back to the original point of this post, we can now find thousands of different authors who will tell you what the Bible says. Folks like Joel Osteen see it as God wants all of us to be a millionaire and you will become one if you send Mr. Osteen a contribution.  I’m sure he has found a snippet or two buried in biblical text that backs up his claim. Some in the past have used to the Bible to proclaim among other things that slavery was instituted by God.  Whatever you want to believe there is bound to be at least one theologian/author around to confirm your beliefs.

There are very few people around who will readily admit that the Bible is an extremely difficult document to comprehend. I personally suspect that if God had really written it, it would be 100% understandable and enlightening.

I must close by giving credit to the Roman Catholics who are about the only religious organization who don’t put all their spiritual eggs in the Bible basket.  I admire them for that fact.

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Will Rogers – About Religious Beliefs

Will Quote

A regular part of RJsCorner is going to be looking at Will Rogers quotes and seeing how they apply in today’s world. So, this is the first of many in that area.

Even  80 years ago it seems that there were more than a few who thought religions did more damage than they helped. I think what Will was saying is that “Bible thumpers,” and whatever they are called in the other religions, are the most intolerant of differences of faith.  They are just convinced that they are the only one who has got it right. This is what gets us into so many wars. The Sunni and Shiite quarrels cause thousands of deaths a year against each other and even to some of our boys and girls stationed over there trying futilely to control them.  Not that many years ago it was the Irish Catholics vs. the Protestants and so on, and so on… People disagreeing with others about religion seems to be the norm in our world and we can’t figure out how to get past that ignorance.

I am a big believer in “Coexist.” That is telling ALL the faiths to just play nice. If we could only manage that, war deaths could be almost eliminated.

Let the other fella believe what he wants as long as he lets you do the same. It couldn’t be simpler than that.

But sometimes the simplest things are the hardest to actually accomplish, aren’t they?

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Faking Religion

At one time or another everyone who is true to their thoughts doubt religious beliefs. I found it surprising to see that even Mother Theresa doubted on a regular basis that God even existed.  The more I studied religious documents including the Bible the more doubt I had as to the beliefs of the variety of religion that I was then a member of.

2018-03-10_10-38-19…according to a recent study in the journal, Society and Mental Health, individuals who consider leaving a faith, but do not, tend to experience more depression than those who decide to leave…

There are good reasons to not underestimate the instability of doubt, says Lack.

“Doubt is often framed in religious communities as showing that you aren’t a ‘good’ Christian or that the devil is tempting you and you are too weak to resist,” Lack explains. “Given that, many people who have doubts either get shamed by their communities when they express doubt or feel shame at their ‘weakness.’”

Source: Does Faking Religion Lead to Depression?

I am just not a person who allows others to think for me.  If you say “Take it or leave it” I will most assuredly leave.  But, at the same time, I can relate to the quote above. For many if not most Christians, their church is also their country club. It is where most if not all of their social life happens.  In that regard, many are willing to just look past things that they really don’t believe in order to stay on good grounds with the club rules.

Ignore the “belief” stuff has a name in Catholicism, it is called “Cafeteria Catholic”.  For them, one of the toppers is birth control.  They say that the vast majority of Catholics in the US practice birth control and just ignore the edict from the church that it is a sin.  But Catholics are by no stretch of the imagination the only cafeteria Christians.

Most Christian churches have a creed that you have to swear allegiance to in order to be a member of that tribe. I’m sure the leaders of the churches take those pledges very seriously but I don’t think most of the member really even think about what they are pledging. To them, the allegiance ceremony is just the right of passage into the clubhouse and its social advantages.

But of course, there are others like me who know they are really not aligned with what they pledge but do it anyway. That fake belief does cause depression until it is finally voiced.  Although I had seriously considered it, I did not leave my church voluntarily. It was only after asking too many questions and voicing “forbidden” thoughts that I was stripped of membership by a very fundamentalist pastor. I would have left myself but I knew the damage it would do and did to my wife.

When I finally was able to come out of the closet with the fact that I had serious doubts about what some Christian beliefs, I felt the tension and depression with that false allegiance wither away.  I no longer had to hide things like being convinced that the earth is millions, or maybe billions, of years old instead of the 6,000 or so as my church demanded I believe.

Religion And Global Conflict

It is becoming more and more recognized that religious beliefs are and have most likely always been one of the primary sources of conflict in this world.

Here are some words about the underlying reasons for this:

2018-01-24_09-05-50“Religion often becomes the master variable,” Harris says. “It provides a unique reward structure. If you believe that the thoughts you harbor in this life and the doctrines you adhere to spell the difference between an eternity spent in fire or one spent on the right hand of God, that raises the stakes beyond any other reward structure on earth.”

Tribal tendencies are natural for humans who need groups and community to survive. But the driving forces behind especially alienating, fundamentalist beliefs are a combination of nature and nurture, experts say.

via Tribal Divisions Created by Religion Most Harmful in Global Conflict, Experts Say | Best Countries | US News

Personally, I have always struggled to fully understand why religion has such a strong hold on so many. The quote above helps me understand that a little better.  I am just not one of those people who believe things without proof as most religions demand.

What will it take for religions to finally come to agree to coexist in the world today? That is the major question at hand.  When will they accept that everyone has a right to believe in the god of their choice or no god at all? Thomas Jefferson understood that early on and thankfully at least the concept is part of our constitution even if it hasn’t been fully implemented.  In fact, Jefferson was more strongly a believer in freedom “from” religion than “of” religion.

Given that there are literally tens of thousands of versions of God in the world today coexistence is the only logical way to approach religious beliefs.

 

Christianist Cult of Trump…

I will admit up front here that I cherry-picked the quotes below and the Facebook shot from a very long, agonizingly long, article from a Catholic site entitled Patheos.  The author is Mark Shea who is evidently a regular contributor to that venue.

The gun debate is an obvious case in point.  Virtually everything I have had to say about it turns on a very fundamental moral point, summed up here:

2018-02-25_09-16-35.png

The Christianist cult of Trump advertises itself to the world as the face of Real Christianity.  So proud is it that it routinely declares the pope a heretic as it cheers for the lies, corruption and sometimes appalling cruelties to the poor and contempt for common decency that characterize this Administration.  And the world watches and believes them when they say they are the true representatives of the gospel. They see when Christians give Trump a mulligan for fornicating with porn stars and join in declaring his victims to be liars. They see every lie and cruelty excused and know Christianists are full of crap.

via Why Don’t you Talk about Theology Instead of Politics, Mark?

Like many theologians, the author just can’t seem to come to the point directly. He needs to circle around it many times. But I think what I pulled out of the post is tantamount to what “Christianist cult of Trump” is doing to damage the face of Christianity.

But then again I firmly pray that these cult members are actually a minority fringe whose time will come.

I want to close out this post with another quote re-inforcing the damage these fringe groups are doing.

2018-02-25_11-58-04.pngAt a certain point in “God and Donald Trump,” the recent theological gymnastics on display from Tony Perkins and Jerry Falwell, Jr., among others, to explain ongoing conservative Christian support for a president who (allegedly) paid off a porn star weeks before Election Day so she would keep quiet about their (alleged) affair become clear. There will be no point at which Trump’s most loyal evangelical and charismatic supporters declare they have had enough. Because to do so would be to admit that they were wrong, that God wasn’t behind Trump’s election, and that their Holy Spirit radar might be on the fritz. That it was, after all, about something as temporal and banal as hating his Democratic rival.

via Millions of Americans Believe God Made Trump President – POLITICO Magazine

Of course, they are wrong that God put Trump in the Oval Office.  We now know that Russian trollers did it. 🙂  Will there come a point in time when Christianity will totally morph into a political organization without any reference to the spiritual one or even to the messages of Jesus? Will the word “Christian” like the word “gay” become something totally different than its previous definition? The jury is still out on that.

 

Christian Nationalism

Sadly, one of the things I believe the church has become very good at is to take some particular words from the bible and twist them around to more conform to their way of thinking. That is what today’s post is going to be about.

Sometimes small alterations make a great deal of difference. For instance, we have about 90 percent of the same genes as cats and more than 98 percent of the same genes as chimpanzees. But those little differences matter a lot.

This is also true when it comes to faith. I have been doing some reading in A Church Undone: Documents from the German Christian Faith Movement, 1932-1940. The German Christian Movement was Germanized Christianity, supportive of Nazism. The church leaders involved in this movement believed that the church should be “relevant” to contemporary German experience….

In a Germanized “translation” of the beatitudes of Jesus, one of the prominent ministers in this movement rendered our Lord’s, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9), using these words: “Happy are those who are at peace with their fellow Germans; they do God’s will.” Not quite the same!…

Like those in the German Christian Movement, American Christian nationalists often speak in terms very similar to the ways Christians have always spoken. They take up themes that have been heard in churches throughout the centuries. But the “little” differences make a huge difference, just like the alteration of a few genes can result in a whole new species.

Source: The Little Big Differences in Christian Nationalism – Red Letter Christians

I don’t know much about how the Lutheran church in Germany dealt with Hitler but I am not surprised that they, like American Evangelicals, politized their religion to support the regime.  Just twist a few words around to make it seem like you are following Jesus when in fact you have totally ignored his teachings.

I wonder what books written after the church eventually returns to its roots will say about our times? I suspect it will be pretty similar to “A Church Undone” as mentioned above. Jesus’ messages and teachings are good for the ages, they don’t need to be re-interpreted to meet the times.  Love God & Love each other is the message for us as it was for the early Christians.

Saving Jesus

This post is about some insightful words from a book entitled Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus by Robin R. Meyers. This book solidified my belief that the words of Jesus have been losing focus in the church. Here are the words for today.

Strangely, we have come to a moment in human history when the message of the Sermon on the Mount could indeed save us, but it can no longer be heard above the din of dueling doctrines. Consider this: there is not a single word in that sermon about what to believe, only words about what to do. It is a behavioral manifesto, not a propositional one. Yet three centuries later, when the Nicene Creed became the official oath of Christendom, there was not a single word in it about what to do, only words about what to believe!

It is no secret to those who have visited here before that I am no admirer of King Constantine and the damage he did to the Christian church. It seems “the road not taken” is constantly in my thoughts and the words above are no exception.  I wonder what would be the state of Christianity if Constantine had not hijacked it to try to shore up his crumbling empire. I wonder if we would be more focused on the behavioral manifesto of the Sermon on the Mount instead of the propositional one he had written fifteen centuries ago?

Until I read this book the stark contrasts between Jesus’ word at the Mount and the Nicene Creed were not as apparent to me. The emergent church movement, of which Robin Meyers is a member, has a goal to try to rescue the words of Jesus from the church. Many churches today have tried to domesticate Jesus to one degree or another. They want to make being a Christian as easy as possible and Jesus’ words often get in the way of that goal so they just ignore the words they don’t particularly like.

Many versions of Christianity today who call themselves biblical literalists say that all of the words in the Bible are just as important as any others.  They say that the stories, myths, parables and such are just as important as Jesus’ messages to us on how to live a Godly life. They say the words of Jesus just aren’t any more important than the words of for instance Paul and even those anonymous people who wrote some of the epistles in his name.

One of the common complaints about today’s churches, especially by younger generations is that they are no longer relative to today’s world. Many say they are very interested in the words of Jesus but the church is a total turn-off.   We need to take back Jesus from those who try to domesticate him and let his radical words give us back the true meaning of being followers of Jesus Christ.

It all comes down to the fact that actions speak louder than words and definitely louder than creeds/beliefs.

Our Own Version….

2014-02-17_08-51-46MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (AP) — A snake-handling pastor who appeared on the National Geographic television reality show “Snake Salvation” has died after being bitten by a snake during a weekend church service in Kentucky.

SOURCE: Snake-handling Ky. pastor dies from snake bite – Yahoo News.

While this is maybe of the extreme part of the spectrum it is still a typical example of how we pick and choose what we want to be the image of God.  It takes one verse out of the tens of thousands found in the Bible and uses it for the main focus of spirituality.  “You shall take up snakes…” is an example of what serious critics of the church use to illustrate the absurdity of believing in God. Regrettably, that is not without some degree of truth.

Yes, this is an extreme example but by no means the only one. There are literally thousands of groups, some small and some very large, who take a minuscule piece of biblical text and explode it into a major belief system.  To some degree, even Protestantism is an example of this. Martin Luther, who is generally acknowledged as the pioneer of that version of Christianity spent years searching biblical text for something to ameliorate his enormous feeling of low self-esteem and utter worthlessness. When he discovered that single verse in Ephesians that said that grace is a gift and not from works he had is “aha” moment like so many others before and after him and found his version of Christ. Ironically, most theologians today have come to believe that Ephesians was not actually written by the Apostle Paul, but instead by some anonymous person who wrote it in his name.

These issues are very much a forest/trees situation.  If anything, we should be looking at the overall message of the Bible and particularly of the words of Jesus Christ to find our place in life. Instead, we search and search for that one iota that seems to relieve our current guilts or conditions and then practically throw away the rest of the forest to only concentrate on that one tree of knowledge. From that point on our focus on the Bible is to find similar verses to the one we found to back up our new-found system of belief and there have been centuries of that very kind of practice occurring.

Instead of looking for that single tree to latch on to we should all be forest watchers. We will never completely understand the ecosystem of God’s forest but we should at least try to see its overall beauty. During our journey into the forest, we must also understand that others who are also searching might have a different current concept of the forest. That does not make them wrong or us right, it is just different. In fact, not a single one of us will ever really get it “right”. Not one of us…

This post is an edited version of a post from my blog RedLetterLiving.net 

Evangelical Christians Fear Knowledge

I am beginning to think that the phrase “Ignorance is Bliss” is a very appropriate condition in trying to keep informed in the political world today.  There is just so much phoniness and lies floating around that world now as to make it uninhabitable.

2018-01-18_10-53-01.pngBut in most areas of life knowing more about a topic results in better-informed decisions and lifestyles. Being proudly ignorant is well… ignorant! Let’s clear something up here before you jump to any unnecessary conclusions. Ignorance and stupidity are two very different things.  Stupidity is a life-long condition whereas as ignorance can be eliminated with some informed study. Being afraid of knowing too much is a scary thing to me. But that seems to be the preferred state for too many who call themselves Evangelicals.  Here is a quote about that:

“People are scared that if they come to know too much, they’ll be like the Pharisees and will just become haughty and judgmental to others, thus weakening their love for God; or they’re afraid that they’ll learn too much and go off the deep end of liberalism and swim in the risky waters of universalism and other heresies.”…

Renoe goes on to say that nowadays anyone can start a church, and “as long as it’s engaging and entertaining enough, people will show up. Nevermind if it’s true or not.” He refers to Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, and remarks that Osteen “doesn’t even have a bachelor’s degree, much less a seminary degree and look where that leads…”

Source:  Evangelical Christians Fear Knowledge, Are Dumbing Down Their Faith, Christian Author Claims

I too am very put off by Joel Osteen’s version of Christianity. He seems to have perverted the messages of Jesus to something that is quite the opposite.  Yet, every week he gets thousands of Texan Evangelicals to sit in his lavish palace and give him their money?  But I am getting off track here.

2018-01-18_10-52-47.pngKnowing too much is not a condition we should be concerned about. God gave us free will, he also gave us a brain to learn the best way to do his will.  To ignorantly follow someone because they spout a few bible verses here or there is not what God intended us to use up space in our brains.  Instead, it was to find ways to take care of each other as he commanded.  As far as I am concerned ignorance spurns ignorance but that doesn’t have to be a lasting condition…

I Am Always Trying To Figure Out The New Evangelicals…

One of the things that totally baffles me is how people who now say they are Evangelicals but vote in almost direct opposition to those established beliefs.  I hate to use the words but due to their hero the only words that come to mind is that they are “FAKE EVANGELICALS”!!

It’s a good time to try to sort out how Protestants who voted for Moore and Donald Trump may differ from, well, lots of the rest of us Protestants.

Analysts say about 80 percent of voters who identify as white Christian evangelicals and participated in Alabama’s special election voted for Moore. That’s roughly the same percentage of white evangelicals who supported Trump in 2016….

What baffled non-evangelicals in the 2016 election and the recent Alabama election was how evangelicals could support people whose values and actions made a mockery of evangelical ideals. Trump: a self-confessed sexual predator, a man of multiple marriages and mistresses, a businessman deeply engaged in casinos, a man of xenophobic tendencies. Moore: a credibly accused molester of teenage girls, a man known to express racist views, a flouter of the law who had to be removed as chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court.

How to explain all that?

via Evangelicals, non-evangelicals are divided by common religion | National Catholic Reporter

To me, this is kind of like the KKK who claims to be a Christian organization but don’t  show it in any way, shape, or form.  I know I am not supposed to judge what is in the heart of fellow Christians but I just can’t seem to see any other explanation.  I wish some of these folks would explain themselves in a public discourse so that we could begin to understand the logic in their beliefs if indeed there is any.

Without that testimony, I kind of think they are either lazy Christians who never bothered to learn about the teachings of their founder or they are putting on a mask to validate their very narrow view of the world.  I don’t want to judge them but without their input that is about all I can do.

But one thing I do know for certain is that they are killing religion with their actions.

The Kingdom Of God… And Leo Tolstoy

I seem to be getting a bit of flack lately about my spiritual beliefs that run counter to most of the churches today. To help understand where I come from I am bringing back some quotes from Leo Tolstoy I used in 2012. They pretty much tell my story:

From: The Kingdom of God is Within You by Leo Tolstoy  1894 

2018-01-17_14-58-50.pngBut Christ could not have founded the Church, that is, what we now understand by that word. For nothing like the idea of the Church as we know it now, with its sacraments, miracles, and above all its claim to infallibility, is to be found either in Christ’s words or in the ideas of the men of that time. The fact that men called what was formed afterward by the same word as Christ used for something totally different, does not give them the right to assert that Christ founded the one, true Church. Besides, if Christ had really founded such an institution as the Church for the foundation of all his teaching and the whole faith, he would certainly have described this institution clearly and definitely, and would have given the only true Church, besides tales of miracles, which are used to support every kind of superstition, some tokens so unmistakable that no doubt of its genuineness could ever have arisen. But nothing of the sort was done by him. And there have been and still are different institutions, each calling itself the true Church…..

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.

Let the Church stop its work of hypnotizing the masses, and deceiving children even for the briefest interval of time, and men would begin to understand Christ’s teaching. But this understanding will be the end of the churches and all their influence. And therefore the churches will not for an instant relax their zeal in the business of hypnotizing grown-up people and deceiving children. This, then, is the work of the churches: to instill a false interpretation of Christ’s teaching into men, and to prevent a true interpretation of it for the majority of so- called believers.

Thomas Jefferson like Tolstoy created his own bible based almost totally on the words of Jesus. He also believed that Jesus came to earth with a clear message for us but after he left, men add a bunch of rules to make everything complicated. Both men attribute much of that to the Apostle Paul.  After diligently studying both men I have become aligned with them.  The Sermon on the Mount should be the primary thing that guides a Christian’s life, not a bunch of manmade rules.

Since God gave man free will, it is up to each of us to come to a personal understanding of him and for the things he wants us to accomplish while on this earth.

The Church Is Not a Democracy….

We in the U.S. know that one of the primary foundations of our democracy is freedom of speech. That is being able to say something different from our leaders and not suffer serious consequences. In my opinion, this is what has allowed our country to remain so strong over the centuries. Many times criticisms lead to change and though we might not realize it at that time that is good for us. It makes us better; it makes us stronger. Without freedom of speech, I doubt our country would even exist today.

Anyone who has studied church history knows that it is not a democracy but instead has for most of its history a very vertical-oriented top-heavy organization. When the leadership of the church said something everyone was expected to quickly get in line with no questions asked.

Dissension, or some might say freedom of speech, is simply not allowed.   In the past, anyone who even hinted at a disagreement was quickly handled.  In the first few centuries of the church, many were proclaimed to be a heretic, which basically meant they didn’t agree with the leadership in some way or another. It usually followed that all of their writings, if they existed, were burned so their words would not pollute the church.  And some were burned along with their books.

Thank heavens at least in the last few centuries heretics are not so severely handled but that does not mean that they are now ignored. Many think only of the Catholic church when they think of the power structures. No Catholic, especially the cardinals and bishops would go against anything that the Pope proclaims.  But this situation also occurs amongst the Protestant denominations as well. Plainly speaking the leadership is to be obeyed.

If you even hint that you don’t agree with all the various creeds and statements can cause you to be disciplined or even thrown out. I know personally of a Lutheran minister who was brought back from an overseas mission and stripped of his sermon rights because he dared to join in prayer with other Christian groups, and years later I like him was shown the door due because I didn’t tow the line on how old the earth is among other things.

Many just can’t accept any questioning of their proclaimed doctrine. They claim that it would stain their institutional purity. About the only denomination that I am aware of that doesn’t do this are the Quakers. But since they are adamantly opposed to creeds, in general, that seems natural to them.

Sadly, there is simply no such thing as freedom of speech inside most church doors…

Conformity..

 For this Sunday’s post, I want to talk about the strict conformity many churches today demand of those who want to be members. It is not as simple as deciding to join but you must jump through all the hoops they tell you to before they will accept you.

canstockphoto3695937.jpgI’ve seen the light go out in people’s eyes when they decide it’s safer to embrace a doctrine or a policy that their gut tells them is wrong than it is to challenge those who say it’s right.

I’ve watched open minds close and tender hearts harden.

I’ve seen people pretend to believe things they don’t actually believe and do things they don’t actually want to do, all in the name of conformity to God’s will, all in the name of sacrifice and submission.

Fundamentalism erases people. It erases their joy, their compassion, their instincts, their curiosity, their passion, their selves. And then it celebrates this ghosting, this nulling and numbing, as a glorious “dying to the self,” just like Jesus demanded.

SOURCE: Hearts of Flesh.

These are some powerful words from Rachel Held Evans who is a young and popular Christian author and lecturer. She seldom parses words when it comes to her spirituality.  She also seems to be very aligned with the latest statistics of the Millennial generation when it comes to shedding much of the dogma of the current “church”.

I truly believe that the conformity that many churches demand is a primary factor for why even those raised in it are leaving in droves. They see things that directly contradict what they believe to be simple knowledge. They see their church speaking so viciously about those who are different from them.  What they see is not “conformity to God’s will” but to some hardened hearts who happen to have leadership positions.  They see a fixated emphasis on below the belt issues when Jesus said almost nothing about that topic.

Many young people are still in the mode of questioning things. They are still forming their own personal opinions on what will be important in their life. They will not allow someone to tell them what is moral when it is obviously not the definition of moral to them.

During my lifetime fundamentalism, even though it started with trying to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the world, has, for the most part, morphed into something completely different. It is now primarily about what you are supposed to hate rather than what Jesus told you to love. It has become the dark side of Christianity in many respects.

2014-03-25_16-33-02It is encouraging to see that the force is no longer with the fundamentalists but instead beginning to meld into what is now called the Great Emergence as described by Harvey Cox in his book entitled The Future Of Faith.  As explained in the book the emergent church is more about moving on to the next stage of Christianity rather than tearing down the current one. It is about shedding all those man-made rules and replacing them with the messages of its founder. If you are becoming discouraged with the direction that many in the church are taking maybe it is time you took up the book and read it with an open mind. It just might change your idea of some of the basic things you are told you must believe in order to see God.

Contemplating the All Powerful God and the All Loving God…

2017-12-16_14-27-42.png The Old Testament has always been a struggle for me. I find far too many places where God’s wrath is brutally shown. This is in such a total contrast with Jesus Christ I know in the New Testament. It is almost like the good cop/bad cop scenarios that play out so much on the TV cop shows. I tend to refer to it as the all-powerful God vs. the all loving God. Can the two really co-exist or did God basically change his management style between the Old Testament and the New Testament or you could say between the old and the new covenant? These are the things I have been thinking about lately. I know they are theological in nature and I have sworn off that sort of thing but it still crops up from time to time. I just can’t seem to help it.

I must admit that I almost ignore the power side of God. In that sense, I seem to be in conflict with many evangelical religious establishments today who revel in God’s power. They deem that God is all-powerful and absolutely everything that happens is because He has willed it.  One of the dictionary definitions of the word will is the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action.

So following this “all powerful” to its conclusion means that God deliberately brought millions of children into existence so that he could kill one every three seconds today by depriving them to have safe drinking water or enough to food to eat! Or in another example, he purposefully created all the dictators of the world so that they could kill thousands (millions collectively) of the people for little or no reason.  The people who pray to the all-powerful God say they don’t understand these sort of things but God must have a divine purpose for his extreme brutality.  I find it very difficult to even contemplate praying to that kind of god.

Here is how I see all of this: 

I kind of believe in the God of the Possible as illustrated by Greg Boyd in one of his many books. That along with the fact that God gave man free will answers the good god/bad god dichotomy for me. No, God is not responsible for all those children dying. That pitiful condition belongs totally to us humans. We are the ones who can’t seem to get along with one another.

Jesus told us to love one another; we just can’t seem to get that right especially when it comes to loving across national borders. God gave us free will and except for maybe some very very rare circumstances, he does not go back on his word.  It is not God doing his will, as some say, that causes all the suffering in the world it is that WE don’t do God’s will to love one another.

I know I have no right to speculate but so many theologians do it every day so here goes. I do kind of believe that God did change his approach on how to guide us between the old and the new covenants. He could see that the “powerful God” approach just didn’t work with us sinful human being and at that point, He just decided to love us anyway.  God’s love is called agape love that is it doesn’t have conditions attached. What the ramification of that has concerning heaven and hell is a matter for a future post.

Why Are We Here? We Are Here Because…

Some say that all religions are the result of mankind asking “Why are we here?” Everyone eventually comes to that question and various answers have resulted in what we now call “religion”.

I have let it be freely known here that I am a follower of Jesus Christ but don’t call myself a Christian anymore, and particularly not an Evangelical! That word has been totally destroyed by the political nature of the ones who kidnapped it.

When Jesus was asked to sum up why we are here he gave us two commands: To love each other and to love God.  To that end, the quote below perfectly sums up why we are here:

2017-12-09_09-46-39.pngWe are here because Jesus taught us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We are here because we take the parable of the Good Samaritan to heart. We are here because we refuse to allow Christianity to be co-opted by the likes of people who support abuse of women, the closing of our nation to the immigrant in need and the normalizing of lie after lie after lie.

Finally, we are here because we believe our nation yearns to hear from us this day… 

Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey —  Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology

There is not a sentence in the quote above that I don’t wholeheartedly agree with.  I am a man of principles and this is one of the primary ones. “Love each other”. That means my brothers don’t have to worry if they have enough money to go to a doctor when they are sick.  It means that no child in the world, let alone this country, should go to bed hungry each night.  It means we are good samaritans, we help each other out.

I know my Evangelical friends, if I have any now, say that these things are the church’s job, not the government’s. It is documented that yes the church meets about 3% of the total need. But what about the other 97%? Do they have to wait for churches to eventually get to them?  I am a believer that government exists to the people’s business and since the church won’t take care of those in need, and in reality can’t meet the demand then we have to do collectively through our government.

As the quote above insinuates, perhaps the most damaging part of the “Evangelical” movement is normalizing of lie after lie, after lie.  The current Oval Office occupant continues daily to push them daily further down into the ditch. When, if ever will they finally say enough is enough and come back to the words of Jesus? Their current mantra is that “a pedophile is better than a Democrat!”  How much further down the rabbit’s hole will they allow themselves to go?