Archives For About Jesus

Jesus and Violence…

March 31, 2014 — 3 Comments

“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?

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The church frustrates me. I was once asked by a wealthy church what they could do to help end homelessness. I looked around and saw the thousands of square feet that lie empty every night, the dozens of toilets, the showers in the family life center, the full industrial kitchen and wanted to say, “It is a two step plan. 1) Read the Gospels. 2) Take it seriously.” I wanted to say that. But I didn’t.

Look, Jesus nowhere says to stamp out poverty. However, he does say, fairly often, to love your neighbor. And if you truly love your neighbor, then how can they sleep outside? How can they go hungry? How can we have an “other?” The church wants to work n the homeless problem, but before they can take that on, I think they need to deal with their “Not taking Jesus seriously” problem.

SOURCE:  What Folks Who Live Outside Do Not Need: Hugh Hollowell is on the Red Carpet | Margot Starbuck | Red Letter Christians.

Not taking Jesus seriously is by far the biggest problem I have with the church.  Jesus clearly told us again and again and again to love each other, even our enemies. Why has this message been lost to such a degree on today’s church?? That is the most frustrating  thing for me right now.  But I must admit that this problem is not a recent one. It has been going on for many centuries.

One example of this is why did the church spend so much of their resources building lavish cathedrals when so many were dying from starvation?  I could point out hundreds of places in its history where the church just didn’t take Jesus seriously but I want to instead focus on the present and future, not the past. We can’t do anything about what has already happened. All we can do is to try to live up to Jesus’ words now and hopefully show them how to do it  in the future.

The Bible makes it very clear that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior that everything changes in our lives. We are dead to our previous life and will be born again into a life of following Jesus. A radical change of behavior is supposed to occur. While this idea is inspiring it is just not reality for the vast majority of us. Why is that? From my decade long study I believe a big part of that fault lies with church leadership. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time they have lost the true meaning of what being a Christian is supposed to be all about.  The message of current church has simply been re-tuned into something not even remotely what it started out as.

This lack of leadership, of course, starts at the local congregation.  I believe that there are many pastors, priests or whatever you want to call them, know in their hearts that they are not teaching their flock the true messages of Jesus. They know it but simply don’t have the courage to buck the rules and regulation of their superiors. They don’t have the courage to disagree with the most vocal in their congregations who have drifted into other agendas.  Part of that is because they, like all of us, don’t want to be fired from their jobs.

Jesus made it clear that following him was not meant for the weak. It takes courage to stay on the message of Jesus….

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….

Jesus clearly told us again and again to love your fellow-man. As a matter of fact he said all the commandments and previous prophets melted down to loving God and loving each other. Nothing else is nearly as important. Why do we find it so hard to even begin to live up to that command.

For so many of us, particularly those in the U.S. are instead fixated on fearing our fellow-man. That fear seems to drive so much of our lives and particularly our politics.  We take away money previously allocated to helping the “least of these” and put it instead into an already our over-bloated war machine.

We fear foreigners so we want to lock our borders down to keep them out. We fear each other to the point of thinking we need to carry a concealed weapon to defend ourselves. Let’s face it, fear drives much of our lives here in the U.S. What if we took Jesus’ words to heart and really tried love instead of fear? What would happen if we took the Good Samaritan approach to life instead of having it driven by fear?

I personally try my best to not let fear drive my daily living as so many around me appear to do.

Jesus Avoided Theological Certainty

Within the New Testament, the people Jesus seemingly condemns the strongest — and most frequently — are the ones who have the greatest amount of theological certainty — the Pharisees.

The spiritual leaders, the most prestigious religious institutions of the their day, the ones who were the most confident, the most sure and vocal about theology, were flat our wrong — and Jesus called them out on it. This should be a warning to us all.

Much of Jesus\’ teaching was confusing, complex, and often created more questions than answers, and that\’s OK. Even His own disciples were constantly misinterpreting his words, and they were continually asking Jesus for clarification and understanding. Knowledge and wisdom were not the disciples’ strong suit, but they followed Jesus despite their fears, doubts, defeats and failures — and so should we.

SOURCE:  4 Ways Jesus Was Like a Millennial – Stephen Mattson | God\’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.

In my experiences with the church theological certainty is indeed one of it core mistakes. Every denomination is absolutely certain that their version of theology is 100% while all the rest contain errors in one degree or another. It is helpful to remember that this is nothing new when studying and trying to follow the words of Jesus.

It always amazed me just how out of tune Jesus’ disciple were about so many things. They just didn’t seem to get it until much after the fact. So, why should we all of a sudden understand it all? Yes, we have had thousands of well-meaning people give us their understanding. Yes, we can pick and choose among them to come up with a unique story.

The Pharisees were absolutely certain that they were right about everything. That is the major flaw of Judaism  and they continue to stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that even today. But then again, are they really any worse than most of us Christians who stubbornly cling to one or another founders words.

Yes, many of Jesus’ words are confusing and complex and create more questions than answers and as the quote above says that is OK as long as we recognize the fact that we are all wrong about it in one manner or another.

Studying The Bible….

November 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Despite his having written an entire biography of Paul in Acts, Luke seems to be curiously unaware of Paul’s life and ministry as reflected in Paul’s authentic letters. None of Paul’s letters are mentioned in Acts. The language and theology of Paul’s speeches as told by Luke are so different in vocabulary and theology from the Paul of the authentic letters that it seems much of Luke’s Paul can be chalked up to dramatic license. The authentic Paul emphasizes justification and reconciliation while Luke’s “Paul” preaches righteousness and forgiveness. In other words, Luke’s Paul preaches in the theological language of Luke, not Paul.

From the book: Living the Questions: The Wisdom of Progressive Christianity (Felten, David;Procter-Murphy, Jeff)

Even after all these years of being a follower of Jesus I am still constantly studying the Bible for new revelations in my life.  As someone in the Bible said the words found there are useful for teaching and understanding.  If only those who put so much emphasis on trying to prove that the Bible is without error and totally God breathed spent time instead trying to learn lessons about Jesus. I have adamantly come to believe that the Bible is a compilation of stories about God. It is not God nor did He dictate all of its words.

When we accept that the stories in the Bible were written by well meaning men, and maybe even a few women, we can see things as cited above. We can then understand that maybe Paul’s letters were just not deemed of great importance at the time.  Maybe they were just that, letters to council some troubled congregations and were not necessarily meant for eternity. Why do the stories of Paul differ so completely from the letters Paul allegedly  wrote?  The only logical and reasoned conclusion is that both the letters and what came to be known as the Book of Acts were written by men and maybe they are not even written by or about the persons we currently ascribe them to.  That fact does not destroy or even reduce their usefulness to us.

There are just too many today who spend all their energies trying to stubbornly stick to some thousand year old beliefs that don’t deserve all the energy devoted to them. If instead these people would spend that energy living out their lives as Jesus showed us. Being a follower of Jesus is more than about proclaiming certain beliefs, it is about actually “being” a disciple…

I will end this post with another quote from the book:

For many religious people, it takes some serious readjustment to change those theological underpinnings and recast Christianity as something fluid. Some are too controlled by fear—of change, of uncertainty, of being called heretical—to make the shift. They keep trying, desperately, to hold on to old conceptions as if their eternal life depended on it. But there are alternatives.

Willing To Change….

September 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

Be Willing to Change:

I don’t expect to fully understand God by the time I’m done with middle school, high school, college, or when I retire—faith is a Pilgrim’s Progress, a journey of continual growth and maturity. God is too big and glorious to completely understand within a set amount of time, so my ideas, opinions, and understanding of God—my theology—will change.

But why do you remain static in your belief systems? Why do you spend all of your time and energy promoting your theology as being exclusively correct? In the real world, people change. We learn, we grow, and we meet new people, experience different cultures, and encounter transformational events— life happens.

So stop pretending you’re the exception to the rule and have everything figured out. If you’re a human, you don’t know it all, so quit claiming you do.

SOURCE:  Stephen Mattson: An Open Letter to All Christian Theologians | Red Letter Christians.

As the source title implies the quote above is from an open letter to Christian theologians. As the quote says, I too have grown immensely since my early years in a Catholic grade school. I believe I have matured as a Christian in my thoughts and deeds. It has indeed been a Pilgrim’s Progress for me.

My theology began to drastically change when I entered my middle years. As a person I have never shied away from asking “why”. That has gotten me into more trouble in the church than it probably has anywhere else in my life. So many Christian denomination just don’t like to be questioned about their beliefs or doctrine.

I have come to the conclusion that none of the current or past religious theologies are exclusively correct.  I’m sure I would never have come to this conclusion without asking questions. All religious institutions, and I mean all, are just man’s attempt to understand God. They all put their own spin on God; a spin that meets their current agenda.  I have come to understand that with our puny brains, God is just not totally understandable and he never will be. But that understanding does not mean that I will simply believe what I am told to believe about him.

I do believe that the Christian bible which was written by hundreds of very wise men throughout the ages teaches me about Jesus and his commands of us.  The most basic command is to love God and to love each other. Jesus told us that that the primary lesson that trumps all other messages in the bible. When I hear others either ignore that lesson or try to twist it into something else I approach their words with extreme caution. If they can’t get the simple “love” command right how can I trust that they can get any of it right.

I will never claim that I know it all. Those who make such claims are often building a house of cards that are most likely to fall with the smallest of questions.

“Americans react to the poor with disgust,” said Susan Fiske, professor of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University and the originator of the neuroimaging tests. She has studied attitudes toward the poor for a dozen years. “It’s the most negative prejudice people report, greater even than racism,“ Fiske stated.
No doubt part of that response is aesthetic. Some of those who are very poor – especially those living on the streets – smell bad and are unkempt and shabbily dressed. But a deeper part of the response is moral. The poor are stripped of value in the eyes of many. They are seen as useless, and not just useless, but an actual drain on the more productive and affluent members of society. Not only do they fail to add anything positive to the world, they actually subtract value, like trash piled on a lawn.
How can we see God while despising the needy among us? Scripture declares that it is impossible. “Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20). Spiritual blindness is the inevitable consequence of hating the poor.
SOURCE:  Craig M. Watts: Hating the Poor but Loving Jesus? | Red Letter Christians.

Hating the Poor but Loving Jesus?

 “Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man … living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.” ― George Carlin

 Sadly this is far too often the side of Christianity that many people see.  Sounds kind of foolish doesn’t it? If only we concentrated on the words and lessons of Jesus instead of so many of the fables of the Old Testament….