______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Now, Can’t We All Just Get Along? November 8, 2016

“No.  We can’t.”

As many others have said, this election cycle has brought out the worst in people.  It’s exposed an underbelly of America that we’ve long been told was no longer a big issue.
I can still love friends and family with whom I disagree.  That doesn’t mean I can respect their beliefs.  It doesn’t mean I can agree to disagree.

Yes, I’m talking about Trump voters.
Especially “Christian” Trump voters.
This man’s campaign was based on, and filled with racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and unadulterated hate.  A straight, white, protestant male will be largely unaffected by a Trump presidency.  But all kinds of minorities will suffer dearly.
How am I supposed to agree to disagree with that.  We can’t just “move on.”  It would be like watching a man beat his slave, and have him tell me, “Well, we just have to agree to disagree.”
It would be like seeing a public servant refuse to do her job of issuing marriage licences, putting loving couples through the ringer, and saying, “She’s just following her convictions.”
No.  I can’t do that.
She can follow her convictions by resigning from a job she refuses to do!

And let me just say that not tolerating intolerance is not being intolerant.
JESUS didn’t practice or advocate forcing your convictions on others. That’s not something his followers do. That’s what Pharisees do.

Christian slave owners were just following their convictions.  Men who didn’t want women to vote were just following their convictions.  Many who’ve inflicted torture in the name of God were just following their convictions.
I’ve had friends tell me that the only people it’s OK to be intolerant of is “Christians.”  What I actually see is that Christians are one of, if not THE most privileged groups in America.  In fact, they’ve been so privileged for so long that to them, not being allowed to discriminate feels like discrimination.  Not being able to legislate their beliefs, and force them on others, to them feels like oppression.   It’s not enough for them to live by their convictions.  They want the rest of us forced to do the same.  Trying to show them they’ve been used and manipulated, of course, doesn’t do any good.  Thank God, their are millions of Christians who are not part of the “religious right.”

So how do you just get along with racist, religiously intolerant, homophobic, xenophobic, “good-old-boys?”  Frankly, you don’t. “Agree to disagree” is not something I can do in cases of social injustice.

We can not come together as a Nation at the expense of the marginalized; the ones I believe Jesus would have stood up for.  (His greatest enemies were the “Religious Right” of his day.)
You may be my friend.  You may be a family member.  And I may love you dearly.  But if you’re a part of the problems I’ve mentioned (inherent with voting for Trump), I will fight what you stand for, legally, socially and non-violently, with every fiber of my being.
I do want unity and peace as a Nation. But sadly, as long as these age-old attitudes of oppression are alive and well, we can’t, actually, just all get along.



Calling Evil Good February 21, 2012

I’m still amazed, amazingly, at how ones approach to scripture can flavor, alter, or completely reverse the meaning of a given passage.  I’ve heard countless sermons in institutional churches quoting scripture to defend the very religious system those verses were intended to condemn.  An instance that recently came to mind is Isaiah 5:20.

“Doom to you who call evil good and good evil, Who put darkness in place of light and light in place of darkness, Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”

Usually, I’ve heard this applied in a general “church vs. the world” context.  Reading the entire passage from a Christ-centered perspective we can begin to see how once again, the love of God has been perverted by religion.  True, this section does address “carousing.”

But its stronger focus is on spiritual insensitivity and social injustice.  Many often scoff at issues of social injustice, implying them to be of worldly concern.  In fact, as I’ve previously stated, these concerns are the gospel.  At least they are a large part of Jesus’ focus.

Back to calling “evil” good.
Could it be that once again our Western-world fundamentalist mind-set has clouded our vision?  Could it be that the ones condemning the world for calling evil good are those in fact guilty of this crime?

Consider these options:
– When we know that we are God’s house, could referencing any brick-and-mortar building as “God’s house” (something not done in the New Testament) be calling evil good?
– Isn’t emphasizing the avoidance of things like smoking and cussing, instead of focusing on how we treat others a form of calling evil good, and good evil?
– Is it possible that the very concept of a “just war” is calling evil good?
– And when we kill our enemies in the name of God and country, might that be calling  evil good?  Hey, I’m just asking you to consider the possibility.
– Are all the intensely “grace-a-phobic” religious people calling evil good when they relish in the idea that those who don’t see things their way are “going to hell”? (Don’t tell me you don’t know these people.  They’re very fond of believing that “They’ll get theirs someday!”)

– If the hate-filled, sign-carrying protesters constantly ignore the fact that, according to Ezekiel 16:49, the true sin of Sodom was the social injustice of ignoring the poor and the needy, are not they the ones actually calling evil good, and good evil, as they oppress our gay brothers and sisters in the Lord?
– Could insisting that old covenant tithing be observed by those under grace be calling evil good?

What other cherished teachings of religious institutions may share this unholy distortion?

I remember when I thought the term “fallen from grace” meant someone was involved in some kind of “gross sin.”  It was quite the revelation when I finally understood that, according to Galatians 5:4,  “falling from grace” meant living by the law!
Truly, that perversion of the good-news is calling “good” evil.

Like I indicated at the beginning, our preconceived notions bear heavy weight on what “we say ‘God says.'”
Once we begin the journey out of that religiously induced fog of legalism, we are free to start re-thinking our beliefs from a “Christ-centric” approach.

I can guarantee, that as we do this God’s grace will give new birth to our spirits, and new understanding as to what it means to “call evil good.”



Abomination July 21, 2011

    I’ve often heard things like
“Yeah, he say’s he’s a Christian, but he drinks beer and cusses.”
How about instead,
“Yeah, he says he’s a Christian, but he doesn’t feed the hungry, or stand for equality.”

Or maybe,
“Yeah, he says he’s a pro-life Christian, but he doesn’t stand against the death penalty or torture.”

“Yeah, he says he’s a Christian, but he still thinks the church is a building, and on some level, grace has to be earned.”

I could do this all day, but the point is obvious:
The way religion has twisted the gospel is truly an abomination.


Tithing and Clergy Salaries May 27, 2009

Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ..How do we rob you? ‘ In tithes and offerings. You are under curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.’

This passage from Malachi Chapter 3 seems to be many a pastor’s favorite Bible text. Especially when church giving is at low tide. If you have spent any time in the modern church, you have heard this passage thundered from the pulpit on numerous occasions. I have had it pushed down my throat so many times I have lost count.

Consider some of the rhetoric that goes with it:

“God has commanded you to faithfully give your tithes. If you do not tithe, you are robbing God Almighty, and you put yourself under a curse.”

“Let’s repeat the ‘Tither ‘s Creed’ together shall we? ..The tithe is the Lord’s. In truth we learned it. In faith we believe it. In joy we give it. The tithe!'”.

“Your tithes and offerings are necessary if God’s work will go.. on!” ..(“God’s work,” of course, means salarying the pastoral staff and footing the monthly electric bill to keep the building afloat.)

What is the result of this sort of pressure? God’s people are guilted into giving one-tenth of their incomes every week. When they do, they feel they have made God happy. And they can expect Him to bless them financially. When they fail, they feel they are being disobedient, and a financial curse looms over them.

But let us take a few steps backward and ask the penetrating question: “Does the Bible teach us to tithe? And … are we spiritually obligated to fund the pastor and his staff? ”

The answer to these two questions is shocking. (If you are a pastor, it is arresting. So you may want to take out your heart medicine now!)

Is Tithing Biblical?

Tithing does appear in the Bible. So yes, tithing is Biblical. But it is not Christian. The tithe belongs to ancient Israel. It was essentially their income tax. NEVER do you find first-century Christians tithing in the NT.

Most Christians do not have the foggiest idea about what the Bible teaches regarding the tithe. So let us look at it. The word “tithe” simply means the tenth part.’ The Lord instituted three kinds of tithes for Israel as part of their taxation system. They area:

A tithe of the produce of the land to support the Levites who had no inheritance in Canaan.

A tithe of the produce of the land to sponsor religious festivals in Jerusalem. If the produce was too burdensome for a family to carry to Jerusalem, they could convert it into money.’

A tithe of the produce of the land collected every third year for the local Levites, orphans, strangers, and widows.’

This was the Biblical tithe. Notice that God commanded Israel to give 23.3% of their income every year, as opposed to 10%.  These tithes consisted of the produce of the land—which is, the seed of the land, the fruit of the land, and the herd or the flock. It was the product of the land, not money.

A clear parallel can be seen between Israel’s tithing system and the modern taxation system present in America. Israel was obligated to support their national workers (priests), their holidays (festivals), and their poor (strangers, widows, and orphans) by their annual tithes. Most modern tax systems serve the same purpose.

With the death of Jesus, all ceremonial, governmental, and religious codes that belonged to the Jews were nailed to His cross and buried . . . never to come out again to condemn us. For this reason, we never see Christians tithing in the NT. No more than we see them sacrificing goats and bulls to cover their sins!

Paul writes, “And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross . . . Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.”‘

[Buy “Pagan Christianity.”  Click HERE.]

Tithing belonged exclusively to Israel under the Law. When it comes to financial stewardship, we see the first-century saints giving cheerfully according to their ability—not dutifully out of a command.’ Giving in the early church was voluntary.’ And those who benefited from it were the poor, orphans, widows, sick, prisoners, and strangers.

I can hear someone making the following objection right now: “But what about Abraham? He lived before the Law. And we see him tithing to the high priest Melchizedek.” Does this not overturn your argument that the tithe is part of the Mosaic Law? ”

No it does not. First, Abraham’s tithe was completely voluntary. It was not compulsory. God did not command it as He did with the tithe for Israel.

Second, Abraham tithed out of the spoils that he acquired after a particular battle he fought. He did not tithe out of his own regular income or property. Abraham’s act of tithing would be akin to you winning the lottery, a mega jackpot, or receiving a work-bonus, then.. tithing it.

Third, and most important, this is the only time that Abraham tithed out of his 175 years of life on this earth. We have no evidence that he ever did such a thing again. Consequently, if you wish to use Abraham as a “proof text” to argue that Christians must tithe, then you are only obligated to tithe one time!’.

This brings us back to that oft-quoted text in Malachi 3. What was God saying there? First, this passage was directed to ancient Israel when they were under the Mosaic Law. God’s people were holding back their tithes and offerings. Consider what would happen if a large portion of Americans refused to pay their income taxes. American law views this as robbery.  Those found guilty would be punished for stealing from the government.

In the same way, when Israel held back her taxes (tithes), she was stealing from God—the One who instituted the tithing system. The Lord then commanded His people to bring their tithes into the storehouse. The storehouse was located in the chambers of the temple. The chambers were set apart to hold the tithes (which was produce, not money) for the support of the Levites, the poor, the strangers, and the widows.

Notice the context of Malachi-3:8-10: In verse 5, the Lord says that He will judge those who oppress the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger. He says, “So I will come near to you for judgment. I will be a quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me.”

The widows, fatherless, and strangers were the rightful re­cipients of the tithe. Because Israel was withholding her tithes, she was guilty of oppressing these three groups. Herein is the heart of God in Malachi 3:8-10: Oppression to the poor.

How many times have you heard preachers point this out when they harangued you with Malachi 3? Out of the scores of sermons I have heard on tithing, I never once heard a whisper about what the passage was actually talking about. That is, tithes were for the purpose of supporting the widows, the fatherless, the strangers, and the Levites (who owned nothing). This is what the Lord’s word in Malachi 3 has in view.

The Origin of the Tithe and the Clergy Salary.

Cyprian (200-258) is the first Christian writer to mention the practice of financially supporting the clergy. He argued that just as the Levites were supported by the tithe, so the Christian clergy should be supported by the tithe.  But this is misguided thinking. Today, the Levitical system has been abolished. We are all priests now. So if a priest demands a tithe, then all Christians should tithe to one another!.

Cyprian’s plea was exceedingly rare for his time. It was neither picked up nor echoed by the Christian populace until much later.  Other than Cyprian, no Christian writer before Constantine ever used Old Testament references to advocate tithing.” It was not until the fourth century, 300 years after Christ, that some Christian leaders began to advocate tithing as a Christian practice to support the clergy.  But it did not become widespread among Christians until the eighth century!  According to one scholar, “For the first seven hundred years they [tithes] are hardly ever mentioned.”

Charting the history of Christian tithing is a fascinating exercise. Tithing evolved from the State to the church. Giving a tenth of one’s produce was the customary rent-charge for lands that were leased in Western Europe. As the church increased its ownership of land across Europe, the 10% rent-charge was given to the church. This gave the 10% rent-charge a new meaning. It came to be identified with the Levitical tithe!  Consequently, the Christian tithe as an institution was based on a fusion of Old Testament practice and pagan institution.

By the eighth century, the tithe became required by law in many areas of Western Europe.  By the end of the tenth century, the distinction of the tithe as a rent-charge and a moral requirement supported by the Old Testament had faded.  The tithe became mandatory throughout Christian Europe.

To put it another way, before the eighth century the tithe was practiced as a voluntary offering.  But by the end of the tenth century, it had devolved into a legal requirement to fund the State church—demanded by the clergy and enforced by the secular authorities!

Thankfully, most modern churches have done away with the tithe as a legal requirement.  But the practice of tithing is as much alive today as it was when it was legally binding. Sure, you may not be physically punished if you fail to tithe. But if you are not a tither in most modern churches, you will be barred from a slew of ministry positions. And you will be forever guilted from the pulpit!

As far as clergy salaries go, ministers were unsalaried for the first three centuries. But when Constantine appeared, he instituted the practice of paying a fixed salary to the clergy from church funds and municipal and imperial treasuries.  Thus was born the clergy salary, a harmful practice that has no root in the NT.

[Buy “Pagan Christianity.”  Click HERE.]

The Root of All Evil.

If a believer wishes to tithe out of personal decision or conviction, that is fine. Tithing becomes a problem when it is represented as God’s command, binding upon every believer.

Mandatory tithing equals oppression to the poor.  Not a few poor Christians have been thrown headlong into further poverty because they have been told that if they do not tithe, they are robbing God.  When tithing is taught as God’s command, Christians who can barely make ends meet are guilted into deeper poverty. In this way, tithing evacuates the gospel from being “good news to the poor.”  Rather than good news, it becomes a heavy burden. Instead of liberty, it becomes oppression. We are so apt to forget that the original tithe that God established for Israel was to benefit the poor, not hurt them!

Conversely, modern tithing is good news to the rich. To a high-earner, 10% is but a paltry sum. Tithing, therefore, appeases the consciences of the rich, while it has no significant impact on their lifestyles. Not a few wealthy Christians are deluded into thinking they are “obeying God” because they throw a measly 10% of their income into the offering plate.

But God has a very different view of giving. Recall the parable of the widow’s mite: “Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ..I tell you the truth, ‘ He said, ..this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Sadly, tithing is often viewed as a litmus test for discipleship. If you are a good Christian, you will tithe (so it is thought). But this is a bogus application. Tithing is no sign of Christian devotion. If it were, all first-century Christians would be condemned as being un-devoted!

The lingering root behind the sustained push for tithing in the modern church is the clergy salary. Not a few pastors feel that they must preach tithing to remind their congregation of its obligation to support them and their programs. And they will use the promise of financial blessing or the fear of a financial curse to ensure that the tithes keep rolling in.

In this way, modern tithing is the equivalent of a Christian lottery. Pay the tithe, and God will give you more money in return. Refuse to tithe, and God will punish you. Such thoughts rip at the heart of the good news of the gospel.

The same can be said about the clergy salary. It too has no NT merit. In fact, the clergy salary runs against the grain of the entire New Covenant.  Elders (shepherds) in the first century were never salaried.  They were men with an earthly vocation.  They gave to the flock rather than took from it.

Salarying pastors makes them paid professionals. It elevates them above the rest of God’s people. It creates a clerical caste that turns the living Body of Christ into a business. Since the pastor and his staff are “paid” to do ministry—they are the paid professionals. The rest of the church lapses into a state of passive dependence.

If every Christian got in touch with the call that lies upon them to be functioning priests in the Lord’s house (and they were permitted to exercise that call), the question would immediately arise: “What on earth are we paying our pastor for!?”

But in the presence of a passive priesthood, such questions never arise.40 On the contrary, when the church functions as she should, a professional clergy becomes unnecessary. Suddenly, the thought that says, “that is the job of the pastor” looks heretical. Put simply, a professional clergy fosters the pacifying illusion that the Word of God is classified (and dangerous) material that only card-carrying experts can handle.

But that is not all. Paying a pastor forces him to be a man-pleaser. It makes him the slave of men. His meal-ticket is attached to how well his congregation likes him. Thus he is not free to speak freely without the fear that he may lose some heavy tithers. Herein lies the scourge of the pastor system.

A further peril of the paid pastor system is that it produces men who are void of any skill—something we inherited from the pagan Greeks. For this reason, it takes a man of tremendous courage to step out of the pastorate.

Unfortunately, most of God’s people are deeply naive about the overwhelming power of the pastor system. It is a faceless system that does not tire of chewing up and spitting out its young.  Again, God never intended the professional pastorate to exist. There is no Scriptural mandate or justification for such a thing. In fact, it is impossible to construct a Biblical defense for it.

Most frequently, ushers are called upon to handle the reception of the money during the church service. Typically, they do so by passing a “collection plate” to the congregation. The practice of passing the collection plate is another post-apostolic invention. It began in 1662. Although alms dishes and alms chests were present before then.

The usher originated from Queen Elizabeth I’s (1533-1603) reorganization of the liturgy of the church of England. Ushers had the job of seeing where the people sat, collecting the offering, and keeping records of who took communion. The predecessor of the usher is the church “porter.” The porter was a minor order (lesser clergy) tracing back to the third century.46 Porters had the duty of superintending lock up and opening of church doors, keeping order in the building, and the general direction of the deacons.47 Porters were replaced by “churchwardens” in England before and during the Reformation period.48 Out of the churchwarden grew the usher.


In conclusion, tithing, while Biblical, is not Christian. Jesus Christ did not affirm it. The first-century Christians did not observe it. And for 300 years, God’s people did not practice it. Tithing did not become a widely accepted practice among Chris­tians until the eighth century!

Giving in the NT was according to one’s ability. Christians gave to help other believers as well as to support apostolic workers, enabling them to travel and plant churches.49 One of the most outstanding testimonies of the early church has to do with how liberal the Christians were to the poor and needy.50 This is what provoked outsiders, including the philosopher Galen, to watch the awesome, winsome power of the early church and say: “Behold how they love one another. ”

Tithing is only mentioned four times in the NT. But none of these instances applies to Christians. Again, tithing belongs to the Old Testament era where a taxation system was needed to support the poor and where a special priesthood was set apart to minister to the Lord. With the coming of Jesus Christ, there has been a “change of law”—the old has been “set aside” and rendered obsolete by the new.

We are all priests now—free to function in God’s house. The Law, the old priesthood, and the tithe have all been crucified. There is now no temple curtain, no temple tax, and no special priesthood that stands between God and man. You, dear Christian, have been set free from the bondage of tithing and from the obligation to support an unbiblical clergy system.

–Frank Viola

[Buy “Pagan Christianity.”  Click HERE.]


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