You’re Damn Right I Believe in Another Gospel.

Since beginning this blog, I have had several Evangelical friends accuse me of believing “another gospel”. At first, I bristled at their accusations. But here today, I would like to say to them all, “You’re damn right. I believe in another gospel.”

If your gospel is that God is some sort of abusive parent who loves you “unconditionally” unless you die without accepting his love and then he sentences you to eternal conscious torment in hell, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel says some people aren’t good enough to help feed, clothe and educate children simply because they are married to someone of the same gender; if your gospel says you can cut off these kids like a subscription to Good Housekeeping because “Ewww, the gays.”; if your gospel closes the doors of heaven in people’s faces because of who they love, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel says women are eternally subjected to men because Jesus is eternally subjected to the Father; if your gospel says women are equal, but men are more equal; if your gospel excludes women from any area of ministry, leadership, service or vocation, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel allows you to feel oppressed when other people gain rights you have always enjoyed, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel encourages you to pass laws that discriminate against others, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL

If your gospel encourages you to identify and exclude people who disagree with you, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel permits you expelling a little girl from school for not being girly enough then, YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel teaches that women are responsible for the sexual sins of men, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel teaches that everything in the Bible is to be taken literally, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel teaches that God is some sort of genocidal terrorist who condones the killing of entire races, including children, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel features a God wrapped in the American flag, who always votes Republican, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel features an AR-15 toting, cage fighting, ass-kicking Jesus, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel is one of “us versus them” or “in versus out”, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

If your gospel puts anything above loving God and your neighbor as yourself, then YES, I BELIEVE IN ANOTHER GOSPEL.

The Gospel I embrace is one of love; one where we are all equal in the eyes of God. One where neither how much you’ve blown it or how perfect you’ve been is what matters; one where everyone gets to play. One where the Father loves without an unless; one where grace and generosity trump fairness; one where we do not get what we have earned or what we deserve but one where we all get to belong. The Gospel I embrace is truly good news, and if THAT is “another gospel” I am guilty as charged.

 

 

 

World Vision vs Hobby Lobby

world-vision

 

Today in court Hobby Lobby is asserting that because certain owners of the company are Christians,  the for profit business is also “Christian” and should be allowed to forego supplying coverage that goes against their conscience, i.e. birth control. They feel this way because they believe some types of birth control can be abortifacient. Rather than allowing women and their doctors to discuss all the options available and decide on the best course of action, Hobby Lobby would also like to make sure the insurance they provide does not even cover such discussions if they involve the types of birth control they disapprove of. Nevermind the fact that they sell thousands of products made in China, a country which encourages (and sometimes mandates) abortion if it is necessary to maintain the one child policy. Forget about the fact that employees can use the money they are paid (by Hobby Lobby) to engage in other activities (sins) the owners may feel offend their conscience when they are off the clock (or shall we also allow them to decide how their employees spend that money as well, perhaps the employees should have to provide expense receipts to justify their choices so that Hobby Lobby can avoid inadvertently financing what they consider sinful activities). Perhaps they should just set up an old school company store and employees could live in a company town where only Hobby Lobby approved, sin free products and activities are condoned. Sorry for the snark, but honestly, it is just nuts.

Do they not understand that contributing to the cost of an employee’s government mandated health care plan which may or may not mean they choose a birth control method they disapprove of is NO DIFFERENT than giving them a paycheck that the employee then uses to buy the EXACT SAME type of birth control? It is the same money! It came from the same place! You bear the exact same responsibility for the employee’s choice of birth control and you should have the exact same amount of say in that choice…NONE!

Hobby Lobby’s supporters also say, as do all the defenders of the various “turn away the gay” laws, that they are merely fighting for their constitutionally guaranteed religious freedom. The first amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.  In the decision written by Chief Justice Waite, however, the Supreme Court in Reynolds v. United States ruled that “Freedom of religion means freedom to hold an opinion or belief, but not to take action in violation of social duties or subversive to good order,” and that allowing people (and in this case Hobby Lobby) to do so “would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government would exist only in name under such circumstances.” Personally, this is why I am confident (and will be extremely disappointed if the Court comes back with any other decision) that the Supreme Court will rule for the government in this case.

In other news, yesterday World Vision, a Christian non-profit agency whose mission is providing “emergency assistance to children and families affected by natural disasters and civil conflict, work[ing] with communities to develop long-term solutions to alleviate poverty, and advocat[ing] for justice on behalf of the poor, set the evangelical world on fire by stating that:

…since World Vision is a multi-denominational organization that welcomes employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians, the board—in keeping with our practice of deferring to church authority in the lives of our staff, and desiring to treat all of our employees equally—chose to adjust our policy. Thus, the board has modified our Employee Standards of Conduct to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.

Since World Vision’s announcement, the evangelical world has their knickers in a twist.  Benjamin L. Corey sarcastically translated the collective twitter rants on Formerly Fundie:

“I have sponsored this child for many years now and built a relationship with them. Yes, I know that this is a specific child with a real name and real story who will miss my letters. I know that this child may end up dying from lack of access to clean water or medicine without my help. I understand that without the education my donation provides, this child is at high risk of a life of trafficking and exploitation. Yes, I know that my donation makes sure they get three square meals a day and that without it, they’re going to be hungry. But, I simply must abandon this child now that I realize Janice from accounting has a wife.”

The best (and by best I mean worst) part of the comments for me are the folks who say it is World Vision’s fault that these kids are going to go without now. They have no choice but to pull their support. WOW. Really? You really only give money to people who agree with you 100% on what is sin and what isn’t or do you only give money to the people who sin like you do? I mean come on, isn’t that what it comes down to? Many of us would prefer that people only committed the “sins” we are comfortable with. But wait, we are talking unrepentant sin here. Really? How about we stop contributing money to organizations who hire people who are gluttons? Maybe we should stop giving money to organizations that hire people who are divorced and remarried? Or having sex before marriage (none of us have done that, right? Oh snap, some of us have.)  So here we sit, World Vision tries to be inclusive of all of the beliefs of the 50 denominations of people they employ and THEY are cutting off the kids? If only Jesus had given us some clear direction in all of this, then we might know what to do. Oh wait, he did.

These arguments would be simpler if only Jesus had said something like “Whatever you did for the least of these you did for me” #WorldVision

— Micah J. Murray (@micahjmurray) March 25, 2014

As Kristen Howerton said on her post on Rage Against the Minivan,

Is access to food, water, and education trumped by keeping gay people out of a job at a nonprofit? If we want to serve people, we should not make distinctions about who we serve, and we should not deny those we serve out of disunity or division. It’s astounding to me that Christians would take food from starving children because a gay person might have helped in getting it there…I’m also just so, so dismayed that this is yet another instance in which Christians are telling the world that their feelings about gay people are stronger than their compassion. That their anger over gay employees is greater than their anger over starving children.

I cannot for the life of me understand people who would rather see all Hobby Lobby employees lose their jobs (the owners have threatened to close their stores if they lose) to protect the religious sensibilities of the owners (who coincidentally also sin) than see some of their employees be allowed their choice of birth control (some of which Hobby Lobby deem sinful). These are the same people who would rather have the child they sponsor be left wondering why they were dropped than continue allowing World Vision to use their funds to be the hands and feet of Jesus because the dude who is in charge of bringing clean water to villages in developing countries is married to a man named Jim instead of a woman named Jane.  Jesus wept.

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There are tons of ways to help World Vision. You can fund a microloan, sponsor a child, provide disaster relief, buy handmade gifts for friends, or choose any one of several items to give from their catalog including water wells, anti-trafficking aid, farm animals, schooling and many many more. Please go visit WorldVision.org and lend your support today.

What if Hell isn’t actually just Facebook? (a response)

Today Matthew Paul Turner wrote a post called, “What If Hell Is Actually Just Facebook?” You really should go read it before you read this as I have taken much of what he wrote and rephrased it into my response.

What if Hell isn’t actually just Facebook?
Think about it. What if Hell isn’t a literal place buried deep in the center of Earth, but instead, it’s just anywhere and any system that keeps us from loving God and loving each other? What if Hell sometimes is a place or a decision in the hearts of humans? What if Facebook on the other hand is neutral and can become either the Kingdom of God breaking through on my iPhone or a portal of ugliness and as Mr. Turner postulates, hell? What if, as so many things in life the answer is in what you bring to it? It bothers me when we as Christians blame something that is simply a mirror for the image we see in it. What if Facebook is actually just a mirror?

What if, rather than being a place that burns the souls of humankind, Facebook allows me to connect in ways I cannot in person? What if it allows me to maximize my time, concentrate my energies, and connect on an emotional level with people I would not otherwise have the occasion to see on a regular basis because of time or geography?

What if instead of Hell’s wailing and weeping being the silent plea to be “Liked,” that plea to be liked and approved of was just our normal human cry for community and what if it was met with the unconditional love of Christ?
What if Facebook isn’t scary at all, but rather another avenue for community and relationships that we keep open on our laptops and scroll through on our smart phones like so many run-ins with friends at the local grocery store or dog park?
What if instead of the gnashing of teeth being the mostly inaudible noise we engage in our feeds, the complaining, the opinion-making, the sharing, the selfie taking, the oohing and ahhing, and the liking? What if those again were opportunities to be enlightened, to learn something, to reach out to someone in their loneliness, their success, their joy or their sorrow and let them know they are not alone? What if the opinion sharing and pontificating and debating was no different than the public squares of days gone by where people have persuaded each other or agreed to disagree?

What if instead of demons being trolls or online friends who seem to constantly challenge our ideas and opinions, leaving mean-spirited (sometimes hateful) comments in reaction to our status updates and pictures they they were real people in need of real friends, or rescue, or sacrificial love?? Or what if instead of comparing the friends who really like us, who innocently “Like” our virtual stuff, join our virtual causes, and virtually tell us we’re awesome aren’t demons either but people who actually want to provide encouragement and support?

What if Facebook instead of being Hell or even an innocent distraction, something that we engage when we are bored, lonely, insecure, proud, angry, broke, empty, aroused, or merely awake…what if it was an opportunity to bring the Kingdom of God in yet another way? What if Hell/Facebook isn’t just a grand entertainment, a leisure activity that diverts our attentions away from the who(s) and what(s) and where(s) that are most important? But is another way of engaging those very who(s), what(s) and where(s)?
What if, instead of joining Hell, we’ve been given a powerful opportunity; An intimate invitation into people’s lives at the moments when they are most vulnerable, most open? What if it actually allows us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn? What if, amid  our best intentions to avoid Hell, we are blaming the mirror instead of the image we bring to it?
What if Hell is actually not just Facebook but a place within ourselves or a decision we make?
Would we be able to recognize it in our reflection instead of blaming the mirror?
Would we even want to?
Or would we rather go on believing that it is some thing outside ourselves, something we feel better about blaming rather than taking responsibility for the Hell of our own making.

Floods, Drowning and God

Credit: Michael Ciaglo/AP

Now flood every portal of my mind
And flood everything I’ve tried to hide
I am looking to the sky
And I’m calling for a flood
Submerge me, Lord, in holy water
Drown me to live in You
Flood every corner of this room
And fill all the emptiness with You
Lord, we long to be consumed
And we’re calling for a flood                        – Calling for a Flood by John Waller

Lay me down in the waves
Let the water wash away
And if I leave with the tide
In the morning I will rise
So lay me down
Don’t lift me out
Let me drown                     -Let me Drown by We As Human

Have you seen the images coming out of Colorado? Do you remember Katrina? How about the Tsunami of 2004? Have you read the story of Noah in Genesis?

Floods suck. Floods are terrifying, destructive and unpredictable. They cause death and destruction and heartache. People drown. Drowning is not peaceful or pleasant.

Let me be clear, I DO NOT WANT GOD TO FLOOD ME WITH ANYTHING. I DO NOT WANT TO DROWN IN HIS LOVE or HIS MERCY or ANYTHING ELSE.  Can we please stop using this imagery?

The word flood is used in the Bible 47 times. Only two of them are positive. One is in Malachi where it talks about the floodgates (think of these like the spillway doors on a dam) of heaven being opened up to pour out a blessing too big to be able to be received. The other is in Isaiah where it says, “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream”. Neither of these sounds like the life threatening floods mentioned in many worship songs. Often these songs allude to floods of love, grace or mercy sent by God that result in our death by drowning. And we sing them. Often to saccharine, lilty tunes with a peaceful feel to them.  I’ve got news for you..

The word drown is found 10 times in Scripture. NONE OF THEM ARE GOOD.  There is no mention of a peaceful river of blessing where Jesus lovingly holds you under until you can’t breathe. And no room, as the song above mentions, where people happily begged God to drown them in his presence like Charlie on LOST.

I know people try to make this flooding and drowning imagery about baptism. But the scriptures never teach this. In Romans 6:1-11 it says,

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Yes, we identify with the burial and resurrection of Jesus when we go down into the water and when we come out. We obviously are not literally dead, nor do any (non cult) groups advocate actual physical death in order to escape sin. The way in which we identify with his death is by recognizing that through Jesus we can be dead to sin; that is, sin has no more power over us because God is no longer holding our sins against us. No flood. No drowning.

Listen, I understand poetic license. I understand literary imagery. I understand figures of speech. I don’t expect every song (or any song for that matter) to only use words out of the 66 books of Canonized scripture. What I don’t understand are metaphors comparing what Jesus offers to death, destruction or war. Yes, I said war. One song I have heard actually says, “If you are the war then let me be your casualty.” No. No. No.  JESUS IS NOT THE WAR and WE ARE NOT HIS CASUALTY. EVER. He is however, the author of life and the prince of peace. He died to absorb wrath not to bring it. He does not bring destruction he delivers us from it.

My friend from Colorado told me this morning that some people are using the recent flooding in her area of Colorado as an occasion to liken actual floods to God’s flooding us with blessings or flooding us with the spirit. Please, no. Make it stop. That kind of talk is insensitive at best. God’s blessings look nothing like a flood that has left thousands displaced, a rising death toll and more than 1,200 unaccounted for.

In defense of the F-word. WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE (duh.)

Don’t throw your verses at my sins like stones.
My Jesus ain’t your sword.
Your scripture bombs don’t work on me.
My bindings have been torn
Your flaming tongue can’t touch me now.
My standing has been set.
I don’t need you to approve.
I’m not your fucking pet.

Don’t say my sin turns Christ away
He touched the lepers’ sores
Don’t tell me he can’t stand by sin
He crashed tradition’s mores
His insane love fills in my gaps
His righteousness my own
Keep your judgement to yourself
His grace to me he’s shown

Keep your righteous indignation please
that turns people away
I can’t look you in the face
When with people’s soul’s you play
You cover your ass when things go bad
Instead of coming near.
You protect what’s yours when faced with truth
Actions that come from fear.

Throw your body on the flames
to protect the threatened child
Bring cold water as a drink
to those convicted in trial.
Cover and feed, Defend those in need
Break down your prison wall
Let those who need a doctor in
Isn’t that us all?

Sometimes life is too fucking hard. This was that kind of week. I have friends who are in pain; the kind of pain that denies purpose and defies explanation. I have another friend who was told that her worship was not equal to theirs because of who she loves and her perceived sins.

We had a discussion in the car the other night about swearing or cursing and specifically “the F-word.” Some people are of the mind that there is never a time to use the F-word. And although I believe it to be vastly overused, it is my contention that there is absolutely a time to utter a well placed F-bomb. Let’s-be-face-it* lovelies, there is a time when saying “that is messed up” just doesn’t get the job done.

Fuck is the most powerful word in my personal lexicon that I am willing to use. I don’t use the C-word nor do I use the N-word because they demean people no matter the context. One reduces a person to their skin color and one reduces a person to their body parts. But I’ll tell you what, when the love of your life dies, when your leg is blown off by an IED, when your child has been abused… “That fucking sucks!” might be the most loving thing someone can say to you.

There is a song by Billy Falcon that sums it up perfectly. It is called When and you can and should listen to it here:

Did you watch?

“Sometimes life is so fuckin’ unfair…” Yes it is Billy. Yes. It. Is.

* Let’s-be-face-it is a term coined by my husband in the jacuzzi one night during a deep discussion with friends. It was created when my husband couldn’t get out either “let’s face it” or “let’s be honest” so what came out was, “let’s-be-face-it”. And a phenomenon in our social circle was born. Feel free to use it with reckless abandon.

What if you came with me?

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A Facebook friend posted a status today that said, something to the effect of, “Sometimes you just have to trust that evildoers (I believe he actually said wrongdoers) will get it in the end or you would go insane.” (paraphrased)

This is a sentiment I have heard over and over my whole life. Every time someone does something ranging from merely inconveniently bad (stealing our wallet/phone/car, et al.) that we can’t do anything about to the flat out horrifically evil (the Castro brothers of Cleveland, Ohio) that we can’t think of a punishment awful enough for, we say something like it. We like to think that God‘s punishment will be worse than anything we could dream up. We say things like,

“Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”

“He/she will get their’s in the end.”

“I hope he/she burns in hell.”

But what if there was another option?

What if wrongdoers are in the end made to understand their wrongdoing and then transformed into who they were always meant to be? Wouldn’t that be better? Isn’t that a more satisfying and complete defeat of evil? Is not the love of Christ enough to consume even the vilest offenses of the worst of humankind and transform the evildoer into something beautiful? Who they once were would cease to exist and who they always should have been would be all that remains. Doesn’t that type of justice also account for the wrongs done to that person that contributed to their descent into darkness? Don’t get me wrong, I agree that here and now there must be consequences to evil behavior and there are some acts so heinous they are difficult to even comprehend. I understand that some people cause a legacy of pain so deep that we as humans cannot see a way to redemption. But isn’t that why we are not fit to judge? Is not our love incomplete? As I said in an earlier post,

People always say you should fear his [Jesus] judgement as he will be the judge on the last day. Personally, I think you should be super relieved and overjoyed that he will be your judge. If he is anything like he was on earth (which was the exact representation of who God is), he will find ways to forgive that you cannot even imagine. He will judge with mercy and compassion. This is the man who came to save all. Who died for all. He took the full weight of all the worst the world and humanity has to offer and he absorbed it and he looked it in the face and he pronounced love and forgiveness.

Why does this idea, that the evil could be redeemed and made right, make so many people mad? I think it because most of us hurt so badly for the people (sometimes others, sometimes ourselves) that the evil have wronged that we just don’t see how it is fair for them to receive mercy. Not now; not ever.

Jesus once told a parable about about some workers. He said he told the story to reveal a little bit of what the kingdom of heaven is like. In the story, the owner of a vineyard hires groups of workers throughout the day. In so doing the groups all work different amounts of time. At the end of the day, he pays all the workers the same amount regardless of how long they worked. Some of them get angry, and think they should get more for working longer to which the man in the story says this, “‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”

I worship a generous God who forgives (thank goodness) when I would not, who loves when I cannot, and died for all regardless of what they had done or would do. He has set about making “all things new” and “restoring all things”, including humanity. Can you imagine a world where (insert the name of your favorite bad person here), instead of growing up to lead people to death, destruction and hatred, grew up to lead people to life, wisdom and love of the other? What if all their gifts had been used in the cause of love instead of hate? Wouldn’t that be a better world? What if in the end God gives us that kind of world? What if he lets us experience that kind of love? What if the people known to be most evil were transformed into who they always should have been? What if swords are really turned to plow shares, what if the lion does lay with the lamb? What if it is like none of us were ever damaged, or hurt or never damaged and hurt another? What if all evil is consumed by good, death is swallowed up by life and we each become who we were always meant to be? What if love wins?

What if as it says in 2 Cor 5 (*see footnote at the bottom of the post), Jesus actually died for ALL? What if God, through Jesus actually was reconciling the WORLD to himself? What if he really isn’t COUNTING THEIR TRESPASSES AGAINST THEM? And what if, what if God actually wants to make his appeal THROUGH US? As far as I can tell from the passage, Jesus, by dying secured victory over sin and death.

My husband pointed out an N.T. Wright quote and response he read online yesterday when he was proofreading my rough draft of this post. I thought it fit right in so I am going to share it.

The Quote:

“This is what happens when people present over-simple stories with an angry God and a loving Jesus, with a God who demands blood and doesn’t much mind whose it is as long as it’s innocent.“ You’d have thought people would notice that this flies in the face of John’s and Paul’s deep-rooted theology of the love of the triune God: not ‘God was so angry with the world that he gave us his son’ but ‘God so loved the world that he gave us his son’. That’s why, when I sing that interesting recent song ‘In Christ alone my hope is found’, and we come to the line, ‘And on the cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied’, I believe it’s more deeply true to sing ‘the love of God was satisfied’.”       –N.T. Wright

The Response:

It is not the wrath of the Father against the Son, much less the wrath of God against Himself, that is satisfied on the cross; but the justice of fair-togetherness: God willingly shares in the suffering both of sinners and victims alike. God doesn’t punish Himself, the Father isn’t punishing the Son (and especially not for something someone else did that the Son didn’t do!); but God is sharing in the suffering of punishment.

For sinners, the suffering is punishment. For God, the suffering is love for the sinners. (And abuse by sinners, too, willingly allowed by God. The sacrifice on the cross is a highly complex action. The intention isn’t complex, though: love for everyone, sinner and victim alike. :) )  –Jason Pratt

I do not claim to know for sure who all will be saved. But as Christine A. Scheller said in her article about Dallas Willard who passed away this week,  “A consequence of Willard’s academic honesty is his unwillingness to state who’s in and who’s out spiritually, which bothers critics who worry that he is a universalist. He says he doesn’t believe anyone will be saved except by Jesus, but he adds, “How that works out, probably no one knows.”

I like that. I like to at least consider that there will be more people in on this thing we call redemption than we think.

Perhaps in the future when I am confronted by wrongdoers (as my friend called them), I might change my responses to, “Won’t he/she be surprised in the end?” and mean surprised by forgiveness.  Or maybe, “Vengeance (repayment exacted for an injury or wrong) belongs to God” and remember that God tells me not to repay evil with evil. And rather than say, “I hope they burn in hell,” perhaps I will learn to say, “I hope they become who they always should have been.” I’m not there yet. I have a ways to go. What if you came with me?

*For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all,that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Blown away by love.

ImageThe events of the week are enough to make your heart burst. I don’t have to tell you again what they are do I? No my lovelies. I will not do that here. Your heart knows. My heart knows.   It knows that there is just too damn little precious, swiftly passing time. If tragedy serves any purpose at all for the living it must be (in my estimation) the cruelest reminder to love. Love now. Love big. Love deep. Love radical. Extend grace where it is not deserved. Hug a stranger just because they look like they need one (ask first). Give to someone and expect nothing. Forgive. Forgive. And Forgive. Again. Even the one who has hurt you in the worst way. Extinguish your hatred. Hatred of the other, the different, the them. Who are “they anyway”? Aren’t they us? What is it that is keeping you from loving? If you are going to let those fucking bombs, that damn fire destroy something why not let it blow down the walls we have constructed to divide ourselves from each other? Why not love in the most radical way possible?

Me? I am a follower of Jesus. In my estimation the most radical lover, the most radical forgiver, the most genuine, least judgmental person who ever walked this earth.

Sidenote: People always say you should fear his judgement as he will be the judge on the last day. Personally, I think you should be super relieved and overjoyed that he will be your judge. If he is anything like he was on earth (which was the exact representation of who God is), he will find ways to forgive that you cannot even imagine. He will judge with mercy and compassion. This is the man who came to save all. Who died for all. He took the full weight of all the worst the world and humanity has to offer and he absorbed it and he looked it in the face and he pronounced love and forgiveness. BOOM!

If there is anything we must do in the face of inexplicable tragedy, inexplicable betrayal and inexplicable hate in order to be like God it is to absorb all the flying sharp pieces of ugliness and hate and judgement and to fire back love, explode forgiveness and blow people away with inexplicable grace and mercy. It is his way. It is the way of life. Let me tell you, this life is too damn short for me to hold on to the shit. Today I defiantly choose love. Won’t you join me?

Choice
Pieces of you
Free Hugs

 

The Bible trumps the law of the United States?

HI heard a conservative radio personality say this yesterday when I turned the dial to am to hear the traffic report. Wait? Whaaaaat???

Now if you are a Christian and I know many of you are, this may sound like a no brainer to you. “Of course the Bible supersedes the law of the United States! Or any country. And it should!”, you say. Well, I respectfully say, it absolutely should not. Before you go spray painting a big ol’ H for heretic on my chest, hear me out…

I do not worship the Bible. I worship the living God. The Bible is here to make known Jesus, and Jesus makes known the Father. The Holy Spirit convicts me of my sin and righteousness and teaches me (among many other things). When you tell me that the Bible supersedes the law of the United States, and that we should strive and work to make “what the Bible says” law. I start breaking out in hives. I mean, as my husband so eloquently asked this morning, “My question to you is, whose interpretation of “the bible and the Word of God” should “trump the laws of this country”? David Koresh’s? Pat Robertson’s? Mine? Yours? And how would this actually work? Congress passes a law, and then we appeal to the Supreme Court because we feel it conflicts with the “bible and the Word of God”? Please explain how you feel this is workable.” Or maybe would we need to set up some sort of Christian Sanhedrin or Sharia Court to hear such matters?

Are your sirens going off yet?

Believe me this isn’t just about gay marriage. It is about some citizens wanting other citizens to be forced to comply to something they feel is “biblical”. I have several problems with this.

  1. Since when do even all Christians agree on what is and is not “biblical” (see Rachel Held Evans take here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/11/17/my-take-the-danger-of-calling-behavior-biblical/ )
  2. When did Jesus ever say, “Hey guys, let’s force the Romans to do this stuff too! Let’s overthrow this government and put my face on the money!!” ???? Oh wait, he didn’t.
  3. When did Jesus ever force anyone to do his will? or even obey his commandments?
  4. In fact weren’t his harshest words reserved for religious leaders who shut the door in other people’s faces, practiced institutionalized hypocrisy and forced people to carry burdens they would never lift themselves?
  5. Wasn’t our country founded by people who didn’t want to be told what they had to believe or to be forced to worship in a certain way? Weren’t they fleeing places with nationalized religions?
  6. Theocracies are dangerous. My belief is that there will only be one perfect theocracy and Jesus will sit on that throne. No human is fit to rule in his place.
  7. In America we embrace the principles of liberty and justice FOR ALL regardless of religion or race or gender. I am fond of saying it is either liberty and justice for all or it is liberty and justice for none.
  8. There is no unless in the above statements, it doesn’t say…God loves you unless you are not a Christian or God loves you, unless you are gay. Additionally, our pledge of allegiance does not say liberty and justice for all (except gays or except blacks or accept women). It says, with liberty and justice FOR ALL.

After all my lovelies, people have used the Bible to justify all kinds of things I (and I am guessing most of you) find unacceptable today (Slavery, women as property and all manner of other abuses come to mind). The cause du jour for our time happens to be marriage equality. People are fond of saying, “I just believe what the Bible says. It is crystal clear” or they use phrases like “traditional marriage” . Let’s explore those statements through the following graphics:

tumblr_m80awqPk0Y1qkdvl3o1_1280

traditional-marriage

Many of my Christian friends think that “redefining marriage” will somehow tarnish marriage and make God angry. Listen, my marriage is holy because Kent and I choose to have God in the center of it. It is not made unholy by some other heterosexual couple being married who do not choose to have God at the center of theirs nor by any homosexual couple who do not. (or by others divorce or  infidelity or abuse etc. etc.) Incidentally, I neglected to mention a second ago, the Christian LGBT couples who choose to have God at the center of their relationships. A dizzying prospect? Here, sit down my lovelies, I will get you a cold glass of water.

A homosexual couple (or other “sinful” couple) marrying only affects one marriage, their own. This is the United States. We allow all types of people to get married for all types of reasons who commit all types of sins (I do not believe homosexuality is a sin incidentally), we recognize the marriages of all faith traditions, including non-christians! Gasp!! I just don’t see how or why free people do not understand this concept.

In Galations 5 it says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Why, in God’s name, do people want to keep themselves or others under or put themselves or others back under a yoke of slavery when they have been set free? In the U.S we embrace the idea that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness“. Neither God (he gives us all free will) nor the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to deny these pursuits to your neighbor. You don’t have to agree with someone in the United States to afford them equal rights. Heck our country was built on that premise and that is why eventually this will prevail IMHO. As my Friend Matthew Paul Turner’s Facebook status read yesterday (and I like to think he is right), “Marriage equality will happen. It’s only a matter of time. This country has proven over and over again that it is indeed capable of changing courses, righting wrongs, reversing bad decisions, and siding with freedom, equality and democracy. We’re sometimes slow to get started. We’re sometimes blinded by our ignorance and fear. But we always eventually see the light. And once that light starts to crack through, you can’t keep it from shining. You can try. But you won’t prevail. Because in America, freedom always wins out in the end. It might take us a little longer to get to the finish line. But we will get there. And we will get there together.”

As far as “making God angry” I don’t believe that anymore but you can read all about that in my earlier post Why was God mad in 1927 or Was Jesus enough?

Mad Men (and Women) of Christianity


image

I know we are way behind but my husband and I just started watching Mad Men from the beginning on Netflix. Last night after watching the second episode, Kent turned to me and said, “Do you know why I like this show? Besides the great acting, writing and to-the-t period stuff?”
“No,” I said, “What?”
“This show is a perfect illustration of what people mean when they say they want to go back to the good old days. It’s how guys like Driscoll and Piper wish it was.”

I have been thinking about this ever since he said it last night.
At the time my mind immediately went to another blog written by Ben Ponder, editor-at-large for mediarostra.com which I read a while back. In it Mr. Ponder asserts that,

“Family” is the euphemistic code du jour for “Evangelical Christian.” “Focus on the Evangelical Christian” and the “American Evangelical Christian Association” didn’t have the same zing to them as their familiar twins. The watchword for these organizations is the preservation of “traditional family values,” which are, in a nutshell, white American family values from a period of 1939 to 1964. The family values constituency longs for a return to the virginal time before the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the Vietnam War, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, John Lennon, and Rock Hudson made the world a more complicated place.
When I read the Bible, I get the distinct sense that Jesus wasn’t interested in saving the nuclear family from a windy onslaught of liberal opinions. I rather get the impression that he was concerned with diving headfirst into the unvarnished messiness of the human condition and saving us—as individuals, as families, as communities, as people—from our own unhinged self-absorption and festering lovelessness.

I also remembered a scene from Modern Family which I told you all about in The Will of the People. The scene takes place between Jay and Gloria.

“Jay: This weekend we’re going up to Pebble Beach. I’m gonna meet a bunch of guys I played high school football with. Man, those were the good old days.
Gloria: Yeah, unless you were a woman, black, Hispanic, or gay.
Jay: But if you were a straight white football player you couldn’t have a bad day.”

I am sure most of the folks nostalgic for a time gone by prefer to think of it like Leave It to Beaver where everything is clean and sanitized and the worst you have to worry about is Eddie Haskel and his mischievous ways. Mad Men is a more unvarnished look back that doesn’t gloss over the messiness of life. Honestly lovelies, neither is a perfect picture. They are both fiction. However we are talking about a real period of American life that is often pointed to by christians in general and evangelicals in particular, as a time when things were simpler, better and frankly closer to what God intended. After all, the marriages and families I see in the Bible look just like the Cunningham’s on Happy Days. 😉

Personally, I have no desire to go back to the way things were.

Christian Piatt wrote a great article about a year ago titled: GOP Nostalgia? Only Christian White Men were Better Off Back Then in which he said in part,

The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say “yeah, I was better off back then.”… To call for a return to the good old days is, in some ways, a marginalization of those for whom history has meant progress. For the majority of Americans today, turning back the clock means losing ground, acceding power or opportunity and returning to a time of greater imbalance and division.”

Sadly, the church, whom I love seems to be stuck in a nostalgic longing that is really nothing more than a mirage. It offers the illusion of a cold drink of water but for many they find only a mouthful of sand and the scorching wind of shame. Heck even some of us raised in the church who know how beautiful and life-giving our communities truly can be, all to often have found our mouths filled with sand rather than the cool and refreshing living water.

Those who feel their privilege slipping away continue to grasp at an unhealthy nostalgia responsible for keeping the church on the wrong side of history way to often. It is what makes and has made people justify slavery and segregation or oppose women’s suffrage, a woman’s right to own property, interracial marriage, women in church leadership and gay marriage. (Even when people believe they are excluding people because of unrepentant sin I still call B.S. as we often hold the door open with a big smile for people who continue to stumble when it comes to gluttony, lust, gossip and lying while slamming the door in the face of homosexuals under the guise of “unrepentance”.) When people perceive their place of privilege is slipping away, rather than rejoicing that others will share in the freedom and forgiveness which they have enjoyed, often defend and set up barriers that push people further away from Jesus. Once again, someone else addresses this issue of priviledge much better than I can. I encourage you to read The Distress of the Priviledged by Doug Muder. He explains it like this:

As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

Then this morning as lady luck or Sarah Bessey would have it, I woke up to a post which exposes another facet of the mirage with a fierce and brave vulnerability. In Which I am Damaged Goods is a post way too many of us could have written. Sarah shares a time when she was served the sand of shame and judgement rather than the living water of love and forgiveness. She was taught that because she was a woman who had been sexually active she was damaged beyond repair and that she should be thankful if there was a christian man out there who would have her as a wife. While this may seem at first blush unrelated to a nostalgia for an earlier time, rest assured, it is. It is nostalgia for a time when a girl who gets pregnant (not the boy of course) would be sent away “to camp” for the summer or a divorcee would automatically be viewed as desperate, a home wrecker or “hot to trot”. “Oh Myyyyy,” as George Takai would say. With just a few google searches you can find church leader after church leader (including women) who will state unequivocally or simply subtly imply that women’s sexuality and/or women in general are something to be feared, suppressed and even demonized. Tertullian went as far as describing woman as the root of all evil. This is yet another mirage of sinking sand that brings death, shame and bondage rather than life, reconciliation and freedom. A current hotly debated question in the church is, “Why are young people leaving in droves?” Perhaps it is partly because they are tired of receiving a glass of sand when they are begging for water.

Please lovelies, let us remember this, Jesus came not to condemn (John 3:17) but to bring freedom and forgiveness.

This of course is just one example. The non-drinkers exclude the drinkers, the men exclude the women, the heterosexuals exclude the LGBT community, the races exclude each other, the hits just keep on coming and love loses –or so it seems. As a friend of mine (I can’t remember who, if it is you send me a note so I can give you credit) said in a Facebook post this week, many in the church upon arriving at the banquet to which they themselves were uninvited have set themselves up as doorkeepers, judging who is and who is not worthy to enter. Do they not see the irony? None of us were invited –yet we got to come in. And now here they sit callously turning away those whom Jesus would let in. Let that not be me. I say swing wide the doors; Come in. Taste and see that He is good.

As always my lovelies, I remain hopeful. Behold, Jesus is making all things new. He is NOT making all things the way they used to be. He is making all things NEW! Make no mistake, love will win. Look around. There are more and more people who shout and whisper and sing, “Come in! Come in! All are welcome. There is enough living water for us all.

LORD JESUS, May my judgements never push people away from you. Please show mercy to those who having already received grace for themselves would push away others whom you came for. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. AMEN.

——————————

As we were driving home I was reminded of the song Pieces of You by Jewel.  It drove home the point that we are all connected. When we exclude, shame and hurt each other we cut off our nose to spite our face. Any damage we do to each other, we do to ourselves.

She’s an ugly girl, does it make you want to kill her?
She’s an ugly girl, do you want to kick in her face?
She’s an ugly girl, she doesn’t pose a threat.
She’s an ugly girl, does she make you feel safe?
Ugly girl, ugly girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

She’s a pretty girl, does she make you think nasty thoughts?
She’s a pretty girl, do you want to tie her down?
She’s a pretty girl, do you call her a bitch?
She’s a pretty girl, did she sleep with your whole town?
Pretty girl, pretty girl, do you hate her
‘Cause she’s pieces of you.

You say he’s a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him?
You say he’s a faggot, do you want to bash in his brain?
You say he’s a faggot, does he make you sick to our stomach?
You say he’s a faggot, are you afraid you’re just the same?
Faggot, Faggot, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you?

You say he’s a Jew, does it mean that he’s tight?
You say he’s a Jew, do you want to hurt his kids tonight?
You say he’s a Jew, he’ll never wear that funny hat again.
You say he’s a Jew, as though being born were a sin.
Oh Jew, oh Jew, do you hate him
‘Cause he’s pieces of you.

Absolute Convergence?

her·e·tic (her-i-tik; adj. her-i-tik, huh-ret-ik) n.
1. a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church.
2. Roman Catholic Church . a baptized Roman Catholic who willfully and persistently rejects any article of faith.
3. anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.

or·tho·dox  (ôrth-dks)adj.

1. Adhering to the accepted or traditional and established faith, especially in religion.
2. Adhering to the Christian faith as expressed in the early Christian ecumenical creeds.

Continuing my theme of dialogue from yesterday…

I read a blog post this morning from Gladys Ganiel called Kester Brewin, Peter Rollins & the ‘Year of Opposition’ in the Emerging Church which contained a quote from her post the day before, International Museum of the reformation, Geneva: Dinner with John Calvin.

The quote has stuck with me all morning and I just felt like I wanted to share my thoughts with you my lovelies. Here it the quote…

…the room where you can share dinner conversation with Calvin and Co. conveyed a sense of historical and even contemporary disagreement. This reminded me that the Christian story has rarely been one of absolute convergence around all Christian practices and beliefs.

I am often asked when someone disagrees with me how I can so easily question thousands of years of Christian doctrine and practice. My friends it is not that simple. In the history of our Christian faith there have been many disagreements over the finer points of what it means to follow Christ. There are many areas where most Christians agree and there are many, many where they do not. As I said in yesterday’s post,

Do we disagree on this issue? Yes. Does that mean either of us are heretics? I don’t think so. Do I stand in the corner of the rejected and shunned? You better believe it. I am not perfect at it but I would rather answer to God for trying to reconcile my LGBT friends with the God who is the lover of their soul (practicing or not) than to try to explain to Him why I pushed them further away. Once again, could I be wrong? Of course. But you know what we are all going to have things we are surprised by on that day and I would rather err on the side of love.

Consider if you will the following areas where we have and continue to debate and disagree on how best to follow Jesus…

Calvinism/Arminianism
Evolution/Creationism
The heliocentric universe
Women in leadership
Complementarianism/Egalitarianism
Gifts of the Spirit
Drinking
Once saved always saved
Martin Luther and his Theses
Literal Heaven/Hell, when do we go there? Purgatory?
Soul sleep
The priesthood of all believers
Demon possession and what to do about it
Is Christianity masculine? Is God masculine?
The nature of God… Trinitarianism/Dualism/Unitarianism/Deism/Monotheism
At one time even translating the bible into vernacular languages, or helping with the printing of such a bible was considered heresy according to the Roman Church.

For crying out loud we have even fought over whether women were equal to men, whether the races were equal, whether interracial couples should marry, whether slavery should be illegal, and if wives were property or autonomous persons.

And this is by no means an exhaustive list!

Do the answers to these things matter? You better believe it and without the brave men and women who dared to question the status quo and risk being called heretics; Women and slaves would still be property and be denied the right to vote and own property, and millions would not be able to read the Bible in their native language. Can perceived heresies be dangerous? Of course. Is the Holy Spirit able to sort things out and do His work? You know it.

I ran across some other quotes while reading up on this topic. Here are some you may find interesting:

Gerald Brenan: “Religions are kept alive by heresies, which are really sudden explosions of faith. Dead religions do not produce them.” (Thoughts in a Dry Season, 1978)

I love this one. “Dead religions do not produce heresies”.  Many (added by me) “heresies are really sudden explosions of faith.” Again, think of Martin Luther or William Tyndale.
The questions and discussion “heretics” raise (proved right or wrong) help to keep faith alive. They are often a catalyst by which the Holy Spirit leads us. The fact that we are still discussing and questioning and trying to discern the best ways to follow Jesus’ commands to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves shows us that the Holy Spirit is still alive and well and working in and through humanity to help us become all that we are meant to be.

Helen Keller: “The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next.” (Optimism, 1903)

While this isn’t always true, it is certainly has been true in many cases.

Friedrich Nietzsche: “Whoever has overthrown an existing law of custom has hitherto always first been accounted a bad man: but when, as did happen, the law could not afterwards be reinstated and this fact was accepted, the predicate gradually changed; – history treats almost exclusively of these bad men who subsequently became good men!” (Daybreak, § 20)[23]

One generation’s heretics sometimes become the next generation’s heroes of the faith and culture: Galileo, Martin Luther, Copernicus, William Tyndale, Sir William Wilberforce, Anne Askew, Martin Luther King Jr., Joan of Arc and JESUS – Just to name a few. Did she just say Jesus? Yes I did. Many of the religious leaders of the day accused Jesus of blasphemy, came after him for not keeping parts of the law, and even being possessed by the devil himself.

Heresy is often a word that is hurled at a person in order to end conversation. It is a word we use when we are afraid of what the other person is saying or we are unsure of our ability to defend our position over theirs. I humbly submit that we STOP IT.   More discussion is what is needed, not less. When we brand someone a heretic and end the discussion we silence the Holy Spirit’s ability to use us to help the other or to use the other to change us. It is my experience that one can be called a heretic by some while completely embracing orthodoxy. As I said to my friend Justin, we both agree fully with the Nicene Creed even if I disagree with my him on other points not covered there. We need to STOP branding people with that word errantly and thus blowing up a bridge the Holy Spirit wants to use.

Am I saying there are not dangerous doctrines out there? Of course not. Am I saying we should not fight against them? Of course not. Am I saying we should accept every new thing that comes along? Of course not. The irony is that the people on both sides of the above debates often think the people on the other side are espousing the dangerous doctrine. And lest you think that simply going with the majority is the way to be safe, the majority has often been found to be on the wrong side of history when the Holy Spirit finally gets its way.

In conclusion, I believe we need to read, a lot; not be afraid to be in the minority when we feel like the Holy Spirit is moving; and also, let’s not be so quick to expel a fellow member of Christ’s body, discount their doctrinal differences out of hand and brand them a heretic. Let’s keep the bridges open and allow the Holy Spirit to work.  And mostly, let’s heed the words of the Apostle John, “little children, let us love one another for love comes from God.”

Who knows? We just might learn something.