Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Well I Didn't See That Coming

I wrote this a year ago......

“I need something to believe in,” he said. “It’s either that or just give up.”~Protester at Occupy Wall Street
We are blowing the moment. We are preaching a version of Christ that cannot be found in the Bible to a people that are crying out for the Christ that is present in the Gospels. What relevance is there in fulminating against gay marriage to a father struggling to feed his children? We are preaching against evolution while families wonder how to save their home from foreclosure. Our food pantries and benevolence funds are empty while pastors rant against gay soldiers putting their lives on the line for our country.
We are preaching to a dead church what the corpse wants to hear, while outside the sanctuary people who desperately need the Christ who was an advocate for the poor and the powerless can't figure out how the church they see at Value Voters conferences has any relevance to their immediate needs. So they turn elsewhere for comfort.
 There's a reason the church is deemed irrelevant by tens of millions of Americans. We're in an economic crisis of near historic proportions, more Americans live below the poverty line today than in anytime since the Great Depression. Millions of homes are in or near foreclosure, the percentage of Americans requiring food assistance stuns the imagination, at the current pace of job creation we'll not see a return to 5/6% unemployment for a decade if ever. And what are our so called religious leaders up in arms about? Gay marriage, evolution, and school prayer.
Could there be issues less important or relevant to the millions of Americans wondering how to feed, clothe, and shelter their families than gay marriage or creationism? Is it possible for the church to get farther from relevance to the immediate needs of their flocks or the people we're trying to reach for Christ than we are today? If a father asks "How do I feed my children?", "Vote against gay marriage, and for school prayer." is an answer unlikely to move him to Christ.
 So it's no wonder that for millions of people in crisis, the church isn't relevant, in fact they never even consider it as being part of the solution because the church seems blindly focused on problems that have no bearing on hunger, unemployment, homelessness, and the gut wrenching despair that accompany those troubles. There is a season for every cause, and to the extent that the church focuses on problems that do not have relevance to the season we're in, we fail Jesus.
People are in despair, fear, hunger. They feel that no one among the powerful heeds their fears.   And they AREN’T TURNING TO CHRIST FOR ANSWERS. Why? Because many people feel the same way about the church that they feel about the rest of America’s institutions. The church in America has become like the rest of the structure that resides at the top of the food chain, unresponsive, arrogant, disconnected, and self-righteous. The church lectures, protects its own, admits to no faults, seems more concerned with appearances than relevance. It has abandoned service to the least of us in favor of legislating morals. Maybe it’s time we take some guidance from the folks occupying Main Street and Occupy the Church.

Who knew it was going to be a Pope do the occupying?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Right Path

I had a wonderful talk with a friend, who happens to be an atheist, about one of the uglier verses in the bible, Psalms 137:9. It’s the verse where the writer gloats about an enemy’s infants getting smashed against stones. 

My response to his belief that Christians worship a God “who loves songs sung to him about smashing infants against rocks. The book of psalm is actually a book of songs. Any way you try to slice it, your god condones killing infants and he says you will be happy when doing it” was simple.

I read scripture through the lens of Christ, if a passage contradicts Christ or interprets Christ in ways that He did not, it is not of God.  I no longer twist myself into bizarre contortions inerrantists are forced into trying to defend or rationalize stupid scripture. Of course God/Christ does not condone smashing infants into rocks, thus the writer of that verse was not speaking for God.

This has the added advantage of annoying fundamentalists, theologians, legalists, Pharisees, and of course, my atheist friend. When you can do that you might just be on the right path. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's Greek To Me

I wanted to repost this essay from Gary at Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals because he makes an important point. Don't be cowed by church elites of any denomination spouting seminary learned superiority. Your English language bibles work quite well.

Why do Baptist always want to go to the Greek to understand the Bible? It is as if Baptists do not trust their English Bibles: "Sorry, hold on a minute, I need to check the original Greek before we can believe that God really loves the whole world as your English Bible seems to say in John 3:16...we can only know for sure if we understand and read ancient Greek."
When God promised to preserve his Word...did he really mean that he would only preserve it on 2,000 year old parchment and papyrus in ancient forms of Greek and Aramaic?? Did God really intend that the only people who could REALLY know what he had to say to mankind...would be ancient Greek-educated Baptist Churchmen?? Is the non-ancient-Greek- speaking layperson sitting in the pew supposed to just shut his English language Bible and sit at the feet of these Baptist Greek scholars to learn what God couldn't explain himself in plain, simple ENGLISH??
Do you REALLY believe that God intended for only Baptist, Greek-speaking Churchmen to understand the Gospel, the Word? Because that is really what you are saying, Pastor, because the Greek scholars of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the Methodist Church think that Baptist Greek scholar are all WET on the issue of whether the Bible supports infant baptism and mandatory immersion-only baptism!
How is it possible that ONLY Baptist Greek scholars truly understand ancient Greek, and the rest of the worlds Greed scholars completely bungle the translation of the New Testament. How is that REALLY possible? It defies common sense. And if I hear another Baptist start talking about how the Greek genitive case proves the Baptist position is correct, I swear I'm going to puke! Seriously, every time I get into a discussion about Biblical translation with a Baptist he starts in with the genitive case nonsense. If you want to understand the genitive case in a Greek document...I suggest you confer...not with a Baptist...but with a GREEK!
Instead of all this Greek nonsense, which Baptist seem to have a fixation upon, I suggest that every Christian layperson do this:
1. Obtain a copy of four different English language Bibles. Read one of these "problem passages" as Baptists and evangelicals refer to them, in each of these English translations.
2. God's true meaning of the passage will be plainly understandable after comparing these four English translations.
You do NOT need to read the ancient Greek text unless you want to delve into the study of ancient Greek sentence structure or some other nuance. God promised he would preserve his Word, and the English-speaking people of the world have had the Word of God IN ENGLISH since at least William Tyndale (1300"s??). Dear Baptists...PLEASE stop depending on the ancient texts to confuse Christian laypeople of God's simple, plain message of the Gospel!
Luther, Baptists, and Evangelicals

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Targeted Disdain For Sin

I have a question. Why can't we welcome gay Christians in church? I belong to a 12 step program for recovering alcoholics. All of us have suffered horribly in our disease and inflicted suffering on our fellows. We of all people should loathe drunkenness, yet when as often happens, someone shows up at our meetings drunk we encourage them to stay. Our attitude is what better place for a drunk than a place where he can hear that there is a solution.

And why should we be scandalized if we end up sitting next to openly gay people at church. I can assure you if you sit next to me at church you are in the presence of a sinner. Is there some sort of hierarchy where sin is ranked by degree of acceptability, where my sin is acceptable in church but theirs isn’t? Is church a country club for saints or a hospital for the broken?

Oh, gays are welcome here, some pastors say, just don’t expect me to water the Bible down for their sake, and it’s not love if I don’t call them out for the abominations their lifestyle leads them to become.

Ok, let’s look at that.

Paul tells us “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. ~ Galatians 5:19-21

Are you calling out with equal ferocity and frequency these sinners? ‘Cause if you aren’t you just might be a homophobe, not a truth teller.

I would not urge gays to attend a church that spews a targeted disdain for sin, simply because you’re supposed to be in church.  If how you are treated by your faith community does not lead to an abundant life, and that after all, is what Jesus promises, move on. Nor would I suggest attending an anything goes church because, well, not everything goes.

Instead, find a body of believers that acknowledges brokenness, that believes we are all better off if we wrestle with that brokenness together. That way we can come together over Christ, not our separate styles of sin. That is a body worth belonging to.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

John Doesn't Live There Anymore

Let’s repent together, and stop thinking that God hates us.

Cause honestly, I don’t need any more enemies...~Benjamin L. Corey

I had to stop living there. “There” being that place that insists I have to accept the explanations of creation put forth by writers from a scientifically primitive culture or be branded heretic. That any deviation from scriptural inerrancy is a slippery slope inevitably leading to all scripture is false.

“There” was a place that demanded I believe the wrong sexual orientation threatened the very fabric of marriage, while Christians were getting divorced at the same rate as secular society. A place that had allowed the idolatry of unbridled capitalism and American Exceptionalism to assume a place at the pulpit equal to that of Jesus.

“There” allowed no questions, had no room for dissent, and provided no safe haven for doubters.

“There” was rigid conformity, harsh condemnation of any criticism. If you lived “There” you had to buy the company line hook, line, and sinker. Any deviation was apostasy.

So I had to stop living “There”, and when I moved, I found a place of joy. “Here” I’ve renewed my love affair with the Bible, I no longer have to get into all sorts of weird contortions defending obviously silly pieces of scripture, instead I can say “Yes, that makes me cringe too, but here’s what the Bible is to me. It’s God’s chosen method of reconciling man to God. And a finite text cannot contain an infinite God.” 

So now I’ve got the biggest romance story of the ages back in my life, a book of mystery and unimaginable love.

“Here” I’ve learned to filter all of my faith through the lens of Jesus, and that changed everything for me.

“Here” there is no seemingly schizophrenic God, a God that hates me one moment and loves me the next. “Here” there is only Jesus, a Jesus that gathered ruffians and peasants, doubters and deniers, to Him and used them to change the world.

I like it “Here” a lot. I’ve found a renewed sense of purpose, a faith that doesn’t require me to hate on gays and Muslims, and a reason to hope that Christ will indeed triumph without having to slaughter folks who dress differently, and don’t toe the company line.

Yeah, I like it “Here” a lot. Pull up a chair and let’s visit for awhile.