Ashamed Not to be a Heretic…

Source:Ashamed Not to be a Heretic: Harry Emerson Fosdick – QuakerQuaker.

“If the day ever comes when men care so little for the basic Christian experiences and revelations of truth that they cease trying to rethink them in more adequate terms, see them in the light of freshly acquired knowledge, and interpret them anew for new days, then Christianity will be finished.”

Here is an interesting post by a Quaker about a Presbyterian minister who was driven from the pulpit by fundamentalists in 1922 due to straying from the established doctrine of the time. He fought the first waves of fundamentalism put forward by William Jennings Brian. Harry Emerson Fosdick went on to become very famous for his sermons and books. Check out his books on Amazon. He still has more than thirty books people continue to buy. I picked up his book entitled “Christianity and Progress” on my e-reader for future reading. I look forward to my introduction to another religious person who was not ashamed to be a heretic.

. His most notable quote from that time was as reported on the post

“They call me a heretic. Well, I am a heretic if conventional orthodoxy is the standard. I should be ashamed to live in this generation and not be a heretic.”

My Evangelical Friend…

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.

What Language Did Adam & Eve Speak??

Some Christians believe that each and every word in the Bible is literally true and without error. Even though I did not believe in a literal Bible I belonged to one of those churches at one time. I often asked embarrassing questions during our weekly bible study. Questions the clergy leader really didn’t care to try to answer.  Asking those questions is probably one of the reasons they tossed me out.

I never got to ask the question in the title of this post but I would be very interested in knowing how they might answer it. According to the biblical account Adam & Eve were the first humans. They had a lengthy relationship with God before they obtained the “knowledge of good and evil”. Some of their conversations seemed quite deep indeed.

Of course those who take Adam and Eve account as being literally true must then deny the existence of cave men, cave writing, ancient artifacts, and other forms of early man.  They even insist that the earth itself is only about six thousand years old! They must say all that evidence discounting their beliefs is either outright fraud on the part of our scientists or just God trying to trick us. They go to extreme lengths to hang on to their literal and inerrant stands. I do feel sorry for those who must deny so much of our history and archeological evidence. They have a hard time reckoning their version of history with established evidence. To that end most seem to treat science as an enemy of religion instead of being a God given tool to mankind.

But more sadly they spend so much time trying to justify their interpretations that they miss out on so much that the Lord tries to teach them in this day and age.  And of course in their stubborn insistence in literal stories they turn many away from learning about their creator.  The Bible has much to teach us about God and how he wants us to love him and love every one of our neighbors. It is a shame they don’t concentrate of the overall message and let some of the early biblical stories just be stories that teach us lessons about life.

Getting back to the original question, I would guess that the literalist’s answer to my question would be that they spoke some form of Greek or Aramaic.

Our Sheltered Lives…..

I am a frequent visitor to several Christian blogs. One of the bigger ones I recently visited was discussing  Matt 26:11  The poor you will always have with you.  There were the usual posts saying that Jesus was inferring that “since the poor will always be here why bother to do anything about it”. These types of comments used to get me upset but I know that is NOT was Jesus was saying so they don’t get to me like they used to.

But there were several comments the to post from people who clearly don’t understand what it means to be poor. First of all I want to be clear that all of the comments were from people in the United States. There were about 30 comments in all on this particular post. One person said something to the effect that poor people are the ones who are still watching TV on the old tube type sets. He didn’t understand why it would be his duty to help them buy flat screens.  Another mentioned that some “poor” have to drive cars that are over 5 years old and that is just too bad; they need to get better jobs! Let me say again that this was a Christian blog. Clearly these people have a very narrow and myopic perception of what it means to be poor. They evidently are just not aware of what being poor is really about. It truly amazed me just how sheltered lives some people live.  

Some people have labeled today’s twenty to thirty year olds the “Entitlement Generation”. The reasoning goes that this group of people have been raised to believe that they are entitled immediately to high paying jobs and lavish three thousand square foot or larger homes with mandatory oak hardwood floors and granite countertops.  I suspect that some of the responders in the above posting are in that category. They seem to have very little concept of what the world actually looks like outside their communities doors.   I must admit that I myself didn’t have much of an idea of what the world was really like when I was their age either (but that was many many years ago). I had been raised in a lower middle class community where everyone was white and working class.  We didn’t have a lot but we didn’t suffer either. It was not until I got to college that I realized that the rest of the world was not particularly like us. Of course college changed much of that except maybe for the economic status. There were not then, or probably not now, many people in college from poor families.  That aspect of my education came later. Anyway, maybe I shouldn’t be surprised even in the Internet age  that twentysomethings don’t really know what poverty is.

No poverty is not doing without a flat screen TV or a car that is older than five years. Poverty is where you do not know where your next meal is coming from. You do not have a roof over your head. You do not have safe drinking water. You are surviving on as little at $12/week. Unfortunately a good percentage of the world (some figures show it up to 40% of the world’s population) are in poverty. Yes, that even includes people in the United States.

Let’s end with a prayer. God our father, your Son welcomed all who cam to him, even the outcasts and the despised. Give us faith that dares to come to you, trusting only in your love. Give us a love that accepts others, as we have been accepted by you. Compassionate Savior, too often we forget how many in our world are homeless, poor, and hungry. In your mercy relieve their suffering and pain. Remind us that when we help a person in need we are serving you.

Is Religion an idol??

Is it possible for the Christian Religion itself to be an idol? I believe it can be and here is why.

  •   Yes, if it’s point is to show our superiority over others. Many of us Christians sit in our churches and seem to snub our nose at those who are not like us. We are convinced that we have all the answers to life and everyone else just needs to come to us to get it right. When we have this kind of mindset we have turned our religion into an idol. We must realize that we are all in the same boat when it comes to our salvation and eternal life. None of us earned out way into the Kingdom of God so therefore none of us is any better off than those we sometimes snub our noses at.
  • Yes, if used to pass judgment on others. The church in past history tortured and killed others who they call heretics. If this practice had continued into today there would be thousands of inquisitions going on right now! After all we currently have more than 35,000 versions of our Christian religion in the world today. Judging others is something that almost seems to be inherit in any religion and ours’ is not exempt. Although Jesus told us that that should not be the case.  
  • Yes, when you pick out something in the Bible that contradicts everything else and then use that as our prime reason for being a church. The prime example of this seems to be the version of Christianity around today that says that Jesus expects all Christians to be millionaires! They use one or two verses in the Bible to validate their position and ignore the other 99% of the text. It takes a very narrow mindset to fall into this type of church but there are indeed thousands who have evidently done so.  
  • Yes, when churches are used at the defenders of tradition they are not following Christ’s lead. Many churches today say “we can’t possibly change our worship service; after all we have been doing it this way for years!” We, like the Pharisees in the past, confuse our traditions with our dogma and doctrine. Jesus chastised the Pharisees and I’m sure he will do the same thing to us if we fixate on our traditions over his demand for love and non-judgmental behavior.

Churches throughout history have done things that are directly against Kingdom issues. Jesus made it clear that one of the primary foundations of being Kingdom people was to love one another. As pointed out by Greg Boyd in his book The Myth of a Christian Religion

Church history is full of people being tortured and put to death for such heresies as not acknowledging the authority of the Church, baptizing wrongly, and denying the Trinity. Yet we don’t have any record of anyone so much as having their hand slapped for embracing the worst heresy imaginable—namely, failing to love and do good to one’s enemies, as Jesus commanded. That leaves me speechless! Defenders of the tradition sometimes argue that we can’t hold ancient Christians to modern humanitarian standards. Life in the ancient world was just more violent, they claim. This argument, however, is not very compelling. Jesus and the early church lived in eras that were at least as violent as any in Church history, yet they managed to love their enemies rather than engage in violence against them. The same could be said of a number of individuals and groups throughout Church history. For example, when Calvinists, Lutherans, and Anglicans tortured and killed Anabaptists in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the victims followed the example of Jesus and refused to fight back. Their faithfulness to the Kingdom bears witness against the faithlessness of those professing Christians who persecuted them. This is not to suggest that we can pass judgment on Calvin or anyone else in Church history. We are ourselves sinners who have planks sticking out of our eyes, so we must leave all judgment up to the One who alone knows the innermost hearts of people. But this doesn’t mean we can’t discern what is and is not the Kingdom. We can’t place ourselves above others—not even those who murdered “in Jesus’ name.” But we can and must clearly separate torturing and killing in Jesus’ name (or for any other reason) from the beautiful, Christlike Kingdom. Insofar as the Church engaged in activities like this, it was involved in the most heinous form of heresy imaginable—its orthodox beliefs notwithstanding. 

The established church is oftentimes a stumbling block to many in learning to love and follow Jesus. What many non-religious people see when they look at churches are expensive tax exempt buildings filled with hypocrites. They see people who show a marked sense of superiority over others. This behavior often masks out any Christ like love they may intend to be displaying. When churches fail to live in love for their fellow human beings they are indeed serving idols, not Jesus Christ.

Lets, each one of us, be constantly on the guard at our churches to make sure we follow Kingdom principles of unbiased love for one another. Yes, even for those sinners who are not yet members!

It’s Just a Face

 

 We have all seen many pictures such as the above portraying Jesus. Most show him as a fair haired blue eyed person of European descent. Of course in reality that is likely not what Jesus looked like. He probably looked much more like most of the 9/11 terrorists than what we are used to seeing.  Let’s get over what Jesus might have looked like and spend more time thinking about what He tries to teach us. Some people, including I think C.S. Lewis believe that any images of God, including statues of Jesus is a form of idolatry. We must never get fixated on the physical at the least expense of the thoughts. It’s just a face and it almost certainly didn’t have blue eyes.

I find it interesting that the Bible never mentions anything about what Jesus looked like. We just don’t know because it is totally unimportant. I’m sure on His second coming there will be no doubt that it is him no matter what he looks like.

The Twenty Piece Shuffle

  
Subtitle: Some very inspiring words

I just finished a book entitled “The Twenty Piece Shuffle” by Greg Paul. It is about a ministry to the poor in the Toronto area. Greg Paul has done such a great job in putting us inside this ministry by telling stories of those who have frequented the mission over the years. It is a very worthwhile read to anyone who would like to understand more about these types of missions and the people who frequent them. At the end of the book Greg bears his heart via the following words

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God, I believe, has granted me resources of intelligence, health, money, emotional stability, position, citizenship, and much much more in the expectation that I will use those resources to lift up my brothers and sisters who are depressed, set free those who are oppressed, seek healing for those who are afflicted, and share with those who are destitute.

God does command, over and over, those who are rich and powerful – the 1 or 2 percent of the world’s population that includes the majority of us living in first world nations – to engage with and care for our poorest “neighbors” spiritually, materially, emotionally, and politically. So clear and consistent is this message, so redolent with it is the life and teaching of Jesus, that it must be said: A wealthy person who claims to follow Jesus and des not find some way to share his or her life and material goods with people who are poor has stumbled off the Way.

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If we could just get this message across to more of us who are rich and powerful wouldn’t it help God’s kingdom come on earth. If you are ready to be surprised by some of the people in this book both for their gentleness and their grittiness then you should pick up a copy of this book.

The Thing about Mary

 


 I have always wondered why Catholics are so focused on the Virgin Mary and Protestants, except for Christmas Eve, almost totally ignore her? If we read the Gospels and the Book of Acts, besides for Jesus’ birth Mary is mentioned only a couple of times in the text so that doesn’t lead us to believe that Mary had a very prominent role among the early Christians. Some say this is because the culture at the time of these writings treated women more or less as property of men and therefore their accomplishments were downplayed in the writings. Maybe that is true but there were several women who had significant interactions with Jesus during his ministry so I don’t think Jesus personally bought into that line. But then there is St. Paul telling women to be quiet in church and wait till you get home to ask your husband any questions. This seems to feed into that inferior woman mentality of the time.

When Jesus was crucified only the women stuck around. All the male disciples had, at least temporarily, abandoned him. It took the Holy Spirit coming into them to give them the courage the women seem to have never lost. And of course Jesus first appeared to a woman after his resurrection. So the women might have been shortchanged in the Gospel text. But that still doesn’t explain why Mary seems to be on an almost equal footing with Jesus in the eyes of many Catholics, at least attention wise?

I read somewhere, but I can’t remember where right now, that one view of this is that Mary was actually a PR project by one of the Popes around 500AD. Ok, I will probably get flamed here but I want to tell you what I heard. It seems that around that time Christians, meaning Catholics, were having a hard time competing with pagan goddesses who were very popular at the time. To counteract that the church started giving Mary much more status than they had before that. Now I don’t know how much truth is in that. I would welcome anyone to set me straight if you have evidence this story is way off base.

I personally think Mary deserves all our respect. After all she did give birth to the Son of God. But, I think the Catholics have gotten carried away with their almost deity of her. There is only one son of God and everything and everyone else takes a very distant second to Him. It is not about Mary, Paul, or the Apostles. Our attention should be focused on Jesus and Jesus alone. But as I usually say these are just my opinions and I will respect other who differ from them. One final pet peeve of mine, as with Jesus, Mary always being shown as blue eyed fair complexion young girl. Please remember that Mary was a Middle Easterner like Jesus. She very most likely had dark hair and brown eyes.

The curse of riches

 Matt 19:24

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

  Putting a camel through an eye of a needle sounds like an impossible task! That is unless the needle is the size of a building. Will there be no rich men (or women) in heaven? These types of words are among those used by some who say Christianity is just to appease the masses and is otherwise useless. There argument goes like this:

Everyone who is currently poor (often as a result of those who are greedy and rich) would like to believe that the rich won’t be with them in heaven. They have had their rewards on this earth. The Bible has these types of verses to make the poor feel better about being poor.

Others say these words are meant to say show that God can do anything. Even pull a person through the head of a needle. I think the answer to this lies somewhere in the middle. That is, if a person becomes rich treating money as his god and has little or not concept of being their brothers keeper then he has replaced the real God with a worldly item and he has not taken the words of Jesus to heart. Among these type of people are Christians as well as non-Christians. They will definitely discover the error of their ways in the next life. But, then again this is probably one of those verses that will mean something different to me next week or next year. There are a lot of those types of red letters in the Bible. They keep us thinking and studying.

How about those mega-churches?

There is a wide disparity of opinion about how true to Christ mega-churches are. I probably fall somewhere in the middle of that opinion. As I see it, the pastor of the small church that I currently attend doesn’t have much good to say about any of them. He seems to say that, in order to appeal to the most number of people, they dilute the words of Christ almost beyond recognition. And, of course, they would never show a cross in their building because they believe is just too much of a downer. He doesn’t seem to differentiate one mega-church from another; as far as he is concerned they are all pretty much the same.

I do believe that some mega-churches are as my pastor describes but there are others who follow a truer path to Christ. Many churches become very large on the skills and personality of their pastors. As long as those pastors don’t let the sin of pride consume them, and many of them in the past have done just that, then they are indeed expanding Christ’s mission on this earth according to His will. Rick Warren is one of the very successful mega-church pastors. He is senior pastor at Saddlebrook Church in California. To the disdain of many in the homosexual community, he will be giving the invocation at the Obama inaugural coming up in a couple of weeks. He is the author of The Purpose Driven Life and several other similar themed books. He is also a reverse tither in that he gives 90% of his income back to God’s work. He doesn’t fixate on the “poor miserable sinner” aspect as many evangelical churches seem to but instead chooses to concentrate on viewing God as a benevolent father who loves us all. Just what mix of benevolent God/Vengeful God is proper I don’t know and I’m not sure anyone really knows.

I think the put downs on mega-churches by some is from a streak of envy rather than strict theological boundaries. It is hard to see your church shrinking while the mega-churches are growing and not have a tinge of pain. A book that I will soon be reviewing on this blog is entitled The Present Future by Reggie McNeal covers this topic in more detail. In the book Reggie McNeal questions the old notions of what the church is and should be in today’s world.

We who are in smaller churches should, instead of putting down the mega-churches, be trying to learn from them how to bring more people to Jesus Christ. All the glory be to God alone.