Religion vs Narcissism

CO3 [* my edit] first appearance at the National Prayer Breakfast met awkward silence on Thursday as he began his comments by touting ratings when he was on “The Apprentice.” Unpracticed in the public performance of piety, the candidate who was praised for “telling it like it is” made even his white evangelical base momentarily uneasy as he demonstrated the impotence of their religion to overcome his narcissism. Excused as a “baby Christian” during his campaign, the teen-like Trump continues to expose the hypocrisy of white evangelicalism.

As a preacher ordained to proclaim the message of Jesus, I know that the faith which embraces Trumpism is not my faith, nor is it the faith of many of my Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu colleagues. I do not doubt that it takes genuine belief to say, as Franklin Graham did, that Trump won the election last November because of a “God factor” for which the media and pollster could not account. But whatever you call that faith, it’s not mine

Source: Bible Says, “Don’t Waste Your Time Praying” – Red Letter Christians

*  CO3 – Current Oval Office Occupant

As usual my friends over at Red Letter Christians don’t hold back much when it comes to Christians not living by the words of Jesus Christ. The author didn’t call Evangelicals fake Christians but he did glaringly show that they totally misjudged CO3 as a baby-Christian. After doing some rather extensive short term studying of narcissism I am not surprised at all by his actions in this first meeting with the Evangelicals after his election. His world is about him and their is simply little left over for ANYTHING else, especially Christian piety.

Tomorrow I start my series on Narcissism and if you want a little more info about this condition from a layman who is not formally educated on the topic but has lived a good part of his life with a narcissist, stick around for this multi-post series. Is it possible for a NPD narcissist to really be a Christian? I don’t know, I guess I will leave that to some notable theologians to decide.

I saw a little of this event on TV and the discomfort of those attending was quite obvious.  It seems that every time CO3 makes public comments several of those around him are inappropriately smiling. I wonder what is going on in their minds?  If it were me I’m pretty sure it would be “Boy, this guy is a jerk!!”.  But maybe that is just me.. 🙂

But, I do pray that something, anything, good comes from this administration…

Matthew 25 Says It All..

My friends over at Red Letter Christians has put the coming days in perfect perspective and those are the words of Jesus. I am not much of a “Bible thumper” but Matthew 25 does some up, at least for me, what it means to be a Christian:

In Matthew 25, Jesus says, “… I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ … Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

In this text, Jesus is literally saying to us: How you treat the most vulnerable is how you treat me. He is saying I will know how much you love me by how you respond — or don’t respond to them. This Gospel passage, which was my own conversion text, is coming up again and again right at the time when so many people are feeling vulnerable and so many others don’t know what to do. This is our answer.

Stand up and defend those most at risk at this crucial moment in America’s political history. Matthew 25 is answering our question. Matthew 25 is rising up in the face of a new political regime that is making many people feel so afraid.

Source: Matthew 25 in the Age of Trump – Red Letter Christians

It totally disappoints me that 81% of the so-called Evangelical Christians voted for someone who is putting in place a government that is almost the opposite of Matthew 25.  How can that be???

Paraphrasing one of their favorite says “But as for me I will follow the words of Jesus”.

When They Go Low, You Go High…

2016-10-29_07-48-59.pngI guess this will be my last post for a while about melding your religion and your politics into one bag.  To me it is the same thing as mixing horse manure and ice cream. It doesn’t hurt the manure but it sure does stink up the ice cream!  (I wish I knew the source for this thought as I would give them credit.)  No political party is worthy of our allegiance, that belongs totally to our Lord. I use the Red Letter Living quote below to illustrate that fact:

We do truly stand at a crossroads, a crossroad of the soul. In the time of crisis we have a choice to make. Will we sink to justifying hurt to protect our self interest, or will we rise to show grace, mercy, and goodness in the middle of all the ugliness and fear? In that sense the gospel is deeply personal, but it is not only personal, but also social and political. The central message Jesus preached was the “kingdom of God” ― a term whose meaning is perhaps better conveyed today as “God’s politics” that is, God’s way of organizing life together. The values and way Jesus showed us do not stop when we get to the political or public sphere. They are not intended to be tossed aside when things get tough. As Jesus says on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel,

You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.

This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Mt 5:43-48, MSG)

Speaking from a time of crisis himself, Matthew has an important message that we need to hear today in our time of crisis. He calls us to respond in the way of Jesus, a way characterized by grace, forgiveness, and enemy love. When they go low, you go high.

Source: Trump, Jesus, & America’s Crisis – Red Letter Christians

We have a choice in this election between two very different presidential candidates. Now I will admit that neither is without fault but one just seems to be the opposite of my spiritual beliefs and the words above. I would no more consider him for president than I would mix my ice cream with horse manure…

The Stone Ceiling of Religions

There are a lot of things about today’s religious establishments that hinder their outreach to the 21st century population. The glass, or maybe stone ceiling is one of them.

Faith leaders grappling with women’s inclusion in religious leadership roles are in danger of the same pitfall. By focusing exclusively on “what is traditional” for their religion rather than asking the crucial question: “What change is necessary for religion to thrive?” they risk alienating 50 per cent of their flock. They also deprive the entire community of the talent, skills and enthusiasm that women would otherwise contribute.Insisting
that men continue to wear the trousers when it comes to religion might be traditional, but, as the pantalon rouge debacle illustrates, it may not be worth the price.

Source: Religion must either modernise or face obsolescence

I know much of the Christian establishment takes their traditions in this matter from the Apostle Paul, who by the way was a lifelong bachelor, instead of Jesus who had several women in his inner sanctum.  To me it is important to realize that early Christian writings, including much of the New Testament, were written at a time that women were not much above slaves in the social hierarchy.  It would take another 20 centuries that women began to be accepted on an equal basis as men.

Just because most religions started a couple of millennia ago doesn’t mean that they should be stuck in that time period. Things change and the church should change with them. I am willing to bet that Jesus would celebrate women being in full leadership roles today, even if it was unheard of in his day.  I think the church would be better off but instead we stick to following centuries old traditions that were formed by ancient cultures as if somehow they were better than today.

If religion is to strive, or maybe even exist, it must use all human resources at its disposal.

 

In the Name of Jesus, Stop Executions

I am thoroughly pro-life in all its forms.  Yes, abortion kills a living being but so does war and executions. Pro-life means believing in the sanctity of life before and after birth. Jesus made that pretty clear in his teachings and I intend to follow him in that and most all other regards.

Some folks will argue that the death penalty is necessary for the most heinous crimes, the “worst of the worst.” But it is increasingly clear that when it comes to executions in America, we are not killing the worst of the worst. We are killing the poorest of the poor. One of the best determinants of who gets executed is not the atrocity of the crime, but the resources of the defendant. As renowned death penalty lawyer Bryan Stevenson has said, “Far too often, you are better off being rich and guilty, than poor and innocent.”….

Geography often determines who dies. Texas is the death state, accounting for roughly half of all executions. This year six of the 15 executions in the U.S. were in Texas, and every remaining execution of 2016 is in this one state…

It blows my mind and breaks my heart that we continue to trust our very imperfect government with the ultimate and irreversible power of life and death. It is time to end the death penalty in America. In the name of Jeff Wood. And in th2016-08-20_06-47-21e name of another executed man … named Jesus.

 

Source: In the Name of Jesus, Stop Executions – Red Letter Christians

It is amazing to me that one State is responsibly for half the executions in this country.  What is it about Texas that makes it the execution capital of the world? Why are they so intent on vengeance, even wrongfully pointed vengeance? There must be something significantly different about the people in that region of the country than the rest of us. Anyone who has read many of my posts know I don’t have much respect for the State of Texas. For being such a bible-thumping State they just don’t seem to care about people, especially people different from them.

Geography,  race, and wealth,  have much more to do with who dies by execution than the type of crime committed. Thanks again Shane for helping me remember that….

 

Mixing Ice Cream With Horse Manure…

One of the things that finally drove me away from organized religion was the political side of it. Maybe the pastor was not the leader of this but he certainly didn’t try to contain it either. The politics of religion just poisoned me to it. So, when I came across the article from Red Letter Christians it got my immediate attention.

2016-07-24_08-00-44.pngAs my friend Tony Campolo likes to say, “Mixing Christianity up with a political party is like trying to mix ice-cream with horse manure. It doesn’t do much damage to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice-cream.”

Christianity becomes toxic when we lose track of Jesus….

We begin to see pastors talking more about their favorite candidate than their Savior. We begin to hear crowds chanting Trump or Hillary instead of Hosanna. We start to sing the praises of other names than the name above all names.

So I want to simply invite those of us who claim to be Christians to PAUSE. And to set our minds on Jesus.

When we lose our focus on Christ, we begin to talk a lot about stuff Jesus didn’t say much about, and we don’t talk much about the things Jesus had a whole lot to say about.

SOURCE:  Red, White & Blue People – Red Letter Christians

These are my feeling exactly!  Too much politics and hypocrisy, too little Jesus.

I am going to borrow a phrase from my previous pastor which he received from his son who was a pastor before him.  “Just give them Jesus”. The most stringent application of these words were probably from Thomas Jefferson’s Bible.  He spent years making a bible around just the words of Jesus. He ignored all the rules that Paul invented and even the miracles that Jesus supposedly performed as not being germane to Christianity.

I have a copy of the Jefferson Bible on my computer and find myself reading it on a regular basis. To me it gives me pure ice-cream. It is amazing that I have been unable to find any religious denomination that even comes close to concentrating on the purity of Jesus’ words. Too many seem to concentrate more on the rules of St. Paul than on the words of Jesus.  Too many invent totally unnecessary rules to live by that have nothing to do with Jesus’ words.

I am sad to say but I think there is just too much manure mixed with Christian ice-cream in too many places that take the mantel of Christianity.

Just Give Them Jesus.

Wicked Theology

When I came across this post a while back it got my immediate attention as the topic is probably one of the primary reasons that more and more people are declaring themselves spiritual but not religious.  There is just too much baggage attached to too many of our religious institutions today.  Too many twist the words  of Jesus to match their current view of the world.

2016-06-26_11-18-58Applying his expertise in a nefarious way, Burk argues that when Jesus imagines judgment according to how we treat “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40, 46), he means not poor people in general but fellow Christians who face mistreatment when sharing their faith and pursuing the path of righteousness….

You hear wicked theology from time to time…. Wicked theology takes Jesus’ saying, “The poor you always have with you,” as a warrant to ignore the problem of poverty. I’ve even had a friend argue that since Jesus did not command governments to provide a social safety net, Christian citizens ought not support one. Let’s think that one through: right-wingers take the Bible’s silence on modern social welfare programs as evidence Christians should support limited government. These arguments are just a wicked twist on the gospel message, making mountains out of molehills and ignoring the whole.

Wicked theology is not going away. Not that long ago, Jerry Falwell announced that God is pro-war in promoting an invasion of Iraq. Not long before that, he defended segregation. Wicked theology basically amounts to providing biblical cover – a pretense – for systems of inequality and exploitation. We need to call it when we see it.

SOURCE:  Wicked Theology

It is kind of surprising that the author of the words above is a Baptists professor. Flat- Bible advocates, of which many Baptists are a part, believe that every word in the Bible comes directly from God and that no words found there are any more important than any others.  For those who call themselves Christians but don’t think Christ’s words are of any particular value beyond the thousands of other people in that document is beyond comprehension to me.

Putting a particular, and often wrong headed, spin on the Bible and particularly Jesus’ words totally turns my stomach.  To take perhaps the most important words of Jesus and to twist them to take the focus off poor people is heresy as far as I am concerned.  Almost as bad is to use the Bible to justify war,  inequality, and exploitation. It is sad that so many famous Christian preachers have followed Jerry Falwell in that latter endeavor. The most dis-heartening is the son of Billy Graham who takes the words of his father and turns them on their head!

I know the words hypocrite are used a lot to describe Christians but that is far too often a very appropriate phrase.  Yes, I am aware that there are many many Christians who, like me, cling to the words of Jesus but we are really shadow Christians. We don’t often enjoy the attention that the famous preachers have.  But as far as I am concerned we are the real face of Christianity…. but far too many people don’t realize that fact…

Did Jesus Really Die for Our Sins?

Every year around this time I celebrate Jesus’ time on  earth and his conquering death. I learned years ago theology is made up of many fancy tags and the amateur as well as professional theologians love to use them to show their knowledge ( I kind of think it is really to snow the rest of us).  The tag that explains Jesus having to die for our sins is called Substitutionary Atonement. Here are some words from Christian Piatt about that:

2016-03-25_10-48-18.pngIt is worth noting that the notion of Jesus dying for our sins did not gain traction in the Christian imagination until at least a dozen centuries after Christ’s death. This is critical in our understanding of the crucifixion, namely because so many assume today that their present belief in substitutionary atonement has forever been the cornerstone of Christian theology…

“By the sixteenth century, Calvin focused upon punishment,” he says. “Because of the immensity of humankind’s sin, God’s wrath demanded punishment; Jesus became the substitute punishment.”…

Contemporary theologian Walter Wink goes a step further than Abelard, claiming that atonement theology is a corruption of the Gospel, focusing on an act of violence rather than the values of peaceful humility and compassion lived and taught by Christ.

Resolving the debate about the causes of, and purpose behind, Jesus’ death is an impossible task. More important, though is to make clear that such a debate is going on. For too long, Christians and non-Christians have assumed that all who yearn to follow the way of Christ universally believe Christ died for our sins. For millions, this not only defines their faith, but their understanding of the very nature of Good as well. For others, it is the basis for rejecting Christianity, understanding it as an inherently violent religion, centered on a bloodthirsty God that requires death in exchange for mercy.

This is not the God in which I put my faith, and I am not alone.

via Did Jesus Really Die for Our Sins?.

Christian Piatt, who is the author of this Huffington post is not your everyday theologian. He dares to ask questions and study the topic for answers which is something few in that occupation seemingly dare to do.  He is a regular contributor to one of my favorite blogs RedLetterChristians.

The idea of Jesus’ primary goal in coming to this earth was to die for our sins was not really formulated until the 12th century. It was not until then that the majority of Christians celebrated this atonement idea. Yes, conquering death as an early celebration but dying for our sins was not.  Of course since then it has been widely accepted across denominations. But I am just not one of those who believe that God needs a blood offering to satisfy his rathfull nature.

To me Jesus’ primary goal in coming to earth was to teach us how to live our lives as God intended. It was to wash away much of the Jewish traditions/laws that had nothing to do with God that were in place at the time. So many of Jesus’ quotes from the New Testament start with “The law (tradition) says this but I say this…” Even up till then there was just too much wrong headed interpretations of God’s limited words. Can you imagine what God thinks of it now?

So, while my life is geared toward celebrating Christ’s mission to earth I don’t  buy necessarily buy into the man-made concept of “substitutional atonement”.

 

How Studying Religion Made Me a Liberal

2016-03-02_18-09-28.pngWhat happened, however, wasn’t an abandonment of my faith, but a shift in my understanding of Scripture. While I had always read the Bible and knew large portions of it by memory, I had relied on the expertise of my religious mentors (some of whom were simply laypeople teaching Sunday School or Christian education classes) to help guide me through its interpretation.

The more I read the text through unfiltered eyes and the more I learned about scholarly investigation, the less sense their point of view made. Their old Jesus looked nothing like my new Jesus.

I could no longer reconcile Jesus’s calls for non-judgment, loving your enemies, and taking up your cross with many of the Religious Right’s positions on social services, women’s rights and the LGBT community. Even though I felt alone in my theological shift, I was not…

Having my worldview fall apart like a house of cards was unnerving, but it only increased my desire for knowledge about the theology of my youth. I continued to study religion, and I received my PhD in Religious Studies two years ago. Now I no longer identify as an evangelical, but I study them for a living.  Only after my doctrinal evolution did I realize I no longer aligned with the political conservatism for which I once literally campaigned. Jesus was a champion of the poor, the weak, the meek, and downtrodden. He encouraged his followers to “sell their possessions” and give them to the poor. He hung out with hookers and crooks.

My transition to the left didn’t happen overnight, and sometimes I felt like a deserter. The man whom I worked to get elected no longer represented my politics or my piety. As I continue to observe the curious twists and turns of evangelicals, particularly during this election year, I remain fascinated by the ways they reconcile their theology with their policy

My journey from Young Republican to less young Democrat did not come from a crisis of faith, it came from finding inspiration in the life of Jesus. Once I removed the dogmatic lens that had informed my biblical interpretations, I found a figure that defended a prostitute and ate with the poor. The life of Jesus simply didn’t reflect the agenda of the political right, so now neither could I.

SOURCE:  Why I Left the Right: How Studying Religion Made Me a Liberal.

Reading this article was almost like reading my biography. I experienced so many of the things that the author did.  While I didn’t go on to obtain a PhD in religious studies I did spend several years  reading through religious text with unfiltered eyes and came to pretty much the same conclusions.  The current evangelical community just doesn’t look anything like the face of Jesus.

I did a lot of cutting in the quote above so I would encourage you to read the entire text if this topic is of interest to you.  It’s nice to realize that I am not the only one to sit down and read religious documents with an unbiased perspective. It was an epiphany to discover the conservatism of my youth was never what I thought it was…

Evolving Faith…

I think for too long we’ve made Jesus just one character or episode in the Bible. If we want to see God, we look to Jesus. In Hebrews 1:3, the writer says that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. So I think that if we could recapture that centrality of Christ in our churches through our teaching, our worship, our way of life, well then, what would change? …  We aren’t bringing Jesus into our lives: he’s welcoming us into his life. Years later, I still feel like the only place that makes sense is in his presence, the only place I want to be is in the dust of his feet….

Rather, I was more telling stories of the places where I have evolved and changed because I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to do that. I do have areas where I can’t imagine changing but I hold even those loosely now. My catalogue of Right Answers has grown smaller over the years, for sure, and I see God as much more wild and wonderful and generous than I could have ever imagined years ago.

Source:  Evolving Faith: An Interview with Sarah Bessey – Red Letter Christians.

I very much mirror almost everything mentioned in the above quote from my friends over at Red Letter Christians.  For me it is all about Jesus and his words. Everything else in the Christian Bible is very secondary if even that important. I evolved into this attitude over time to where it has become the cornerstone of my spiritual life.

I don’t particularly like the phrase “What would Jesus do?” Instead I live by the idea of what would Jesus have ME do? I can’t possibly imitate Jesus in most matters in life but I can take what he teaches me in both my heart and my actions.

I remember in 2008 when I started my now archive blog at RedLetterLiving I got a comment from a fairly high authority in the Lutheran church organization I belonged to at the time that totally confused me.  I admit that I didn’t really read much of my church’s writing so I didn’t realize the extent of my differences with them.

Getting back to the 2008 comment, the person asked me why I was concentrating on the words of Jesus!  He said all the words of the Bible are equally important! So, to him the words about not eating meat from animals with cloven hooves was just as important as Jesus’ messages of loving each other!  I was shocked by his comments but eventually discovered  that is pretty much the attitude of the clergy in the Lutheran church I belonged. To me they just seem to be  more of a “club” type association (they call it fellowship)  who focus on adoration of their Bible rather than focusing like a laser beam on the person of Jesus.

Needless to say these revelations started me down the road asking too many questions and  correspondingly being expelled from my congregation; in the end that was probably a good thing…. it allowed my faith to evolve to the next level.

2015-12-30_10-09-20.pngIf anyone is interesting in going deeper with this topic of evolving faith I would highly recommend the book shown here by Philip Gulley. Despite what some say, it is a normal process for our beliefs in God evolve as we mature. If they don’t then we are not growing in Christ as we should. Don’t get stuck in one static place just because someone tells you they have all the answers.  Question everything even your spirituality. I think God expects us to do just that…. and He is certainly up to the questions.