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: 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 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 Honest Faith: Why Don’t You Care?

::Disclaimer:: I am not addressing this to anyone in particular. I do this because we are all guilty. I don’t aim to make anyone feel bad or guilty either, we have enough voices doing that. I write this to maybe, just maybe, open your eyes to a new perspective. As always I ask that you take a moment. Take a breath. Rid yourself of all preconceived notions. Sit back in your chair. Just be. You are not what you were. What you do from this point going forward is what matters. ::Disclaimer over::

I’m not going to lie. It has been a rough week. We have lived through the aftermath of hurricanes, shootings, and people getting super upset about footballers having something to say and not just being objects of entertainment. It’s emotionally and mentally exhausting to care. Especially when you feel like nobody cares about you, or what you have to say. It wears you down. To the point where you don’t want to care anymore. So what’s the point then, why care? If all it brings is more misery, and nothing is going to change, why even bother?

What do I mean when I say care? I mean it for all real definitions of the word. It is more than just a feeling it is the serious attention and consideration. It is the provision for the well-being of another. It is also the looking after the other and looking out for their well-being. The feeling in itself is a good thing, but feeling without action is meaningless. (James 2:26)

Why should we care about Black Lives Matter, God before Guns, Everytown for Gun Safety, whatever the president is on about, the removal of Confederate monuments, trigger words, the latest Twitter feud, what your parents have to say about your “political” posts on social media, and so on? Isn’t it all just meaningless? I know all that I listed were not equivalent. They are not supposed to be. That’s the point. I’m weary too. I know that it’s hard to fight for people. I know that it’s tough to give a crap about what people are going through. I know. I know this because I do. I give a crap about people. I give a crap about what people think and feel.

An amazing artist known as Logic wrote an amazing song called “Black Spiderman” in it he has a few lines that say:

I don’t wanna be black, I don’t wanna be white,
I just wanna be a man today
I don’t wanna be a Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, or bi,
see you later, bye

These lyrics are telling about how tiring and crazy it is to worry about these labels. We keep drawing lines in the sand and saying, “I only care about the people on this side of the line.” I’ve been seeing some crazy posts about things like taking care of our own or accusing those who happen to disagree with you of being hateful or cruel. We continue the hate that we so loudly say we want to stop.

Did any of the labels in Logic’s song set you off? Why? Why should you care about what a musician has to say? Which word was it? Why not care about that person? See, the funny thing is people you know and love are a part of these groups. They may choose not to tell you that they are gay, or bi. They may choose not to tell you that they can’t identify as Christian anymore. I think you don’t need to be told about surface stuff.  I bring this up because we have a few major problems that are threatening at the door right now. I brought this up two years ago in a piece called “Enough is Enough.” In that post, I wrote about how I’m tired. I’m tired of hearing the same old story after every mass shooting in this country. I’m sick of hearing about how we shouldn’t care because nothing is going to change. But the opposite is true if you care things will change. The thing is I want to know why? Why is nothing going to change? Have we even tried? Have we thought of trying? We again hear these old, tired cliches of “Oh, we need prayer” or “We need God”. I’m sorry but that hasn’t changed anything.

Do you think God wasn’t at Sandy Hook Elementary? Do you think God was not in Columbine? Do you think that God wasn’t present in that theater in Aurora? Do you think that God wasn’t in Vegas? Do you really believe that?

Here, how about this question: how many lives saved would be worth changing some things? I’m asking because we know how many lives are being taken right now with nothing being done. If putting gun regulations in place would save just one life, would it be worth it? What about climate change? What if we were to save the life of one endangered animal or future human being, wouldn’t that make it worth the sacrifice? Isn’t this what Jesus taught? So ask yourself, why should I care?

Dr. Seuss wrote an often-quoted line in the book The Lorax. It goes like this, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” The reason I care, the reason so many of us “Bleeding heart, liberal snowflakes” care is because we know that unless we do, nothing is going to change. We want the same things everyone else does. We want our children to be safe. We want them to grow up in a world that can sustain their lives. We want our friends, loved ones, and families to have the same opportunities and chances at life that we had. Quite frankly, that makes all the tiny little inconveniences worth it.

I don’t care about labels. I’m Mexican and I’m white. I have a white wife. But I don’t want to be just that to people. I’m Christian, and, God help me, I don’t want to be that to people – especially right now. I’m straight and cis male, and I don’t want to be just that either. The truth is I just want to be a person who cares an awful lot. This week I was writing in my ongoing project to write a modern Gospel tale. This was the passage that Jesus said to his followers: unless you are willing to take up your cross daily, you will not find life. (Luke 9:23) I think what Jesus meant was that unless we are willing to suffer and die daily for those around us we will never be able to truly live, love, or understand all the incredible things that have been given to us. So label me what you want, I’m willing to suffer and even die for my fellow man. So that my son may grow up in a world that hopefully will be somewhat better than the one I currently see around me.

Caring is hard. It’s weary work. Because it feels like people will put you into boxes and say that you can’t care about people in the other box. The truth is there are no boxes. We are all human beings. WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS! The sooner we realize that and stop with this ridiculous nonsense of “Us and Them,” we’ll begin to see that in order for us to complete this task we’ve been set to, Tikkun Olam: repairing the world, we need to begin to recognize the Divine in each other. Maybe the way to stop the hate, to stop the pain, to stop all of this crap going on around us is we need to care, even just a little. Because we need you. We need you to care. Every one needs you to care. We are all human beings. We are all in this together. Whatever hurts you, hurts us all. Whatever hurts someone else, hurts you too.

When someone speaks out about something, maybe instead of pointing out where they are wrong, give a moment and care about what they care about. See it from their perspective. Ask them why they care about it. Maybe, just maybe, it will help you to care about what they do. Maybe you will see why caring is important. Maybe instead of labeling someone before you hear what they have to say, you take a moment and listen to what they have to say. I’m not saying that you should change your mind on everything, just hear someone out. Listen to what they have to say, maybe it would change your mind. Maybe they don’t care. I’m just asking that you care, at least a little bit. I ask because unless someone like you cares an awful lot, nothing is going to change. We need to change. We need to make this world better. We have been tasked with Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. We need you. Because you are not alone, you matter.

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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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The Honest Faith: Definition

Update: I have received feedback that people may interpret that I am saying I am a prophet and that my truth is the objective truth. That was not my intention. My intention was to say, much like prophets of old I am interpreting the patterns and finding what may seem true to me. That like everything else should be weighed and measured with what is perceivable and knowable elsewhere. This is to say, we as human beings are bad at divining truth all the time, so let’s try to err on the side of love for all of creation.

So as not to fall into the standard cliche of writing by starting with what Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines some word as, I’ll let you do the looking. Over the past few weeks, and months I’ve been writing about finding my way to the real definition of my faith. I’ve encountered some resistance, I’ve even felt very alone in my quest. I’ve had those who tried to tell me my struggle was of my own making, I don’t listen to those voices anymore. I’m struck by how the search for clarity has become a taboo or even offensive proposition. When did truth become an expletive?

We’ve all read and shared articles about “Fake” and misleading news becoming a trend. We’ve participated in the virality of works that added to the echo chamber of our own opinion. We are all guilty of the sin of not listening to opposing voices. Now I’m not saying that blocking or not listening to the voices that attack you is a sin. Not at all. That is a bit of self-preservation because after all, you matter. I’m saying the purposeful, and blatant pushing aside actual conversation so as to prove one’s point. The ignoring of opposing views so as to remain in one’s own protected reality. I would think many could accuse me of doing such, however, I do invite conversation and opposing views when they are presented in a manner that is constructive and without ill intent. If you have seen the difference, you know the difference. Though we have all been guilty of this, even me.

I’ve written before about how I am interested in the evolution of words and language. I find it interesting how when a word is used to mean a different thing than its original meaning that it doesn’t evolve right away. It is with constant use and reinforcing of that words new meaning that it evolves into that meaning. Take the word prophecy, for instance. It is just meant to mean the utterance of a prophet. A prophet is more often than not, a trusted religious advisor who seems to be able to see what a Divine being has going on for certain things. What is interesting is that you have prophets throughout history who disagree with each other. Even in the bible, you have contradictory prophets and prophecies. Many times it is over what should or should not be done in the case of national matters. Yet, recently, the word prophecy has come to have another definition which makes it synonymous with “Fortune Telling”. Which has, in turn, evolved prophets into this idea of sooth sayers and predictors of future events. I use this as my example because I had a great Professor in college who taught a class on the prophetic books of the Christian Bible. In his very first class, he had the lights turned off and the shades were drawn. He had candles lighting the front of the classroom, with new age music playing in the background and a crystal ball adorning his desk. He came in and started drawing lines on the whiteboard which made him look like Charlie Day in that Meme that has become popular. This was all build up for him to say, false. These prophecies were not spoken or written to tell the future, but we interpreted them as such because we view them through the lens of the future. Some happened, others didn’t yet they were speaking to a certain time, to a certain people, and were not meaning forward looking except maybe by a few years.

I loved that class. It was one of my favorites in college because it taught me more about exegesis than most of my other Bible courses. I learned how to read a prophecy within the historical context, and how that could be used later to believe it was future telling. Granted, from my upbringing I have always thought fortune tellers were a bunch of hogwash and occultism. I wanted to be a prophet myself, though I didn’t know what that really meant. I wanted to interpret what God had for the world and be the ‘Holy’ equivalent for those future tellers. For some reason that was not hogwash? I wanted to be the Gandalf the White Wizard of modern Christianity. Needless to say, I think I did become a prophet, however, it was nothing like I thought.

Prophecy was about divining definition from the patterns of everything around us to speak truth to a situation. Though, what I didn’t realize was that people don’t like the truth. The truth may set you free, but it is also painful to realize how wrong you may have been. Prophecy was not sooth saying, but rather truth saying. It was due to this that many prophets met with horrible ends. They suffered many atrocities for the truth that they spoke. Some spoke for kings and rulers, some spoke against kings and rulers. All spoke up when they saw wrong happening. All suffered in order to prevent wrong from continuing. I tried and still do try to speak truth to power. I still see part of my duty is to prophesy about those wrongs that I see happening.

I use this in my example of definition because we have developed the inability to listen to the truth. We keep waiting for a supernatural occurrence, pattern or sign to show us what the truth is, instead of listening to those who may speak it around us. Not that I’m always speaking the truth, I fail a lot. I’m a human being. It happens. Though if you notice none of the prophets was anything more than human. They just interpreted patterns. Some of them got some things right, all failed from time to time. They were human. It happens. We attributed a higher meaning to their words or actions because we viewed them through the lens of the future. (short aside, Nostradamus I think was just a crazy guy who saw some wild patterns that happened to get some things right) Truth can come from anywhere and anything. Some people see patterns differently than others. Many studies for years and years to be able to interpret certain patterns, like weather, science, and astrophysics. Those people are experts for a reason, they studied past patterns and what they meant. So they are able to say with certainty what future patterns would result from current trends. I don’t mean to equate scientists with prophets, just saying that they have more right to speak truth to situations such as massive hurricanes and the cause of them rather than fortune tellers and diviners.

I saw a lot of diviners being given credence recently. In the American continent, we have suffered 4 major natural disasters in as many weeks. 3 Hurricanes and a massive earthquake. Diviners have been saying these are signs from god that the end is here, or that we are being punished for some contrived slight against an assumed moral code. These have been a bit displeasing to me as the evidence clearly points to climate change being a factor for these things happening. Now, sure they could still be signs of such things, but ultimately I think we should take the much bigger hint that we haven’t been great stewards of the earth. That is a much more evident pattern. We ignore what is right in front of us in order to divine a much greater and supernatural meaning to aid us in our complacency? Can there not also be an admittance that you haven’t been that great in taking care of the environment? Can you not also see that climate change is a thing? How is this symbolic message more important than a commandment we received in writing, to use the scripture you so often like to reference? I’m not asking you to go out and wrap your arms around a tree. I’m asking you to take a look at whether or not you’ve been a good steward and what you can do better. That’s simple.

The way we define things is important because we give meaning. As much as we like or dislike something we participate in the act of evolving a word, phrase, statement, or even the way we interpret patterns from the world around us. Those definitions and meanings are important because they can either be used to give life or take it away. We can either help or hurt those around us with what we say and do. We can either contribute to making someone feel alone and like they don’t matter, or we can help with spreading the good news that they are not alone and that they matter. Speaking of which, You reader, are not alone. You matter!

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The Honest Faith: The Truth Will Set You Free

Last week I wrote about “Annoying Christianity”. I was surprised that there were only a few comments that were not really on the same page that I was. One told me to repent. I’m not quite sure what I need to repent from. I mean maybe I need to repent from going into “Christian” book stores anymore. That I can do. I’ll turn away from them anytime I see them. So I wanted to follow up. I wanted to find out how we can be better. How can we turn this around so that Christianity isn’t struggling with this PR problem anymore? So again, I asked Facebook, in a few different places, “How can we be better?” I got a lot of feedback. But there was an overall theme within them “Authenticity and Love”. I had a wonderful response from a person in my denominational facebook group that I wanted to share:

We stop being annoying when we stop being dishonest about how hard it is to be a human being.We have to start being honest about not only our individual struggles but our struggles as a church, to overcome all kinds of things such as our own racism, sexism, classism, ableism, etc. We have to be vulnerable, as individuals and as a church. Own up to our mistakes, ask forgiveness, and then work to repair the breach.

They went on to discuss nationalism in the response (which I think I called out well enough last week), but I think this first paragraph hits the nail on the head. They said it so beautifully and simply. It’s hard for me to add more to it, but I’m a writer so that’s what I’m going to do. My fellow Christian writer Chris Kratzer published a post earlier this week entitled, “The Apology Every White Christian Needs To Give To Black America, Now.” In the article, he is very honest about his position. He apologizes for his conscious and unconscious decisions that took advantage of his privilege, not just as a white person, but as a male and a pastor. He owned up to it. Which was beautiful. It is a very moving piece, I recommend you read it. Maybe after you finish this one?

What is it with our tenuous relationship with truth? Why is it so hard for us to be honest about our faith, shortcomings, doubts, or whatever? It is like we fell in love with this picture of 1950’s America (read: USA) that never existed and decided that is what the church needed to be. As if every church building across the globe needed to be a copy of the Cleaver household. So we started fibbing to each other. Pretending that our lives were just like that. Much like 1950’s America, we have fallen to those same shortcomings. We’ve become obsessed with stuff, image, silent or vocal racism, sexism, classism, and so on. We’ve “left it to Beaver” and went on pretending.

So what now? How do we come back? Well, I think as my responses put it, we need to be honest and love. We need to embrace the truth that we are all humans. How did Saint Paul put it? “All have fallen short”? Guess what! Nobody is perfect, and that’s okay! We aren’t supposed to be. This isn’t an episode of late 1950’s tv. If anything our lives can be more equated to an episode of Game of Thrones, where nobody is blameless, everyone dies, and frozen zombies are coming. Wait, maybe not that last part. I know it’s been thrown around many times before and some of you maybe have seen it in some church function. I admit I used it in youth group more than once. There is a TED talk from Brene Brown where she talks about the Power of Vulnerability. In it, she talks about how those who are the most open, and honest are the ones who feel love more. It’s strange to think that those who may feel the most unloved can feel the most love when they admit to the fact that they feel unloved. We left that somewhere. Maybe we left it in the 1950’s. Wasn’t that what the church was supposed to be. A place where people could be completely and uniquely themselves without fear of judgment, oppression, or hate?

I think we want to believe that being good and quiet, and just going with the flow makes a good Christian. We don’t want to admit it. We don’t want to question it because it’s comfortable. You don’t have to do anything that way. You just have to give up an hour of your time maybe 10% of your income once a week and that’s it. Not so hard right? That is all being a Christian is, correct? I’m very sorry to have to tell you this, but the truth is Jesus said, “Take up your Cross and follow me”. Jesus didn’t promise us a comfy life. Jesus promised it would be hard. We would stand against some power structures. We were going to suffer and possibly die for this message. We did for a while. Until we lost our honesty. Maybe it was the 1850’s? Still looking for it. Jesus stood up to the injustice, greed, corruption, racism, and all manner of horrid things throughout His life. We were supposed to follow him. He made political statements all the time. You know that whole thing with Legion and the pigs? Yeah, that was one big political statement all about Rome and driving them back into the ocean from whence they came. Speaking against these things isn’t comfortable. It isn’t the easy thing to do. Being honest with yourself and your struggles is hard. Owning your faults is difficult. Because all we’ve been shown is that we will receive judgment and scorn for that. But guess what, that’s not the gospel.

The Gospel is and always has been that GOD LOVES EVERYONE! It doesn’t matter. There is nothing you can do to earn that love, there is nothing you can do to lose it. You don’t have to go to church to get it. You don’t have to give 10% of your income to get it. You have to open up and be honest with yourself. You gotta be just who you are because that is who God loves. The Divine is just waiting for you to realize this so that the Divine may delight in you.

I often times think this is what made us so annoying. We lost sight of that. We put up hoops and hurdles because we thought, you know what, this isn’t fair. I’ve worked so hard for God’s love, and the next guy who walks in the door didn’t do anything and he get’s God’s love. Or maybe because we didn’t want to do anything with it. Maybe we got comfortable with God’s love and said well I got mine. So we got lazy and did nothing, forgetting the second part of that message, go share the love. I really enjoyed the show “Key & Peele”. They did a sketch about a prayer group where God showed up. I find it very hilarious because I think that is very much what we have done as a church. I’ve included it below if you want to have a watch. What if God showed up? Would the Divine be shaking its proverbial head at us, or would it be pleased?

So the message is this. We need to let the truth set us free. We need to be authentically ourselves and love others for being authentically themselves. This means that nobody is better than the other. Nobody deserves more than the other. We are all equal partners in this thing we call life. So let’s live it authentically, vulnerable, and filled with love. Let’s stop pretending to “Leave it to Beaver” and start honestly living in love. Because, yes, we are all sinners, but who cares? God doesn’t, that was already taken care of 2000 years ago. Should we go on living hurtful ways? No! We gotta love each other the best we can! So go and spread the love. Because after all, You are not alone! YOU MATTER! YOU ARE LOVED JUST AS YOU ARE!

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