Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Confucious said - dont be confused - about my name

I have read a lot of blogs over the past year or so and I find myself continiually defending certain Christian positions just because I am a so called 'Christ-ian'. I get all kinds of labels slapped on me as if I believe all the rhetoric coming out of the church. What rhetoric?

(1) If it's heads 'you are one of us'
There is 'us' (churchy-folk) and there is them (non-churchy folk). One side is saved while the other is need of salvation. One side has all the answers (the truth) while the other side does not and they are in error. We are told to be seperate from them - lest we be tainted as they are. But the bible seems to point to hypocritical ideals on this subject. Paul mentions 'do not eat' with these un-believers while Jesus did? Jesus teaches us to be 'perfect' and in that context 'perfect' means treating one another equally (no seperation - even God makes the rain fall on both sides of the fence). Jesus teaches the 'sick need a doctor, not the healthy'. How is there a seperation unless we are the one's creating it by our interpretation?

(2) In Your Face Compadre
The church is filled with rhetoric of judging others - for basically no sound biblical reason known to us. We are even told not to judge and if we do - do it with mercy as our aforemost thought. I have heard many a Christian denounce someone to hell for being a non-believer - a judgment they have no right to make (and at it's core - the harshest judgement known to man). But why do we want to judge the un-believer? To make him feel his 'sin' and us our 'righteousness'? To convict him of something he is doing - is this our job? Did we miss part two of the command 'do not judge - unless you be judged too'? Is God making the point - as you judge - expect to be judged the same way? By who exactly...God or man?

(3) Poltico agendo is alrighto
The mainstream church trusts their gov't's more than they trust their own teachings - in some regards. There are wars and rumours of wars - doesn't mean the church has to pick a side, does it? Where exactly in the bible is taking democracy to the world our mission again? We teach so harshly against abortion it was no surprise that some 'fundies' got rifles and shot doctors - is it? Apparently they were following the teachings of Christ...were they? We also have on our agenda the banning of gay marriage which is a hot one right now. All these things we go to the state and vote in leaders that will speak for us. So church and politics go hand in hand it sould seem - it's almost seamless in some places. But again, where does Jesus ask us to gain political affiliation of a country? Seems a little Constantin-ish to me. But we are perfectly alright with this. Where did Jesus teach this again? Oh yeah - that's right - when he took control of Israel as the messiah of the people and killed those Roman infidels. He then set up his kingdom of democracy which hasn't since faded away. Me likey?

(4) Oh, God died and made you king
Smugness - the final frontier. People use the name of Jesus as their credible witness for a variety of things - in the end it's to prove 'they are right cause God said so'. People then don't speak back in case they are speaking against God....which is all too scary a prospect. Until you realize one simple thing - he is reading from the same book as you. Just maybe he made a mistake and made it seem like it's not a mistake by using the name of God quite gliby. So if he is reading from a 'book' then he has to making 'interpretations' from that book - since these are not his thoughts or his writings. Do you speak on behalf of God? If so, how do you know your right? Just what if God tells you you're right and another person he is right - and you're both wrong - blame God.

(5) Tune in and Drop out
Over spiritualization - where everything has to be a part of some vast spiritual message that we have only (isn't this a gnostic idea?). Where telling you the obvious has no place. Where being a simple human being is just not good enough. Where everything Jesus ever said has some spiritual twist to it so as to blur what he meant. Where if you're the good samaritan then you aren't a Samaritan, but a good holy person - like a priest or something. Where Jesus tells us to love our neighbor but this is impossible without a personal relationship with God (and all the doctrine that goes along with it). Was Jesus really that elusive? Was Jesus teaching some things that were common sense? Does Jesus want me for a sunbeam and not a human being? Are we too spiritual we are losing touch with common people?

These seem to be staples in the mainstream church - and I don't have clue where they came from or how they got to be in the structure. But can we puhleeze get them out of the church, they are making a mockery of our faith. We could use some - how do you say - humility? Reality? Simplicity? Sincerity? Honesty?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Society,

I guess there is no getting around the reality that the church is human. It was a mess in Paul's day and it is a mess now. If it were perfect, we would worship Jesus even less than we already do and worship the church instead. Some do that despite its deplorable condition.

Many of us treat church as an organization only and try and try to find one that agrees with us and does what is right. It never pans out so some try to leave the church behind. That is also impossible as we gain membership the moment we believe in Jesus.

The curch can't solve our problems and the only One Who will be able to make her perfect is Jesus Himself. I think all we can really do is be mindful of our own relationship with Him and be patient with one another. That doesn't mean we should close our eyes to glaring wrongs and cease admonishing and edifying one another that we might do better but we have to keep our eyes and our hope on and in Jesus. If not, we become too discouraged to go on and cease well doing.

There are so many needs in the world and so many things I'd like to do to help others but the reality is that I'm not strong enough, not even when I was younger and stronger, to meet all of those needs. It's a job that only God can do and all we can really do is keep pointing each other toward Jesus and rest in Him as His work is accomplished through us, even if we can't always see it happening.

Pam

SocietyVs said...

Pam, let's get more people involved - why do we have to go this struggle alone? I do believe we are all brothers and sisters and we need to start pursuing that avenue also - of unity - and all the while writing the wrongs that have slipped in (not by might mind you but by sincerity). I appreciate the comment Pam - but were not alone here - apparently Jesus has a huge church on earth that seem to want to establish a 'kingdom' - why can't we all work together and not as single units?

hineini said...

You get all the labels cause you call yourself a Christian and you claim a loyalty/membership in a church.

If I said I was a Harper supporter, I could be criticized for the decisions of the Canadian government. It doesn't make any sense to me to say I'm a Harper supporter but to totally reject the government's platforms and agenda and continually endorse the NDP.

Maybe your loyalty to the church and the religion isn't worth it? Unfortuantely, I'm not sure that you get to create your own "Christianity" and expect to dodge all the baggage that religion has.

Anonymous said...

Society,

Our unity is in Jesus and it is there, even if you and I don't agree on anything else. There is one faith, Jesus and on baptism, that of the Holy Spirit. Nothing else is required for unity other than Jesus.

I beleive that if you live according to Jesus Christ in you, you will be living the Kingdom. Go where He calls you to go and do what He directs you to do and do nothing else. God will provide for you those helpers that are required to do His Work. I am with you in Christ already.:0) The church is simply where two or more are gathered in His Name. We are here sharing Jesus and that is the beginning.

Pam

the_burning_bush said...

"... the wrongs that have slipped in (not by might mind you but by sincerity)." SVS

Sincerity is the solution! And it is only available to those who are in Christ.

"Unfortuantely, I'm not sure that you get to create your own 'Christianity' and expect to dodge all the baggage that religion has." Hineini

Christianity is not whatever pop culture or the so-called public opinion says it is. It is strictly between you and God. Blessed are those who are misunderstood because of it.

If the entire earth thinks that because I am a Christian I intend to burn heretics at the stake that's their problem because their views have nothing to do with my relationship between me and God.

"Was Jesus really that elusive?" SVS

YES. Jesus intentionally used indirect communication so that, "You will keep on hearing but you will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but you will not perceive." Matt 13:14b

There is just no way the Church is too spiritual. I don't even know what that means. Spiritual truth -if nothing else- is exactly what the Bible has to offer.

BrotherKen said...

Hey Society (and others). I have not kept up to all of your thoughts in the last week and will peruse them in more detail soon. At a quick glance, I can see that you are touching on some areas that are close to my heart. I would like to add a couple of quick thoughts.

Society, I am encouraged knowing about your church. To me, you are probably getting more out of that small group than if you were the leader of one the "more successful" ministries in town. And you may be doing more good for others, though I know you are frustrated. You speak about wanting clear direction and simplicity, and in one way we can have that, but I believe that our quest to know God and his will for us will always be a struggle. You point out some seemingly conflicts in the Bible but I believe (and you probably do also) that the conflicts are our own misinterpretations. The most glaring conflicts usually arise from not taking note of "who is talking to who" resulting in a judgmental position rather than a merciful one.

I will probably only know what I want and agree with by getting involved again, but my vision now is a church that upholds truth by their actions and allows others the freedom to make up their own mind. We seem to be on the same track there. I used to think that a church should be so holy that people walking by would fall an their knees in repentance, I see now that I was wrong. We have to allow people to come and be a part of the church no matter what is going on in their life.

SocietyVs said...

"There is just no way the Church is too spiritual. I don't even know what that means. Spiritual truth -if nothing else- is exactly what the Bible has to offer." (BB)

What I mean by the term over-spiritualization is really trying to define 'what is being spiritual'? I read Jesus and I see a lot of common sense to his ideas that almost seem to say by nature we are spiritual and we need nothing more to connect to God - except to willingly want to. In essence, we can't help but be spiritual by being human.

Spirituality isn't always found in the churches version of thr service, the drive by evangelist, prayer meetings or worship times - sometimes it is being really you and dealing with the way things are. Jesus taught on ways of changing and challenging the mind - these things don't need to be prayed about so much as followed - in order to build a paradigm for our lives.

But I have seen a lot of teachings within churches that seem to point to that fact the more you attend church, the more (or harder) you pray, the more involved you are in 'what they define as' true worship (which is singing songs), or kneeling at the altar - then this is signs of spirit-uality. I don't think these 'signs' have anything to do with anything. They seem to supercede the teachings of Jesus on prayer (which he mentions is alone with God), worship seems to be doing the will of God (or following these teachings), and attending church may have taken the place of what 'fellowship' was meant to be. They have the look and feel of 'spirituality' but is it exactly true to the standards Jesus set in his teachings?

The 2 commands are quite simple - love God and love your neighbor - how is this not seen as true worship? Are we so taken in by pop culture that music means worship? I have nothing wrong with singing about God - but that's one aspect of the way bigger picture - which in essence is about loving God - but by singing we are doing little to love God to the fullest (as ascribed in the teachings - all my soul, strength, and heart). But it seems the church likes those worship conferences. If I see a bum and I give him a dollar - that's as much worship (or maybe more) then singing about doing it.

Prayer is one issue that I am a little stuck on - reaosn being Jesus in the sermon on the mount teaches to 'pray to God where no one sees you' - this is not the standard practice in church services or prayer meetings. It is out interpretation of 2 or 3 gathered in his name' that throws a wrench into this - but the way I see it then - Jesus is contradicting himself? The church has run with the '2 or 3 gathered in his name' passage - but I don't see that as being more true to faith than praying to 'God in secret where only He see's' (which is absolutely sincere). Why can't 2 or 3 agree on doing something then go do it? Why can't 2 or 3 agree on an issue then pray seperately to God about it? Why has prayer become something which is so mock worthy - based on the idea of 'praying for our food publicly' and 'Pastors praying prayers to show how much they know about the bible'. There is more sincerity on trusting God has done something than making a show of it.

Church has what they call fellowship but I am not sure that's how I would define it. Shelly made a comment about sitting for an hour facing the front (the band and the pastor) as being part of church - and this is almost absolutely definable anywhere you attend - and it's the reason people get ego's. Why can't church be us getting together - possibly sitting in circles and sharing with one another from the word and our lives? We will get to know so many people around us that way and also have the same experience. Let's work together on ideas and put our resources together - so that we are working one with another - no person above another. There are millions of ideas but what the church does is the least of fellowship in my opinion.

Just some thoughts about how we can simplify the faith. But I do agree these are spiritual ideals - for human beings.

BrotherKen said...

Oh, I meant to add one other thing. You talk about the struggle between believers who claim that their interpretation or understanding is right and others are wrong. I do a lot of this myself, but I like to throw in from time to time that I am not smug about what I believe. I am only trying my best to know God. As you have stated, or at least eluded to, the Bible is not our only source of understanding. Everything must line up with the scriptures, but if you see conflicting messages, one of them is wrong. Sometimes you have to decide which understanding best lines up with the rest of the bible and which one works best in real life. The main thing I would like to say here is that NONE OF US should be smug in what we believe. We can only do our best to understand the truth and act accordingly. God is the only who who can be smug, and he actually is smug in some passages.

One other comment. There is some discussion about whether this is about creating our own brand of Christianity. Yes, I think we must distance ourself from past mistakes by trying to correct them, but it is not about putting ourselves above others or starting a new religion. We can only do our best and pray that one day our faith will be more representative of the one who gave it to us.

Anonymous said...

Morning Society,

Being spiritual is doing that which God directs us to do, personally. It is walking with God, talking with God, and obeying Him from a heart totally surrendered to Him. It is not doing this or not doing that and can in fact be doing the first thing and not the second thing or neither or both. Form doesn't matter. One may be led to 'walk the isele' by the Spirit of God and another to do the same by another spirit. We are spiritual when we walk with God. I can't tell you what is spiritual for you, only God can tell you that.

You are my little brother, walk with Jesus and don't wait for any others to follow you. It wouldn't be spiritual to follow you unless some other follow you as you follow Christ.

God's blessings on all that He has called and directed you to do.

Pam

SocietyVs said...

Thanks Pam and Ken, I appreciate all the comments.

hineini said...

One day a Tzadik came to Sodom; He knew what Sodom was, so he came to save it from sin, from destruction. He preached to the people. "Please do not be murderers, do not be thieves. Do not be silent and do not be indifferent." He went on preaching day after day, maybe even picketing. But no one listened. He was not discouraged. He went on preaching for years. Finally someone asked him, "Rabbi, why do you do that? Don't you see it is no use?" He said, "I know it is of no use, but I must. And I will tell you why: in the beginning I thought I had to protest and to shout in order to change them. I have given up this hope. Now I know I must picket and scream and shout so that they should not change me.(Eli Weisel "Words from a Witness," p.48.)

Maybe this is your plight societyvs, I hope your measure of success isn't dependant on getting any "sinners" like myself off our asses.

seeing I started with Weisel might as well end with him too..."Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give one another" (Eli Weisel)

my attempt at a gift for you.

BrotherKen said...

"Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give one another" (Eli Weisel)

Hineini, we cannot find hope and peace in God? Do you believe that?

Society, I wanted to touch on the spirituality of our faith. I think what most people consider and participate in as spiritual is superficial. I can say this with some certainty because I have tried to experience various types of spirituality and only felt uncomfortable doing it. I am talking about the kind of spirituality that has people going into trance like states, speaking in tongues, praying till you start nodding off, etc. Now, some may get something out of it, and I do at times feel a special spiritual connection, but when this is all done in church it is mostly for show. The worst kind I have seen (and there is a lot of this in some churches) is when they start "prophecying". God is telling me this, and He has a word for someone here to do that.

Having said all of that, I still think God speaks to us and we can experience spirituality from time to time. God spoke to people mostly in dreams in the bible. The thing is that I just don't think we can call on God to give us a message at will, and when he does that message will more than likely be a message of warning and only for us not someone else.

Anonymous said...

brotherken,

The Bible says that the Law is spiritual. The reason people fail in keeping it is because our spirit doesn't agree with God's spirit. We are carnal until we are born again through faith in Jesus. Then we are carnal and spiritual and we are in a continual battle with our carnal nature because of the Holy Spirit that now lives in us. The battle will be won though and it will be won by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we are redeemed, we will have no problem keeping God's laws for we will be spiritual, just as Jesus is spiritual and He is the only one to this date that always obeyed His father. Since God is Spirit, then all that is of Him is spiritual. That which is of man is carnal.

It can be confusing but we do have the written record, the Bible as a guide. God has not left us defenseless amid the confusion. When someone prophesies and it is beyond the Word of God that we have now, it isn't spiritual because it isn't of God nor does it serve His purpose. If it is in agreement with scripture and is insight into that scripture and serves the purposes of God, then it is spiritual and true. We have to test the spirits according to scripture and the purpose of God. We can also measure all things according to the character of Christ Jesus. It takes time, patience, and a lot of prayer but by the discernment given us in the Holy Spirit, we can decipher what is true and what is false amid the spiritual practices of our day.

Pam

BrotherKen said...

Pam, from what I understand so far I can agree with all of what you say except, if I understand you correctly, there are a couple things that I can't quite accept.

I am born again, yet I have never felt comfortable with public spirituality beyond short prayers and singing. I know God can and will move us and guide us and even speak a word through us at times but most of what I have seen seems contrived. I have met only a handful of people that I think may be modern day prophets and they aren't anything like the ones you will see on TV or in today's churches. What can I say, I just don't see a realness in them. The Bible says that if the word from a man (or woman) does not come true then there is no light in the man, he is not a prophet speaking God's word. He is speaking carnally, and usually for selfish reasons (to put himself on a pedestal or further their ministry). I have heard many a word from people acting as prophets that do not prove true. For example, have you ever had someone say that they have a word from God that the church is going to see substantial increase and it doesn't come true. It would come true if the word was from God. If you know someone who speaks a word and it comes true (or proves to be true) every time, I want to know that person. That person is a prophet and God will be glorified by what he says.

Anonymous said...

brotherken,

I think we are living in a time when there are many false prophets and frankly, I never watch any of them that are on television. I've read some of Hal Lindsey's books and some of his insights are good. I too have studied prophecy and God gives me some insight or spiritual impressions as how those prophecies are being fulfilled. I don't consider myself a prophetess just a believer who studies the Bible. I also have not been around believers who stand up and give some sort of prophetic testamony on something such as church growth...I guess I won't judge as to what someone calls themselves or what they claim they have been gifted to do but I will measure their words by the Bible and the measure of the character of Christ. Again, anything spiritual is of God. There are things that claim to be spiritual that are actully spiritually dead as they are carnal, just as we are carnal when we are outside of Christ. All that is of God glorifies Him. All that is of man is carnal and meant to glorfy men though it may try to masquerade itself by claiming to be for God's glory. False prophets are known by their fruits and the fruits of the spirit can only come from God who is Spirit, those true spiritaul fruits are not of the believer but of Jesus Who lives in the believer. A good tree can't produce bad fruit any more so than a bad tree can produce good fruit.

Pam

the_burning_bush said...

Wow. Exellent discussion between Pam and Ken.

Jim Jordan said...

A good and lively discussion as always. Society, I have a question about #3 (politico agendo alrighto); are you criticizing alliances between Christian groups and politicians? The reason I ask, there is a canard supported by many secularists that Christians should cut themselves off unilaterally from deciding on issues based on their faith. My follow-up question is "does obeying God's commands constitute a political agenda when we seek to make the law reflective of such commands?"

Regarding abortion, it seems you are saying that we should "speak the truth in love" rather than condemn, in which I agree. But, as Christians, we must oppose unequivocally the practice of infanticide and abuse of women that abortion is.

Hineini had an important point when he cautioned about labelling oneself. I am a registered Republican here in the states but I haven't wasted a single minute cooking up an apologetic for any of President Bush's policies (in several years) that I disagree with (which are many). That would be an alliance.

Conclusion: I wanted you to clarify that point, that we can advocate our Christian beliefs in the political realm as long as we don't compromise them for political power. It seemed that you criticized the trade-off of supporting Christian values domestically in return for a blank check to spread American influence abroad by force (cloaked as democracy). I agree 100% if that's the case.

Moses didn't ask Pharaoh to let 90% or 75% of his people go, but all of them.

Blessings.

BrotherKen said...

Pam, great response. I just wanted to voice my belief that we must be careful of the kind of spirituality that is carnally based and does not line up with scripture. Seems you are aware of this. Great discussion!

JJ, you may already have heard my understanding of Christians with political agendas but I will repeat it here. I think the bible is clear that once you are "translated" into the Kingdom of God you do not have the right to secular political involvement. This does not mean that we can not discuss politics and morals amongst others in our realm. I think we may also voice an opinion if asked. But the Bible says that God has appointed people into high positions of power and we are to "honor them". I am not clear of how all this can work in some situations but I do think that there are many politically motivated Christian activists that are giving the faith a bad name because secular politicians feel (and rightfully so) that religious morality cannot be politically enforced.

SocietyVs said...

Heinini, thanks for the kind words - and that was some excellent insight also - and I do consider you someone with a great vision also - don't ask me why I think this - but your insights are usually quite good all the time and I appreciate them always.

Pam and Ken - great discussion - getting into 'spirituality' in quite some depth - awesome - that's what I desire to see - more interaction between one another - thanks for all the comments.

Jim I appreciate the insight you also bring and I will comment on something you said.

"I wanted you to clarify that point, that we can advocate our Christian beliefs in the political realm as long as we don't compromise them for political power." (Jim)

I think I would be more open to the idea if our faith wouldn't get compromised - but it seems this is currently the case and it is making our faith look like a joke - very open to criticism - and rightfully so - we are in the political ring taking a PR beating. I personally am throwing in the towel and not supporting them at all - since my faith doesn't really require me to - and in some senses I adamantly oppose their 'fundie' views.

I think my big problem is the consevative Christian agenda and their narrow-mindedness. To me the the fundamentalist interpretation of our faith is in opposition to what is actually taught by Jesus. I watch guys like James Robison, Falwell, Robertson, Hagee, Dobson, and a hoarde of others - and as sincere as they come off - they are also very narrow-minded. If I went purely by their rheoric for what they would do if they ran the country - I'd go into hiding. They openly dislike gay people, they aren't very open to religious freedom of others, they support the war efforts (no matter what the USA does), they deny the existence of global warming, 'end time' theology seems to be a core of their belief set, intolerance to people not 'saved', they are still against the rights of women (in the church), stand opposed to safe sex practices (except for abstinence), Israel can do 'no wrong', and this list just keeps going. Sounds a little Taliban-ish to me?

Frankly their teachings/rhetoric are the reason for bad fundamentalist actions like: shooting abortion doctors & blowing up clinics, atheists get death threats, and Muslims are apprehensive of American policy. The core of their beliefs come of very klan-ish or clandestine. When someone says adamantly 'it's their way or hell' - you can bet not all the memebers are going to have the sensibilities to be able to run that through their mind correctly. Some of those people have a strong 'us and them' mentality and they react upon it and create some crazy groups like 'jonestown' or 'creator rights party' (anti-abortion extremists). Hell, even Mel White of Soulforce is adamantly not welcome in Falwell's congregation - for being gay and outing the agenda of Falwell against gay peoples.

Nothing about that group of people is very appealing or is accurate about the person of Jesus in the bible - or maybe they are and I am deluded. Either way, as a responsible and logical Christian person I have to speak out against their agenda's - which they funnel through politics. They are solely the reason I am opposed to Christian's in politics (which is very narrow minded of me but not without cause). But then again, maybe I got this faith all wrong and I am reading into the bible what I want to see and the fundie is correct? If so, I'd rather be wrong.

But Jim, that's where my opinion comes from - and that comes from reading and conversing with Atheists and their critiques of the faith (and reading the news or watching fundie programs for proof) - and they say we 'Christians' don't speak out against our own faith (against the fundies) - you know what they are right and the critique is valid. Sam Harris and Dawkins have called us out on that kind of stuff - and I agree with them - 'oh no he agree's with an atheist's critique' - in them is an outside source who sees what we do and they are scared. So why don't we speak against them? Not like they are giving oodles and oodles of cash to making society that much better - even though they could likely be the greatest advocate of 'making poverty history' if they so choose to use their resources in that regards - but they don't - neither did their fore-fathers when slavery was accepted and Indians were slaughtered for their land - this in the name of God and politics. History doesn't bode well on this issue in America (or Canada).

hineini said...

"Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give one another" (Eli Weisel)

"Hineini, we cannot find hope and peace in God? Do you believe that?" (brotherken)

Sure I believe it. If Eli Weisel is right then humanity has the opportunity to build peace and understanding, reduce cruelty and make life better for people. If the things you've been writing recently are right then the escalation of war and cruelty is not only inevitable it's Christianity's gospel. You've painted the most hopeless picture I've heard in a long time.