Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I suppose we could say the letter is addressed to me ...

I recently read something titled What if Jesus Meant All that Stuff?. It was a letter addressed to unbelievers, and can be found here

Two things caught my attention. The first part was this: I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.

The apology is nice, and I've seen this in other areas, basically structured the same. The acknowledgment that some Christians have behaved in less than stellar ways, and the damage that caused, is appreciated. But there comes a point at which apologies lose sincerity. If someone has punched me in the face ten separate times, and has apologized each of those times, the apology becomes meaningless by the third time or so. If you're truly that sorry, stop engaging in the behavior that leads you to keep apologizing in the first place. Apologies need to be followed up with a clear demonstration of a commitment to avoid the behavior. Otherwise, the apology just becomes a "get out of jail free" card.

The second section that caught my attention: For those of you who are on a sincere spiritual journey, I hope that you do not reject Christ because of Christians. We have always been a messed-up bunch, and somehow God has survived the embarrassing things we do in His name.

This strikes me as right along the same lines of telling non-Christians to look to God, not to Christians. But based on Biblical claims, that doesn't fly with me.

Say we're all told about a weight loss pill. This pill guarantees that anyone who tries it will lose weight. No exceptions. When 100 people actually try the pill, it turns out that 40 people have not lost any weight. 40%. When we question the pill makers on this 40% -- who demonstrate that the claim about the pill doesn't match the results we've all witnessed -- we're told that we can't look to the people to see the results. We have to look at the pill. Don't reject this pill because of those who used it. Base your encounter with the pill on the pill itself.

The reason why those interested in the pill looked to those who tried the pill is because the whole way the pill was described was by its reaction to people. The only way we could look at the pill, evaluate the claims of the pill, was by how it affected people.

And it's the same with God. No, God isn't the same as a pill, He's not designed or created to serve a need for people ... but He is described as someone who makes the old man new, who rescues people from their sin, someone who lives inside His children as the Holy Spirit, someone who departs fruits to His followers -- these followers that we're supposed to be able to identify by how they love each other.

All of those are claims about how God influences the very people He created. In order to see how well those claims stand up to reality, we have to look at the people themselves. The people are the results, and the results are what everyone wants to see. They want to see the validation of the claims themselves.

Don't get me wrong, I still believe in the afterlife, but too often all the church has done is promise the world that there is life after death and use it as a ticket to ignore the hells around us. I am convinced that the Christian Gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and that the message of that Gospel is not just about going up when we die but about bringing God's Kingdom down. It was Jesus who taught us to pray that God's will be done "on earth as it is in heaven." On earth.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Haiku-ing the Bible. With a shout-out to Star Wars!

I was tagged from Kay at

Summarize the Bible in five statements, the first one word long, the second two words long, the third three words long, the fourth four words long and the last five words long. Or possibly you could do this in descending order. Tag five people.


Hope answered.

Words, not God.

Truths we cling to ...

Depends greatly on your POV.

Whoever wants to play, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The mirror tells no lies ...

From Frank Schaeffar's book, Patience with God: Faith for People who don't like Religion (or Atheism)

My aunt Janet -- my mother's older sister -- joined the U.S branch of [the Closed, or Exclusive, Brethren the Taylor/Symington/Hales] group in the late 1950s. Aunt Janet was ordered to leave her husband and two young sons, because they didn't join the group and she could have no fellowship with them, including even eating in the same room. She moved out, once my aunt was forbidden to sleep in the same house as "unbelievers"...
That gap, which all evangelical/fundamentalists say they believe is established between the "saved" and the "lost" -- now and for eternity -- was enforced here in this life by the Closed Brethern. In the midst of the Closed Brethern's ever-shrinking world, followers like my aunt were totally walled off from their families ... it must have been a nightmare of self-revelation for Mom because my aunt Janet was doing nothing more than practicing an exaggerated version of what Mom believed herself. My parents believed that the lost were to be eternally separated from the saved. And my parents always said that in this life, no one could be complete as a person without accepting Jesus, so the separation began right here on earth ...
My mother never did get over her sister's betrayal of her family. It must have been shocking for my mother to see the logic of the sort of Christianity my parents believed in lived out to a radical extreme.

Back when I was in college, an evangelical friend and I were in a bookstore, and found ourselves in front of the Left Behind series. She had already read the first one, and aside from finding it just bad writing overall, she hated the theology within it and said that it distorted what the Gospel actually was, as well as distorting what God was like.

I didn't say anything at the time, but that was because I was too stunned by her comment, and didn't know where to start. This was someone who went to a Baptist church, who believed that the death of Jesus was to satisfy the wrath of God and he took the punishment we all so justly deserved. This was someone who believed in the "saved" and the "lost," and that those who were "lost" had a one-way ticket to hell. This was someone who believed that that if you were "lost," God couldn't stand the sight of you, and you were disgusting in His sight. She believed that Jesus would return, and when he did, he wouldn't be in that great of a mood towards the vast non-Christian majority.

The Left Behind series was the "logic of her belief system taking to it's most radical extreme." If God was so wrathful that only the bloody death of His son -- the son who took on all the sins of the world -- satisfied Him, who believed that every person He created deserved to be tormented for all eternity, who was disgusted by His creation ... why *wouldn't* He behave in the manner the Left Behind series depicts?