Beauty, Ugliness & the Meaning of Life

I began writing this post once already and the Internet ate it. For a few minutes I was quite upset as I really liked the direction the post was taking. But now that the mourning period has ended, I have decided that perhaps those words were for me and me alone, and that because of their death, the evolution of my thoughts will have new life and I will be able to communicate with greater clarity.

Just a quick note: This is not a post about Frank’s book. This is a post about Frank and Genie (This ain’t no book cult after all – see what I did there Frank?). The book is all well and good and taught me a lot, however why would you sit with your nose in a book when its author is in the room and you can speak to them face to face?


 

frankeddiedeens This weekend Kent and I had the rare privilege of mingling lives with Frank and Genie Schaeffer as they stayed with us in our home. They were in town to promote Frank’s most recent book,
Why I Am An Atheist Who Believes in God.
Frank Schaeffer (son of evangelical royalty,
New York Times best seller and erstwhile architect an purveyor of the Christian Coalition and the Moral majority) and his lovely wife are among the most gracious, generous, unassuming and fun house guests we have ever had the pleasure of hosting.

 

This post is my attempt to allow you a glimpselilacs into the joy of this weekend in the same way that Frank’s painting of lilacs can transport me to my childhood backyard and the smell of spring. While it is a mere attempt to mimic the beauty, no painting can be spring and nothing I write can take the place of having been here.

 

 

f&gFrank almost always travels without Genie, as most groups do not choose to spend the money required to purchase the extra plane ticket or they somehow do not find value in having the spouse of the speaker at their event, I do not pretend to know their reasons. However, I can tell you that Genie Schaeffer is an endlessly interesting person and if you have read any of Frank’s memoirs like Crazy for God, you already know that. Genie is a pure delight and I feel very confident that Frank would agree that she is his “secret sauce”. By that I mean that without knowing Genie, you will never truly know Frank. Without her, he is an incomplete picture, as am I, without Kent. She is his muse, his greatest love and his anchor in a stormy sea. She is, as he says, the only person who truly understands him and knows with a knowing that only comes with experience what complexities of life have made him the man I now know.

 

As I mentioned before, Frank was in town to promote his book, and though we only brought together a whopping 30 people at most, Frank spoke to us with all the passion of a person who was in town (as Frank was in a former life) via a flight on Jerry Falwell’s private jet to be introduced as the keynote speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention by Tom Landry and Roger Staubach. And although Frank Schaeffer has held court with many, many famous and “important” people, he was most at home on the floor of the bar where we meet, building a castle of blocks with a 6 year old little girl. Why? Because, as he says, that is what is real and important. And believe me, Anika knew she was important to Frank. You could feel it.

 

IMG_8752My children who are 12 and 13 also knew that they were important to Frank and Genie. Do you know why? They took the time to see them­–to focus on them. They were never an afterthought to be ignored or talked down to. That is why my daughter’s lock screen now glows with the inspiration of the picture she took with Frank. When he heard she wanted to be an actress, they spent time one on one discussing Shakespeare. Frank challenged her and connected with her over her dreams. He recommended readings and movies and agreed to Skype with her to talk more about it after she read or watched. Frequently during the weekend when I would be looking for my son, I would finally find him sitting and talking with Frank and Genie in the backyard or showing Frank funny YouTube videos and Frank calling Genie over to watch too. “You have to come and see” he would IMG_8751say. One morning I even found Frank in the driveway feeding Caedmon the basketball so he could practice his shooting. When Frank or Genie were with them, they were the only thing that mattered. It was pure magic.

As for me, this weekend was transformative. We drank wine, we broke bread and though we did not call it communion, that is what it was. We talked about beauty. We talked about art. We shared music. We spoke honest words and we shared empathy. This weekend helped me along in my evolution. After all, life is about becoming not simply having the “right ideas”.

One thing Frank did say while he was here is that he tries to look at every situation and ask “Is it beautiful or is it ugly?” Does believing it help me behave in ways that are beautiful or ugly? Does saying it, or doing it make the world a more beautiful or a more ugly place? I will tell you this, Frank and Genie Schaeffer came to visit and they made our world more beautiful.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

The Myth that the Church Alone Can and Should Take Care of the Poor

Tuesday Jesse Graston, the South Carolina Coordinator of the John Birch Society, stood on the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse and called on Americans to nullify the Affordable Care Act and replace it with charity from churches. Frankly this is a sentiment I have heard for years. The government should get out of the “charity business) i.e. welfare, medicare, medicaid and Social Security and let the churches do their job. Well, I have news for you. That is just flat-out never going to happen. Not only because it wouldn’t work and people would be missed but also because they simply do not have the resources to carry out the task. Follow the math with me for a second.
(If math makes you queasy look for the statements in BOLD)

The federal budget expenditures from the year 2011 (the most recent year data is available) for these programs is as follows:

  • 746 billion for welfare programs (283 billion is also contributed to these programs by the states for a total of 1.3 trillion)
  • 725 billion for Social Security
  • 480 billion for Medicare

The grand total of these expenditures is 2.505 trillion dollars per year. There are about 338,000 Christian congregations any given year that works out to $7,411,242.60 per church.

Now let’s look at  Christian church budgets in the United States.

In a survey performed by the Evangelical Christian Credit Union this is how churches responded that they spend their money:

Chart

Let’s look at a few line items…

  • Total average spending on personnel, buildings and administration is 85%
  • Total average spending on local/national/international benevolence 3%.
  • Yes, you read that right THREE FREAKING PERCENT!

If a nonprofit had this kind of percentage going to the actual people they were serving you would never give your money there. As an example, according to the Christian Science Monitor here are the percentage of total expenses spent on programs for a few well-known non-profits:

  • American Red Cross 92.2%
  • United Way 90.6%
  • Feeding America 97.2%
  • Habitat for Humanity 83.7%

If you do the math this works out to $8,270.00 average allotted in each congregation’s budget for benevolence. Do you remember the amount each congregation would have to provide to cover federal and state spending on these programs? $7,411,242.60.

I think we are a little short.

[Don’t even get me started on church debt.  According to Church Finance Today, “68% of churches in the West-South Central U.S., and 64% of churches in the East-South Central U.S. have expenses exceeding income. These are the best regions in the country.”]

All of this assumes that the numbers stay the same you say. Ok,  think about this…

  • Even if we threw 100% of church revenue at it we would still be over 7.4 million short per congregation. EVERY YEAR.
  • Even if giving doubled because taxes were cut, you cut spending in half and threw it all at benevolence, we would still be over 3.6 million dollars PER CONGREGATION SHORT. EVERY. YEAR.

All that to say, it is mathematically impossible.

Also, if only the Christian Churches, as Mr. Graston and many others assert, are charged with caring for the poor, they would have to give 100% of their annual income. And it STILL wouldn’t be enough.

How’s that for a tax increase?

According to World Christian Trends AD 30-AD 2000: Interpreting the Annual Christian Megacensus, in the year 2000, total Christian income in the United States was $5.2 trillion annually and according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, median income for working-age households slid 12.4 percent from 2000 to 2011. But for the sake of argument let’s say that number stayed the same. Church members would have to give a little less than 50% of their income to cover for it all and that wouldn’t include the remaining taxes they would still owe the government to pay for defense, infrastructure and education.

Talk about a tax hike.

Next Mr. Graston threw out this doozie about the difference between the way liberals and conservatives view taking care of the poor,

“They think it’s the duty of others to help them take care of the poor,” he remarked. “We believe that we shouldn’t take from others to help take care of the poor or to help ourself, but we follow Christ’s example.”

“He did not steal from his disciples to feed the hungry,” Graston continued. “No, he gave of his own substance to those that were in need, and I believe that as we’re saying no to the encroachments of the federal government, that we will have to stand up and the churches must take their place to take care of the needy. I’m asking as we push the government out of the way that we need to fill that vacuum and begin to see those that around us and take that initiative ourself.”

Let’s take what he said point by point, shall we?

#1. “They think it is the duty of others to help them take care of the poor.”

Last time I checked we (the citizens) are the government. The money the government spends on taking care of the least of these is money given to the government by we the people. The government is nothing else but the people we hire to steward our collective money. If we do not like the way they spend it we have recourse for that. It is called voting.

#2. “We believe that we shouldn’t take from others to help take care of the poor or to help ourself, but we follow Christ’s example.”

Hmm. When Jesus fed the 5,000 what did he start with? Loaves and fish from a person in the crowd. When Jesus made wine, what did he start with? Pots of water owned by the host of the party. Who was it who supported Jesus and provided him with the money to care for people? According to Luke 8, a group of women. As far as I can tell, Jesus used resources acquired from others to take care of people.

#3. “He did not steal from his disciples to feed the hungry. No, he gave of his own substance to those that were in need…”

Of course he did not steal from them. Neither is the government stealing from the people. We elect our representatives who then administer the finances. As the Declaration of Independence clearly states,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The government gets its power from who? From us. Humans set up governments to secure rights for all our citizens. Rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We declared and continue to declare that all our citizens are created equal. This is what our government is for and that includes but is not limited to using our tax dollars to help ensure this. If you ask me this is a very practical way to take care of people. We the people have spoken and we have decided we want our government to help us carry out the commands to love our neighbor, to care for the poor, the widow and the orphan. If you don’t like the way they are doing it, or think you have a better way, the beauty of our system is  you have the right as a citizen to try to persuade people that you are right, you have a right to organize and vote and change things. 

#4. “…I believe that as we’re saying no to the encroachments of the federal government, that we will have to stand up and the churches must take their place to take care of the needy. I’m asking as we push the government out of the way that we need to fill that vacuum and begin to see those that around us and take that initiative ourself.”

Taking care of people is not an encroachment of the federal government. And, as fully detailed above, churches are actually not capable of taking care of all the needs.  [As a side note this is a major reason why at novitas church we have no paid staff and meet in a building we use for free. We do this so we can use all of our money to take care of people.] I actually agree with one part of his last line. We do need to “begin to see those around us and take the initiative ourself” to be part of the solution. I just don’t think we need to push the government out of the way to do that. I believe we need to come along side the government and encourage fiscal responsibility, cut waste and streamline so that we can take care of people more efficiently. Honestly this is part of the reason President Bush instituted The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships which has been continued under President Obama, so that, according to ABC News to,

“coordinate with faith-based and community organizations on social service outreach and will work to utilize these organizations’ efforts to advance the administration’s policies, with a primary focus on poverty.”

Now that is a beautiful thing.

Related Articles:

This Mind Blowing Fact Proves That Christian Churches Cannot Provide For The Poor

Aside

No Longer Praying Out The Gay

love wins

 

 

Please go check out my interview with Phil Shepherd aka The Whiskey Preacher on Patheos.com:
No Longer Praying Out The Gay
Phil and I recently sat down and did interviews with each other in his home studio. Besides being a blogger, Phil and his wife Stephanie are co-pastors at The Eucatastrophe, an emergentish, missional faith community in Fort Worth, Texas.

If you missed it, you can catch my interview with Phil about living and ministering with chronic pain here:

First Ever Interview: Living in Chronic Pain with the Whiskey Preacher

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.

The Long Awaited Review of Beyond Evangelical with Apologies to Frank Viola for being so Late.

So I finished a really good book last night: Beyond Evangelical by Frank Viola.

As you know my lovelies, I agreed to write this review several weeks ago and was almost immediately deluged with life in all its glory and pain. Sadly this all pushed back my reading schedule.

But here we are, today is a new day and I am happy to report that I found Frank’s latest book well worth the read. In it he casts a vision for what the future of Christendom could look like if we were able to move beyond the religious right vs. the religious right squabbles to place beyond or outside of these two options.

In the book he lays out his vision for this third option if you will. He starts out by defining Evangelicalism and defining four different streams within it. He moves on to discuss the history of the movement, the hijacking of the term by the religious right and the push back from the religious left. The book culminates with a discussion of specific ways we can rise above the fray and become not ex-evangelical or even post evangelical but “Beyond Evangelical”.

He suggests we begin to do this by moving…

Beyond Legalism & Libertinism

In short, the libertine lives as if there is no God. The legalist lives as though she/he is God to everyone else…

The legalist doesn’t know that he/she is a legalist and tends to view all non-legalists as libertines.

The libertine doesn’t know that she/he is a libertine and tends to view all non-libertines as legalists.

Without the Holy Spirit’s illumination, this deception is difficult if not impossible to break.

The truth is, we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. And we all need Jesus Christ to forgive, deliver, and keep us each day from both the defiling acts of the flesh and the self-righteousness of the flesh.

Beyond Deconstruction

Certainty? I’m a Christian: thus I’m absolutely “certain” of that which it is impossible to be “certain.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

It’s hip among some Christians today who have imbibed deconstructionism to believe that certainty is an unnecessary evil. Certainty is the cause of bloodshed, wars, persecution, etc. Yes. Certainty is the root of all evil (so they say).

As a Christian, I’m certain of that which none of us can be certain.

Beyond Self-righteousness

Now . . . shift gears and look at the sins that literally made Jesus angry and provoked Him to issue hot-boiling, scathing rebukes. It was the sins of self-righteousness. And it was aimed at those who sought to shame and humiliate others because of their wrong-doing.

The pure and spotless Lord Jesus Christ turned the pyramid upside down.

Beyond Sectarianism

The fact is, every devoted Christian will be tested on whether they really believe in the oneness of the Body of Christ or whether they deny it deep in their hearts . . . especially when there is pressure from others to embrace a sectarian spirit and exclude other members of the Body.

Religious pressure is a powerful thing. And it is most often contrary to Jesus Christ.

Beyond Calvinism & Arminianism

You can go through your Bible carefully and find biblical texts that better fit the Calvinist model, while others have to nearly be bent to fit it. The same with Arminianism. Some texts refuse to fit neatly into its mold.

Why is this? Because the Bible wasn’t written to Western minds shaped by Aristotelian logic. And so it’s difficult for us (Westerners) to embrace paradox.

Yet Scripture is full of paradox, and Jesus Himself is the Ultimate and Absolute Paradox. He is God. He is Man. He is Divine and Human.

In the end,  I believe Mr. Viola makes a good point. The cause of Christ to love all and serve all and reconcile all is better served not by bickering but rather by embracing the turning tide.

A tide of people who are increasingly Beyond Evangelical:

They are neither left nor right.

They are Christians who have a deep allegiance and devotion to Jesus Christ.

They believe that Jesus alone is this world’s true Lord and He stands above all systems and personalities, even religious.

They love, desire, and stand for the ekklesia, a local body of believers who are enthroning Christ as Head . . . and they believe that the church is Christ existing as a shared-life community, not two hours on Sunday and Wednesday. They don’t advocate any particular church form or structure. They simply want to follow the Lord with others.

This hearty band of Christians from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue stand for the four notes of classic evangelicalism. But they have gone beyond them.

In addition, they are . . . intensely Christ-centered, Jesus is not only the supreme Lord. Not only the wonderful Savior. But He is All (Col. 3:11).

They are Resurrection life centered. They believe that Jesus, by his resurrection, is still alive and indwells every believer. But more, every believer can live by His indwelling life . . . and this is the meaning of the Christian life. They are also body centered. Christ in known in and through the shared life community called the church, which is His body.

And they are eternal purpose centered. God has a timeless purpose that goes beyond salvation, and He’s never let go of it.

They have gone beyond evangelical. 

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.