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Church & State January 20, 2011

We’re hardly able to distinguish between what’s American and what’s Christian.
As a result, power corrupts the church and it’s goals and practices.
– Shane Claiborne
Mixing the church and state is like mixing ice cream with cow manure.
It may not do much to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream.
– Tony Campolo

 

Is Evangelical Christianity Having A Great Gay Awakening? January 19, 2011



by Cathleen Falsani


Some of my dearest friends are gay.

Most of my dearest friends are Christians.

And more than a few of my dearest friends are gay Christians.

As an evangelical, that last part is not something that, traditionally and culturally, I’m supposed to say out loud. For most of my life, I’ve been taught that it’s impossible to be both openly gay and authentically Christian.

When a number of my friends “came out” shortly after our graduation from Wheaton College in the early ’90s, first I panicked and then I prayed.

What would Jesus do? I asked myself (and God).

According to biblical accounts, Jesus said very little, if anything, about homosexuality. But he spent loads of time talking, preaching, teaching and issuing commandments about love.

That was my answer: Love them. Unconditionally, without caveats or exceptions.

I wasn’t sure whether homosexuality actually was a sin. But I was certain I was commanded to love.

For 20 years, that answer was workable, if incomplete. Lately, though, it’s been nagging at me. Some of my gay friends are married, have children and have been with their partners and spouses as long as I’ve been with my husband.

Loving them is easy. Finding clear theological answers to questions about homosexuality has been decidedly not so.
In his new book “Fall to Grace: A Revolution of God, Self and Society”, Jay Bakker, the son of Jim Bakker and the late Tammy Faye Messner, gives clear and compelling answers to my nagging questions.

Simply put…

———–

DON’T STOP NOW! Read the rest of this informative and thought-provolking article
by Cathleen Falsani (with subatantial material from Jay Bakker)
as written in The Huffington Post.
Click HERE.

 

Jesus Wants To Save Christians January 15, 2011


By the end of the introduction I was hooked. Rob Bell remains one of the most insightful, intelligent, interesting, thought-provoking writers I’ve ever read. For this outing, he teams up with Don Golden.

“Jesus Wants To Save Christians” is rich, and I mean rich in historical and cultural context of the Biblical narrative.  I know that personally, once I put down the Bible as a rule book, and picked it back up as the narrative of God and man, it all started making more sense than ever.  This book continues my education in that vein.

This book starts off with the realization that we are “east of Eden.” Rob shows how the Bible repeatedly uses “east” for special emphasis. He speaks of how “something about how we relate to each other has been lost. Something is not right with the world.”

The Introduction talks about where we are as a people, as a nation, and as a world. He compares our current state of affairs with that of Jesus’ day:
“The Roman Empire, which put Jesus on an execution stake, insisted that it was bringing peace to the world through its massive military might. Emperor Caesar, who ruled the Roman Empire, was considered the “Son of God,” the “Prince of Peace,” and one of his propaganda slogans was “peace through victory.”
“A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.”

Chapter One is about Moses. It’s about Egypt, and the exodus. It’s about the “new Egypt” that God’s people, via religion, eventually created. “Egypt shows us how easily human nature bends toward using power to preserve privilege at the expense of the weak.”
We see Rob’s take on what it means that we are all called to be priests. We are called to be a holy nation “shaped not by greed, violence, and abusive power but by compassion, justice, and care for one’s neighbor.
We then look at the Ten Commandments, not as “strict rules given by a fire-breathing God to keep people in line,” but in their original context. In this light “the commandments take on all sorts of new meanings.” This is the most relevant, meaningful look at the often misused and misunderstood commandments given to Moses. It’s really amazing.
There’s a history lesson on Solomon like none I’ve ever thought of.  After the exodus, after God sets free the slaves, “Solomon is building a temple for the God who sets slaves free…
using slaves.
This is a major moment in the Bible. In just a few generations, the oppressed have become the oppressors.” “Solomon is using his massive resources and wealth to build military bases to protect his…
massive resources and wealth.”
So much for “looking out for the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner.”
Chapter one also talks about the prophets God sent, the reaction to them, and exile in Babylon.

Chapter Two continues to discuss the Egypt/deliverance/Babylon themes. Still, “God always hears the cry of the oppressed.” We begin to see why the first exodus, and the first “marriage covenant” with God didn’t work out. “There’s an Egypt that we’re all born into, and that’s what we really need an exodus from.” This chapter takes us to the end of the Hebrew scriptures, also called the Old Testament. We see we need a new Moses, a new covenant, and a new exodus. We have all these unfulfilled prophesies, all these “suspended promises.” This new “way” will be much different. And instead of being for a select ethnic group, it will be for all mankind.

As Chapter Three opens, we are in early first century Israel.  Solomon was the son of David.  Now we have a new Son of David.  We begin to see the connections between Solomon and Jesus.  We see the weight and meaning of “Son of David” to this first century audience.  “A new son of David, leading the people into remarriage with God.”  “Jesus speaks of a new kingdom as he shows what it’s like to be human in this new reality.”
We look at the expectation of Jesus’ followers,  and the shock when it all “fell apart.”  There a discussion of the “myth of redemptive violence,” and the propensity we humans have for bloodshed.  Of course, we also see that the death of Jesus was the beginning of new hope.

Chapter Four looks at, among other things, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.  Again, we get historical context that brings a new and deeper appreciation for what’s happening here.  We also see this encounter in light of Jesus’ stating that the good news should be shared “to the ends of the earth.”  There are more parallels between Moses and Jesus.  We look at Luke’s account of the day of Pentecost, when three-thousand are saved.  That’s the same number that Moses had slaughtered for the “golden calf” incident.
We also see, again, the inclusiveness of the gospel, and of Paul himself.

Chapter Five has an interesting title:
Swollen-Bellied Black Babies, Soccer Moms On Prozac, and the Mark of the Beast.”
This is an extremely important chapter that should be read by every one who identifies as a lover of Christ.
It should be required reading for “American Christians.”

First, there’s some frightening information about “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”  Man.  What a false bill of goods we were sold on that one!  We dropped bombs to kill Saddam Hussein.  We missed.  Lots of civilians killed and injured.  No “bad buys.”
I’ve had other readings where I learned that Bush wanted a war long before the “war on terror.”  The whole thing was really about control.  And oil.  Finally, he was handed an excuse.  (See “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.”)
Anyway…
This chapter is about empire.  Egyptian empire.  Babylonian empire.  Roman empire.  American empire.  We’re reminded that blessings are not to be horded.  Blessings are to be used to bless others.  The consequences of forgetting the poor, the needy and the oppressed are both devastating and obvious.

This chapter also has great information on the book of Revelation, and the “mark of the beast.”
Again, we get relevant historical and cultural context, instead of all the twisted misuse and misapplications I’ve heard most of my life.
“Revelation is a bold, courageous, politically subversive attack on corrosive empire and its power to oppress people.”

Chapter Six is about lamb’s blood.  “In the first exodus, the lamb’s blood was place on the doorposts of the house” for those who lived there.  In the second exodus, the Lamb’s blood was placed “on the doorposts of the universe.”  This time “Jesus is saving everyone and everything.  Jesus is leading all of creation out of the Egypt of violence, sin, and death.
We also look at how Paul took offerings “for the poor.”  Not to grease the wheels of institutional religion.  The dividing walls of our differences have been broken down to usher in the “new humanity.”  One where access to God isn’t restricted to a religion, but is opened up, through Christ, to all people.  We get some good ideas about Paul’s “all things to all men” statements; especially, what’s noticeably absent in that passage.

Epilogue
The epilogue brings it all together and shows how our narrow definition of “being saved” has shortchanged Christians, and the rest of the world as well.   “God is looking for a body, a people to incarnate the divine.  That always involves hearing the cry of the poor and the oppressed and then acting on their behalf.”


Again, this is an amazing book.  Far too long we’ve seen salvation as an “afterlife” issue.  Salvation is here.  Salvation is now.  There is so very much from which Jesus wants to save Christians.  Religion.  Indifference.  Elitism.  Privilege.  Neglect of the poor and needy.  Oppressing others, especially in the name of God.
Do yourself, and the world a favor.  Read this book.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

———————-

QUOTES:
The “whole world,” “all nations,” “all people,” “all things” are the biggest, widest, deepest, most inclusive terms the human mind can fathom.  And they are on the lips of Jesus, who is describing himself.

He’s bringing liberation for everybody everywhere and ultimately for everything everywhere for all time.

A Christian should get very nervous when the flag and the Bible start holding hands. This is not a romance we want to encourage.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Exile is when you fail to convert your blessings into blessings for others.

The first exodus was just a hint of the redemption God has in mind for all humanity.

[Jesus started] A movement bigger than any one nation, bigger than any one ethnic group, bigger than any one religion.

The central promise to the father of their faith, Abraham, was that God would bless his people so that they would bless the world.  It’s always about wealth, health, possessions, and influence being used to bless others.

Jesus’ death [was] an end to a whole system of “commands and regulations.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

If anything, the biblical story teaches us that no nation is entitled to global dominance, no matter how powerful their national myths may be.

Jesus speaks of a new kingdom as he shows what it’s like to be human in this new reality.

What do you do when your religion isn’t big enough for God?

[Religious legalism] makes Paul furious.  In one letter, his rant reaches such a pitch that he says he wishes “they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

It’s a beautiful thing to learn from the journey of others.

If a sermon can be resolved in the time it took to deliver it, then it missed something central to what a sermon even is.

A church is not a center for religious good and services.

A church exists for the benefit of nonmembers.  This blessing extends even to our enemies.

Buy the book. Click HERE.


 

The Last Word and the Word After That January 6, 2011


“Our problem is that we use the idea of hell precisely the way the Pharisees did, exactly the opposite of the way Jesus did.”

[This is a re-post; now with quotes from the book.]

I’ve just read “The Last Word and the Word After That” by Brian McLaren. I give it a high recommendation. It’s the third of a trilogy, but it fully works as a stand-alone.

Here’s info from the Amazon site:

Product Description

For all those seeking more authentic ways to hold and practice Christian faith, Brian McLaren has been an inspiring, compassionate—and provocative—voice. Starting with the award-winning A New Kind of Christian, McLaren offered a lively, wide-ranging fictional conversation between Pastor Dan Poole and his friend Neil Oliver…
in this third installment of their adventures, Dan and his widening circle of friends grapple with conventional Christian teachings about hell and judgment and what they mean for our relationship with God and each other. Is there an alternative to the usual polar views of a just God short on mercy or a merciful God short on justice? Could our conflicted views of hell be symptoms of a deeper set of problems – misunderstandings about what God’s justice and mercy are about, misconceptions about God’s purpose in creating the world, deep misgivings about what kind of character God is and what the Christian gospel is for?
Buy the book. CLICK HERE.

——————

“With the passion of a Reformation broadside, Brian McLaren’s The Last Word and the Word after That goes for popular Christianity’s theological jugular: hell and damnation. Pained by a corrupted gospel that promotes exclusion, oppression, and violence, McLaren’s fictional Pastor Dan deconstructs dangerous understandings of eternal life and points toward the joy-filled possibility of Christian community shaped by a radical biblical vision of God’s love and justice. In a time when some churches have been co-opted by fundamentalist political-theologies, this prophetic tale of a new kind of Christianity serves as a much-needed challenge and corrective.”
–Diana Butler Bass, author, Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community

——————-

“Brian McLaren has written a remarkable book on hell and the grace of God. And it is one hell of a book! The book is a narrative account, offered in a winsome conversational mode, that traces his thinking from a flat, closed, literalistic notion of God’s wrath to a relational articulation of alienation and reconciliation. McLaren’s work will be of immense help to those who are rethinking fundamentalist, literalistic ways of God that, in his judgment, have little to do with the Bible itself. The last word in the horizon of this book is hell, taken as ultimate divine punishment. The pastoral power of this book is that after that word, there is still the word of divine grace and forgiveness that overrides all the threat. This is a bold book that evades none of the hard questions. It evidences yet again why McLaren is an emerging voice to be taken seriously concerning new modes of church and new practices of faith.”
–Walter Brueggemann, minister, United Church of Christ; professor, Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia

Buy the book. CLICK HERE.
—————

Some Quotes


Biblically, God chooses some, not to the exclusion of others but for the benefit of others: they’re “blessed to be a blessing.”

I am more interested in generating conversation that argument, believing that conversations have the potential to form us, inform us, and educate us far more than arguments.

“There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.” – [from C.S. Lewis]

Could and would people be good without hell looming beyond death?

Real Christianity: It’s forever timely, not timeless.

[I rediscovered] my faith not as a set of doctrines on an outline of propositions but rather as…”the story we find ourselves in.” We don’t just hear the story or believe it, but it enters us, and we enter it.

I never liked the slippery slope analogy anyway. To me we’re starting at the bottom of the mountain, not the top. [I’m] not sliding, [I’m] climbing.

You’ve got to say that God doesn’t want people to go to hell. He wants to forgive us but he has to play by the rules of the court. It’s the only way you can save God from seeming like a monster. Of course, when you solve the hell problem that way, you have the new problem of creating a higher authority than God.

Scripture can’t self-interpret, so that brings reason in.

We lift statements of the their historical and narrative context, as if the Bible were some kind of timeless textbook or encyclopedia with no context, no history. As if the Bible were a codebook with truth hermetically sealed inside it.

The persistent Jewish disinterest in afterlife was all the more significant because their neighbors were fixated on a live after death. Nearly all the [other] cultures of the Tigris-Euphrates valley had stories of the underworld, or the place of the dead, which was a kind of shadowy place, dry, barren, gloomy.

Hellfire language is most popular when people have an enemy they need to vilify, some feared individual or group they need to blame for whatever is wrong with the cosmic order.

Rhetorical hermeneutics: An approach to Scripture that among other things tells us that we normally pay too much attention to what the writers are saying and not enough to what they’re doing.

[Hitler] realized that his agenda of killing the weak rather than caring for them was contrary to the ethos of the churches; wartime, he felt, would create an environment where the churches would be less likely to break ranks and speak prophetically to the state. Could the same sort of thing be happening today? Could the so-called war on terrorism be keeping the churches here in America from speaking prophetically to the state?

Most of the passages in the New Testament which have been thought by the Church to refer to people going into eternal punishment after they die don’t in fact refer to any such thing. The great majority of them have to do with the way God acts within the would and history.

[Concerning books like the “Left Behind” series]
What if Islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia published a book that pictured American Christians being thrown into hell? Wouldn’t I be worried that this kind of literature would fan the flames of terrorism and perhaps even inspire fundamentalists to look forward to the day when people like us would be destroyed?

To seek God’s kingdom and justice means to seek for God’s will to be done on the earth as it is in heaven. [At the heart of the gospel is social justice. Not converting the world to a set of doctrines. Pre-occupation with the afterlife leads people to say] The world will soon end, so why worry about justice here and now. [Why worry about a planet that’s just going to burn.]

Our understanding of hell must be rooted in an acceptable portrayal of God…[and] the portrayal of God’s character that Christians should accept makes God’s love his primary motivational characteristic.

Buy the book. CLICK HERE.

 

2010 in review January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2010. That’s about 15 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 68 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 150 posts. There were 67 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 19th with 270 views. The most popular post that day was The Misunderstood God.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, en.wordpress.com, reunionsingers.com, mail.yahoo.com, and lifewalk.info.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for lifewalk, rich mullins quotes, andrew farley heresy, short pro life quotes, and chris colcord.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Misunderstood God September 2010
6 comments

2

Tribbles Aren’t The Trouble. Labels Are. August 2010
26 comments

3

Scriptures and the Word of God October 2010
4 comments

4

Eve Of Destruction 2012 July 2010

5

About Me May 2009
1 comment

 

 
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