Archives For red letter christians

The Greatest Heresy…

November 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

2013-11-21_10-17-57Many pastors fear that if they were honest with their congregations about their doubts they would be fired, and the sad fact is: They probably would be. Not fired for some moral indiscretion mind you. But fired for being honest, fired for taking a stand of integrity. Those in the pews are no different. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from people who tell me stories of how they’ve been given the clear message that their questions are not welcome, and if they keep asking these questions they wont be welcome either. The same is true of seminary professors who are often reluctant to honestly pursue their studies, knowing that if they stick their neck out too far, it might get cut off. So while they should be pursuing truth, they can’t. Otherwise they put their livelihood and the well-being of their family in jeopardy.

So we are left with an isolating silence where we think we are the only ones with these thoughts. That’s indicative of a deeply unhealthy faith. Something is very wrong here…..

Stop for a moment and consider what it is we are defending when we focus on who is “orthodox” and who is a “heretic.” Consider the legacy we are upholding here: The history of heresy is one of people being tortured and killed. Is that really something to be proud of and uphold? Ask yourself what’s the bigger crime: Not getting the formulation of the Trinity quite right, or slaughtering those people by the sword? What’s a greater sin: Questioning a fundamentalist doctrine or working to destroy someone’s career and livelihood because they questioned it? The simple fact is, all the so-called “heresies” throughout history pale in comparison to the hurtful ways that people have been ostracized, threatened, and wounded by those who act as the champions of so-called orthodoxy.

The biggest heresy, the only real heresy, is the idea that trying to silence those by force, threat, and violence who disagree with you is a good and faithful thing to do. In fact it’s a sin. It’s wrong. And the fact that so many churches, seminaries, organizations and theological societies still do this is something we should be ashamed of.

SOURCE: Derek Flood: The Greatest Heresy | Red Letter Christians.

Another thought provoking article from my friends over at Red Letter Christians. To me the exclusiveness of so many very conservative evangelical denominations is the primary reason why the church of Christ has shrunk so dramatically in the past decades. When discussions and especially questions are so adamantly stifled that usually leads to a mass exodus by those who are above the intellect of a toad.

To do almost anything to prevent questions be asked is just plain wrong headed in any aspect of our lives but particularly so in our spiritual lives….

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.

RLC

While I am on hiatus I highly recommend that you go over to RedLetterChristians for your daily dose of living Christ’s words in your life. I think my blog here actually precedes them but being a considerably size org they do a much better job than I ever could. Click on the logo above to go there. They ask for a donation but it is absolutely not needed to get onto their frequent posts. It is inspiring to see all the examples of those who read Christ’s words and actually take them to heart.  When I come back here I hope to do a better job of accentuating the positive as they do.

Jesus says some stuff in the inaugural speech of his ministry that really upsets the status quo of both the religious and non-religious.  In essence, he says, “If you are to follow me as King of this newly inaugurated Kingdom of God, you will need to start loving your enemies as much as yourself.  You will need to start getting creative in how you deal with your oppressors in order to choose the way of love and reconciliation rather than the way of revenge and contempt.  In fact, when you live as peacemakers, you best reflect what it looks like to be children of God.  Those of you that choose this way of life will be blessed.”

Source:  The Violence of Peacemaking – Jon Huckins – Red Letter Christians.

Jesus was a radical!  There is no getting around that fact.  Many of my conservative friends and their associated Christian denominations try to get around the fact that Jesus was a radical by pretty much ignoring much of what he said.  They instead pick and choose those bible verses that seem, at least on the surface, to align with their current worldview.  They hunker down in their pews ranting about all the sinners and such in the big bad world out there. They madly choose to only associate with others who think like them.  They reject any change in their current way of seeing the world for fear that they will fall down an imaginary  slippery slope into the abject sinfulness they see all around them. They  choose to concentrate on their personal salvation instead of Jesus’ “love your enemy” mantra. Loving your enemies is a concept very foreign to them.   In other words they are internally focused rather than outwardly focused.

In the kingdom of God that Jesus spoke so freely about, Christians are instructed to be peacemakers.  In God’s Kingdom there is no ‘us” vs. “them”. We are all children of God, that means each and every soul on this earth. It seems many Christians today would rather spend their money building lavish churches with all the creature comforts rather than making sure no one goes to bed hungry. We would rather buy that second or third vacation home rather than support humanitarian efforts around the world. We would rather buy that luxury car rather than pay a little more in taxes to insure that healthcare is a right for all of us rather than a privilege for only those who can afford it.

How can so many of us be so blind to so much that is in our bibles?  How can we pick and choose only those words that don’t make us uncomfortable? These are things that I am praying the emergent church movement will rectify.  Someone needs to push us off the comfortable path of our own choosing and back on the path of Jesus’ teachings.  Someone needs to show us how to love our fellowman and to make it clear to us that include everyone else. Jesus was a radical. How has his church become so conservative?

I think its time to revisit a little history of the red letters and some of the people besides me who concentrated on them.  Who started putting the words of Jesus in red letters? Here is what Wikipedia says about that:

The term red letter edition is used to describe Bibles in which words spoken by Jesus, commonly only while he was on the Earth, are printed in red ink. This is not to be confused with the Red-Letter Christian movement, which has used this term to emphasize the teachings of Jesus in the Bible, particularly in regards to social justice.

The red letter edition was invented by Louis Klopsch, then editor of The Christian Herald magazine in 1899, and first published in 1900.  This style of Bible instantly became popular, and is sometimes favored by mainly Protestant Christians in the United States. Especially in King James Bibles, this format can be useful as quotation marks are not used.

Klopsch’s idea of printing the words of Jesus in red originated in Luke 22:20, which says: This cup is the new testament in my blood, which I shed for you. This inspired Klopsch to ask his mentor what he thought of printing the words spoken by Jesus in red, to which he replied, “It could do no harm and it most certainly could do much good.

Wikipedia made the point to emphasize that the  decision to put the words of Jesus in red letters has nothing to do with the Red Letter Christian movement now underway and growing quickly. Here again is what Wikipedia says about this movement

Red-Letter Christians constitute a non-denominational movement within Christianity. Proponents of the movement believe that Christianity, and especially evangelicalism, has been exploited by both right-wing and left-wing political movements and become too partisan and politicized. As a response they endeavor to create an evangelical movement that focuses on the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly in regard to social issues. The two most prominent figures associated with the movement are Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo. 

Red Letter ChristiansAs you can tell from the title of this blog I am very much aligned with this movement. To me the words of Jesus Christ, especially those aligned with social justice take front and center in my life. If you are interested in learning more about this movement I would recommend the book entitled Red Letter Christians by Tony Campolo. If you search for the term “red letter christian” on Amazon several books will come up. This is a testament to the growing popularity of getting back to the words of Jesus as the early Christians did.  Most of what we call Christianity now is actually the result of men, both well-meaning and otherwise, who came after Jesus, sometime long after Jesus.

If you have read much of what I have written here you will know that to me Christianity has been hijacked to be what we believe about Jesus and many other unrelated things versus trying to “be” like Jesus as he commanded us. Part of the emergent movement that is now taking place in much of the world also aligns with putting the red letters back as the focus of our faith.