Moving Forward on RLL

I have been struggling lately with how I will approach my study of the Red Letters on this site. One of the primary causes for putting it into a four-year hiatus was that I was just tired of lamenting how so many versions of Christianity strayed, sometimes very severely, from the path of Jesus’ words and teachings. Starting it up again I seemed to be heading down that same route and that is not where I wanted to go. It is time for CHANGE.

Yes, there are around 40,000 different versions of Christianity, but focusing on that fact is not very productive in my mind. So, I have decided to take a different path going forward at least for the time being. Instead of lamenting what Jesus’ church has become, I will focus on what I think are some the best examples of those who live by his teachings. For me, the first example of that is the Jesuits in the Roman Catholic Church. This series might widen to include the Franciscan order because right now I don’t understand the significant difference between the two.

What instigated this new direction was Pope Francis. When I study his words and particularly his actions I began to see how closely my spiritual beliefs aligned with his. He is the first Jesuit Pope and that has brought out some strong opposition especially among some here in the US. I just read in Sojourners Magazine (March 2019) issue how US right-wing billionaires are attempting a takeover of the US Catholic Church primarily because of Pope Francis’ emphasis on Jesus’ words. They believe he is just too hostile to our version of capitalism and that is very threatening to them.

For this series, I will be posting about what I am learning about the Jesuit order and their teachings.

The second prong of my new approach for this site is to look at those who have serious concerns about religion in general.

When I spent a couple of decades in an Evangelical church I was strenuously told to just believe on faith what they told me to believe. Don’t ask questions. Of course, questioning everything is a core part of my nature so there were several conflicts over the years. The last one resulted in the clergyman telling me I was no longer welcomed. They just couldn’t handle my questions, so as not to pollute the other members with doubt I was told to I need to leave.

I think that the words of Jesus can stand up to any questions brought up about them. So, as well as studying Jesuits, I will also be looking at the philosophy of religion. It will be an interesting series I think.

I hope anyone who comes by here in the next few months might want to learn along with me. I will be open to your thoughts as long as they conform to my “Code of Conduct” as shown in the header above.

Where we will be heading at the completion of this series, I have no idea. I suspect what we find in this series will naturally grow into something else. But who knows?

Some Mainline Thoughts on Progressive Christianity

I”m still not really in the camp with Progressive Christianity. Maybe I should just stick to the phrase “follower of the teachings of Jesus” Here are some comments that tend to push me in that direction. It is from a webinar on the subject from the Church of Christ version of Christianity.

1)  You sometimes hear progressive Christians say things like, “The Bible is not from God, but is only a human book expressing people’s experience of God.” Or you’ll hear, “This is what the apostle Paul says, but what did Jesus say?” The assumption behind both is that we get to judge which parts of the Bible are true and authoritative based upon our 21st century, Western sensibilities…

2) Progressivism challenges core doctrines of Christian orthodoxy. The Scriptures teach that Jesus was crucified to atone for our sins, but progressives tend to argue that Jesus’ death was merely a martyrdom. The Scriptures claim that Jesus is divine, but often progressives only emphasize the humanity of Jesus–unitarianism grew up with Western liberalism. The sinfulness of humanity is generally downplayed by progressives, who tend to think that all people are basically good and not really in need of salvation…

3) Progressivism is attractive to formerly biblical Christians because it offers a sort of “halfway house” that allows them to remain largely religious and socially responsible, but relieves them from the responsibility of holding to what they consider to be antiquated biblical teachings such as miracles, the authority of Scripture, sexual holiness or the sinfulness of humanity…

4) I do think that this is our time. We face a sort of “rendezvous with destiny” moment. If we fail in this moment, North American Christianity will soon be no different from that of Europe — irrelevant...

Source: The Christian Chronicle

I guess the topic of religion has, like the political sphere, become Left vs Right thing now which is predominately driven by fear. One version of Christianity sees another as a threat to their existence so they dig their trenches and demand that they are the owners of truth. Maybe it is just not worth the time and pain to hang on to the word “Christian” anymore. The right-wing Christian world has become very pretty similar to right-wing Republicans now. Both those worlds are very black and white now. There is simply no room for those of us to see fifty shades of grey.

I say I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus but don’t put my faith on the belief that the Bible is the only truth or that it is entirely true. In other words, my following Jesus has little or nothing to do with whether the Bible is from God or from man.

The religious right clings to the idea that if you want to claim Jesus then you have to also accept all the baggage that was piled on him by others after his ascension. I just don’t buy that logic in any way shape or form.

I am beginning to question whether I really want to try and dialog here anymore. It seems the divide between left and right is now also core part of the Christian domain. Is it really worth the effort? I will have to contemplate and pray on this some more I guess…

What Does Being A Progressive Christian Mean?

I am not one to haphazardly join or agree with an organization without first being certain I know what they stand for. I have been stung once in that regard and I won’t let it happen again. My allegiance to ProgressiveChristianity.org is a process, not an epiphany. After discovering this organization I looked for what they stand for and found it in the following graphic.

It does seem that this is a very different brand of Christianity than the one now presenting itself as “Evangelical Christians”. Those people by their actions don’t seem to be Christ-like to me. In fact, they seem almost the opposite!

I want to go through this list to put my own thoughts beside theirs to see how they might align.

Tenet #1&2 – The Teachings Of Jesus

Jesus’ teachings are at the center of my spiritual life. Too many versions of Christianity treat the Bible, or at least their selected verses from it, as the center of their beliefs. Some even say that Jesus’ words are no more important than any other words in the Bible! That is hogwash to me. I am delighted to see that Progressive Christianity puts Jesus back where he belongs.

To say that the teaching of Jesus leads to the unity of all life appeals to me very much. If only it were true across the board. To also say that the words of Jesus are not meant to be the sole source of our spiritual journey a good thing. God did not stop telling us how he wants us to live after the red letters were finally put to papyrus. He gives us other personal messages, today and in the past, and throughout our life to guide us in life.

Tenet #3 – Inclusive Of All

When Jesus walked this earth he spent most of his time among those who the established religion of the time shunned. He had his harshest words for those who chose to exclude rather than include. Including all people into their organization, Progressive Christians are using the examples of Jesus as their foundation. And that is as it should be…

Telling people that they are not welcomed because of differences in beliefs, sex, and/or lifestyles does nothing to bring us together as children of God. The Bible, at least by today’s standards, is very sexist but it did reflect the culture of the times of those who wrote it. I know that is not how God meant it to be for the ages. Of course, not all of this very diverse group mentioned above will agree on everything but that is OK as long as we respect others as fellow seekers of God even if their belief that may differ from ours.

Tenet #4 – The Way We Behave

This is a biggie for me. The way we behave should be a direct relationship to what we say we believe. There are just too many organizations around today who take on the Christian label and then put their beliefs above their actions. I know as I was kicked out of one of those organization when it was discovered that I had a blog (this one of course) where I was voicing opinions that differed from the organization’s posted demands of beliefs! We can believe anything but the true shadow of Jesus is in our living as He taught us. As James, the brother of Jesus said, faith without works is worthless.

Tenet #5 – There Is More Value In Questions Than In Absolutes

For those of you who have been to my other site at RJsCorner know, I am a big believer in questioning everything, and yes that does include spiritual things. When we take a few words in the Bible to put down an ABSOLUTE stake to our beliefs we are doing more harm than good to the body of Christ. To even insinuate that no questions are allowed stifles any hope of reconciliation between the diverse group who are invited to be Progressive Christians.

Tenet #6&7 – Peace, Justice, and Dignity

If you want to see the principles of peace and justice in Jesus’ words look no further than the Beatitudes. It couldn’t be more clear that Jesus was the ultimate advocate of these principles. The Beatitudes should also be our driving force in life. Sadly much of the world today is an unjust and unpeaceful place. Followers of Jesus need to do what they can to help alleviate that.

Taking care of the earth he provided us is certainly a Christian principle. We should not allow any, including our current government leaders, to distract us from that mission.

Tenet #8 – Lifelong Learning and Selfless Love

We should never think that we know it all when it comes to our spirituality or any other part of our lives for that matter. Lifelong learning is at the core of what it means to be human. Selfless love is without a doubt one of the hardest things to even remotely accomplish. We are all selfish creatures who need to move beyond ourselves and actually put others first. We should never stop trying to do that.

Closing It Out…

I like what I see so far very much in this newly discovered group. It will help me be a better “Follower of Jesus” to be in fellowship with them.

Next time I will be looking at some of the hundreds of topics covered on their site. Click HERE if you want to view some of them yourself.

In closing, now don’t get me wrong about what my blog here is going to be about. It is not to give a full-fledged endorsement of one particular Christian organization. After this initial review period, I will be getting back to what this blog was about in its first five years but with maybe a more positive view going forward. 🙂

What do you think? Does Progressive Christianity appeal to you?

Progressive Christianity

When I put my RedLetterLiving blog in hiatus five years ago there was what seemed to be just a ragtag group of theologians and clergy that thought as I did. Following the Red Letters was what Christianity was all about to them and to me. Everything else is a distraction.

Now here we are five years later and I have joyfully discovered that many of this ragtag group has joined together and found scores of others who joined them. They are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Christian community. That very fact makes my heart sing!

Hallelujah!!!

The featured header above is a snapshot of their website I will certainly be studying this new organization (new as least to me) in the coming months. Currently, this is the list of 64 people and their blogs that claim the Progressive Christian mantel. I prey that this list grows daily.

Pastor Ken Storck: Pastor Kenn’s Study
 
Brent Livingood: Faith, Photography and Words
 
John Smallman: Our Spiritual Destination
 
Wade Gilliard: The Aggressively Progressive Christian
 
Andrew Walton: One Eternal Presence
 
Philip Gulley: Grace Talks
 
Diana Butler Bass
 
John C. Robinson: Conscious Aging

Matthew Distefano: All Set Free

Rob Bell: The RobCast

Eric Alexander: Christian Evolution

Jim Adams: Better than Believing

Jim Burklo: Musings

Sea Raven: Gaia Rising

Jann Aldredge-Clanton: Changing Church!

Progressive Christians Uniting

The Rev. Chuck Currie: Views from a United Church of Christ Minister

Rick Herrick: Rethinking Christianity

Phil Snider: Writer, Speaker, Pastor, Husband, Dad

Religion Dispatches

Rachael Keefe: Write Out of Left Field

Mark Sandlin: The God Article

Dr. Kendra Weddle Irons: Ain’t I a Woman? De/Constructing Christian Images

Naomi Kirstein: Skywoman

Ian Lawton: Aussie Heretic

Ashley Goff’s: God of the Sparrow

Jeremy John: Glass Dimly

Andy Walton: One Eternal Presence

Alison Rockey: I Alison

Lauri Lumby: Your Spiritual Truth

Nathan Schneider: The Row Boat

John Shuck: Shuck and Jive

Rev Chuck Queen: A Fresh Perspective

Michael Dowd: Thank God for Evolution

Chris Glaser: Progressive Christian Reflections

Ron Cole: The Weary Pilgrim

Larry Hollon: Faith Media + Culture

Rev. Steven F. Kindle: Same-Sex Marriage in the Church and Nation

Natural Spirituality – Loving Forum for Spiritual Harmony & Growth

Patheos- Faith Forward

Well-Fed Spirit: Spiritual formation & wellness resources

Deepening Faith: Youth Ministry Basics

Sharon Delgado: Progressive Christian Social Action

Stonyhill Nuggets:   Insights and Spiritual Practices, by Dick Rauscher.

Fr. Daniel Kostakis: The Body Is Many… 

Joseph Holub: Spiritual Trails 

Rev. Deborah Dean-Ware: The Unsilent Church

Colorado Confession by Ron Letnes

Kelly Isola: Tranformation Through Wisdom & Compassion

Gary Russell: The Profane Economy

Frank Lesko: The Traveling Ecumenist

Brandon Robertson

Mike MorrellOpti-Mystic Meditations on Spirit, Culture and Permaculture

Bill AulenbachPeace Love Joy Hope

Anne Bailey Campbell: Leap of Grace

Anna McCarthyJust a Jesus Follower

Fr. Dick Rentoholyheretics

Joanna HoldenOhMyGod! – A Blog for Progressives

Tom RodriguezThe Liberal Christian Blog

Church of the Beatitudes Blog
Conatus News

Samaritan Safe Church Blog

Father Kenneth Lasch

Rev. Aaron Maurice SaariTheo-Logical

Rev. Roger WolseyThe Holy Kiss

The Christian Label

In order to be called ‘Swiss cheese,” you must have so many holes per cubic inch. In order for a wine to be called “Bordeaux”, it must be made in France. There is no such requirement for anyone or anything to take on the label “Christian”.

“Anything can label itself as being “Christian,” so we must always look to the person of Christ to guide us,

Source: Stephen Mattson

The Ku Klux Klan is the most glaring example of an organization claiming the Christian mantel. They used a cross as the symbol of their hateful organization. Sadly a hundred years ago there were thousands of so-called Christians belonging to the KKK and I suspect many are still in that evil organization.

But as Stephen Mattson says in the quote below, there are also well-meaning people who are imperfect Christians who have acted very un-Christ-like throughout its history.

Christianity is represented by imperfect Christians trying to represent a perfect Christ. This explains why everything bad about Christianity can be traced back to Christians, but everything good can be traced back to Christ. So it’s time we stop glorifying Christendom, and start following God instead. May we love God and love others to the best of our ability, even if it means giving up our old trappings of “Christianity.”

I have done enough studying to know that a lot of un-Christ-like things happened when the Church was pretty much in charge of the world during the Middle and Dark ages.

Today we have the likes of Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr. who have turned Christ’s church into a political PAC for a very unChristian and unstable person in the Oval Office. They even claim that God is directly responsible for putting him there. Talk about imperfect Christians!!!

We need to get back to making Christ the center of his church once again. It should be all about Jesus instead of man-made fabrications. Thankfully the Progressive Church movement is trying to do just that. They are growing stronger as each day passes. We all need to continue the fight to re-establish Jesus and his teachings as the head of his church. The sooner the better, before it is too late.

The Church needs to find its way back to the path of Jesus

About Starting Up Again

Before I get started on anything that requires serious lifting here, I want to look back a little to remember where I have been. Many thoughts crossed my mind while trying to decide whether to start posting here again. I think the top one was “Do I have the emotional and physical energy it will take to do this again?”

During my first five years here between November 2008 and April 2014, I was pretty deeply involved in the subject. I read about fifty books from a myriad of authors, all of those reviews still reside here among the 550 archive posts. I started out with some serious questions and after five years of study, I was pretty much disappointed with the answers I found. It just seemed to me that the vast majority of Christ’s churches have seriously veered off the path of the teaching of Jesus. Many had also put “what to believe” far ahead of “how to act”. When that became obvious I quit blogging here or even thinking much about it. But, what did surprise me during this hiatus, is that the site continues to get a significant number of weekly views, so that tells me I must have done something right.

When I came across John Pavolovitz and his blog “Stuff that needs to be said” it rekindled my spiritual flame. Here is a little about him from his blog of which I am now a regular reader.

John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In the past four years, his blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said has reached a diverse worldwide audience. A 20-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. In 2017 he released his first book, A Bigger Table. His new book, Hope and Other Superpowers, arrived on November 6th.

Source: Stuff that needs to be said

I must admit that the flame had never completely gone out as I continued to call myself a “follower of the messages of Jesus” and occasionally wrote cloaked posts about that over at my main blog RJsCorner. As those posts have become more frequent, I decided that maybe it was time that they should reside here again.

Going forward, as in the past, I will be somewhat blunt in my words of criticism, but I hope to also show my increased optimism of how so many congregations and theologians seem to be returning to their roots. There is much to talk about here on what has happened in the last five years.

I think the success of this blog in its first five years was due to the fact that I am just a regular guy who addresses these issues, and that makes me more approachable by other average folks to come and share their thoughts. No “Theologian Speak” here.

I hope some of you come back regularly to give me your thoughts, maybe some moral encouragement, and to just let me know I am not alone with my views of Jesus and his church.

Where To Begin?

Looking back to my last post here on April 3, 2104, I feel kind of overwhelmed as to where to start up again. A lot has happened in the previous five years, Some good, some pretty bad. It will take a while to cover all this so bear with me.

I am also broadening the scope of RedLetterLiving to include the Coexist movement that I also feel strongly about. It is now prominently displayed on the header above. I feel that this movement is the last best hope for any kind of peace between the various religious establishments.

Does including Coexist with the Red Letters diminish them? I guess that is a topic we have to discuss more thoroughly in future posts but I don’t believe it does. To me, it is very much aligned with Jesus’ primary command to love God and to love each other.

I am looking forward to discussing this expanded topic with you…

Back From Hiatus Soon…

After almost five years in hiatus, I will once again start blogging on RedLetterLiving. Quite a bit has happened in the Christian realm since I left so there is much to talk about.

I can’t give you a specific date for return yet, but it will likely be sometime this month. The first thing that is going to happen is to re-format a very dated layout… Then on to at least weekly posts.

I look forward to this new endeavour.

Conformity….

I’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 minded hardened hearts.  They see a fixated emphasis on below the belt issues when Jesus said almost nothing about that topic.

Young people, or at least 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 coming life. They will not allow someone to tell them what is moral when it is obviously not 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.

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It 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 just change your idea some of the basic things you are told you must believe in order to see God.

This is one of the most fundemental things I have learned from the now ending five year study…

Jesus and Violence…

“In a world swimming in violence, in a land where “messiah” meant militancy, Jesus never acts violently. Whenever violence is addressed, Jesus condemns it. Whenever His followers try to act violently, they are confronted. Whenever Jesus encounters people who deserve a violent punishment, Jesus loves them. And in doing so, He leaves His followers with a nonviolent example to follow. When people around the globe think that American Christians are pro-war, enamored with violence, and fascinated with military might, something is terribly wrong. No one in the first century would have made the same conclusion regarding Jesus and his followers.”

SOURCE: Kurt Willems: Fight: “Erasing Hell” co-author defends nonviolence in a new book! | Red Letter Christians.

Fundamentalist Christians, which I believe is a totally American thing, have by some of their basic messages very much contradicted the words of Jesus when it comes to violence.  As the closing sentence in the above quote indicates first century Christians were very much against any form of violence. When a Roman soldier wanted to become a Christian the first thing he had to do was to find a different occupation.  Being a soldier and being a Christian were just not compatible with each other.

Jesus condemned violence in his day and I am sure he is doing the same thing today.  Most of the fundamentalists today are very strong advocates of our military complex. They fight tooth-and-nail for annual increases in our military spending even while calling for drastic cuts in programs for the poor. They are convinced that God wants them to bring “freedom” to the world no matter the violent costs.  We as a country have done nothing but reinforce the belief of the rest of the world of our love of violence. We do nothing about controlling guns when the rest of the world has. We have a military that we spend forty times more per citizen than any other in the world. Our violent movies and video games are marketed around the world. Most of our aid to foreign countries is in the form of weaponry.

I think it is about time that those of us who are followers of Jesus and his commands start pushing back against the violence in this country. We are supposedly THE Christian nation of the world. Why don’t we even begin to act like it?