As I begin this post, I must admit that in many ways I’m just playing with words, manipulating them to make my point. But the thing is, isn’t that what we do? I mean, words are probably one of the most essential tools we’ve got to express ourselves. With that short intro, I want to ask a question, or statement, whichever comes out…
(spoiler warning. I’m probably going to be playing the devil’s advocate this morning. Or maybe a better label would be that I’m expressing my thoughts and concerns which have, in turn, called into question many, if not all, of those things that I just accepted as “that’s just what we’ve always done it.”)
So, my first thought is as follows. Growing up in an unfortunately conservative branch of evangelical christianity, one of the most popular phrases I heard went something like this: My relationship with God is something deeply personal. It’s about me and God and my walk with him. Now, as I ignore all the amens in the crowd, I’ve got a question. If my relationship with God is so personal, confined within my own heart, however I choose to define my grasping and clinging to it as my own, why go to church? And yes, I can hear the arguments: we go because we are commanded. “Do not give up meeting together…” We are the first century church in the 21st century (hogwash by the way). The books of Acts is clear that we are to meet on the first day of the week. It’s in the Bible. Blah, blah…
Continuing on, it seems that I’ve been contradicting myself for who knows how long, which is most likely a product of the religious prison we’ve accepted as status quo. And either we know and simply refuse to address the issue, or we have chosen ignorance, which is just as destructive in my mind. My feeling is that often we don’t really take the time to really listen to what it is we are saying. Otherwise, we might check our words before we just let them fly. As Derek Webb says, “if you really believe what you say you believe you wouldn’t be so d*** reckless with the words you speak.”
Here’s an example from this past Sunday morning. I’m working through some of the parables that we have recorded in scripture. And it just so happens that the story we were studying was not an original Jesus story, which outside of many of the one liners and other aphorisms, is probably much more prevalent than we know. Anyway, I posed the question, “does the fact that Jesus didn’t tell this story make it any less true or give us any reason to doubt its credibility?” Surprisingly, the majority answer was that it totally changes both credibility and truth if in fact Jesus wasn’t the original creator. (Keep in mind that this story is printed in red ink in our Bibles, which gives the illusion that everything in red are Jesus originals.)
Even still, let’s think about the implications of that conversation. I said, just because Jesus didn’t say it, is it any less true? And the answer was, Jesus has to say it for it to be true. This coming after a roughly 8 weeks study about the bible and how it is overwhelmingly a human document. But if we just accept the norm or refuse to think about what we say, we make ourselves out to look like morons. I mean, are we really so foolish to paint such broad strokes with our words? “If Jesus didn’t say it, it’s not true.” “What about the rest of the bible? ” “Well, that’s not exactly what I meant… Anyway, God was holding the writers’ hands as they wrote.”
All this to say, we have to think about what we say, especially when it comes to religious stuff. Because if we’re not willing to really practice what we preach, we’d better stop preaching! Further, we have to spend some time critically thinking about the things we say. Because if all this religion stuff is between me and God, then in my book, that’s probably where it should stay until you’re willing to lay your self out there for some criticism.
Anyway, I’d better stop since this post has progressed over the course of several days. And I’m sure now there’s really not much of a coherent theme running through any of it… If you dare, enjoy.
It may seem a bit silly and even a bit moot, but I’ve decided to move my blog to be hosted under another name. There are several reasons for doing so, far to complicated to explain at the moment (as complicated as blogging really is…), so I’ll postpone that discussion.
However, I will say this. First impressions are unfortunately a big deal. Wish it wasn’t so, but too often we don’t give people a chance because our first impression was sour.
Needless to say, right now, at this point in my life, I need a description that’s a little more all encompassing. I’ve done a little tweaking in the past months to play with the name of my blog, but the url remains the same. So, I’m changing that, at least for the time being. For those of you who keep up semi-regularly, you can find the new blog by clicking here. You’ll notice the same look, just a different url and name. Hopefully it sparks interest and/or discussion. But as of right now, it is a much more fitting description of my character, passion and desires.
At the new place, I’ll probably be exploring a much more intentional, integrative, and holistic life with the divine and how I am learning to and hoping to live with a goal of sustainability and justice across the spectrum of life.
I hope you take the time to participate in the conversation, journey with me and enjoy what life has to offer!
Just a couple thoughts this morning. I’ve let them stew for a while, so hopefully they don’t come out burnt and crispy. Regardless of the final product, I feel like some things just ought to be addressed for the sake of avoiding stagnation and eventual spiritual decay.
Now, as I dig into the stew pot of thoughts, my wonderings this morning are as follows; what is faith? And what does it mean to trust in God?
Here’s the premise by which I am asking these two questions. I am convinced that as a follower of Christ, my life MUST be a life of action. Thus, if I stand on that conviction, I find a disconnect within the language and behavior of the majority of the population that claims a Christian label. Bear with me as I attempt to clean up the assertion a bit.
In addressing the first question, what is faith? If this question was to be pointed anywhere near a child of the evangelical movement, most certainly, this verse would be quoted:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
Often, that’s how we define faith, yet we have great difficulty defining it in physical and active terms. The following verses in Hebrews highlight the lives of a host of biblical personalities that “by faith” lived differently. Here is the first disconnect: We don’t equate faith with action as did the saints in Hebrews. Faith, in western Christianity is an irrefutable definition by which we believe the right things. Faith has no bearing on the way we live our lives from day to day.
I would also argue that the same is true when we throw around the etherial concept of “trusting in God.” Quite often we assert that we are to trust God’s will. Yet in our way of defining that trust, we load all responsibility for the condition of our lives on a God to whom we believe will intervene for poor me, taking away the duty I have as a follower of Christ, to ACT for good in this world. Moreover, we often say things like, “we need to trust God and avoid distracting ourselves by trying to figure it out on our own.” But, what does a statement like that really mean? Are we to assume that making a conscious decision to believe differently is really going to smooth out all the wrinkles?
What if God is hidden within our struggle to figure things out? Disengaging the critical thinking centers of our minds, whether trusting God or not, seems to be a step in the wrong direction. Furthermore, if we step back and make an honest assessment of ourselves, isn’t it true that we inevitably decide to heed certain things and avoid others, taking one path over another? So, why is it that God isn’t allowed to work in our struggle? There are so many instances in which our fixation on an intervening God freezes us in complacency. The best we can do is sit and wait for him to do his stuff. When, I would argue, there’s something sacred happening all the time and it’s a waste of time to sit and wait.
As I reflect on this post, it’s difficult for me to accept the fact that what is most likely happening is that as I work through all these difficulties, I am probably projecting my own insecurities onto people around me. I’m upset with the way things are, and so I point the finger at someone else because it’s much easier to do that than to make the necessary change in my own life.
That being said, and unfortunately, as I’ve said many times before, I aim to live differently. There’s a song that says something like, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin through.” This world may not be my home, but I firmly believe that God, however we want to understand him/her/it, has a desire for us to join the sacred work that is already happening. I believe I have been given the opportunity to make this world what it is intended to be. No longer will I believe that is true, but I will LIVE like it’s true.
I’ll try to keep this post short and concise and if there needs to be a bit of clarification, I’ll do what I can.
As my wife and I were discussing some fascinating assertions in a book (The Last Week – John Dominic Crosson, Marcus Borg) this morning, some very interesting notions began to bubble to the surface. One of those was essentially this:
We (Christians) traditionally understand sin in terms of things we ARE NOT supposed to do. For example, the 10 Commandments found in the Old Testament. There are also several other passages contained in the New Testament that outline several activities and lifestyle choices we should steer clear of, or avoid, based upon traditional interpretations. (By traditional, I mean, “that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it,” not necessarily as the original writings were intended to be understood.) So essentially, just as in the time of Jesus, the religious systems, or the religious laws of today, define sin.
Here’s what I understand about the person and purpose of Jesus. In as short a description as I can muster, Jesus came to challenge his followers, his disciples, to transcend the current religious system as well as live subversively in regards to the ruling empire of the day, all for the sake of others (in direct contrast to the idea that everything we do is for covering my own hind end).
What I find absolutely fascinating is the fact that 1. Jesus was not bound by the religious system of his day, which in turn and by default, caused him to violate the Jewish laws and 2. he, repeatedly, spoke, lived and stood against the ruling empire and it’s oppressive, militant way of “establishing peace,” among other oppressive and unjust societal norms.
Thus, sin in Jesus’ day was defined by the marriage of religious and state (empirical) laws. I would argue, the same is true today. The obvious next question is then, can we assert that Jesus lived a sinless life? And if we maintain that assumption, by what terms did he live a sinless life?
I would further suggest, since we cannot answer those two questions as we’ve traditionally done, what then, are the implications for the terms by which we define the notion of “being a reflection of Jesus?“
Hopefully this doesn’t come across too negatively since I haven’t had someone to filter thoughts through for the last week or so. Needless to say, this has become somewhat of a giant urn in which I am able to boil down and sift through things in a writing-things-out sort of way.
The question of the hour is this. At what point along the journey (of following Christ) did we 1. center everything we do, think and say around arriving at a certain place (heaven) and 2. secure all of those reasons so tightly in a vault of complacency that to even suggest we are closed minded initiates a sort of “preemptive war” mentality that launches us into a state of, honestly, lunacy?
Now, there are countless times that, in the nearly 30 years I’ve been alive, I’ve been wrong. And I’m not one to deny having thought and acted wrongly. And I can’t help but wonder, what’s wrong with being wrong? It’s difficult to admit, but I’ve been raised in a sub-culture that is never wrong, especially when it comes to issues of doctrine, justification for certain behaviors and yes, quite often, with scripture. It is my assessment that churches are the only places in society that we tolerate and even accept a culture of mis-education and even lack of education, save (most) ministers, priests and clergy. It’s only here that we are allowed to hold ungrounded and unsupported arguments claiming, that’s what the Bible says or doesn’t say. End of conversation. Now, I realize that is a broad sweeping stroke and it’s not my intention to start any debates, but ruffling feathers and peeling away the layers of ignorant comfort is something I’m interested in doing.
Now, some of us may be thinking, “Phew! It’s a good thing I’m not closed minded.” Here’s a clue that we may in fact have our beliefs locked so tightly away that we’ve almost completely forgotten upon what ground we were originally standing. If we can look in the mirror and honestly tell ourselves that we do not need any other influence for Christian living, apart from scripture, we may be closed minded. It’s awfully arrogant to think we can come to scripture able to flawlessly and correctly interpret scripture. If you can look someone and tell them with complete conviction, if there’s no heaven, this whole Christian thing isn’t worth my time, we may be just a bit closed minded. Are we really only in this if there something in it for me at the end? If we can’t enter into the secular arena, have conversation (NOT debate) and allow our beliefs to be scrutinized, picked apart, mocked or simply discussed, it’s entirely possible that we are refusing to allow the very Spirit of God to penetrate to the deepest recesses of our being, and in turn, bring forth something new, fresh and most likely greater than that which we so desperately and childishly cling to.
I know this is erring on the negative side. I also know that there are plenty of opportunities to poke holes in my logic. And it isn’t my intention to ignite new flames of dissent and disagreement. What I am working toward, as with the way in which I live my life, is to bring about a new life NOW. There are so few places in scripture that even reference the notion of heaven being our ultimate purpose, or grasping with white knuckles the ignorance and denial that affords us the illusion of comfort and security.
What kind of people could we be if we opened the steel doors of our hearts? What kind of people could we be if we allowed and even embraced the opportunities for new understandings? What kind of people could we be if we came to know Jesus as ancient Israel understood the concept to know: as in sexual intercourse… (Borg. Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time) Does that change anything?