The Honest Faith: Join the Resistance

I’ve been focusing a lot on the problems recently. I haven’t provided a lot of answers, well, aside from my 95 theses. I think we are well aware of the problems, however. Things are getting worse, yes, but as a wise person once said, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” The outlook for our American way of life and religion as a whole in our country is rather bleak. Hope is in short supply, we are tired, worn out, and our ability to care seems to result in not much good. It does seem bad but there are those small breaks in the clouds. There is a light shining in the darkness it seems. As I have been re-discovering faith and a new image of the Divine, I do see light. There is hope. There is love. There is a resistance to the dark. Today, I ask that you join that resistance.

Many times over the past year, my faith was called into question. Not just by myself, but many people questioned my “salvation” and my commitment to the Divine. Honestly, it does sting a bit when people do that. They don’t know me. They don’t know my experience, or how much I’ve studied. They call my faith into question because I err on the side of love? How is that “christian” or “Biblical”? That in and of itself makes me want to have nothing to do with christianity. I know that you can’t change people’s minds on deeply held beliefs easily, but you have to try, right? This and just feeling that I don’t really fit in with “Progressive” Christians or even Atheists because I’m somewhere in between has led me to try to start my own thing. I’m calling it the Christian Resistance. Because, yes, I’m Christian. I’m not conservative, or progressive, I’m figuring out for myself my own theology. I’m listening to others and finding what is true in it all. My views aren’t very traditional on either side, but I think are inclusive to all. So today I would like to write about what the resistance stands for. You may be part of the Resistance already, and that’s cool, feel free to use the name. I call it Christian, because ultimately I do follow the man I believe to be the Christ, the Messiah. I won’t get into the separation of man from myth stuff, just suffice to say I believe in his message, and I follow him that leads me to resist.

I resist hate, of all forms. Hate is not beneficial. We’ve discussed this before about how even a little bit of hate can corrupt. I’m not a fan of the “Hate the sin, love the sinner” phrase that gets thrown around. I think it misses the point completely. I am angered those with corrupt intentions leading others astray. I do not hate them. I think they are misguided and leading others to be misguided as well. I am angered by the mistreatment of people. I’m angry, but I do not hate. This anger drives me to speak out, to speak up for the voiceless, the oppressed, the marginalized. I resist hate, because I love people. I may disagree with you on some things, but I’m willing to listen to what you have to say, and I ask that you return the favor. To resist hate one must love. Love is so much more than emotion, it’s an understanding, it’s a longing to want what is best for the other. It is imagining the other as complexly as you imagine yourself.

I resist the laziness of easy answers. Yes, I’ll admit, I am trying to simplify things to make them more palatable for others, but there is a difference between simple and easy. There are no easy answers. Sometimes they can be simple, but simplicity does not imply ease. The same with our theology. Laziness can lead to easy answers which end up being counter the entire message. Such as the shunning of certain types of “sinners”. That’s an easy answer. The simple one is to love, no matter what, no agenda, no strings, just love. That is, not at all, easy. Answers that are not easy require deep thought, research, and understanding. It is not easy to resist laziness, after all laziness is comfortable.

I resist power structures that have been put into place to subjugate, alienate, discriminate, or oppress. This was one of Jesus’ main messages. The Kingdom’s hierarchy was simple, God over all, the Son of Man ruling under God. That’s it. Simple. I could get into the complexity that is the divinity of the Son of Man and whether the title carried with it divinity, and then the complexity of the hypothesis of the trinity, but that’s way to complex and we are trying to keep it simple. The point is all people are people. No one of us is better than the other. Therefore, we should love each other as such. We are not better, they are not better. We are all just people. When we hurt each other we need to be held accountable for such. Though, that is not to say one is better than another. For instance, if one person hurts a child, that is one of the most egregious acts in my mind. I’m not superior to that person, but I do believe that person should be held accountable for such, I am not a judge, however. I do not know what an appropriate punishment would be for such a person. I’m thankful I do not have to make that decision. For if someone were to hurt my child, I would want the harshest and most painful punishment imaginable for that person. I resist the power structures because all life is precious. All human beings are human beings. We are the same, yet different. This one is complex and especially in today’s day and age we need to spend the time in deep thought, research and understanding to find all details of toppling these power structures as, yes, people will be hurt by that toppling.

I resist the things that keep me trapped. We were made to be free. In fact, Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it to the fullest.” Now aside from Paul’s apocalyptic writing on restrictions to everything because he believed the Son of Man was coming within his lifetime, this life to the fullest meant that we were free to live life the way we wanted. This was not a free license to hurt people. No, It was a life free to live in a way that you could love freely, give freely, accept freely, enjoy freely, and listen to whatever music you want. (minus experimental jazz, because that’s not really music in my opinion.) If someone’s theology, or someone’s truth requires you to be trapped into service of them or someone else, that is not a good theology or truth. The simplicity of it is, don’t hurt other people, just live your life. That’s not easy thing to parse out at all. But it does simplify how to resist entrapment. Resist by being kind, loving freely, and living freely. The Bible was not a book meant to enslave, but a book meant to provide freedom. Do not let yourself be oppressed. Resist.

I wanted to write something a bit more hopeful this week as I feel that my writing the past few months has been devoid of hope, and rather dark. I do believe there is a light. I am resisting the darkness as much as possible. I know that I’m not the absolute truth in any matter, and that my theology is rather wackadoodle these days. But I am more than happy to talk about it. I’m more than happy to discuss where I may be wrong, and where I may be right. That is the wonderful thing about the Christian Resistance. We accept all, we love all, we are not all right, we are not all wrong. I noticed this was a highly under used hash-tag on twitter and on Facebook. I decided to commandeer it and use it to bring some unity to those of us who feel out-of-place in both the “conservative” and “Progressive” Christian circles. I certainly don’t want to be seen as a leader, but more as someone who will help those who need it. I hope that I may be able to help those who need it, as that is my form of resistance. The popular society bends toward selfishness, oppression, and hate. I will resist that and be selfless, freeing, and loving. So I invite you to come and join the resistance. May we find that we are not alone, and that we matter.

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The Honest Faith: Grinding

Recently my car has been making a grinding sound from the rear wheels. I know it’s not healthy for my vehicle to continue to drive like that, as it may be the brakes rusting over. My car is old. Well 12 years old, but in car years that’s almost an eternity. I’m going to get this fixed as soon as I can, but the issue is that I still need to drive this vehicle to and from work, and to pick my son up from day care. There is a lot that goes into the timing and money it takes to fix a vehicle especially one as old and rusted as mine. Can I afford a Lyft to run my errands while my car is in the shop? Can I afford to get whatever it is that needs fixing, fixed? Will I be able to drive it for a few more days without making things worse? Should I ask for help, or is this one of those, I just gotta get it done things?

I feel, recently, the church has been showing signs of wear and tear as well. If you listen you can hear a loud grinding noise coming from the church in America. It sounds as if the old rusted words and theology are grinding against the modern society that is moving forward. Some may say this is a good thing. That the church was meant to be counter cultural. Though the problem is it’s not counter-cultural at all, it’s anti-cultural as if there was a pendulum that had culture in the middle where counter-culture was on one end of the spectrum and anti-culture was on the other. This grinding isn’t a good thing. It’s not healthy for either the church or the culture. It is a symptom of a much larger problem.

Using my personal predicament as a metaphor for the church there is an important question the church must ask itself. Can the church afford to ignore Jesus? This of course is an afford in a much broader sense than just monetary, though let’s begin there. In Luke’s Gospel there are a few stories about money and the importance it should take in life. There is the story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18: 18-30), there is the story of Jesus confronting the Pharisees (Luke 11-12), and there is even the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). The common thread for Jesus across the Gospel was not that wealth and money were bad, but rather the love thereof. Jesus, himself, taught that when you are focused on your own wealth and power it will consume you and not leave room for you to think about the world around you and how it may be affected. This leads us back to the church. Can the church afford to ignore Jesus? I’ve had a few encounters via social media with some evangelical christians who seem to trust Gordon Gekko above Jesus. They believe that “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” This is anti-culture. If you will notice society has trended in the way to say, money isn’t all there is to life. It has become more in-line with Absurdist philosophy  to understand that it is absurd to chase meaning in anything, especially money, other than just living your life. You may view a documentary on Netflix which was just released to examine more the state of which money has influenced Politics rather than people. This Documentary is by former white house economist Robert Reich called, “Saving Capitalism”. Now I could go on and on about how this particular grinding noise is playing out in the church today, but I’m not here to make the repairs just now. I’m here to ask the question, can the church afford to let the problem continue?

Let’s take a listen to another grinding noise coming from the church. Can the church afford to ignore abuse? Now this is a huge can of worms. I brought your attention to this two weeks ago, and it is now starting to encounter resistance from the church. Now the biggest argument from the church, again I’m sourcing from personal social media encounters, is from the beginning of John’s gospel in chapter 8. They site the end of the last verse of the certain story verse 11 where Jesus says, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” Aside from the fact that this story may never have happened according to Biblical scholars, it completely misses the point of the story. The story was to show that unless you yourself are completely perfect you shouldn’t be bringing judgment on another. We have some further writing from Paul in Romans 6, which I have discussed before, that say we certainly shouldn’t go on hurting people because we have license to now. Going back to our synoptic Gospel for this we have Jesus teaching on how we ought to treat each other, and none of those sounds like covering up the abuse of power (read a broad definition of abuse covering all forms). If you look at the end of Luke 6 you see the sermon on the mount, then you have the story of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet which Luke puts way before the Passion week unlike the other Synoptics (Luke 7), and the stories are continuous of this itinerant preacher man throughout the book of Luke where he tells people to treat others with kindness and love. Kindness and love do not turn blind eyes to abuse. They shine a light on it and bring it out. But again, I’m just asking the questions. Can the church afford to ignore abuse?

What about the grinding noise of lack of compassion? Notice, there is a huge uneven number in this country.  There are around 384,000 churches in America right now. As of 2015, here in America, there is an estimated 564,708 homeless people. Now if you were to assume that one of the churches main goals was to feed the hungry and house the homeless you would think that those numbers are disproportionately large. I mean consider that each church in America could house around 30 people per night, not super comfortably, but they could. If each church in America were to commit to housing that many people they could, in essense, give room and board to a grand total of 11,520,000. That’s a little under 5% of our total population in the US but it more than certainly can cover the total amount of homeless. Why is this? Why are churches not having compassion on those who are hungry and destitute? Is it because they are afraid of getting things dirty inside? When did the church become about presentation? Isn’t the work of the church about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, and supporting those who need support? That was Jesus’s message in the feeding of the 5000, in the story of the sheep and the goats, and in all of his messages about the Kingdom of the Divine. So what gives? Can the church afford to lose sight of it’s mission?

I could go on and on about the problems. I have for almost a year written a lot about these problems and how I think best to combat them. I have run out of things to say about the church in that, I think it’s time to move forward. To be honest, I, personally, have kind of given up on the organization of the church. I have my reasons. I have been hurt by the church more times than I’d like to admit. Yet, like Hosea, I kept coming back to the place that would hurt me. Almost as if I was a glutton for punishment. It wasn’t healthy for me and it wasn’t healthy for the churches either. It was a grinding that I needed to fix in my own life. Yes, I’m probably going to go and get my car fixed this weekend, I kinda need my car. But what can we do to fix the church at this point in time? I don’t have the answers. As I said two weeks ago, I believe we need a revival, but what does that look like? What do you think reader? Can the church afford to keep going on in its grinding or will it become way too expensive to fix that we will just have to replace it? Reader, your voice matters. What do you think? You are not alone, You matter.

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The Honest Faith: A Call for Revival

I am a husband, a father, a son, a brother, and a minister of the word. I take my duties which go along with these titles very seriously. I love my wife. I love my son. I love my mom and my dad. I love my sister and my brother. I also love all people. This love is not only my duty, but also my pleasure as to me it is more than just a responsibility. It is a calling. Love is not a difficult thing to grasp. It is complicated at times, but love is a simple concept. This simple concept has become twisted and manipulated over time however. Love has gone from “Not insisting on its own way” (I Cor. 13:5) to “it’s my way or the Highway (to hell).”

I mention my relationships, because that is where my deepest hurt is coming from recently. The love of my loved ones is the thing that is hindering my relationship with the Divine and the Divine’s supposed community. There has been a trend, especially in evangelical circles, toward moralism. This trend has replaced the gospel as the most important message of the western church. Moralism is the practice of moralizing, especially showing a tendency to make judgments about others’ morality. Yet, the odd thing is, this moralism has a very odd double standard that more aligns with a secular conservative morality rather than a morality of even Scriptures (take your pick on which). The western church has become obsessed with this idea of, for lack of a better term, American Moralism. Where the message has gone from: God loves you and forgives you no matter what, to: if you don’t follow God, guns, and the American dream you are going to hell.

This morality has a clear disdain for women, children (who have been born, fetus’ are another topic), LGBTQ+, pacifists, anyone who reads anything other than the Bible for historical study, scientists, historians, anyone who thinks anything remotely different than they do, anyone with a mixed or different heritage, and more recently anyone who watches any other news network besides “fox”. I say this disdain is clear because more recently in American politics it has become very evident what this moralism values above the Gospel. It values power, wealth, “rightness”, superstition, and fear. With the election and the excusing the sins of a man who openly admitted to molesting a married woman. The excusing of the sins of a judge who has more often than not shown a clear mistrust and racial bias against those of a different heritage, and has been recently accused of abusing his power to molest young women. These things were excused in an attempt to gain power and to instill a moralism to control others’ morality systems.

If you ask most of those christian moralists why that is, they will point to the one major issue that divides the country, Abortion. While it is an important issue to discuss, it is not the only issue on which we are divided. For example, I do not believe that elective abortion is good, or emotionally healthy. But I also believe in a woman’s right to choose that for herself, rather than having a moralist society say that it is completely illegal to do so. I understand the tough decisions that a woman needs to make. I understand that most do not go about it lightly. I do not believe most women go into the world thinking, “Oh, abortion is a valid form of birth control.” That is reductionistic and silly. I also do not believe in total Anarchy either, but that is a different story. This one issue, while important in itself, is used as the blinder to all others. It is the carrot on the stick that has led the vast majority of the western church astray from the path of the Gospel. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was never intended to be given to the church either. The western church, myself included, has been unable to see the forest for the trees for so long.

Most recently there has been a trend. This trend is a wonderful one. A very empowering and life giving, however world shattering, trend. This trend is about women speaking up and showing that sexual abuse, and harassment is much more common than people make it out to be. It was tagged on social media with #MeToo. While I am a man, and I have my own story of being the victim of sexual abuse, it is primarily meant for women as they have had a much harder time speaking up and being listened to for the sole purpose that they are women. The church, for the longest time, has faced many stories and allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of all sorts since time immemorial. Though with the virality of this trend, many more stories are coming to light. Just this week alone there are stories of pastors of mega-churches, 3 pastors in my state alone, and many more across the country. The church has repressed sexuality and even talk about sex for a long time, it is almost no wonder that we have gone beyond the boiling point for such stories. This is just sexual abuse, though. There have been all kinds of tyrannical abuse stories from spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, and so on from the church.

It is enough to make anyone say, “Enough!” Yet, the cries of the congregations go unheeded because they are not what is important to this beast we have created. No, this beast is massive, ugly, and only cares for power and wealth. That is all we are to it. Notice I use the small c when I refer to church, because there is a clear and distinct line between toxic moralism christianity and healthy Jesus following Christianity. That line, that gap, I’ve written about many times. It is widening, daily. It threatens to consume not just the United States of America, but the world whole. There is a problem, you may choose to ignore it, God help you if you do, but it is there. When moralism becomes more important than the gospel message we’re just feeding the small c church monster.

I used a term to title this blog post that may trigger some memory of abuse for some, for that I apologize. But I use it for a purpose. The purpose is that I’m trying to speak the language of those who are caught up in the beast’s grasp. Those who are all to willing to ignore the problem. Because it is time we take a good hard look at what the church has become. It is time we ask the important questions like “What does the gospel look like in the 21st century?” We need a revival. We are a resurrection people. It may mean we need to let the western church as we know it die, so that it may be resurrected. I don’t know what it is supposed to look like. I don’t have the answers to that. I’m just a writer, and minister in the USA, what do I know. I just know something needs to be done. I just know that we cannot continue how we are going because this problem, this beast threatens us all. We are dealing with the impacts of that beast every day. There are more mass shootings every day. There are more stories of abuse coming to light every day. There are more and more people suffering new abuse stories every day. There is a church that has been consumed by moralism rather than the gospel. In case you forgot, the gospel is this: GOD LOVES EVERYONE! Everyone is welcome at the table. No strings, no agendas, no morality needed. EVERYONE. For God so loved the world that God decided to move into the neighborhood, so that we may see that God loved us enough to suffer and die with us. Whoever decides to accept that love is welcomed to that love. For God didn’t come to judge us, but that we may be saved from our own moralism.

This is your call to revival. This is your call to take a good hard look at the church. If you are going to a toxic church, If you realize that you are in the grips of this monster we have created, it is time to get out. It is time find a healthy Jesus following Church. One that does not care about the money or the power that you bring to it, a Church that welcomes you for who and what you are. A Church that cares for and welcomes everyone with no strings, no agenda, no need for moralism. That is the Agape Love, the unconditional love that the Bible talks about. That is Good Christianity. They exist. They are out there, though they may be hard to find. Take care of yourselves. These are tough times we live in. Remember that you are not alone, you matter. You are not alone, you matter. You are not alone, you matter.

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The Honest Faith: Fear

In his book “The Devil and Miss Prym” Paulo Coelho wrote “Fear again. If you want to control someone, all you have to do is to make them feel afraid.” While this is from a novel it does display a deeper truth about our world. Fearmongering has been a trend of those in power for many years. In the “Nuremberg Diary” Gustave Gilbert writes how Nazi leader Hermann Goering explained this tactic “The people don’t want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” I read once in a novel, I can’t remember which one for the life of me at the moment, that fear was how the secret society was controlling the world since the end of the cold war. Even though it was a silly plot device in a novel it still held some truth to it. Have we been controlled by fear?

Recently, I’ve joined a digital community that is made up of people who have left the Evangelical christian culture. Some have left christianity altogether, some are still trying to find out what is true in the arena. One of the major themes I’ve noticed in the background of many of these people is the use of fear as a manipulation tool. This has been done through Fearmongering or creating a culture of fear. As I have been working through my anxiety to claw my way back out into some resemblance to normalcy, I noticed that so much of that anxiety was a manufactured fear of the false truths I let people lord over me. I have thought a lot about my career inside the church walls and I noticed the places where I was the most abused were places that had a culture of fear so as to give the priest or pastor some sort of power over the congregation. This wasn’t all churches, and I’m not going to point fingers. That wouldn’t be helpful, suffice to say I experienced it first hand. I’m trying not to be afraid anymore.

What are you afraid of? Why are you afraid of it? Who told you or taught you to be afraid of whatever it is? This is a big question to ask ourselves as it will help to determine why it is we do some of the things that we do. In 1976 a satirical film titled “Network” took a look at the unusual nature of the broadcasting industry. The unusualness of this satire is that it became reality. This reality was centered around people’s anger, yet when it was found to be unsustainable shifted to this fearmongering that most news networks have resorted to. They’ve been doing it for a long time, some have perfected that art through their far right or far left ideologies. I don’t think I need to name names again, as you probably already know what I refer to and it isn’t helpful.

There is so much to be afraid of. If you turn on the tv, listen to the radio, or even go to church on a Sunday morning you are told to be afraid. America has been kept in this constant state of fear since the end of World War II. I’m not going to tell you that there isn’t anything to be afraid of because that is just reductionistic and not true. Yes, there are things to be afraid of, but in the grand scheme of things they are small. These fears, statistically speaking, have almost a non-existent amount of happening to you. I know that doesn’t make it better. But it helps to remember what is real, tangible, and possible. I can recite a number of platitudes and verses about how not to be afraid, but again, I know that doesn’t help. What does help, is knowing that you aren’t alone. You matter. What you do can make a difference. What helps is naming the fear, knowing it exists, and reminding yourself of how small it is compared to you.

With that being said I want to turn our attention to the church. I know that what I’m about to write may be controversial. Though let me preface it by saying that I follow Yeshua. I’m a firm believer in the Divine. My beliefs have changed a lot, but I still consider myself to be Christian. I’m not asking you to get rid of your beliefs, I’m just asking you to have an open mind about what I’m about to say. I want you to examine your faith. Take a close look at why you believe in the Divine, and/or Jesus. Was it because you were told there was something to fear? Were you coerced into church and all that Churchianity stuff by a fear that your immortal soul would be forever condemned if you didn’t? Were you taught by using Pascal’s wager? Was there an altar call at every service at your church? It may be that your pastor or priest did not intentionally do this to control their congregation. It probably wasn’t even their fault. They were probably genuinely concerned for your immortal soul. That isn’t to say they weren’t complicit in the culture of fear within the church. Have you joined groups or volunteered for something within the church out of this fear? Maybe it was fear that other people would gossip, or that the one old church lady would judge you if you didn’t. But it was there, wasn’t it? Take a good hard look at your faith and your church. Are you going willingly, or are you being guilted or coerced into it by fear?

Something that I have learned through my year of therapy, I have since “graduated”, is that when you realize a fear is there, when you name the fear, and realize how small it is in comparison to yourself, you can then begin to stand against it. I have found this through the man Yeshua. I found that he taught not fear, but power. Power to those who were powerless before. He taught those who were kept in this state of fear to stand up and topple these fears by being human. He taught those who were outcasts of society that there was no system to fear. He even said the faith (read: longing) of a mustard seed could move mountains. A little bit of longing for the world to be a better place could drive you to make it so. That is bigger than fear. Action speaks louder than fear. Bravery can only be accomplished in the face of fear. I’ve written about questioning and the importance of always questioning. I’ve written about a fair number of things at this point. But I think this is the important point about this. If you are too afraid to question those who lead you, why do you allow them to lead you? If you are being kept in subjugation through fear, you need to stand up and question that fear. You need to question those who tell you to fear. You may find there was nothing to fear all along.

I’m not going to tell you not to be afraid. That isn’t helpful. Instead, I’m going to tell you to examine that fear. Figure out what is causing it. Look at it in the grand scheme of life. In comparison to who you are it is small. So stand up, be brave. Don’t let that fear pretend it is bigger than you because it isn’t. If you are struggling with fear, If you are being forced to do something out of fear, or if you feel the fear is too big for you to face alone please seek help. You are not alone, after all. Send someone you trust a message. Or even send me a message. I would be happy to help, though I am not licensed professional in any way. You don’t have to face it alone. The fear is not bigger than you. You are bigger than the fear. Don’t let fear be your faith, Yeshua never taught that. Let love be your faith. Let Love set you free. Your faith, beliefs, and worldview should not be something that is brought about by fear. They shouldn’t even be something that feels like a burden or restricting. Instead, it should be freeing. Freeing to love, and be brave in the face of that fear. Freeing to stand and fight for others to be released from that fear. Love frees all. Love conquers all. Love is love. Love can never be a sin. So go free others with that love. Fear not, for I am with you. You are not alone, you matter!

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The Honest Faith: 95 Theses for a Modern Church

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately to many different voices and many traditions of faith. I’ve noticed a lot. I’ve found a lot and learned a lot. I’ve listened to a lot of Protestant voices, Catholic voices, and Orthodox voices. There is a resounding chord that is played across those voices. There is a thread that connects all but is also very distant to many. I’ve listened to Muslim, Buddist, Jewish, Christian, and Other voices as well. It has been very helpful to get some objectivity and difference of opinion on my own religious tradition as well. I have done a lot of deconstruction and am working to reconstruct what it means to be a Jesus follower for me. Since it is the Reformation week and this is the 500th anniversary of the time that Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the chapel door at Wittenburg I felt it would be helpful for me to write my 95 theses of a reconstructed Jesus Follower theology. I use the term Ancient-Future because as I have been learning I learned that the Christianity of old looked much much different than the Christianity of today. I think we lost a lot. So in order to help with some reconstruction here are my 95 theses:

  1. When Yeshua preached the Gospel He said that the Kingdom of the Divine was “at hand” or here and now meaning that the time of good was now or soon, and so stop doing bad things. (Matt 4:17, Mark 1:15, Luke 3:2-3)
  2. Yeshua’s message of repentance was about power systems and stop treating others worse than dirt.
  3. This repentance was done through your life, not just your belief. Faith without works is dead. (James 4)
  4. The Divine doesn’t care about “sin” but more cares that we do what was asked of us throughout both Jewish, and Christian scriptures which is to we love the Divine, love others, and love ourselves.
  5. No other person can define what your religious practice is “supposed” to look like. That’s different for each person. We all encounter the Divine in our own ways.
  6. Shovelling guilt upon people in order for them to be “moral” is no way to make good people, only causes abuse and anxiety
  7. There is no hierarchy in the Kingdom of the Divine, other than the Divine itself being over all. We are all equal.
  8. As Yeshua taught, the law was made for man, not man for the law. It’s there for us to know how to be good humans, not for us to be slaves to some code.
  9. We have no idea if there is an afterlife. We do not know if there is an actual Heaven or Hell. We create them every day in how we treat others, so make your world Heaven rather than Hell.
  10. There are many “spiritual” leaders who will try to sell you their way of understanding. No one person has it all figured out. If they say they do they are trying to sell you something.
  11. Power and control are only held by those we give it to. When that power is abused it is our duty to speak up and take back the power we gave to them.
  12. Knowledge and education are not bad things. It is good to learn all you can, if it shakes what you believe, all the better. Learn what is true.
  13. Death calls to life. Throughout nature, we see this. We are a resurrection people. Sometimes things need to die in order to be reborn. This is change. It hurts, but something new is coming.
  14. Love is love. Love cannot be sin. If someone loves someone of the same gender, it is not a sin. There is really only one sin, Hate. (see 4)
  15. Telling others that they should “Sin no more” is akin to saying “I am God” what you deem to be a sin probably isn’t even a sin. There is really only one sin, Hate.
  16. If there is an afterlife, it is not ours to say who is in or who is out. There is a concept that Heaven and hell are the same place it is only a matter of how you view other people. (see 9)
  17. Worry is not a sin. Anxiety is a very real mental disorder. Don’t try to tell people to wish it away, that isn’t helpful. Instead, love them enough to help them get the help they need.
  18. For that matter just love people. Give them the help they need regardless.
  19. Nothing is for sure in this life. There is only one thing we can know for sure. We are all going to die, and it is sooner than we think. So just give love to everyone, for that is the true way to measure your life.
  20. Theology is really just best guesses at the Divine. Don’t live under the tyranny of someone else’s truth. Find out what is true for you.
  21. People will always try to take advantage of you. Be wise about this, but do not let it stop you from giving love and kindness freely. Don’t let them force their truth upon you.
  22. Don’t be afraid to speak truth to power. The powerful may not listen, but their followers will.
  23. Nobody is perfect. NOBODY not even you. So don’t worry about being perfect. Worry about loving yourself anyway.
  24. People will try to sell you ways of being perfect, but the honest truth is they are trying to sell you stuff. You aren’t perfect, that’s okay.
  25. Pastors and Priests are human too. It means that they aren’t perfect either. Allow them to be human. It’s okay, they are trying to find the Divine same as you.
  26. Listen to your pastors and priests, if something seems illogical or way outside of your truth, ask them about it. Don’t go along blindly. Questioning is good.
  27. If you don’t feel comfortable in a modern church setting, don’t go. It’s supposed to be about community. Community only works when you are a part of it.
  28. Take a good look at your priest or pastor if they are only seeking money, power, or fame. You probably shouldn’t be seeking their advice.
  29. There are other voices than your own. You would be wise to listen to the truths they have found. Though be discerning about those you take to heart.
  30. Nobody has the full truth. Which is why we are all seekers of wisdom.
  31. Don’t give money to those preachers who tell you it will increase your blessing. Just don’t.
  32. Money will not buy you salvation. It can grant you peace of mind knowing your bills will be paid.
  33. Know that others struggle with money, and therefore need your help. If you have extra, give extra.
  34. Yeshua taught that the Kingdom of the Divine was like a great feast where all were invited. Give freely to all.
  35. Do not attach strings to the Love of the Divine. There are no strings, no agendas, nothing you have to do to earn it. It’s already yours.
  36. The only sin is hate. That is the opposite of love. If you do not love your fellow man, then you are sinning. It’s pretty simple. Just love.
  37. Yeshua only gave one commandment to his followers, “that you love one another as I have loved you”. (John 13:34)
  38. Yeshua was a man, we also consider him to be Divine. True study of what this man was like is essential to be a follower of his.
  39. Even the most educated and most published theologians have not gotten it all figured out. Study and find what is true, but don’t ever believe you have it all figured out.
  40. Love those who hate you, It’s hard I know. But be kind, listen to what they have to say, if there is no truth in it don’t take anything they have to say to heart.
  41. A Yeshua follower’s true mission is just to love.
  42. Loving requires a bit of humility on your part. Don’t believe yourself better than anyone else. Instead imagine others as complexly as you imagine yourself.
  43. Give freely. If you have extra, give extra. Give until you can’t give anymore, and keep giving even then. If you don’t have money, give your time, if you don’t have time, give your love. Love freely, give freely.
  44. Love grows the more you understand and know about something. So learn about your fellow man. Understand the struggles.
  45. The Good Samaritan is a story about a hated individual giving of himself even though the person he helped probably hated him. Be like the good Samaritan.
  46. Take care of your family. Don’t give what you cannot give. Be responsible. We were told to be good stewards of what was given to us.
  47. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. We all need help from time to time. Don’t let people shame you for getting help either.
  48. Christians should be taught the full history of our faith, not just the highlights. The debates about whether Yeshua was a man or just spirit. The henotheistic nature of the followers at the time of the man. ect.
  49. Christians should also be taught that the Bible, while a great story about the nature of God, is only a book, and should not be elevated to Divinity. That is how idols are made.
  50. Christians should not guilted into doing anything for the church. It only survives if the community is there willingly, and doing the work of loving people we were told to do.
  51. Christians were meant to live life to the fullest, not enslaved to laws and moral codes. Those who say otherwise are trying to gain power, money, or control.
  52. It is vain to trust in salvation by giving money, believing the teachings of someone because they have a lot of followers or the amount of fame they have, or just plain belief. Salvation is not earned, it’s already given you already have it. So live freely, love freely, and give freely.
  53. It is against the teachings of Yeshua to hate or divide people. It is against the teachings of Yeshua to subjugate others. All are equal.
  54. An injury is done to the ability for people to think freely when the Bible is taken out of context or used in a way to hurt or injure someone.
  55. It is good to study further into the book of the Bible as one would find the truths of history.
  56. The Church should not be concerned about money, but rather about the people that grace its doorways.
  57. Yeshua spoke against those who sought fame, fortune and power. Yet the church has venerated those as masters as of late. Seek to venerate those who love above all else.
  58. Yeshua died for what he taught. I do believe that martyrdom did mean something and should teach us how important that message was.
  59. Social Justice is the work of the church. It always has been since the time of Yeshua. The work of Love is about fighting for Love, equality, and justice.
  60. Socialism, communism, capitalism, and so on are just ideas and concepts. They cannot be evil or good. How they are used is what would make them evil or good. They have all been used in evil ways over the course of human history.
  61. Listen to the ideas of others. Many people have good ideas. On paper, most things can work out, but the reality is certainly complicated and makes things difficult. So be realistic, but optimistic as well.
  62. The Divine is evident in all things. We should treat all things with the same respect and veneration we have for the Divine as all things are a attempting to be in concert with the Divine.
  63. Do not seek power, instead seek how you may help those with less have the same opportunities you did. Help them get started.
  64. Do not dismiss another due difference of belief. They may know something you don’t. Ask them and listen as to why they think how they do.
  65. Do not argue to be right, rather converse and ask in order to learn.
  66. If your church doesn’t care for the poor, the needy, the jobless, the orphan, the widow, the immigrant (regardless of how they entered), women, children, and those of “lesser status” you need to ask yourself why you are there.
  67. If you are going to church to be seen or to somehow be “holy” you are going for the wrong reasons.
  68. If your church would turn a homeless man away any day of the week and preach about one on a Sunday morning, you need to ask yourself why you go.
  69. If your church care more about in-reach (getting people to come and stay) rather than out-reach helping those they need to help, you need to examine why you go.
  70. If your church is more concerned about Stewardship (financial giving) rather than outreach you need to examine why you go.
  71. Find a community you feel comfortable with. Find a place you can serve your fellow human being with. Learn from each other there, don’t allow yourself to be complacent and content with just going.
  72. Don’t shun someone for asking questions. They seek the truth as well. They may just be trying to help everyone.
  73. Look for communities who are doing the work and give freely to that work of your time, talent, and money. If they don’t want your help find another community.
  74. Don’t let others in those communities put out your fire to do good. Find ways to make it helpful and fit, or find a different community.
  75. Remember there is nothing that can separate you from the love of the Divine, there is also nothing that you can do to earn it.
  76. If you cannot find a community, it may be that you have to make one yourself. Commit to it and find the support you need.
  77. Don’t sell yourself short because you aren’t like someone else. You are yourself and that is incredible.
  78. No one is greater than another. We are all human.
  79. While no one is greater than another, some have learned more than others. Listen to those who studied more than you. You may learn something important.
  80. Preachers and priests who say that one person is better than another are trying to sell you something. You would do well to question them.
  81. Those who spread such messages are not doing the work of the Divine.
  82. The Divine is everywhere and therefore does not favor one country over another.
  83. If you believe your country to be the favored of the Divine, you are mistaken and worshiping an idol.
  84. All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial. If you do something that hurts another, stop doing it. (1Corinthians 10)
  85. Let go of hate, grudges, and past misdeeds. Each day is a new day. Learn something new. Show love to someone. Be the change you want to see.
  86. It’s not hard to show love to someone. Just take it one day at a time, one person at a time.
  87. Anger does not equal hate. When you are angry it means something is wrong. Examine it find what it is, do something about it. When anger stagnates it becomes hate.
  88. Don’t go off unexamined. Hasty actions can be misinformed and ill-advised.
  89. Stand for what you believe in.
  90. Show love to those who hate you.
  91. Be slow to anger.
  92. Love
  93. Realize you are not alone.
  94. Realize you matter.
  95. Since you are not alone and you matter, what you do can make a difference.

Of course this is all just what I think. You are not alone. You matter.

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The Honest Faith: Context

Okay, let’s play a game. I’m going to reference a couple of pieces of pop culture and you try to guess where they are from before reading on where I’ll post an answer key below. Okay, you ready?

  1. Chaka when the walls fell
  2. Winter is coming
  3. Don’t have a cow, man!
  4. I’m in a glass case of emotion!
  5. Alonsi!
  6. Blessed be the fruit! Praise be!
  7. (said while arms spread) EAGLE!
  8. The only thing better than a cow is a human! Unless you need milk. Then you really need a cow.
  9. May the Force be with you!
  10. Bah! Humbug!
  11. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
  12. I have been, and shall always be your friend.
  13. Ye’r a wizard, Harry!
  14. faster than a speeding bullet, Stronger than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
  15. With great power comes great responsibility.

These pieces are pictures of our culture. I started off with a hard one, and if you got it extra points to you because that is the one I want to discuss. There is an episode of Star Trek the next generation that delves into language, story, and analogy. The crew of the Enterprise D is out to broker a deal with a race that only speaks in analogy. They only use stories to speak to one another. The actions taken in those stories are what they mean and how they wish others to act. I really wanted to do a full study on this episode with most church groups that I worked with.

I think one of the biggest things I took away from this particular episode is how when we only speak in Churchenese that people never really fully understand what we are saying. I wanted to have that discussion with other Christians at the time. This was until this past year when I started to strip down my beliefs and find out what really was worth keeping. I have to be honest, since college, I never have seen the Bible as a literal and historically accurate book. I love the Bible. I believe that it is completely true about the nature and character of the Divine when taken as story, narrative, poetry, and speeches. Though when I started out on this new journey of Honest Faith. I started to take a deeper look at the man Jesus. I wanted to find out who this historical person was outside of all the myth.

I did a lot of study on this in college, I even had roommates who sort of worshipped John Dominic Crossan. But I never went fully into this study of who the real man was. I knew that there were popular stories at the time of Ceasar’s being born of god and called the son of god. Even the Egyptians said that of their Pharaohs. There were other god men at the time. The Pagans and Jewish people all believed that Divine beings could become human and humans could become Divine. I also even learned that the Jewish people were all monotheistic. That was until recently. Recently I’ve been listening to an audiobook called “How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee” by Bart D. Ehrman. There is a ton of information in this book and it’s probably better read than listed to as I keep having to pause to digest the information I was taking in.

In the Book Ehrman within the first two chapters talks about what the Pagans and Jewish people believed and were sort of like during the time of Jesus. I say sort of because it’s all from archeology and writings from the time period and we can probably never truly know what life was like for them unless we somehow invent a time machine. Ehrman starts by talking about Apollonius of Tyana who was a contemporary and also rival story to that of Yeshua. (What’s funny is he’s also quoted on the wiki page I linked) He also talks about how Apollonius was, according to his myth, born of a virgin who was chosen by the divine, performed miracles, and even resurrected from the dead. He uses this to emphasize that the pagans also believed in divine beings becoming human. He goes on to talk about how the Jewish people were not Monotheistic but rather Henotheistic. They believed that there were many gods but only one who deserved honor and worship. His book illuminated a lot of things for me thus far, but I want to focus on the one big point of this all, CONTEXT.

In his book, Ehrman describes some of the contexts on how to use the gospels as source materials to find the historical man Jesus. He doesn’t delve too much into it and he points out to other source materials for people to go further into that study. His most important point of it all, however, is context is everything. This is the reason why I bring up modern pop culture and the reason for writing this week. Have you ever noticed that when taken out of context people can use quotes, words, passages, and even verses to mean whatever they want them to mean? Let’s take number 8 from above. The show (hint) did not receive great ratings while it was on the air, even though in my opinion it was one of the most awesome tv shows. Out of context, it doesn’t mean much. It seems like someone is comparing humans and cows. Out of context I could say that the speaker was standing on a farm and looking at a heard of cows. Since it’s on tv you could probably picture that. You probably even pictured maybe a whole police crew at a crime scene next to a herd of cows, because in our modern context procedural crime dramas dominate our pop culture landscape. If you know where the quote came from, however, you know that none of that is accurate at all. The same is true with how we read the Bible.

If you have been lucky enough to live in a cave and never had any preconceived idea spoken to you or given to you about the Christian Bible, and were given a copy without chapter markings, verse numbers, book titles, and footnotes. How do you think it would read? Besides probably giving up at the whole “Begats” part, what would you think this person would take from it? A story of a people who were slaves first to death, then to the gods of their fathers, and then to the ancient Egyptians (and more) who are constantly saved and redeemed by this Divine being working through humans. Finally, after about midway through, you come to this shift. There are four similar but different stories about this preacher in Isreal about 300 to 400 years after the last thing you read. One of those stories is way-way out there in abstractness. The message seems to remain the same only instead of physical slavery items this preacher guy brings up abstract slavery of the mind to something called sin. You know from the context of the past reading that it is mostly those things that separate a person from God. Yet, this preacher doesn’t seem too concerned about those rules or laws. He seems more concerned about love for everybody. There is an immediateness of what he has to say because as you read the end is near and is coming. After his stories, there are stories of his followers. Everything after is letters from those followers and a weird story of a vision that someone had that is sort of in a letter. Have you ever thought objectively about the Bible in this context? Have you ever read it without someone giving you context beforehand? Have you taken it out of context yourself?

One of the things that I’m finding as I’m searching for Honest Faith is that context is everything. Through my writing, podcasting, and social media-ing I’m finding that context is key to almost everything. You can’t really understand what someone posts unless you know where they are and what they are doing. You can’t really understand people unless you know the context of their lives. How are we 2000 years after even the writing of the Gospels, which by the way the first was written about 30 to 40 years after Jesus’ death, supposed to really understand this man? None of us grew up in rural Isreal around the beginning of the Common or Christian Era. None of us really have a full context even for the rest of the Bible.

The reason I write this today is not to get all thoroughly intellectual on you. I write today because recently I’ve seen a lot of people using the Christian Bible to harm other people. They take verses and passages way out of context and use it as a sword. It was never intended to be a weapon. In fact, as I’ve been searching for this historical Jesus guy, I’m finding that he probably would have very much disliked that. I write because I feel deeply that we have lost the plot completely while reading and studying this book. That we need to find better and more historical context to gather what the writers were really trying to convey. Not just with the Bible, but with almost anything that can happen. The point of my post today is this “Context is EVERYTHING”. Thank you for indulging my intellectual aside for this weeks post. You are not alone, You matter.

 

ANSWER KEY

  1. Star Trek- The Next generation
  2. Game of Thrones
  3. The Simpsons
  4. Anchorman
  5. Doctor Who
  6. The Handmaid’s Tale
  7. Scrubs
  8. Fringe
  9. Star Wars
  10. A Christmas Carol
  11. Romeo and Juliet
  12. Star Trek- Original series second movie “the wrath of khan”
  13. Harry Potter
  14. Superman
  15. Spiderman
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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 13

Chapter 13

Esperanza was again teaching a large crowd. One of the many who were gathered asked her to settle a dispute. He asked, “Miss if you would, my brother will not share the inheritance with me.” Esperanza laughed a bit at this, “Who made me judge or divider of wealth? Listen, don’t measure your life with golden rulers. You cannot truly live if you measure your life with wealth or stuff.” She then saw that there was some misunderstanding at this so she told them a story. “Imagine a wealthy wall street banker. This man is single and has no immediate family. He buys all the most wonderful things that money can buy. He has a nice penthouse apartment overlooking the city. He has all that he could possibly want, but he still felt uneasy because he was alone. One night he has a heart attack. As the pain subsides and he contemplates his own mortality he realizes how fruitless his life must be. He has stored up so much wealth, but who would gain from it all when he passes? Shouldn’t he have used that wealth to help others?”

She continued teaching, “So again, why worry so much about those things? Does worry put food on your plate, or clothes on your back? I know there is so much anxiety that is built up for you by our society; to have more, or be more. I know, believe me. But think about the wild animals. Do they worry about planting or where they are going to find food? No, they go looking for it and most find what they need. How much more do you think the Divine cares for you. Not that it will magically appear, but if you go looking for it. If you work for it, you will find it. So may wealth and riches not add to your worry. There are other things to worry about. Worry instead if your neighbor has enough to eat. Worry instead that your friends have the clothes they need. Instead, seek the Kingdom of the Divine. By worrying about those things you seek that kingdom. The Divine will be present with those who use what they have to provide for those in need. Instead of storing up wealth, store up experiences, love, friendship, and charity. Keep doing these things we have talked about. If you give and give and give of yourself until you can give no more, you will be ready for when you are in need. Those you have given to would happily give back to you in kind. Always be ready to help those in need, as you have been given much, much is needed from you. It is like a store owner who leaves his employees in charge while he is on vacation. The store owner did not tell the employees when the vacation would end. Would the employees just slack off and leave the store unlocked after hours? Do you think the store owner would be happy? What if they did what was expected of them and more? What if they gave the extra to those in need? Would the store owner return happily? Of course! For with great power comes great responsibility. If you have been given much, much will be expected of you. So do it. Give what you have. This message is dangerous because it flies in the face of those of power. I have not come to comfort the power structures. I’ve come to light the fire of rebellion. I’ve come to tear down the walls.”

She said this with unease as she could tell that those in power knew this. She was dangerous to their power and they would do what they needed to stop her. She saw the signs of this as more and more came to her lessons. They often would stand in the back or on the outskirts of the crowd with scowls. Not once would they participate or listen. She knew this message was one that would catch fire. She spoke anyway.

She continued, “You know what is right. You know how to treat your fellow man. Why do you pretend not to know? I’m telling you the time is coming that you will have to answer for how you treated one another. You have heard about how the Governor has imprisoned and even deported those who have protested? Some are being executed for crimes they did not commit. Do you think these people are worse than those who say nothing? I tell you unless you stand up and treat each other with love you will suffer the same fate. What about those who were working on “The Wall” between the USA and Mexico who died when it fell on them? Do you think they were worse people than anybody else? No, they weren’t. All people are worthy of love. It’s like an orange tree planted in a yard. If the person who planted the orange tree sees that it does not produce oranges wouldn’t he cut it down and dig it out? Unless you love your fellow man, regardless, you are like the orange tree. Unless you give of yourself without agenda, you are like so many unfruitful trees.”

<  Chapter 12  |  Chapter 14  >

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The Honest Faith: UnChristian

When I was little my great-grandfather, who I called Bop, had a car that talked. It wasn’t anything fancy, it would just tell you often, “The door is ajar, The door is ajar.” His favorite joke was to ask us kids, “When is a door not a door?” Since we were kids we didn’t know this one. He would humorously say, “When it is ajar!” He wasn’t a very expressive person. He loved his family, you knew this by the way he treated them. It didn’t take a lot. He always made sure that we kids had good shoes. That is one thing I remember most about him. Though this joke always stood out to me. I think now more than ever. When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar. I started to think about this in the terms of the metaphorical door to heaven. When is that door not a door? When it’s ajar. I thought about when it would be open, my thought, maybe completely heretical, but I don’t think it closes. When is a Christian not a Christian? When they try to close that door.

Recently I’ve been seeing more and more divides happening. Maybe it’s because people are finally waking up to the reality that they have already been there. Maybe it’s because people are sick and tired of the same old, same old. Whatever the case may be the divides are there and they are widening. I didn’t start the fire, it was always burning, since the world was turning. More and more people are turned off by the word Christian. It’s not just because of the annoying things Christians have done. I wrote about that before. It’s because we, I’m including myself, have lost sight of the good news. Our ideas became about saving souls and being profitable at that. We got a numbers game mixed up with a loving game. They are two separate things and never should have been combined. When is a Christian not a Christian? When they are concerned with the number of souls they are saving rather than actually “saving” souls.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be concerned about the “state” of someone’s soul. I’m just saying that I’ve seen more and more people aren’t really concerned about that. They are more concerned about being right. This obsession with being right causes them to be blind to truths that are right in front of them. They gloss over all manner of evil and hate in order to get the “I’m the one who is right” badge. The problem being, it’s a scorched earth campaign. They will change things in order to be right. When that happens people get hurt. People die, and all in an attempt to be correct. Jesus noticed this. “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke 9:24-26) When is a Christian not a Christian? When their desire to be right, outweighs their desire to love.

As I was writing my story this week I noticed something in Luke 11 and 12. I noticed that Jesus didn’t have time for those Pharisees and Lawyers who just did religion to make themselves look good. Have you ever noticed that people like to use these passages to point out how people are not “Christian” because they just go to church and don’t actually believe? The odd thing is, Jesus gave specifics. He said you clean the outside of the cup but leave the inside dirty. He said that those who tithe to the church and do all of the religious Riga-ma-roll yet do not care for people were the ones who were not following him. He says woe to those who don’t let people think for themselves, but rather force them to believe what the person teaching believes. He goes on to tell stories about how people who try to close the doors to heaven were not followers of His. When is a Christian not a Christian? When they don’t follow Christ.

Maybe it got too confusing for people. Maybe they thought that you needed to be moral to get into heaven. Maybe the whole afterlife thing was made up to try to scare people into the church. Whatever the case may be, that was never the message. When considering morality what did Jesus do? He ate and drank with “sinners and prostitutes”. When asked what the most important commandments in the entire law were, what did Jesus say? “Love” Simply when it comes down to it WWJD (For those of you who were blessed enough to not live through that craze in the 90’s it stands for What Would Jesus Do?)? Jesus would love. Jesus did love. In fact, that is what the entire story is about! IT’S ABOUT LOVE! Jesus didn’t come to condemn people (John 3:17). Jesus didn’t come for us to follow the rules, but rather for us to understand the rules are there to help us love other people not enslave them by them (Luke 6). Jesus didn’t come that we may be slaves to some higher power, Jesus came that we may have life, and have it to the fullest (Luke 5 and John 10)! When is a Christian not a Christian? When they don’t love.

When did the message get off of Love? When did it become this whole loving someone so that they become a moral person business? NO!!! Jesus even said it a few times not to judge it’s right there in Luke 6 if you don’t believe me. Even with the whole turning the other cheek thing, that’s not about being a pushover. That’s about loving in a way that shows you are a human being too. That you have needs as well. That loving isn’t about changing the other person. It has never been about change. Change is the Divines business, not the churches. Something I learned from my Bop was that you don’t have to be present every day in someone’s life to show them that you love them. You don’t even have to say it. You just have to be there when they need something! It’s that simple. I needed shoes, he’d be there. Turning your cheek means you are willing tobe human to that person and turn the other side so they have to see you as human. That doesn’t mean staying in a relationship that is abusive. If someone is abusing you, get out. That is toxic. Love is not violent. Love is not complex. Love is love. No matter what.

So fellow Christian, ask yourself, “Am I loving people, without agenda?” If the answer is anything but yes, you are doing it wrong. That is decidedly unlike Christ, and therefore unchristian. If you are trying to close the “doors to heaven” and say those people cannot come in, that is unchristian. If you are saying that people who are “Pro-choice, LGBTQ+, Democrat, Republican, Independent, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, or anything else” are evil, unclean, or whatever that’s not loving. I wrote about that, too. I’m going to make this very simple for you. Hate is hate. Love is love. Love is not sin, no matter what skin it’s in. Love can never be sin. Love is not hate. Hate dressed up as love is not love. Jesus even said ” I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) When is a Christian a Christian? When they follow the Christ by loving one another.

I’ve seen a lot of bad theologians try to take Jesus’ and Paul’s words out of context. I’ve seen them use it to hurt people. I’ve seen those words dressed up so that they become hate. That, to me, is unchristian. I cannot say that they are not Christian, because who am I to say such. I just know that when there is bad fruit, the tree is bad. Maybe you have seen this too. Maybe this makes you want to leave the church altogether. Maybe you want to blame God for all of this. That’s okay. I understand. I see it too. I love that Jesus guy though. So despite what people say about Him, or try to turn Him into, I’m still going to follow him. To me, his message was very simple, “Love”. So that is what I do. I love. I love people and it hurts me to see them using the Christian Bible to hurt others. It hurts me to see that being used in an attempt to be right rather than the original purpose which was to heal. It hurts when Christians are not Christians. Maybe one day we’ll get this love thing right. So you are not alone in that hurt. I love you. You are not alone, You matter.

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The Story of Esperanza Reyes: Chapter 12

Chapter 12

She was meditating in the morning. When she had looked up, one of her friends asked her, “Can you teach us to meet with the Divine?” She thought for a moment and said, “When you meditate quiet your mind and think on these things, Divine, who is both outside and within. May I love as you are love. May your love fill me so that all I need is provided for. Teach me to love like you do so that I may not harm any other. May I even love those who harmed me. I know it is easy to forget to love, may I not grow lazy or weary of loving. Which of you would turn away a friend in need? Even in the middle of the night? None of you would because they are your friends. It is like that with the Divine. The Divine is not a cosmic slot machine. Instead, the Divine is more like a parent. If your child asks you for a fish would you give a snake instead? Or what if your child asks for something to eat, would you give them rocks to eat? Though not all is within the Divine to supply. Meeting with the Divine is for you. It is for you to think about all your needs and questions, and quiet your mind for a possible answer.”

One day as she was curing a man who had an addiction, the crowd had been so impressed by her. There were some from the synagogue and the churches. They were terrified by her. “She must be from the devil. No one can just cure addictions! This power must come from hell.” She turned to them. “How can I be from the devil? Can the devil cast out the devil? A house divided against itself will tear itself apart. If the devil is divided against the devil how can he stand? If I cure things from hell, how can I do it in the name of the devil? What if you are wrong and I’m from the Divine? Wouldn’t that mean you are calling what is of the Divine, evil? I’m not doing this just as a parlor trick. I’m also looking to get to the reason he turned to drugs in the first place. If I just cure his addiction, he will eventually go back, because there is something that caused this to happen. So instead maybe if you asked how you could help this man stay clean and cure the deeper pains, maybe you would see the Divine in what I do.” Those who called her the devil, became angry. “Give us a sign then, to show us that you are from the Divine.” She rolled her eyes and sighed heavily. “Why do all of you place the burden of proof upon me? You are the ones who called me the devil. Maybe you are the ones who need to prove what you say.” She took the opportunity to teach a lesson about Jonah. “The people of Nineveh were despised and said to be of the devil, yet they ended up listening and understanding the error of their ways. How would you believe you were wrong even if I show you a sign? Would you purposely hide good things, just so that you would be right? Be careful when you deny the good that you not fall farther into evil yourself. You pretend very well to be good, but even as the prophet Isaiah said ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ You deny the love of the Divine in order to look good in front of other people. You may keep your traditions. I’ll follow love. These people from the synagogues and churches are the type of people who are all about looking good in front of others. That’s like washing the outsides of dishes, but not the inside. Seriously, You tithe your money, but you completely neglect the justice and love of the Divine. Those were the important things that you forgot about in order to look good.  You love the best seats in the synagogues and churches, woe to you. You are like makeup on a pig, woe to you.” A lawyer stopped her to point out, “Teacher, by saying this aren’t you also judging us?” But she went on, “Woe to you lawyers also! You and those like you load men with burdens hard to bear, yet don’t help one iota with those burdens at all. You, the priests, and rabbi all hold fast to these rules and regulations that cause nothing but anxiety and pain for people. You didn’t listen to those who came before me. Instead you killed and silenced all who spoke against your evil, greed, and corruption. You have taken away the key of knowledge and treat those who follow you like idiots. Yet you do not know anything about that which you proclaim to know either!” As she said this she walked out of the venue in which she was teaching. From that point on those she spoke against conspired to silence her.

She met during this time with her friends. “Beware of these lawyers, priests, and rabbi they are going to lead many away from the Divine with their words, but it is just so much hypocrisy. The truth will always come to light though. Nothing that is hidden will stay that way for long. They may want to kill or silence you in other ways, but the ideas the truths will come out. Do not worry about them, because the Divine will not forget about you. The Divine knows that you know and speak the truth. You are special in the Divine’s eyes. People can say what they want about me, but those who speak against what the Divine is doing in you, they better watch out. The Divine will be with you, even when they try to kill or silence you.”

<  Chapter 11  |  Chapter 13  >

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The Honest Faith: Sin

Speaking of definitions, let’s go back to the start. What makes Christians, Christians? For many the ideas of St. Paul speak to this in the book of Romans, especially the 3rd chapter. In it, there is that phrase that most will repeat out of context “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God”. From there most would immediately point to another work by St. Paul, Ephesians 2. “For by Grace are you saved through faith, that not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Finally, the coup de gras, going to John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. So we know that there is this idea that we are all sinners, and therefore we need Jesus to believe in him to save us from the consequences of sin. That’s the basic idea of Christendom right? So what is sin?

If we go back to the original languages, Greek and Biblical Hebrew, we have a term that is used for spear throwing and archery. In Greek, we have hamartia which means to miss the mark. This term was often used for spear throwing and meant to miss the target altogether. The Hebrew word, hata, is an archery term for missing the “bullseye” but still hitting the target. In Latin, sine, which the English word sin may have come from, means without or alone, by oneself. This last one is a bit odd since the Greek word syn means together or sun. So what does it mean to be a sinner then? Does it mean that we miss the mark? What mark? What bullseye should we be aiming for?

The idea of sin is a transgression against a divine law or command. So if we take this idea and apply it to the teachings of Jesus, we would need to know which laws we needed to keep, correct? So let’s ask Jesus, “What is the most important law or commandment?” “He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.’ And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’” Luke 10:26-28. So if we are to take Jesus at his word here love is the target we are aiming at. Love is the greatest law and commandment. Love for both God and our Neighbor.

Before I get too much further I need to put a little disclaimer. For those of you who have read my work before, I know this is much more Bible-y than I normally get. Bare with me. For those of you who may be reading for the first time, or maybe not. I just have to say, I understand. I was there once. I know how scary it can be too closely examine tightly held beliefs. I know that it feels like the top of Pandora’s box, that if you take just a little peek it will unleash all sorts of evils into your soul. I know that fear. I had that fear. I know all about Pascal’s wager. I know all about the horrors of hell. I know. I see you. I hear that small guilty voice in your head. It spoke to me once too. It tells you that, “if you do this you will be alone. Nobody will love you. You don’t matter.” I get it. I’m not asking for you to get rid of your faith. I’m not asking you to become a heretic. I’m not asking you to throw everything to the wind. All I ask is one question. “What if I’m wrong?”

This thought has come to me in many different ways over the course of my life. One of my earliest memories that haunts me is of street “witnessing” with my youth group when I was a punk know-it-all jackass teen trying to convince some guy outside a gas station of his need for God. What if I was wrong? What if he already found God? Did I cause him to have less of a relationship with the Divine? Then in college when I was taking Bible courses and learning deeply about what the Bible really said. I thought, “What if I was wrong about all this stuff before?” letting go of tightly held beliefs was painful and difficult. But it freed me to learn more. It freed me to find a God that loved more deeply and fully than I could have possibly imagined before. Still, the question remains for me for almost everything, “What if I’m wrong?”

So let’s apply that to this topic. What if we’ve been wrong about sin? Yes, I understand it is the need for God and the fact that all humans are imperfect and we don’t get things right. What if we are wrong about our focus on it? Have you ever considered that? One of my prompts for this was someone asking me about atonement. I wrote an article about it, which I don’t know if it will be published or not. But, I thought a lot about it. Did God set up this cosmic need for a sacrifice in case someone screwed up? Why? Why would God do that if God was all knowing, all powerful, and all loving? God had to know someone was going to screw up eventually, right? I read through many different theories on the atonement. I read about how it all came back to this idea of a transactional idea of cosmic justice that is based on very human ideas. I even read about Jewish sacrifice.

The ancient Judaic tradition of Sacrifice and Offering is not really the same concept that many have of it now. Many people picture half naked muscle bound priests chanting in an unintelligible language raising a ritualistic sword or dagger over a poor defenseless child or animal. Dark and dirty scenes from famous movies flash into the mind like the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where a shaman is chanting one of the names of the god Kali before he plucks the heart of the human sacrifice from his chest. Yeah, sacrifice was never really done that way or meant that way, to begin with. If we go way back we see the sacrifices brought to God by Cain and Able. There is this whole thing where the animal was more appropriate than the veggies thing, and something gets lost in translation. In fact, the sacrifice ritual was never meant as the cleansing in and of itself. Tracy Rich from the website JewFAQ.com puts it this way, “qorbanot have no expiating effect unless the person making the offering sincerely repents his or her actions before making the offering, and makes restitution to any person who was harmed by the violation.” The act itself didn’t remove the sin or even clean the person; it was the act of doing something because we as human beings are wired that way. We feel as if we need to do something in order to gain full forgiveness from God or even the person we wronged.

So the whole idea of the atonement got to be mixed up in this idea that we were “cleansed by the blood of the lamb”. No, that’s not the case. The case is that God forgave us for everything up on that cross. Jesus said before that, we are already forgiven. So this brings me around to the question of sin. What if we were wrong? What if sin doesn’t matter anymore. What really matters is how we treat each other, the world, and everything given to us. Jesus wasn’t our scapegoat. Jesus didn’t take care of things just so we could squander everything we have and take advantage of it and people. No! That is what Paul talks about in Romans 6. The point was that we needed to take responsibility for our own actions. Fess up to the wrongs that we did, and try to make them better. We see that in the Qorbanot. We see that in the Christian Bible. Sin was not the thing we needed to worry about, it was a symptom of the fact that, you know what, we are bad human beings.

We got so focused on sin we lost sight of what really mattered. We forgot to love our fellow man, our world, and everything in it. We forgot what it meant to love. We got mixed up in this idea of morality and ridding ourselves of “sin”, contrived or not,  that we forgot what Jesus told us was most important. LOVE. Love God, love others, and love yourself. That’s it. Jesus didn’t mention be sinless in that. No, in fact, that’s what the people who asked were looking for. So maybe missing the mark is just practice at trying to be a better human being. It doesn’t matter if we sin because God already took care of that. What matters is that we love and we live, and we do it to the fullest. We need to show the world, all creatures, and human beings alike, that they are not alone, they matter to us. Just as you are not alone, you matter. You are not alone. You matter to me.

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