Over 300 Christian Theologians Challenge The Corruption Of U.S. Christianity

I find myself often complaining when Christian organizations don’t come right out and say that currently labeled “Evangelicals” have kidnapped the true meaning of their religion and have replaced it with their own political version.  I search out where someone is speaking out on this topic and here is one of them.   You might want to read the whole article if this is of interest to you:

“Is Roy Moore a hill on which Evangelicals are prepared to die? As for me and my house, ‘Hell no, we won’t go,’” said Evangelical theologian Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, Associate Professor of Theology at New York Theological Seminary, asking the crisis question and answering it…

One of the key organizers of The Boston Declaration, Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey, Associate Dean at Boston University School of Theology, contrasted the Gospel teachings with what is being peddled as Christianity today in some conservative circles, both religious and political. She said:

We 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 and to watch for how our commitment as Christian theologians continues into the election season of next year.

Rev. Dr. David Wilhite, professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University, said with great intensity that “Evangelical is a category I can’t use any more. Evangelicals have come to misrepresent Christianity. The heart of Evangelicalism is keeping the Gospel call at the heart of all we do.”

Source: Repent And Believe In The Gospel! Over 300 Christian Theologians Challenge The Corruption Of U.S. Christianity | HuffPost

I absolutely detested the fact that some from Alabama are comparing Roy Moore’s persecution to that of Jesus. Some say it was all right for Moore to “date” 14-year-olds when he was in his 30s since Joseph was much older than Mary when she was married! I widely recognize that by picking and choosing, the Bible can be used to say just about anything, but come on!!

It will be interesting to see just how the Alabama voters, many of which are Southern Baptist vote on this issue on Tuesday. Will they continue to disappoint me as they have on so many other issues, or will they step up and follow the core messages of Jesus.

Having No Religion or Faith..

Britain is becoming an increasingly faithless society, according to a new survey that has found 53% of Britons now describe themselves as having no religion.

The proportion is the highest ever, up from 48% in 2015 and 31% in 1983 when the British Social Attitudes survey was begun by the independent National Centre for Social Research.

The trend is evident across all age groups but is particularly marked among young people, with 71% of 18-to 24-year-olds surveyed in 2016 saying they had no religion, up from 62% percent the previous year.

The majority of older people still have some faith, with only four in ten of those aged 65 to 74 describing themselves as having no religion, and only 27% of those aged 75 and over.

Source: More than half of Britons have no religion – survey

From what I remember the US has similar  but lower numbers and also trends significantly downward but not yet to the extent of Britons. I wonder how much of this decline here is associated with politics? Evangelicals are now known more as an ultra right political group than a religious one.  That fact alone does serious, and maybe deadly, harm to religion.

On another thought, there are just so many things that educated people today see to enforce their belief that religion does more harm than good in our societies. They look at all the wars in the world today and see that religion is the source for almost all of them.

Too many versions of religions demand a blind faith.  That is, you are supposed to take whatever they say is true no matter was current day facts prove. That alone will eventually cause the demise of most forms of religion in the world. God gave us intellect and a questioning attitude for a reason.

When we as a world community finally come to see that we are all praying to the same God we may be able to eventually salvage what’s left of religion from the dust heaps of time.  These are pretty harsh words but I think they need to be said.

I proudly say I am a follower of Jesus Christ and his messages to us but I am currently not religious. This statement causes confusion in many but once I explain this dichotomy they understand what I am saying.

My View Of The Bible— Part 2 .. What I believe (con’t)

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This post continues with my fundamental beliefs about the Bible. I have not come to these beliefs on a whim. They are the result of many years of thoughtful prayer and study. I am also not trying to prove anyone wrong. Everyone should come to God in their own way. So let’s get on with the final four areas of my view on the Bible.

Some words of the Bible have infinitely more significance to our lives than others— The words  through Jesus’ lips are the most important. Every other word is secondary at best. This is a major sticking point for some. It has to do with a concept that I have coined “the slippery slope”. I will get more into that on the next post. To say that there are no words in the Bible that are any more important than others seem nonsense to me.

The Bible might contain words inspired by God —  But is not THE Word of God… Many call the Bible the word of God but I personally along with other Christians agree with John’s opening in his gospel.  Jesus is the word of God, not a book assembled by man even if much of its writings might have been inspired by God.  To give a book that status is making an idol of it.  To put every word and circumstance mentioned in the biblical text in the literal grouping just doesn’t seem to make sense to me.  When Paul insisted that women were not to be over men in any circumstance he was speaking first century words. When he told people to be happy as slaves owned by others he was speaking first century words. These words were not intended for eternity. Yes, much of the Bible was written under the inspiration of God but it is at the same time a very human document.

The Bible contains stories passed down from one generation to another, allegories, parables and myths. To insist that all the words in the Bible are absolutely without error and are absolutely literally true as so many evangelicals do is beyond my understanding. I am convinced that even many of the writers of the books were not willing to put that status on all their own words. The Apostle Paul made it a point in one of his letters collected in the Bible that he was speaking of his own accord. I wish he had done that more frequently. Since I don’t put much study on the Old Testament I will not be discussing those books here. But even the New Testament of which much was written up to forty years after the fact certainly contained things that were remembered but not necessarily factual. In many places Jesus himself identified his stories as parables. I believe that the use a parables and allegories was a very common occurrence in many of the biblical writings whether the authors said they were or not.

Not all the inspired words from God are included in the Bible. I have done some studies of some of the text that was considered but finally excluded from the official bible when it was formulated by King Constantine’s council. The books of Thomas and Barnabas in particular I am convinced were also written a degree of inspiration from God. There are probably several others in that category. We Christians should consider all the writings of the time to see where we can deepen our understanding of God. I also believe that God continues to give inspired words through some of us Christians even today. All of us must constantly be listening for those inspirations in our daily lives. But it seems that “listening” is a difficult thing for many of us to do today. Moses in the Old Testament did not believe he was worthy to relay words from God but God used him as a mouthpiece all the same. So I believe that God’s continues to give simple men personal revelations from time to time.

 

The Sit Back And Wait Syndrome..

One of the major problems, that is besides their political leanings, is too many evangelical churches preach the “Sit Back and Wait Syndrome”. I know, as I did so myself, that it is too easy to just ignore your Church’s current beliefs in order to preserve your “country club membership”. Taking a stand against something often times means you’re asked to leave as you don’t believe the “right” things. That can be hard on your social life but do you really want to put that ahead of your spiritual life?

The “SBAW” syndrome goes something like this:

  • Everyone of us are dreadful sinners and there is nothing we can do about that. All we can do after we accept Christ as our savior and then hunker down against the big bad world and wait for the second coming.
  • Since we are nothing but miserable sinners God doesn’t expect anything from us. He has done it all so it doesn’t matter how we act or what we do.  But if we feel like it we could try to do some good deeds and he won’t mind too much. The only thing that really matters is that we hold strong to the beliefs we have been taught by our church and then sit back and wait…
  • Since God is absolutely in control, everything that happens  is his will. We don’t need to do anything in our communities. He will do it all.  Neither do we need to do anything to bring people to Christ. All we have to do is sit back and wait for him to bring them to us in his time, not ours.

You get the idea of the “SBAW” syndrome.  It justifies doing nothing within their communities or for that matter even making any changes in their personal lives. When they are confronted with those growing mega-churches they say they are only successful because they pander to sinners and tell them that God loves them anyway so they can just keep sinning.

canstockphoto36337890.jpgOf course I, and I’m sure many other followers of Jesus, take a very different track on our spirituality. We believe Jesus’ church to be about “being and doing” and not simply believing. We are to do everything we can to make the kingdom of heaven here on earth.  We believe that Christianity is supposed to be a very active thing and is definitely not a sit back and wait proposition. Jesus clearly taught us otherwise.

My fundamental difference with the “SBAW” crowd is that they almost exclusively focus on Jesus being their saviour Whereas I focus on him as my teacher of life.  That is I study his words to find out what he expects, or maybe even as the great commission says commands, of me in this life. To me that is unquestionably to be very active in my community to love others with the love of Jesus in my heart. He no way intends us to  just sit back and wait while bemoaning the big bad world out there…

To further my alternative view on following Jesus I would suggest   http://RedLetterChristians.org

Well Then Don’t…

canstockphoto999839.jpgThe GOP and particularly the Evangelical segment seems to be against so many things. Anything to do with below the belt issues or invented since the Victorian age they are against. You name it and they seem to be against it.  There is a simple solution to this. If you are against it then just don’t do it.

  • If you believe it is wrong to eat meat then don’t do it, but don’t expect everyone to follow suit.
  • If you think it is wrong to date and especially marry a person from another race then don’t do it, but don’t expect everyone to follow suit..
  • If you think people should not choose their gender identity then don’t do it, but don’t expect everyone to follow suit..

This list could go on and on but I suspect you get the idea. For the most part each of us, at least in a recent version of our country, has a basic freedom to choose what we want to believe and what we want to do.  No one can demand that everyone believe as they do.  In Iran then the supreme leader tells the people what to do but that doesn’t happen here. You can be against all you want as long as long as you don’t try to force others to think likewise.

Of course there are exceptions to this. The old saying that you are not allowed to yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre applies here.  Some other things we are not allowed to do are for public safety and other common corporate issues.  No one likes to stop at a STOP sign but we must do it in order to keep from killing each other.  Our Constitution demands that the “rule of law”, at least until recently, must be applied equally across all segments of our society.

Constitutional freedoms form the bedrock of our society. Quit messing around with them to fit your theological beliefs… Iran is a theocracy, we are not and hopefully never will be.

The Teachings of Jesus Are Very Hard To Follow..

2017-08-03_08-43-22Almost ten years ago I started my first blog called RedLetterLiving. It was about living by the words of Jesus. I was concerned that even though Christianity was founded on the idea that Jesus was the Christ few current Christian denominations seemed to put much weight on his actual words.  Little did I know that this study would go on for six years before I had fully answered my initial questions to at least my own satisfaction.

I’m not sure when the organization Red Letter Christians was started but I think it was about that same timeframe. Two much more famous Christians than me whose names are Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo opened their website RedLetterChristians.  It, unlike my site has grown tremendously since that time. I celebrate their success.

Below are some words from that cite relating to our current condition of Christianity in America.

A candidate for president of the United States initiated his candidacy on a racist conspiracy theory designed to undermine the legitimacy of America’s first black president. He announced his presidential bid with a naked appeal to anti-Mexican xenophobia and promises of a wall along America’s southern border to keep them out. He fed the basest instincts of his base by threatening to imprison his opponent by dog-whistling white supremacy and by demonizing journalists in ways reminiscent of Hitler’s attack on the “Lugenpresse.” Donald Trump assumed office as he pursued it, with attacks on the weak and marginal…

We suspect that there’s a deeper motivation that seeks to deemphasize the words of Jesus. His call to discipleship demands activism on behalf of the weak, a life-ethic of action beyond mere intellectual assent to theological propositions. Many of our fellow Christians have failed to pay proper attention to the red letters of the Bible because the teachings of Jesus have proven to be very hard to follow...

Theologies that require mental assent but leave our ethics and our politics untouched have left Evangelicalism serving as the court religion for the Republican Party. Theologies heavy on Paul but detached from their roots in Jesus and the Hebrew scriptures have inoculated discipleship from the radical lifestyle prescribed by Jesus in those red letters.

Source: Red Letter Christians v. Donald Trump’s Evangelicals – Red Letter Christians 

I find it immensely refreshing that the folks at Red Letter Christians have the guts to call out other Christians on their tepid attention to the words of Jesus.  Many of the issue that the current Evangelicals support are at least to me, very antithetical when compared to the red letters.

  • The Red Letters tell us to be our brother’s keeper, while Evangelicals support wrenching the safety net out from under the poorest of the poor.
  • The Red Letters tell us to give the shirt off our backs to those in need while Evangelicals cling to their possessions (among them their tax dollars) in the stingiest of ways.
  • The Red Letters tell us to love our enemies when that seems to be the furthest thing on the mind of Evangelicals.

How could they have possibly drifted so far astray from the words of Jesus???

I totally agree with the quote above that too much Christian, especially Protestant, theology is weighted prominently towards the words of Paul almost to the exclusion of the red letters. I agree that sticking to the red letters is probably too hard for them to do. But that is just what Jesus, the founder of Christianity, told us to do. Why are so many ignoring that basic command and seem to be inventing their own rules for calling themselves Christians?