Archives For Personal Beliefs

I’m not sure who brought up the concept but it is about how churches are actually more like clubhouses than anything else. They are buildings that are built almost exclusively for their members comfort. Yes that comfort does bring in some to hear the message but that seems to be very secondary at best.

I had a recent round of comments on this topic over at one of my other blogs at RJsCorner and it stirred up some heated comments. It seems that calling a church a country club strikes the nerve of many Christians.  I think the ounce of truth in it is the reason.  Everyone wants to think that their church is somehow different from the others. They want to think that  what they give in weekly donations is for the greater good of God. But, facts simply don’t bear that belief out.  The vast majority of what they give stays within the church’s hierarchy.

When I was giving regularly to the small church I recently belonged to I never deemed that the money I gave actually went to God’s work here or earth.  Being a regular member on the church board I realized that 99+% of what I gave ended up paying the mortgage, utilities and the pastor’s salary.  Did I feel guilty about that? No, not really. I know that this small church was struggling, and still struggles after almost ten years, to keep the doors open.  There is nothing wrong with needing a clubhouse.

But what is wrong is when we fail to recognize the fact that we are really not doing much in the community besides holding down a property.  We try to rationalize that giving a few families a turkey and canned goods during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays somehow meets our community obligations.  Being a church is supposed to be about showing God’s blessing throughout our communities. It is supposed to be about others and not ourselves.  When we totally acknowledge that fact and diligently plan on making it happen is when we turn the corner from clubhouse to church.  Sadly too many small churches fail to ever reach that point in their congregation’s life.  Instead of saying we now have enough creature comforts they just end up building more and more.

I am often accused of painting with too broad a brush in these types of posts so I want to  recognize that there are many churches out there that are very much valuable contributors to their communities. They run soup kitchens and food banks in the areas.  They open their doors on cold and windy night for those who are homeless. In other words they act like they are followers of Jesus Christ. I celebrate every one of those churches.  But at the same time even those churches must be on the lookout for their allocations of funds.  It is impossible to give too much to your community instead of yourself.

Everyone needs a clubhouse that you can go to weekly. Where everyone know your name as the old Cheers TV show used to say. That is a valuable part of Christian fellowship but we must constantly remind ourselves that is very much secondary to being our brother’s keeper and helping God’s kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven.

Being Called a Heretic…..

February 6, 2014 — 3 Comments

If you blog long enough, someone will eventually call you a heretic. Self-appointed orthodoxy watchdogs plague the internet almost as much as porn.  Say something outside their particular theological tradition and they’ll damn your soul to an eternity in hell as fast as you can click “publish” on your blog post.

My latest accusation of heresy came last week on Twitter. My theological crime? I don’t believe in Biblical inerrancy.  I tried pointing out to my inquisitor that Biblical inerrancy is a 20th century fundamentalist invention, not something which is actually intrinsic to the Christian tradition, but things like “facts” and church history are but minor inconveniences to the religious zealot….

Biblical inerrancy is certainty grounded in fear and the need for control. Allow for any “error” in the Bible, so the inerrantists claim, and how can you trust any of it? The answer to this supposedly challenging question is actually quite simple.

SOURCE: The Bible Isn’t Perfect And It Says So Itself – Zach Hunt – Red Letter Christians.

The word might not have been thrown at me but I have been called a heretic several times in my life as being a follower of Christ and the primary reason is biblical inerrancy. Over my ten year diligent study of theology I have come to understand, as Zach Hunt in the quote above, that inerrancy is grounded in fear and the need for control and that it is very much a 20th century invention. Scientific findings, among many other things, have  been invading theological thought too much to be comfortable to many.

Biblical inerrancy has come to mean that if you don’t interpret the Bible the same as I do then you are simply wrong.  Being that there are more than 40,000 versions of Christianity around today there are also 40,000+ versions of biblical thought. Each claims to have the truth but which is the correct one? After my study I can say probably none of them. They each take a verse or two out of that document and form their beliefs around those few words.  They, like Martin Luther who grabbed Ephesians 8-9 as the reason to treat Christianity as a something for nothing religion, find a particular verse that totally aligns with their view of God and cling to it with almost total ignorance of  everything else.

In reality everyone of us who claims to be Christian is a heretic to others who don’t believe as we do.  I have been in a very reflective, maybe even melancholy,  mood lately. In some ways I am just not sure of my purpose for continuing on with this blog with any seriousness. Looking over this decade long search for the “truth” has led me to some basic conclusions about our search for God. I will be presenting them in the coming posts. Since I am just starting this particular line of thought I really don’t know how long this series will last but I am sure that I will be called a heretic by some for even bringing up the questions and thoughts that I have on this topic. As is typical of me I will not hold back because of that threat….

On A Short Leash…..

January 24, 2013 — Leave a comment

Source: On a Short Leash – QuakerQuaker.

Had occasion to recall a dog that I used to walk. Normally, she was well-behaved and a joy to take to the park. One day, however, this good dog showed a quite different side to her regular disposition. She pulled and pulled and would not stop when I told her to heel. After several attempts at same, I was forced to yank her leash and propel her anxiousness backwards.

Apparently, a dog can forget about the person at the other end of the leash.

Now, what about dog spelled backwards? Do we sometimes forget about God walking along with us in this life? Do we still, as early Quakers cautioned, sometimes race ahead of God’s Spirit? And, do we force God to get rough with us – even to propel us backwards, so we remember what it is to walk the right way through life?

Thanks Clem Gerdlemann for this post on QuakerQuaker. It got me seriously thinking about being on a leash with God on the other end. While I am a strong believer in God having given us free will I also believe that He gives us personal revelations to help guide us through life.  Jerking our chain to bring us back to reality is part of those revelations.

So, I kind of believe, along with Clem that God has us on a leash. I would only differ in the length of the leash. I know when I walk my sixty pound basset hound I for the most part let her have the full fifteen feet of the retractable leash. She can go pretty much wherever she wants. Since bassets “hear and see” with their nose what she smells determines where she goes. Sometimes it is necessary to let her know who is in command, but given her sixty pounds that takes a good effort on my part 🙂

Like bassets we humans don’t often use all our senses when we travel through life. We often get hung up on this or that and it is most often a self-focused this or that. When we forget that Jesus’ command was to love God and to love each other we certainly deserve a jerk backwards. But, I think God’s leash is more than long enough for us to hang ourselves. He is just not in the business of “making” us do what He wants.

The Quaker belief of the “light of God” in all of us is the leash to me.  You might call it a virtual leach if you want. God ingrains in each of us his messages of life but he leaves it up to us to grow that light into a beacon that shows others the way to Him.

I Believe……

October 24, 2012 — Leave a comment

The phrase “I believe” seems to have a lot of weight in today’s world but to me it is a cautionary phrase. We have to distinguish between “I believe” and “I am”. Let me give you an example of that:

“I believe that Jesus told us to take care of the poor.” This seems to be a powerful declaration but is it really?  What if I asked the person making the statement “What are you doing to take care of the poor?” and he said “well really nothing but I do believe that we should.”  I’m sure you can see how the second statement deflates any meaning to the first one. I think that is why so many call Christians hypocrites.

This to me is what is happening in the current day church. Our clergy leaders love to tell us in their weekly sermons that Jesus says this or that. But what seems to be critically missing is the call to actually do anything.  I sat in a pew week after week and heard what Jesus did for us but almost nothing about what we can do for Jesus’ kingdom on earth.  Instead I was told that according to Saint Paul I was nothing but a worthless miserable person who God expects nothing from.

I must admit that it has been more than two years since I sat in that pew but I have gotten on the website I created for that church to read some of the pastor’s recent sermons and they continue to be of the same old thing. “Jesus did it all and nothing is expected of you”. To me that is another way of saying that Christianity is a something-for-nothing religion.  To counteract this type of mentality I go to the red letters in the Bible to see what Jesus said and his message is quite different from those weekly sermons. We have set the bar so low for Christian actions that almost no one fails to get over it.

I do miss the fellowship of those Sundays spent in the pew, there were certainly some good and well-meaning people in that congregation.  But I don’t miss the constant mantra that I am a miserable sinner and Jesus expects nothing from me.  I have come to know Jesus expects a lot from me.  He expects me to give my life to doing what he told me to do. I know that he also gives me the talents and power to carry out his wishes to help bring his kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. I am not a worthless person because God has given me the gifts to make me otherwise.

Now when I hear someone say “I believe….” I almost always say “but what do you do with that belief?? It is easy to say you believe this or that, but it is hard to act on those belief.  James, the brother of Jesus, told us that faith/belief without action/works is dead and therefore meaningless. Don’t say I believe but instead put your energy into actually doing something. I have almost come to think that we should sell all our church buildings and move out into our communities in living out Christ’s words. That is what he really intends….

Many of us Christians never seem to give up our childhood views of just who God is. We think of him as that white bearded guy up in heaven. True, we do add some things to this vision as we get older we see him as that guy who spends his day saying “You go to heaven; you go to hell”.  We often view Jesus in the same childhood comprehension. Jesus is that long-haired, brown-bearded guy who sits around all day playing with sheep and always has children gathered around him.

When we grow in wisdom of him and finally come to see God as the light within each of us then we discover that one of the reasons Jesus came was to teach us how to live as God intended.  As we study Jesus’ words the real Jesus emerges and our childhood images fade into the background. Many churches today are stuck in the childhood Jesus mode and as a result never take the Christian life seriously. As cited in the Lord’s Prayer he intends us to do our part in making his kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Contrary to what many current church denominations believe our task is not to just make an altar-call and then sit back and wait to go to heaven! While we are on this earth we have a many other daily, even hourly, responsibilities.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood  behind me.  – 1 Corinthians 13:11

God never intends us to remain as children in our knowledge of him. He expects us to study his word and get to know him better as we become men and women. Yes our trust in Jesus should remain childlike but our knowledge of him and his purpose for coming to us should grow as we age.  When we fixate on one or even a few particular verses found in the Bible and ignore all the others we have a very limited view of God.  That is definitely not what he intends.

I know in the introduction to this study I said I would not be following a timeline but instead be giving you a mosaic. But after thinking about it for a while now I have decided to do the timeline approach. In addition to a time line I have decided to try to interweave it with the history of the Roman Empire. I know this is a very ambitious undertaking and right now I just don’t know how successful I will be but I am never one to shrink from a challenge.

Two things make me change direction here. One is that I really have never studied just what happened to the mighty Roman Empire. I know it, like the U.S. today was the superpower of its day. But I am really not versed in how the rise to power happened or  how the decline came about so quickly. I have prided myself on my diligent lifelong study of U.S. history but have never delved much beyond our shores.  This is a unique opportunity to widen my historical horizons.  There seems to be many analogies between what happened to Rome and what we as a country are currently going through. It will be interesting to try to discover those parallels as well.

The second reason for this change of heart is that I am critically aware of  the links between Christianity and the Rome. It will be interesting to see just what was going on in the empire when significant event occurred in the church.  I don’t think you can really understand one history without understanding the other. I will be on the lookout for these types of links as we study this dual path of history. In order to accomplish this I will need to do a number of posts on Roman history before we actually get into the Christianity aspect of the study.  I think this is proper in order to try to understand how the Roman Empire got to where they were as that little rag-tag group later called Christians came on the scene.

I hope that you are not disappointed with the dual approach. Since I am doing posts only about a week or two before they are put on-line I really don’t have a good idea right now just when different time periods will be covered. I will talk about each period until I am satisfied that we know enough about it to see the links between the Roman State and the Christian church. For a number of years I know they are very intrinsically linked. Way too much so for my tastes. This makes for a more ambitious study than I originally intended but as I said at the beginning of this post I feel I am up to the challenge.

So, come back soon for the next phase of this study. I think it will be very interesting to me and I hope you will enjoy it also. This new approach might throw my usual Monday and Thursday posts out of whack for a little while. I will decide that as I go….

As I have said many times on this blog I am perfectly attuned to the Quaker concept of the “light of God in each of us”.  Everyone, including the most evil in history, has a glimmer of God in them. Some have covered it with a very dark and dreadful blanket but it is there none the less. Even those who absolutely deny the existence of God have it.

I got to thinking the other day about how some people seem to think that they are fully attuned to God; they seem to think that it is therefore their duty to correct everyone who disagrees with anything they say.  Unfortunately I had a constant visitor to this blog with such a mindset. He was determined to “set me straight” on just about anything I blogged about. He came here in sheep’s clothing asking that I help him in his spiritual journey, but his true intent was to show me how wrong I was in my walk with God. He was convinced that only the original version of the King James bible was true to the facts; all the rest were forgeries to one degree or another. I finally had to disallow this viewer to make any additional comments and he is the reason that I now have to approve each post as it comes in.

When the thoughts of the Quaker light and my stalker viewer came together a new insight was given me. With the glimmer of God in each of us we also have a glimmer of what God really is. Some of us seem to think that their light is a roaring inferno and therefore they know more about the heart of God than anyone else.

My Evangelical Friend…

April 24, 2012

I just went another short round with my radical right gun totting evangelical friend on helping those less fortunate than us.  Here are some of his words replying to a post I made on FaceBook.

The root cause of most of our deficit problems is still those that work and produce must pay for the existence of all those that do not work or produce goods and services. Few functions in the government produce a good or service worthy of a salary.

My conservative evangelical friend very very often shouts that there are just too many “free loaders” in our country who are purposely living off the government instead of going out and getting jobs. His solution seems to be to just cut them off at the ankles and if they can’t exist then it is their problem; “those people” should not be our problems. They are simply a drain on our society!  They are keeping us from thriving. Of course he also goes on to say in this quote that anyone employed by our government are also free-loaders; they just get their money from a different pot! In this blanket statement he is including our teachers, fire fighter, policemen, government agents, FBI, FDA, Justice Department, social service agencies, and thousands of other workers trying to help us accomplish a safe and meaningful life.

There are so many places in Jesus’ words that are very counter to my conservative friend’s foundations; I just fail to understand how he, and so many  supposed Christians like him, can so easily ignore those messages. Jesus clearly tells us to be our brother’s keeper and even to joyfully give them the shirt off our backs if they need it. But, my conservative friend doesn’t seem joyful about anything in his life except maybe his guns and other similar stuff.

In talking with my conservative friend and so many like him I have come to find that his core political and seemingly life driving belief is that no one should get anything that they haven’t worked for and earned.  He rants and rants about this on every opportunity. What is so strange about this is that he then goes on to state that his spiritual foundations are that Jesus died for his salvation and there is nothing he can  or even need to do to earn it.  Therefore he readily admits that spiritually he is a free-loader himself who is getting something he as absolutely not earned.

How can a person’s political beliefs be so much in contrast to his supposedly spiritual beliefs? How can a person who calls himself a Christian totally lack compassion for those less fortunate them himself? This dichotomy continues to thoroughly astound me! How can the two co-exist in one person. How can a person accept Jesus’ sacrifices and then go on to ignore his words and adamantly refuse to help those around him who are struggling for even the basics in life???

The sad thing about all of this is that my conservative friend has many other who think the same way as he does surrounding him on his weekly church visits.  They are all hunkered down talking about the evil world out there and ranting and raving about people who are getting something they didn’t earn and then they go on to say that they are getting something they absolutely did not earn themselves. Many in this category truly in a heartfelt manner question why institutional church today is getting such a bad wrap lately. They seem dumbfounded by that fact. If they would get stop and listen to themselves once in a while they would know the reason.