Feeding Homeless Apparently Illegal in Raleigh, NC

ArrestedOn the morning of Saturday, August, 24, Love Wins showed up at Moore Square at 9:00 a.m., just like we have done virtually every Saturday and Sunday for the last six years. We provide, without cost or obligation, hot coffee and a breakfast sandwich to anyone who wants one. We keep this promise to our community in cooperation with five different, large suburban churches that help us with manpower and funding.

On that morning three officers from Raleigh Police Department prevented us from doing our work, for the first time ever. An officer said, quite bluntly, that if we attempted to distribute food, we would be arrested.

SOURCE:  Hugh Hollowell: Feeding Homeless Apparently Illegal in Raleigh, NC | Red Letter Christians.

 

You got to read this one. I am glad that the leadership of Raleigh have worked out this issue but what is important is that it could have probably happened almost anywhere in the country.

Inspiring Quotes….

1)  We try to share our faith before we even have any.  
I remember talking with a 13 year old girl who came to Chicago for a mission trip.  I asked her what she was doing.  She said, “I went downtown to evangelize the homeless!”  At first, I thought, “how sweet,” but then I thought, “how arrogant!”  First, why do we assume the homeless have no faith?  Second, most men and women on the streets have a lot MORE faith than you and I.  When was the last time we didn’t know where our next meal would come from?  When did we have to trust God for shelter or protection from the elements?  We may have good theology, but that is different from having faith.  Most of us don’t know what it really means to have faith in God.  Perhaps, we need to go sit at the feet of the homeless and learn from them how to have faith!
SOURCE:  Shawn Casselberry: Gandhi-Style Evangelism | Red Letter Christians.

Too Many Conditions….

The Bible nowhere qualifies the command to help the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, and the poor. The Bible never says “help the Christian poor” or “help the poor only if they listen to a 30-minute sermon.” God told the Israelites that they are God’s people if they help the poor and bring justice to the oppressed. No qualifiers. No agenda. No strings attached. Just love. Scandalous love. Jesus love. The kind we teach and preach about – the free gift of God, that we do not deserve and cannot earn.

Source: Joy Bennett: Time Share Charity and God’s Scandalous Grace | Red Letter Christians.

These words come from one of my favorite blogs “Red Letter Christians” and really got me to thinking lately. In the past, that is in my previous Catholic and Lutheran lives I was told that God only loves people like us; that is other Catholic or Lutherans.  Therefore our job was to talk to our neighbors and anyone else who might listen to try to convince them to join us. If they didn’t hell we were told was a surety.  Of course this message has morphed somewhat over the years but its underlying theme remains the same. God only  loves certain kinds of people who call themselves  Christians.

Of course now that I am following Jesus and his words with no particular denominational affiliation I no longer march to this previous drummer. I take the words of Joy Bennett above to heart. God did not qualify his commands to help others. I find it kind of strange that when Martin Luther finally discovered the words of St. Paul in the epistle of Ephesians he did not take it all the way to its final conclusion. He deemed that God’s grace is a gift and not by works. But then he went on to put conditions on that gift. You have to be a Christian, you have to say the right words and belong to the right groups. You have to have the correct faith.

I no longer believe that God puts conditions on his love or grace.  It is indeed free for all and unconditional. In that regard I am leaning strongly toward the concept of universal salvation. God will save us all in his own time and manner. I won’t invent anything like purgatory to show how God will do that; I will leave that up to Him. 🙂  In the Bible, He indeed told us he loves us all and wants everyone to come to him. In the coming weeks I will be presenting some of the things that have finally pushed me in this direction. When we accept God’s grace as universal it changes a lot about what we should be doing while we occupy this world. I will also be getting into those areas.

Of course, I realize that my beliefs are simply that; they are mine. I don’t claim any special connection to the Divine One. I won’t try to push what I believe on anyone else. I  write them here in order to maybe help you with your path to God to see that you are not alone with these kind of thoughts.

Stop Comparing my Christianity to Your Christianity!

Crosses

My translation of the Bible is better than your translation.

Hymns are better than choruses.

The Contemporary service is better than the Traditional one.

My version of baptism is better than yours……

Source: Stephen Mattson: Stop Comparing my Christianity to Your Christianity! – Red Letter Christians.

Another brilliant post by Stephen Mattson over at Red Letter Christians and it came just at the right time for me. I encourage you to read the full post by clicking on the source link just above. Better yet join the Red Letter Christian’s family on Facebook to see all their posts.

The words that struck me the deepest from the post are:

The temptation is to judge others and self-righteously pat ourselves on the back for being “good Christians.” Or we can become hopelessly depressed. Guilt, shame, pride, and legalism can quickly creep into our spiritual lives when we start comparing, and we often start constructing false ideals that are impossible to achieve. We need to recognize that everyone—including ourselves—is God’s creation, holy and sacred, made in His image.

I have not been posting here much lately due to these very thoughts. It seems I am constantly comparing my version of Christianity with others. It has become very frustrating to be in this mode. I simply can’t understand why other Christians don’t understand the simple messages of Christ as I do.  My recent posts seem to be screaming “HERETIC” without actually using those words! I am becoming self-righteous and depressed at the same time. It is time to just step back and celebrate that we are all God’s creation and made in his image.

Recently, and maybe not so recently, I have spent most of my efforts here trying to get others to see Christ as I do. When I encounter other Christians who run counter to my version of Christianity I have become very frustrated and often even depressed and I think that has been showing up on my posts. This eye-opening post from Mr. Mattson ends with the words below. I will try going forward to live by the last paragraph in both my life and this blog.  I will just accept the fact that God loves us all.

 

The world watches as churches split, pastors indict, and Christians accuse each other of being heretics, false prophets, and liars. We positively reinforce the communities we align ourselves with while simultaneously tear down those who disagree with us. Christians have a tendency to self-destruct because we love attacking ourselves. Instead of the fruits of the Spirit, we can easily exhibit the fruits of our secular society: revenge, bigotry, manipulation, disdain, disgust, power, control, profit, and alienation.

It’s easy to lose sight of Christ’s message, one that was simply about service, sacrifice, and love. Let’s not let our hidden agendas—ones that are often based on comparative measures—separate us from the love of God.

I currently don’t know the form or substance but this message will be the focus of future posts here. I will try to find and celebrate those instances of service, sacrifice, and love; I will focus on the love of God and not so much on the differences.

A People’s History of Christianity….

Bass BookI have been studying the history of the church to try an understand how we got to where we are today. An important book in that investigation is entitled “A People’s History of Christianity, The Other Side of the Story” by Diana Butler Bass. This is not the first book I have read by this author and it certainly won’t be the last. With this post I am starting another book review series around this book. Here is a little about what Wikipedia says about her:

Diana Butler Bass is a historian focusing on the history of Christianity and the author of six books on American religion, three of which have won research or writing awards. She earned a Ph.D. in religious studies from Duke University in 1991, with an emphasis on American church history where she studied under George Marsden. From 1995–2000, she wrote a weekly column on religion and culture for the New York Times Syndicate that appeared in more than seventy newspapers nationwide. Currently, she is a blogger for the God’s Politics blog with Jim Wallis at Beliefnet [1] and is a Red-Letter Christian.

Being a U.S. history buff, when I see a title that starts with “A People’s History” I assume that it is more about what happened to the common people rather than the dominant leaders of those time. Many times the two are very different. A history of the depression as seen from the eyes of Roosevelt or any of the Washingtonians is very different from the history as seen by a dust bowl farmer or someone out of work for a long time. That is what I expected when I started this book and I was not disappointed with what I found.

The history of the church most often is around the predominant saints and theologians of the times. Or maybe it is about some of the shakers such as Luther, or a pope. What happens in the rank-and-file of the people often is unreported. There is an old saying that “history belongs to the victors” and the church is certainly not immune from that concept. Very little seems to still exist about those who had different views than the ones who won the individual battles.

Mrs. Bass spent I think three years researching this book. I personally have tried to study some of the early church writings but quite frankly they are difficult to understand given the different use of language of the periods. This book is well written and to the point.  Most of the posts in this series wills start out with a given idea and a quote, or quotes, from the book. I will then add my personal observations and thoughts.

The posts will not be in a chronological order, nor will they be complete. I would highly encourage anyone looking for that depth to get a copy of the book and read it in its entirety. Since this review is being written as it is posted I don’t know exactly how many posts will be involved but I imagine it will be more than ten but less than twenty.  For those who really want to understand how we got to where we are it is important to realize that there has never been a totally homogeneous period in the church where differing opinions were lacking.

About Those Creeds….

Source: Deal Or No Deal? Creed Or No Creed? – QuakerQuaker.

“Friends have no creeds.”  We Quakers often say that. We are committed to no human words but rather to following the Holy Spirit. We believe God speaks to us today – speaks to all who still their hearts and listen. “No official words can substitute for a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.” We believe that commitment to creed would be a kind of idolatry.

Most Christian denominations, on the other hand, do have a creed. They have an official statement of faith they use to distinguish their beliefs from the beliefs of other denominations. Those statements of faith often lead to wrangles over precise wording, and sometimes schisms.

The above words by Doug Bennett over at Quaker-Quaker I believe pretty much tell what Quakers think about creeds.  I must admit that when I got down to studied the common creeds in use today I found that almost all of the statements are about our understanding of God. In that vein I can understand the reluctance of my Quaker friends to embrace creeds. Today creeds seem to be mainly used as a tool to separate one group of Christians from another.

I know from personal experience that many of the different flavors of Christianity will tell their congregants that they must believe in the total truth of their particular denomination’s creeds or other statements of belief. I was told that since I believed that the earth is more than 6,000 years old and therefore did not believe in the total literal and inerrant bible that I would no longer have membership in the church I had joined over eight years before.  The new minister called to that congregation believed it was his duty to exclude me and a couple of the more vocal participants in the weekly bible study.

Jesus Christ did not tell us that in order to be his followers we must pledge 100% allegiance to any particular man-made words or even beliefs. He did give us example after example of how he expected us to love God and to love one another. Those two things were what he wrapped his church around not words that were conceived by men many years after his death and resurrection.

I am not as creed averse as my Quaker friends. I believe that many creeds invented over the years, and there are literally thousands of them, have at least some  redeeming merit in their thoughts. It is just that when they are used as a condition of being a follower of Christ that raises my ire. None of us, and I am including every human being who has come after Jesus, totally knows the heart or conscience of God. That is simply an impossible task. We in our meager attempt sometimes get it right but often get it wrong. That does not mean that we shouldn’t try to know what God expects of us but more that we simply can’t assume that we, to the exclusion of others, have it down pat.

One of the primary things that empresses me about the emergent movement is their admittance that they just may be wrong about some of what they currently believe about the heart of God. They believe that being a follower of Jesus is a life long learning experience that no one, and I do mean no one, ever graduates from. That is one belief that I don’t ever envision being wrong.

The Effects of Heresy….

This is a continuation of the previous post about heresy and why it has contaminated the church. We all have our opinions of what God wants us to do and believe and we are for the most part not at all tolerant of those who might think differently than we do. It seems when someone has the inherent power to do something about those who disagree with they usually deemed their opponent a heretic and  then drive them from their midst. In the post-Constantine age over 25,000 were murdered for not totally aligning with the then current church leader.

I must make it clear that heresy is by no means limited to the pre-Reformation times. Our Protestant brothers and sister have become very good at it. They might not any longer be executing those who they proclaim heretics but they have become very proficient at shunning and dividing when they can’t agree. 39,000 versions of Jesus Christ! Shame on us for fracturing so easily about man-made beliefs. I believe that our fracturing is one of the primary causes for the current church implosion. We as believers are somehow supposed to pick the one true church and then go about shunning all the rest. How can a new Christian even begin maneuver through that terrain?

Fractured Church CoverJesus clearly told us he wants us to be one just as he and the father are one. What happened? I will be studying that in the coming weeks and report more info then. One of my primary sources for this info is a new book I recently encountered entitled The Fractured Church by Bill Sizemore. It will be interesting to see more info about how we have become so fractured. One interesting question  this book presents  is will Jesus come to us while we are so fractured or will he do something to bring us back together before his appearance?  A question that deserve some time to  study and contemplate.

My initial thoughts on the effect of heresy in the church is that it has done almost irreparable damage to the church of Jesus. We have become so stiff-necked in our beliefs that we just can’t tolerate anything representing the diversity that were so common in the early Christians. I truly believe that what makes the United States a world leader is our diversity. We are almost totally the results of immigrants. Likewise the Christian church could become a leader in world spiritual rejuvenation if we simply celebrated diversity in our midst instead of prosecuting it.

Am I saying that there are no reasons that would justify fracturing the church? I am absolutely not saying that! But what I am saying is that it is insane to believe that there are 39,000 reasons to fracture.

The Emergent church movement that I am hanging so much hope on sees this in a completely different light. They deem diversity in thought as a plus. Here is what Robin Meyers in his book The Underground Church says about that:

 They (the emergent church) value open and inclusive approaches to Christianity and are less interested in having all the answers than in living the questions. Emergents wish to participate in communities of faith that take the Bible seriously, but not always literally. Emergents believe that following  Jesus isn’t just about getting to heaven when they die, but is about partnering with God to bring heaven to earth in the here and now.

 

Early Church Leaders – Ignatius …..

My study of the early church leaders is to show that there was much diversity in the early church that was later driven out. Many, if not most of the “church fathers” believed things that are now considered heretical. Ignatius was certainly no exception.

Ignatius and Irenaeus had definite ideas of how the young Christian congregations should be governed. Both authoritarians, they were hardly advocates of participatory democracy. Still, they respected the remarkable diversity of the churches and did not try to enforce any standardization. — The Future of Faith (Cox, Harvey)

As indicated by the above quote for The Future of Faith by Harvey Cox, Ignatius was a contemporary of Irenaeus. Even though they were powerful men in the early church they did not get into micro-managing the various congregations they were involved with. Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch after Saint Peter and St. Evodius. There are seven letters, commonly known as epistles today, attributed to him.  One of his major beliefs was the value of the Eucharist He called it a “medicine of immortality”. He, strangely to us today, had very strong desire for bloody martyrdom in the arena. He I expresses rather graphically in places.

An examination of his theology of salvation, technically called soteriology, shows that he regarded salvation as one being free from the powerful fear of death and thus to bravely face martyrdom. The idea of original sin was not part of his agenda for salvation but instead was to free us of our personal sins committed in our lifetime.

One of the interesting things about Ignatius is that there is now swirling doubt as to the authenticity of the seven letters attributed to him. Some evidence seems to point to one person who later modified the content to meet his view of theology. Without being able to find much about Ignatius I will leave the quote in The Future of Faith of respecting the diversity of the church as the main focus of this post.

A Mosaic….

Next time I will be starting to relay stories of the early church. Up front I want to make sure you understand that this journey into the history of the church and how we got here will be a mosaic rather than a timeline approach. It will also likely be a “people’s history type account. That is it will where possible be based on accounts of the common people rather than the primary leaders of the time.

It will be a mosaic instead of a timeline. In each post I will give you a small piece of the history that may not necessarily be connected to the previous piece but is an important part of the overall study. It is just too boring, at least for me, to just give the details of  each succeeding year.  When we are finished I think we will have a pretty complete picture of the whole story at least as I can humbly tell it.

I am really excited to get this underway. Sorry for all this preliminary stuff but I want you to understand the method to my madness so to speak. 😉   Please let me know if during this process there are any pieces of the mosaic that you think I should cover. I would love to add them to the ideas list for future study and posts.

Finally, I don’t want to you think that I am only going to cover where the church got it wrong. I will also be giving pieces where they got it right indeed.  I also don’t want you to think that I believe that there was some sort of conspiracy involved to take the church away from Jesus Christ.  I truly believe that most, but probably not all, of the church’s history makers had for the most part a pure heart in the words and practices they might have initiated. But, we must also recognize the corrupting influence of power in us human beings. I’m sure most of the people who helped form the current version of the church thought that the ideas they presented were inspirations from God even if some weren’t.

To further illustrate the idea of a mosaic telling a story here is a picture I took on a recent trip to the Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio.  It is made up of thousands of other pictures. I hope my mosaic is as clear as this one when it is finally finished. 🙂

Ok, so next time I will finally be putting in the first piece of the mosaic in place. I can’t wait to give you all of the pieces I have discovered to date. But I have many more to yet be fabricated. I pray you will learn as much from this study as I have and will.

Until then I bid you peace…..