This post is going to be about trying to dispel the feeling that some have that I am anti-religious. We don’t need less religion, just better versions.Read more
With this post I am going to bring back my Sunday talks about spirituality and my enlightened view of things religious. This post is about praying to God.Read more
One of the biggest tragedies of this early 21st century is how Jesus’ church has morphed into something very contrary to his teachings.
I thank Minnesota Pastor Stephen Mattson and Sojourners Magazine for helping me to realize that fact.
American Christianity brought us to this point. It preached nationalism and sanctified American imperialism — promoting Manifest Destiny as ordained by God. The prosperity gospel baptized capitalistic greed, its preachers vilified the poor, and its theologians manipulated scripture to rationalize global colonialism. Salvation was no longer personified through Jesus, but was redesigned to be a political machine, fueled by its ability to control branches of government. This methodology was packaged as “Christianity,” and the gospel became a message of gaining social power and control rather than a call to follow Jesus’ life of selfless service and sacrifice.Source: Sojourners – Stephen Mattson
Christianity used to be our nation’s conscience but now it is becoming our tool of destruction. Christianity helped us look backward as well as forwards follow Jesus’ words about “brother keeper”, and “the least of these…” Now is it used to promote things very contrary to those teachings.
The “Evangelical” who like to call themselves Christians have tainted that label beyond recognition. They say those who believe in the humanity of man, otherwise called secular humanists are destroying America. That very proclamation is about like Hitler saying “I am doing what I am doing for the good of Judaism”.
Tragically, there are far too many who might otherwise have come to Jesus are running as fast as they can away from it because of “white Christian Nationalists”. Has the Christian brand been permanently destroyed by these very misdirected folks? Why can’t they even begin to fathom the damage they are doing?
There is a battle going on in the Christian Church now for its heart and soul. That battle is between Progressive Christians, aligned with the Catholic Church, and the Evangelical movement who is determined to take over the label of Jesus and in the process destroy his teachings and legacy. We simply cannot allow that to happen any more than we can allow a second term for the current Oval Office occupant.
I want you to know up front that I think there is a lot wrong with the practice of Christianity, especially in America. Despite the thousands of congregations and leaders who stick to the words of Jesus, it has far too often been polluted by the radical right/religous political extremists in our society.
Now that you know where I am coming from I will explain the title above. I have come to be annoyed by the term “God Bless America”. It is almost as if we think we have a lock on Christianity.
The Bible is the story of an occupied and oppressed people trusting that God will guide them toward liberation. The main characters who modeled faithfulness most often were those OUTSIDE of power. Many of us have been taught (albeit subconsciously) to read ourselves into the biblical story as the protagonist when in reality — whether we like it or not — we have more in common with the antagonist.
We live in one of the most powerful and wealthy countries in human history. We don’t need to be ashamed of that, but we do need to be honest about it. And, if we are honest, we have more in common with Pharaoh than with Moses. With Pilot than with Jesus. With those on the side of empire extinguishing the good news of the kingdom. As my friend Tony Campolo says, “We may live in the best Babylon in the world, but it’s still Babylon.”Source: Red Letter Christians
I love that the quote above helped me realize that America, me included, is more aligned with the antagonists of the New Testament stories than the oppressed. More in common with the Pilot than with Jesus. Those are startling revelations!
Getting back to my annoyance with the phrase “God Bless America”, yes I recognize that we in America are certainly blessed with material goods. We are all the 1% when it comes to the world’s riches. We need to claim that mantel and the obligations that go with it. We need to be our brother’s keeper, not just in our families or even country, but in the world. For that reason, I very much favor the phrase “God Bless Us All”.
So I close this post with the idea that everyone in the world is God’s family and
God Bless Us All
I want to end this fatiguing year of 2018 on a positive note about Jesus’ church. First of all, I want to celebrate all those thousands of congregations and religious leaders who have become the crusaders for Jesus in an otherwise very polluted spiritual world.
The term Evangelical has become widely accepted to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to spiritual matters. Their true agenda is man-made and very political in nature. But there are folks like John Pavolitz, Shane Claiborne, Philip Gulley, Robin Myers, Phyllis Tickle, Gregory Boyd, Harvey Cox, and Diane Butler who among many others stay true to Jesus’ words. They are true crusaders for Jesus in a time desperately needing them. No, they don’t get the press that Franklin Graham, who destroyed his father’s legacy, gets simply because they don’t resort to screaming falsehoods as he often does.
Another person who I want to single out in this regard is Pope Francis. He is stubbornly intent on putting the teachings of Jesus back to front and center in the Roman Catholic church. Yes, I recognize that the hierarchy of that establishment pretty much turned their backs on a sexual predator scandal. I also recognize that an establishment of that size has its institutional players who look out primarily for themselves and oppose much of what the Pope is trying to do.
We must always recognize that the Pope and all the aforementioned names here are human beings with their own frailty and biases. There are none that are infallible.
Finally, although I can’t name them there are very likely thousands of congregations in the US among the 350,000 or so out there that focus on Jesus’ words and reject all the man-made things that have wrongly been attached to him. I am convinced that they are a thousand points of light that will eventually take the church back to where it belongs. I celebrate them all at the end of this very tumulous year.
To all my Christian friends of the many different flavors, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.
Let us always every day, try to live by the teachings of our founder He and his teachings are the star to latch onto.
I am not one of those Christians who complains that I am no longer allowed to say Merry Christmas. That statement is a cop-out if you ask me. Of course, I can say Merry Christmas but I also recognize that there are many others around who celebrate this season in a different way. To all of those friends of mine, I would like to wish you a very Happy Holidays.
As I celebrate this Holiday Season I try to always remember what it is really about, at least to me. 365 days a year I proudly proclaim that I am a follower of Jesus. I have latched my life on the teachings he gave us while he was on this earth.
I Follow The Star
- He tells us to always put others ahead of ourselves. Since all of us by our very nature are pretty self-centered, that is a hard one to do in practice.
- He tells the rich to give all their money to the poor and that it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven!
- He tells us the two most important things on this earth are to love our maker and to love each other, and “each other” includes EVERYONE else.
- He tells us that those who are persecuted on earth are blessed, and will be first in heaven.
During this holiday season I need to proclaim that I truly believe he meant what he said.
I Follow The Star
Being a follower of the teachings of Jesus, it befuddles me how the brand of Christianity who call themselves Evangelicals can be so intrinsically linked to the current Oval Office occupant (#CO3). Simply stated his actions and words are the antitheses of those teachings. Here are some words about that from my friends over at Red Letter Christians.
Of course, this is not the first time nationalists have tried to kidnap Christianity and the words of Jesus. The KKK claims to be a Christian organization but their total abandonment of Jesus’ teaching show that is a blatant lie! But still, in the 1930s the KKK dominated many States in conservative America. They controlled governments throughout the South and even in my State of Indiana during those years.
Why the current Oval Office occupant is so enamored to dictators/despots (Russia, China, North Korea, etc) while being disrespectful of leaders in democracies is very puzzling to me. The only explanation I can come up with is that in his own mind, be believes if given total control, he could make the world perfect! We followers of the teachings of Jesus need to adamantly stand up to this brand of nationalism and see it for what it is.
My new blogging friend John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina is certainly not afraid to call out Evangelicals for their discrimination against others. That is one of the primary things I admire him for and why read him daily. Here are some words from a recent post. I encourage you to click on the link to read the entire story.
[And please, my Evangelical friend,] don’t give me that hackneyed, tired nonsense, that you are loving LGBTQ people by doing the things you do to them, because that’s an insult to all of us.
If you’re going to tell me with a straight face, that ridiculing them in the streets and excluding them from your churches and passing legislation to take away their civil rights and prohibiting them from being fully authentic—is loving them—I’m respectfully calling bullshit. The day you convinced yourself that this was love, you lost the plot completely.Source: Stuff That Needs To Be Said
I hope at least a few Evangelicals will read his post and realize that they are poisoning Christianity by their hateful words and actions. There is far too much judging among Evangelicals if you ask me but I readily admit that I judge others more than I should. The difference between them and me is that I recognize it as a personal fault and is contrary to my Live and Let Live pillar of life, and for some weird reason they see their prejudices as following Jesus.
As the title of John’s blog says “Stuff That Needs To Be Said”, maybe he can get through to that guy who works in an oval office. But I kinda doubt ANYONE can get through to him except maybe Meuller. 🥺 But, maybe he could convince a few of his loyal base that they have attached their dreams to a con artist. That’s stuff that really needs to be said…
Shane Claiborne is one of my favorite Christian authors. He definitely lives the words of Jesus and he is not bashful when it comes to telling others that Talk is cheap and actions are where you demonstrate your beliefs.
At one point Gandhi was asked if he was a Christian, and he said, essentially, “I sure love Jesus, but the Christians seem so unlike their Christ.” A recent study showed that the top three perceptions of Christians in the U. S. among young non-Christians are that Christians are 1) antigay, 2) judgmental, and 3) hypocritical. So what we have here is a bit of an image crisis, and much of that reputation is well deserved. That’s the ugly stuff. And that’s why I begin by saying that I’m sorry.
via Shane Claiborne – Letter to Non-Believers by Shane Claiborne
Sadly for many, the Bible Belt Trumpsters now represent Jesus’ church. They very much confirm what the non-Christians see as hypocrites and very narrow-minded people. Maybe that is one of the reasons I no longer say I am a Christian, I am just tired of apologizing for these people.
I realize that many if not the majority of Christian churches try at one level or another to be good followers of their founder Jesus. They read some texts in their Bible and vow, at least vocally, to follow his words. But there are too many other words that they blatantly ignore. Maybe they see them as too hard so they just pretend they don’t exist?
Maybe they have been told for too long that Christianity has nothing to do with how you act, the only thing that matters is what you believe, so why bother with the hard stuff? I just wish those folks would open their Bibles and read some of the stuff they have not evidently discovered yet.
In conclusion, the sad part of all this “hypocrite” views of the non-religious is that those who do see others as their neighbors in need and do good works in His name are so silent when it comes calling out the real hypocrites. The rest of us need to quit apologizing for these type people and proudly stand up for Jesus’ actual words
I seem to get a fair share of email and comments about my “religion” posts here at RJsCorner and also over at RedLetterLiving. Some are in agreement, some take the post where I never intended it to go. And then there are others who assume that I hate religion and see me as attacking what they hold as sacred. In this post, I want to try and address those issues.
As I mentioned a few posts ago I lead a joyous life as a nuanced skeptic. That is, I see small and sometimes not so small slices of various topics that I question. I don’t hate religion.
The graphic here pretty much sums my overall beliefs about religion in general. In my mind, God is not attached to just one religion. In fact, I have come to believe that all the various religious beliefs in the world today, and there are thousands of them, are for the most part made my man.
I realize it’s nice to be around people who believe as you do. Religion meets that need for those who require that. When I was part of a couple of different versions of religion in past years I did enjoy the hymns, some of the traditions, and the short-term friends we made there. I was enlightened by some of the group studies, but there were some I had to voice an opposing opinion of and I sadly found those opinions not very welcomed. I am not against religion.
I do believe that the church serves a valuable purpose of teaching young minds the fundamental beliefs. But after the basics, it should not be so condemning of the next step a person might take. Do we really need to believe so many things that were invented by men?
But more fundamentally, I do sadly believe that most religions almost totally focus on what you are supposed to believe instead of how you are supposed to live your life. Maybe even more damaging is the belief that many have that they are the only ones who have it right.
In closing, believe it or not, it is possible to love God and even be a “follower of Jesus” without being religious. I am one of that group.
For my winter 2018/2019 project, I have decided to study the topics of philosophy and spirituality and how they intermingle. I am starting out this study by reading a book entitled “Belief without Borders” by Linda A. Mercadante. I will be putting out numerous Sunday posts about it in the coming weeks. Associated with that study, I have also been visiting some of my more than 500 posts over at one of my other blogs at RedLetterLiving.net
This post was originally written on February 18, 2013.
All of this makes me wonder if pews are misleading in churches. They trick people into thinking that Christians learn best by sitting quietly in rows, listening to lectures, and memorizing ideas about the faith. But churches should not be lecture halls.
The above quote grabbed my attention. It is from a book by Diane Butler Bass entitled Christianity After Religion. I came to the same conclusion a couple of years before I read these words. Churches, in general, are very misleading of what Jesus expects of us. Yes, I know some of my Christian friends believe that all we are supposed to do is to accept Christ as our savior and then spend the rest of our lives laying back and letting his grace flow over us. To me, nothing could be further from the truth.
I am not one to have memorized the Bible so I can’t say for sure but I don’t believe that Jesus put much emphasis on us being passive followers. I suspect the folks who are aligned with that belief can quote at least a verse or two that if you twist it just right might infer that we are supposed to be passive. I know I read the red letters frequently and what I see is Jesus telling me again and again to actively love my brother and to love God.
Getting back to the quote at hand, I think churches in general do trick people into thinking they are following Christ by just spending an hour a week sitting in the air-conditioned churches listening to lectures and memorizing selected words to back up their static beliefs. To be quite frank, I just can’t understand all the lavish cathedrals built through the ages by the church. I believe in my heart that Jesus never intended that to happen. I totally agree with Ms. Bass that churches should NOT be lecture halls and that includes lectures by the clergy of your favorite flavor.
If we truly want to reflect the heart and message of Jesus we should shut down our lavish palaces we have constructed in his name and move out into the community as he taught us. Jesus did spend a few sparing times in the synagogue but he did not live there, or hide there as Christians today seem to do. As a matter of fact one of the most visible bible stories is about Jesus going into a church to upset the local traditions of the time. He upset a lot of carts in that story and I think we need to do the same for him today.
Let’s quit spending all the money we collect in God’s name on ourselves and instead put it out in the community. Lord knows there are plenty of opportunities for us Christians to make more of a difference in the world today. If we want to be a follower of Jesus we should take his examples to heart and get out there loving the tax collectors, prostitute, poor and destitute in our day as he did in his.
My conservative Evangelical friends would like me to believe that you can’t be a humanist and also be a follower of Jesus. From what I have discovered in the last few months, that is categorically false. The two beliefs align very well with one another.
Yes, there are differences in beliefs for different versions of humanism, but since there are over 39,000 versions of Christianity that kind of seems a lame argument to me. I’m sure some humanists are more aesthetic in nature just as there are Christians who basically ignore the teaching of Jesus.
Jesus was about caring for “the least of these”. It was a core part of his nature and teachings. Show me where the words in the graphic above are contrary to that? I have always been uncomfortable with the anti-science nature of many versions of Christianity. That, and the political one are the reasons I no longer call myself a Christian. To me, those folks who reject science are simply too stuck to a few limited words in the Bible that they take far too literally.
It seems that in my old age I am just not much of a joiner so I no longer call myself a Christian and I probably won’t call myself a humanist either but I do agree with much of their philosophy. I definitely don’t call myself a Republican or a Democrat for that matter, both are now stained beyond recognition.
I am convinced that, as a general rule, my Republican friends pretty much lack empathy to any degree. I know this could be “painting with a broad brush” type thing but hear me out. I find example after example of this fact in my daily life. Let me give you a few examples.
I have a Republican friend who goes on and on about how all those people on welfare are freeloaders. To him, they are just too lazy to go out and get a job. I try to tell him that on the average most people are on welfare less than a year. He has admitted that his sister was on welfare, but he assures me that she really needed it. He just can’t seem to understand that people who have temporary circumstances need and should get help. To him, everyone besides his sister is just lazy freeloaders.
Then there is Betsy DeVos, the current leader of the department of education who is now in the process of making sure that for-profit colleges get the money they need to pay their shareholders lavish dividends while at the same time making it harder for students to pay off their college debt. There just seems to be a serious lack of empathy among those who call themselves Republicans.
Then there is the soon to be ex-congressmen/ house leader Paul Ryan. His adoration of Ayn Rand along with her “Empathy is the scourge of mankind” certainly shows that he lacks empathy to any degree.
One thing I most admire about Jesus of Nazareth was that he had a huge amount of empathy. He even said that if your neighbor needs help give him the shirt off your back. He said that if you adore money give it all away to the poor and then you can follow him. Sadly, there are just so many who call themselves Christians who seem to believe the exact opposite of Jesus’ teachings! They rail against anyone getting something they didn’t work for. But isn’t that the foundation of Christianity. “You don’t deserve it but since Christ died for your sins you will live an eternity in heaven.” Talk about freeloading…
I have let it be known many times here on RJsCorner that I am pro-life in all regards and that certainly includes the death penalty. So, when I heard that the largest Christian church in the world’s leader Pope Francis, backed by bishops around the world, declared the death penalty unacceptable in all cases I lept for joy. Finally, at least some Christians saw that public execution was an affront to the very nature and essence of God. Christians have a long history with the death penalty, going all the way back to A.D. 33, when the Roman Empire crucified Jesus.
Sadly, eighty-five percent of executions in the past 40 years have taken place in the Bible Belt. This means the Bible Belt is also the death belt in America. How did the church get into this situation? In the early days of Christianity when Roman soldiers wanted to join the church, they were told that they would have to find another occupation as being soldiers was not compatible with the teachings of Jesus.
There are six basic ways that life is abruptly ended: murder, abortion, suicide, lack of lifesaving healthcare, execution, and war. At least the last two are instituted by the government.
Jesus was pro-life in all regards and if you ask me, all his followers should proudly follow his example.
I am proudly a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. His words are the very foundation for my spiritual life. But, don’t read that as to mean that I am religious. I have for the most part given up that quest. All this so far leads into the point of the post but is not the topic.
In the last two years, #CO3 has elevated ridicule to a higher level than anyone I have ever known. No one wants to be ridiculed, especially me. I simply lose any sense of reality when someone mocks me or ridicules my beliefs. Disagree ok, but not ridicule.
Most tragically that same trait has spread throughout his followers. More and more are in-your-face ranters showing total disrespect for anyone who thinks differently than they do. Is civility disappearing from the American landscape? Being an optimist I say, yes it has at least temporarily. Does it have a chance to rise like a phoenix in the coming years? It does if we wish it to.
Sadly it seems the Golden Rule is been destroyed for political gain championed by an extreme narcissist. And, the existing church, due to their alignment with him, is also being destroyed. To the 75% of us who are Democrats and Independents, the word “Evanglical” is becoming as despised as the word “Liberal” is to the 25% of those who are seemingly chucking the Golden Rule.
Without a common bond, what will hold our society together? I hope that question is foremost on each of our minds this coming November.
It is a well-publicised fact that 81% of white evangelicals voted to put the current occupant in the Oval Office. On that subject, I ran across this interesting book entitled Believe Me. It is written by one of the 19% who voted the other way. Here is a small segment of an interview with the author:
Finally, you dedicate your book to the 19 percent of white evangelicals who did not vote for Trump. What do you want to say to them with this book?
I dedicate the book to the 19 percent not because they’re my primary audience, but because they seem to have seen through Trump. They’ve made a decision that Trump is not good — not just for the nation, but also for the church. So I hope the book might provide some history and arguments that the 19 percent can offer to their evangelical friends who did vote for Donald Trump and are having second thoughts, or are at least open to further evidence and dialogue. But my main audience, I think, is those evangelicals who voted for Trump who are open to reason and evidence and historical arguments that may suggest electing Trump was a bad idea.
My basic premise here at RJsCorner that those who put #CO3 in office primarily did so because of fear of the unknown. While I was a member of an evangelical church not that long ago, I certainly saw that fear in a number of eyes. They are afraid of what is happening to their beloved country club. Due to pride and vanity, I doubt if they will ever admit the error of putting, at best, a totally unqualified person in the highest office in the land. It seems that they would rather go down in flames instead.
There have been quite a few negative comments about Christianity here on RJsCorner and many of them were from me. I want to make it clear with this post that I lament what has become of Christianity not what it is at its core.
When Jesus was asked what it the most important thing about being one of his followers he gave us two commands:
Love God and Love Each Other
He was very adamant that these two eclipsed everything else. In this case, like my Evangelical friends claim they do for every biblical thing, I take his words literally. It is amazing to me that they don’t! They seem to put condition after condition on just what he meant.
- To them, it means all those who agree with what they have been told to believe deserve their love.
- To them, it excludes those of other faiths, particularly Muslims.
- To them, it excludes those who they perceive have not earned their love.
Jesus by his actions showed that these examples were clearly not the case. The other thing he frequently said and James, his brother, totally emphasized in his Epistle is that faith without actions is dead-upon-arrival. Simply saying the words is just not good enough, you have to live them every day of your life.
Words without actions just don’t hack it for me… and shouldn’t hack it for anyone who dares to call themselves followers of Jesus.
Jesus told us to love each other without conditions and that is what each of us should in our hearts and actions do.
When I was a member of an Evangelical church the most often phrase I heard when its members couldn’t reconcile something recently happened with their beliefs in the bible was that “God works in mysterious ways, we just have to trust Him”. I always thought that was more of a cop-out than an explanation of the situation. But that is not the topic of this post.
It seems that these same Evangelicals put that phrase onto unexplainable actions of #CO3! They say that he just needs to be trusted and we should disregard all the lies and gross exaggerations that come from this mouth in order to get the greater good that his presidency will provide. Again this is a humongous cop-out as far as I am concerned.
I was personally exposed to an extreme narcissist for a good part of my life and see the same things in #CO3. He emphatically believes that he is capable of doing anything and doesn’t have to put in the work to do it. He proudly boasts that he basically sleeps through his daily briefing and he simply operates at a gut level and doesn’t need anything else. That is not a person I would put ANY trust in. How can the Evangelicals put total trust in this very untrustful person is beyond my comprehension. That belief is doing as much harm to their religion as it is to our democracy.
#CO3 = Current Oval Office Occupant