Archives For January 2014

On December 5th, The Diversity Chronicle posted a blog with the clever title ‘Pope Francis Condemns Racism and declares that “All Religions Are True” At Historic Third Vatican Council’ . People quickly spread the piece via social media, and many—especially Evangelical Christians—attacked the Pope.

The fact that the article was a spoof and not true should serve as a reminder to always research and verify sources, but even more alarming was that so many Christians were seemingly waiting for a reason to blast Pope Francis.

It was as if people wanted an opportunity to turn on the Pope, and this article was the perfect fodder for their distrust. Thus, the story spread and became a viral message of how the Catholic Church was once again spreading a “false Gospel” and that the Pope was probably  working in collusion with the AntiChrist.

SOURCE: Do ‘Evangelicals’ Still Distrust Catholicism? | Stephen Mattson.

I must admit that Stephen Mattson is becoming one of my favorite bloggers over at Red Letter Christians.  He has an innate ability to stand back and report on things without the usual assumptions and prejudgements. Thinking for yourself in the religious sphere is a task that comes with a lot of criticism. Stephen Mattson certainly does not shy away from saying what he believes and that I very much admire in him.

The quote above struck right at home with me.  To understand where I am coming from you should know that I spent the early third of my life as a Catholic. I was an altar boy and went the first seven years of school in a Catholic institution. Like many I dropped away during college and then left entirely after that.  I won’t go into the reason for leaving the Catholic church here but looking back it probably had more to do with pitiful management of the local church I was attending than anything else.

After my first and only marriage at the age of forty I joined a Lutheran church and stayed there until I was stripped of membership because of theological differences.  I would not refute my belief that he earth is greater than 5,000 year old or believe that the Bible is 100% literal and true.

Having spent a good deal of time in both Catholic and Evangelical churches I can say without a doubt that the antipathy between the two organization runs predominately on the Evangelical side.  Yes, I heard growing up as a Catholic that it was the only true religion but that dwarfed when compared what I heard on the Evangelical side.  I found that there are indeed many who thoroughly despise the Pope and believe him to be the antiChrist.

I think part of this antipathy comes from the Reformation but I think the bigger part due to a basic theological difference between the two. The Catholic church has always put an emphasis on “works” where as most Evangelical shy very much away from that very concept.  Evangelicals for the most part have put being a Christian as “fire insurance”. Say the right words and then go on living your life as you please.  Many of my Protestant friends seem too fearful of putting “works”/action at any level into their religious ideology.

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“I’m Sorry”?

January 21, 2014 — Leave a comment

Sorry

Christians mistakenly believe that apologizing discredits everything they’ve ever said. As if saying “we’re sorry” will somehow negate the fact that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. In reality, apologizing promotes honesty, transparency, authenticity and humility, things all Christians should exhibit throughout their lives. When Christians apologize, it adds integrity and legitimacy to their words and actions…

Maybe this is why Christians rarely hear sermons or teachings about apologizing to non-Christians. Mainstream Christian culture teaches the opposite: believers are always right. The inner-circle perception is that Christians don’t make mistakes—only non-Christians do.

SOURCE: Stephen Mattson: Can Christianity Learn to Say, “I’m Sorry”? | Red Letter Christians.

Saying I’m sorry is not something that I shy away from. I, like everyone else in this world have made some pretty stupid mistakes. Anyone who has studied much in the way of church history know that the church has also made some pretty serious errors. Like silently sat back during the 1950s and watched church after church in African-American neighborhoods be burned. They sat stoically in the background while basic civil rights were denied a large portion of the population. In fact many so-called Christians were fervent members of the KKK performing these atrocities!  Before that there was WWII. How many Christians stood by while the Nazi regime annihilated millions of people because of their religious affiliation?

Christian leaders have persecuted many as heretics only for them to later be deemed as saints.  Galileo spent the last part of his life in-house arrest because the church, which was the very dominant world power at the time,  called him a heretic for saying the earth revolved around the sun. Joan of Arc was burned and later made a saint. Mistakes have been made throughout the church’s history.

Shunning is one of the saddest parts of the current day church. When someone has been deemed a heretic by a local clergyman most of the church’s members basically write them off as friends. I have first hand knowledge of this fact. After eight years of sitting side-by-side with people I considered good friends  and after literally hundreds of hours of volunteer work to build most of the cabinets and shelves for the new church building I found how deep those friendships really were.  When I was told I didn’t have the “right” beliefs and therefore was no longer considered a member of the church without exception all of my “friends” fell away. I have been maybe not officially shunned but shunned just the same. I think, or at least hope, that some of that is just fear of association. They are afraid they might be next it they continue to associate with a heretic.

Getting back to the topic at hand the church certainly has much to say they are sorry for. It has been a pleasant surprise to see that Pope Francis has been saying, at least figuratively if not literally, he is  sorry about many different things the Catholic church has done. The Protestant church on the other hand continues in their ways of insisting they are perfect in all their words and actions. This arrogance, along with each denomination’s insistence that they are the only ones to have it right, is one of the saddest parts about the church today. All 39,000+ versions of it…

Sometimes I take a peak at the website I put up for the church I was once a member. I have been gone for three years now but nothing has changed on that site since I left. The pastor just doesn’t see the Internet as being valuable in reaching out to the community. But one thing that is updated is the text of his sermons are added each week. I glance at them from time to time just to get an idea of how the church is doing.

One thing that has not changed in these eight years of the church’s existence is the “Sit Back and Wait Syndrome” is still at the core of the congregation. Of course this is typical of many fundamentalists churches today so I should not be surprised the weekly message stubbornly continues to be the same thing over and over again.  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 sit back 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. The only thing that really matters is that we hold strong to the beliefs we have been taught 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 new members to our church. All we have to do is sit back and wait for him to bring them to us in his own 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.

Of course I, and hopefully many other followers of Jesus, take a very different track on our spirituality. We believe Jesus’ church to be about “doing” 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 my faith in Jesus is not only being my savior but, maybe more importantly, being my lord.  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…

The Image of God….

January 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-01-10_11-13-00When St. Augustine wrote On the Trinity, he tried to work out a conundrum. He wanted to figure out how women could be the image of God. He finally solved the puzzle by writing that when a woman is alone, then she is not in the image of God. It is only when she is joined with a man, when she is one flesh with him, she can be considered the image of God.

Of course, we cannot take our ideas of gender equality and try to compare them to a different time and culture. We shouldn’t judge Augustine by our liberated standards. But, it is important to ask if we let Augustine ideas seep into our current debates. Do we still do this? Do we reduce a woman’s worth to her sexuality or her fertility?

SOURCE: Sex, Pills and the Image of God | Carol Howard Merritt | Red Letter Christians.

I love reading all the bloggers over at Red Letter Christians. Carol Howard Merritt is no exception. As she mentions in the quote above it is not surprising to see what St. Augustine thought about women only being in the image of God after they are married. That was just the way it was during those times. These are the same circumstances that made Paul tell women to be quiet in church and wait till they got home to ask their husbands about it. Women during that period were considered more property than anything else. Of course Jesus’ actions told us to think otherwise but as usual we failed to get the message.

What is truly saddening about this is those who continue with that same mentality today.  Some say that the Bible is the only word of God and it is meant for all eternity. They have locked down God to the fourth century when the Roman King Constantine put that document together in order to strengthen his control of his kingdom.

I can still hear all the rationalizations around keeping women in their place, even and maybe especially by some women in the fundamentalist church I once belonged. They proclaimed that God has ordained women to be the helper of men and that men are the “deciders” so to speak. They cite some words attributed to Paul as the foundation for this still on-going discrimination.

But when we look at the actions of Jesus we see he for the most part treated women as equals to men. In fact the first person he showed himself to after is resurrection was a woman.

When we lock-down God to a fourth century mentality we are in effect denying that he has any real place in today’s world. We are denying any revelations either personal or public that God has given us since that time. I personally believe that things like cures for diseases, DNA, and other life saving discoveries come from God revealing it to us.

I have had a couple of pretty significant revelations from God in my lifetime. When I mentioned this to my then pastor his first comment was “How do you know it wasn’t from the devil?” Given that the clergyman was one of those lock-down Christians I shouldn’t have been a surprised as I was by his comment.

Reflections…

January 10, 2014 — Leave a comment

There are some folks who would say they are Christian, but they are looking less and less like Jesus. And there are some folks who would never claim to be Christian, yet their hearts and their passions are slowly moving closer and closer to Jesus’ heart. It’s up to God to sort all that out. Being more like Jesus is what we are trying to do as Red Letter Christians; it’s where we’re coming from, and where we’re going.

SOURCE:   Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said? (Claiborne, Shane;Campolo, Tony)

Being a new year it is time for some personal reflections.

I have been without an official church home for about three years now. Being told that I am no longer a member of my old church because I publicly, via this blog, stated that I don’t believe the earth is just 6,000 years old so I therefore I don’t believe the Bible is  inerrant. I was informed if I ever repented of these views they might welcome me back.

Since I am deaf being excluded from things is nothing new to me. I am often excluded from social situations because of hearing loss but to be told I didn’t believe the “right” things and therefore I am not welcomed as a member anymore to my church of eight years was still a blow to me.

I have been blogging here at Red Letter Living for more than five years now. I truly believe that all my studies and posts here have made me a better follower of Christ. It has taught me that much of what I was told I must believe is in reality an invention of men, not God.

From my studies I learned that there have been thousands of theologians who have reshaped the message of Jesus into something that they feel more comfortable with. As far as I am concerned that is the basic problem with the church today.  We try to shape God, and therefore Jesus Christ, into something that makes us feel better instead of just accepting the things he told us to do.

My studies have taught me that Jesus does not want us to “believe” in him. Instead he wants, I might even say demands, us to follow him and do what he says.  I find it ironic that I seem to take the words of Jesus more literally than those who vehemently say they are literalists when it come to the Bible. They cling to the Great Commission but then totally ignore the last and maybe most important verses.


All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Doing what he commanded is what it really means to be a follower of Jesus and what it should mean to be a Christian. As James said words without actions are worthless. As to my old church I won’t be repenting of my current views of Jesus so don’t expect to see me again….