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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Does Jesus Really Love Me? March 19, 2013

CHU
Does Jesus Really Love Me?
A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America
– Jeff Chu

This book is an incredible achievement.
It may be Jeff’s pilgrimage, but the stories come from many. At this time in history, this book is über-relevant, and much needed.

In his rather brave journeys, Jeff Chu has talked with/interviewed people across the nation, from various walks of life, with vastly, vastly differing opinions on the subjects of Christian faith and sexual orientation.  From Justin Lee (Gay Christian Network), to Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church), to everyday people who are just trying to figure out life.
His pilgrimage was also to help him understand how people can read the same Bible, and come to such dramatically different conclusions.

Mr. Chu not only shares his story and the stories of others, but he occasionally “steps aside” and just lets people, including John Smid and Ted Haggard, tell their own stories.
Some stories are uplifting.  Some are heartbreaking. Some are damn maddening.

One of the most unusual things for me was Jeff describing the people of WBC as friendly and warm.   Jeff actually went on a protest with them!
Still, they would use words like “fag” and “whore” with the comfort and ease of saying “tall” or “brunet.”
Sounds like they have some major cognitive dissonance going on. But we also see that, except for their trademark acts of extremism, their beliefs are quite similar to most fundamentalist churches.

Of course, there are stories of being rejected by family and friends.  Of being designated as hell-bound abominations by those who should be the ones most loving and supportive.  (How anyone can think that that kind of religiously-induced hatred has anything whatsoever to do with God is beyond me.)
There’s discussion of so-called “ex-gay” organizations. We look at the difference between “hate-based” and “fear-based” anti-gay sentiments.
We learn, too, that in Nashville Tennessee (the “Protestant Vatican”), “You can’t do anything without involving the church.”
We look at mixed-orientation marriages (Chapter 7 is awesome). And we discover the special challenges of being gay in an African-American church.

I was very glad to see a chapter on the Gay Christian Network, as well as an interview with my facebook friend  Michael Bussee. Oh, and Jennifer Knapp. She’s here.

This book isn’t just for straight Christians to understand those of other orientations.  It’s for all of us to understand ourselves. It is also (and I have found this essential) for people of varying orientations to understand each other.  Even though “christianists” have honed it to an art-form, being judgmental isn’t something on which they’ve cornered the market.  I, as a so-called “spousosexual” think Jeff’s book has the potential for helping all of us to better understand the “other.”  Just because people may share the common bond of not being straight doesn’t mean they inherently share much else.  Sometimes we talk about “both sides,” as if there are only two views.  Mr. Chu’s chronicle helps us see otherwise.

Some very misinformed people see LGBT persons as inherently uninterested in the Bible, or issues of faith.  Not true.  Some are, and some are not. I don’t believe that institutional religion is usually a good thing.  So it bothers me, somewhat, that people struggle so hard to be accepted by organizations that I don’t think should exist in the first place.
Still, I understand.
Tradition and religious structure are very important to some.
Wanting love and acceptance is universal.

If I have one disagreement with the author, it’s that America is a Christian nation. I know many people think it is. Many want it to be one. I, as a “Jesus lover,” do not. I get his point, though, when he states that “Christianequse civil religion prevails in America.”

So, “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” To what conclusions did this pilgrimage lead?
Well, I have to say Jeff through me a curve. I really didn’t see some of his comments coming. I’ll just say that I smiled alot during the final chapter.

– df

I had the honor of reading and reviewing this book before it’s release.
Mega-thanks to HarperCollins AND to Jeff Chu.
Buy The Book.  Click HERE
.

Some quotes:

– This issue is about sons and daughters, friends and lovers, our neighbors, ourselves. It is also about our freedom, our faith, perhaps our salvation.
– I doubt. A lot. And yet I can’t not believe in God.
– Christian maturity is partly about living in the tension of not knowing, and it’s okay not to be sure.
– [Here’s one from Andrae Gonzalo that many of us can identify with.] I got saved every night before I went to bed.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Nearly every relationship I had in the church community virtually stopped overnight. It was like I ceased to exist. [John Hauenstein, on coming out to his church “family.”]
– The term Christian means radically different things to different people.
– [Important!] While the anger among those who have suffered because of organizations such as Exodus makes sense, to channel it as they [often] do… helps nothing, heals nothing, and draws nobody closer to God.
– Humans are expert box builders. It’s what we do to make sense of the world.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Christian leaders have a responsibility to do image management and damage control, and that leads them to a natural tendency toward Phariseeism. [Ted Haggard]
– I stopped praying, “God make me straight,” and I started praying, “God, show me what you want me to do.” [Justin Lee]
– …Those moments…when the light is so pure, so clear. It’s as if you’d never seen the world with these eyes before, and once you do, nothing can be the same.
– I run into people all the time who say, “The Bible Says…” They never say “…as it has been translated and interpreted.” There’s no hermeneutical awareness, and you shouldn’t be able to get away with that. We are all interpreting.” [Mark Tidd]
– I searched dozens of congregations in a host of denominations. What I never found was _________. (You’ll have to Buy The Book to finish that quote.)

At the highest level, I want to live a life that pleases God.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

———————

Afterthought:
I must say, I’m not fond of the title.  Yes, ultimately it’s an important question, but it’s too “Sunday school” for the complexity of Jeff’s work here.  And the sub-title…
well, nevermind.
I just think this is a great book, and the title doesn’t come close to conveying that.

———————

Really. Buy this book!

 

The Myth Of A Christian Nation July 15, 2010

Gregory A. Boyd:
“If Jesus wasn’t concerned about ‘taking Israel back for God’ by political means, why would any who align themselves with his kingdom aspire to ‘take back America for God’ by these means?”
“Did Jesus ever suggest by word or example that we should aspire to acquire, let alone take over, the power of Caesar?  Did Jesus spend any time and energy trying to improve, let alone dominate, the reigning government of his day?  Did he ever work to pass laws against the sinners he hung out with and ministered to?  Did he worry at all about ensuring that his rights and the religious rights of his followers were protected?  Does any author in the New Testament remotely hint that engaging in this sort of activity has anything to do with the kingdom of God?
The answer to all these questions is, of course, no.”
“However we, as American citizens, might personally decide to weigh in on these issues politically, we should not attach the label Christian to this activity.”
“Of course our political views will be influenced by our Christian faith.  But we must also recognize that people who have diametrically opposing views may believe they too are advancing the kingdom.”  [Again, this hit home with me through Philip Yancey’s statement that Hillary Clinton was pro-choice, not in opposition to Christianity, but rather because of her Christian faith.- df]

————————–
There are a couple or so ideas in this book that I most definitely do not agree with.
They are beliefs, however, I also held at one time.  I don’t wish, though, to
focus on what I don’t agree with, since most of this book expounds upon what may very well
be one of the most crucial messages of our time.  It would be very difficult to over-emphasize
the importance of this book.

The body of Christ needs a wake-up call to shake it from its
thirst for violence, hatred and bloodshed.  What many evangelicals call
a “Christian Worldview” is nothing but a religious version of the political, power-
hungry kingdom of the world.  More than one prominent televangelist has, in reference to our enemies, said things  like “Blow them away to the Glory of God.”
Rest assured that this rhetoric, whether spoken by Christians, Muslims, or any other socio-religious political group, is NOT the way of Jesus…OR of His followers.
— df
——–
Some quotes follow, which may be periodically updated.

Buy the book. Click HERE.
—————————————

“Evangelical Christians who align themselves too closely with political
causes or declare that they want to bring America ‘back to God’ are
actually doing harm—both to the body of Christ and society in general.”

From the Back Cover:
The church was established to serve the world with Christ-like love, not to rule the world. It is called to look like a corporate Jesus, dying on the cross for those who crucified him, not a religious version of Caesar. It is called to manifest the kingdom of the cross in contrast to the kingdom of the sword. Whenever the church has succeeded in gaining what most American evangelicals are now trying to get — political power — it has been disastrous both for the church and the culture. Whenever the church picks up the sword, it lays down the cross.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“It’s difficult to overemphasize the change that occurred when, in AD312, the emperor Constantine was converted.  This was the first time anyone ever associated the Christian faith with violence, but its success stained the church from then on.  [Constantine made] it a crime not to be a Christian.  The kingdom of God, manifested in the crucified Nazarene, had become the empire of Christendom.  What followed was a long and terrible history of people using the sword “in Jesus’ name for the glory of God.”
(That demonic perversion continues in much of American Christianity today. – df)

Participants in the kingdom of the world trust the power of the sword to control behavior; participants of the kingdom of God trust the power of self-sacrificial love to transform hearts.”

“We believe in our nation over and against their nation, our religion over and against their religion, our culture over and against their culture, our political ideology over and against their political ideology, and so on.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“By God’s design, people are not to be won over primarily by our clever arguments, scary religious tracts, impressive programs, or our sheer insistence that they are going to hell unless they share out theological opinions.  No, they are to be won over by the way in which we replicate Calvary to them.  That are to see and experience the reality of the coming kingdom in us.”

“The best way to get people to lay down the cross is to hand them the sword!”

On ‘God and Country’:
“We have allowed out allegiance to the kingdom of God to be compromised by allegiance to our nation, and allowed the flag to smother the cross.  The time to turn completely from this Constantinian Idolatry is long overdue.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Perhaps it would be a benefit if the word GOD wasn’t so trivially sprinkled on our coins, our Pledge of Allegiance, our civic functions, and elsewhere. We end up wasting precious time and  resources defending and tweaking the civil religion – as though doing  so had some kingdom value.”

“What if the energy and resources used to preserve and tweak the civil religion was rather spent feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, befriending the drug addict, and visiting the prisoner?  What if instead of trying to legally make life more difficult for gays, we worried only about how we could affirm their unsurpassable worth in service to them?  What if instead of trying  to defend our religious rights, Christians concerned themselves with siding with others whose rights are routinely trampled?”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Believing Jesus will soon “rapture” Christians out of the world, they have little concern with the church being a witness on issues of social justice, global peace, the environment, and so on.  Whatever else one thinks  about the New Testament’s eschatology, it certainly does not encourage this sort of escapism.”

“We must refrain from doing what Jesus never did: Namely, positioning ourselves as wiser, morally superior guardians and “fixers” of others.  Moral guardianship is what the Pharisees did — not Jesus.”
“Like Jesus, no part of Paul’s kingdom ministry involved trying to tweak the morality of the culture at large.”

“We kill and die for our freedom and the freedom of others.  But why should a kingdom person think killing for this reason is a legitimate exception to the New Testament’s command to love an bless enemies?”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

 
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