LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

A Walk In The Park April 16, 2010

We recently went to Headwaters park for a walk. It was our first time this season. We go there a lot throughout the summer. We try to hit various parks, but that’s one of our regulars.

I was enjoying the walk. Enjoying the view. I started thinking about the beauty of nature; of God’s creation. It’s easy, of course, to switch gears and start thinking about how we’ve messed up nature. Man has, with no doubt, had a negative influence on nature. We’re still messing up nature. But…

I started thinking about the park again, and how beautiful it was. I started to realize that the beauty of the park was, in part, due to man’s influence on nature. This park was created by professional landscapers. There are people who keep it mowed, trimmed, green and pristine. So, although we destroy, abuse, and trash the earth, we can, in fact, have a positive influence. This led me to recall God’s original intent for the interaction and harmony between man and the earth. And between one another.

In chapter 2 of Genesis we read, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

In Evangelical Christianity, I learned that the earth doesn’t really matter. We can treat it as we please, and God doesn’t really care. After all, it’s all gonna burn anyway, right? Part of the problem with modern Evangelicalism is the whole focus is “later.” Our lives are just a “waiting room,” and all we really want to do is leave. What a perversion of the gospel. What a perversion of what Jesus came to teach us.
As Greg X Voltz wrote in his song “Livin’ For The Bell,”
      “There’s a lot to get done before the end of the show,
       but it’s hard to get to it when you just want to go.”

I believe our lives do matter. They matter here. They matter now. I don’t think we have a clue as to how much what we do in our everyday lives will affect the rest of our eternity. I’m not talking about whether or not we “make it.” That issue is not in question for me. I’m talking about aspects of the rest of eternity that we can not yet understand. But, understand or not, I believe how we treat the planet God gave us, and put us in charge of caring for, matters.

The good thing is, it doesn’t have to be all negative. As my walk in the park helped me see, we can make it better. This applies, not just to our interaction with nature, but with each other as well. This is where the social justice of things like standing up for the oppressed and caring for the poor and needy comes in. I have a couple of friends who work with children in Haiti. They have done this long before the recent devastation happened. To me, this is a part of social justice. This is Christianity. I love that they do what they do.

I’ll probably never go to Haiti. It’s not something I’m very comfortable with. I can, though, support those who do go.
There are things I can do. We all have areas where God can use us to make things better. I don’t consider my wife and I fanatics. We don’t do everything “green,” but we do what we can. We can recycle, at least, some stuff. We can use organic and earth friendly products most of the time. We can’t give to all the needy, but we can go on the annual “Aids Walk,” and help raise funds for them. We can spend time with the lonely stranger that God has us cross paths with. And we can do this out of love, instead of seeing everyone as a “project;” as a “candidate for conversion.”

My life may not always be a walk in the park. But wherever the path leads, my walk matters. My life matters. What I do in relation to God, people, and the earth matters. This is my Life Walk.

 

My Review Of “A New Kind Of Christianity” March 11, 2010

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“I am a Christian who does not believe in Christianity as I used to, but who believes in Christ with all my heart, more than ever”
— Brian McLaren –

Some people read material to find the good in it.  Many read material, especially if they think it will challenge their perceived “rightness,” to find the bad in it.

If you read “A New Kind Of Christianity” to find fault, you will find it (as you will with any book).  But if you read, not out of fear of challenge, but rather with the embrace of challenge, you may find a well of new life flowing from its pages.

This book is far different, and I believe better, than “A New Kind Of Christian” in both style and substance.  I’m glad I read the previous work, but if you can only read one, this is the one to read.

In his new book, McLaren covers what he calls “Ten questions that are transforming the faith.”  He talks about things like, what the Bible is and isn’t, and how we should approach it;  the nature of God, and how the Bible, starting with Genesis, expresses a maturing understanding of God, culminating in Jesus;  the true “gospel” of Christ, as opposed to the gloom-and-doom we have tragically called “good news;” the reality of the kingdom of God in the here-and-now; how we relate to people of other religions; the future; and, of course sex.  (OK, I read the sex chapter first.  What can I say?)

I found the sections on how we got where we are very interesting; the whole “Greco-Roman” thought patterns that we don’t even know we have.

The “God question,” and the “Jesus question” are of extreme importance.  It becomes clear that, though Brian has very little use for what we have called Christianity, his awe, love, and commitment to Jesus are only increasing.  That’s very much where I’ve been for a number of years now.  It’s great to read of others on the same, or similar, journeys.

He does a great job of clarifying what the gospel of Jesus really is, and how that ties right in with what the kingdom of God really is, and the vital importance of knowing each.  Those beliefs have direct consequences in how we treat others, and in how we treat this home that God has asked us to take care of.

Chapter 15 contains the best treatise on Romans I have ever read.  This chapter could be worth the price of the book.  Very often, I’ve seen Romans in contradiction to the Gospel.  I thought this chapter really clears that up.
Of course, many of  teachings of the four gospels, as wonderfully explained in “The Naked Gospel,” are, indeed in opposition to many teachings of the epistles.  But that’s another book.

Brian takes a look at how we view the future.  Both Greg Albrecht and Bert Gary have a good deal to say on this subject, especially in how we look at the book of Revelation.  Much of all this focuses on Jesus’ repeated teaching that the “kingdom of God is with you,” and how that kingdom is expressed.

In Chapter 17 Mr. McLaren tries to find a way we can better address the issue of human sexuality without fighting about it.  Many people still seem the best way to speak to those with whom they strongly disagree is via a shouting match.  Wow, talk about proving the definition of “insanity.”  He ,as expected, addresses homosexuality and shares some very insightful and, in my opinion, very practical information.  One chapter doesn’t really do the subject justice, but he’s not attempting to provide all the answers.

There are a couple of ideas that seem to spread through all the chapters.  One is what Brian refers to as “the Greco-Roman narrative.”  The other is a call to find a new way of reading the Bible.  (The latter of the two is a much larger and more thorough look at some of the themes Bert Gary and I dealt with in our joint article for PTM, “Does The Bible Really Say That?” http://ptm.org/free1yrPT.asp)
This new way of reading (or approach to) the Bible involves replacing the “constitutional” reading with the “community library” reading.  Of course, you’ll need to read the book to see those ideas really fleshed-out.

The “thought police” are already screaming “heresy!”  That is to be expected.  The church has a long history of suppression.  I read a lot that I often don’t agree with, but I’m not afraid of thoughts or different ideas.   Many people are scared to death of new ideas.  This is often with good reason.  Their views are often so rigid, that if one “card” of their house is removed, the whole thing comes tumbling down.  As one teacher once said “If you don’t believe in a literal six-day creation, then you don’t believe in the cross of Christ.”  Gee, I thought I could separate my ideas.  Anyway…

This book goes in my list of the 5 (maybe 3) most important books I’ve ever read.  I do have to be careful.  As McLaren said, “I gradually learned to simply share with those who either “got it” or wanted to get it and not to bother – or look down upon – those who didn’t.”

So, yeah, I recommend this book.  “A New Kind Of Christianity” is really just about getting back to Jesus.  Not the gun-toting, flag-waving, war-loving, earth-abusing, “them”-hating, semi-deity we’ve made God into, but the real Jesus.  The one who really is the way, the truth, and the life.

Buy the book HERE.
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A small sample from “A New Kind Of Christianity” —

“I love the Bible.  I’m in awe of it.”  “But my quest for a new kind of Christianity has required me to ask some hard questions about the Bible I love.”
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“The slippery-slope argument – that we’d better not budge on or rethink anything for fear we’ll slip down into liberalism, apostasy, or some other hell – proves itself dangerous and naïve even as it tries to protect us from danger and naiveté.  [For one thing] it assumes that we’re already at the top of the slope, when it’s just as likely that we’re already at the bottom or somewhere in the middle.”

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To say that the Word of God is in the biblical text, then, does not mean that you can extract verses or statements from the text at will and call them “God’s words.”
We can very easily confuse “The Bible says” with “I say the Bible says,” which we can then equate with “God says.”  Protestants, Pentecostals, Catholics, and Orthodox could all be found proving points by referring to Scripture in exactly the way the pro-slavers did.

Very few Christians today have given a second thought to — much less repented of — this habitual, conventional way of reading and interpreting the Bible that allowed slavery, anti-Semitism, apartheid, chauvinism, environmental plundering, prejudice against gay people, and other injustices to be legitimized and defended for so long.  Yes, we’ve stopped using the Bible to defend certain things once they were “discredited by events,” but we still use the Bible in the same way to defend any number of other things that have not yet been fully discredited, but soon may be.  [We need] a new, more mature and responsible approach to the Bible.
Buy the book HERE.
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Christianity entered into a troubling alliance with [Constantine’s] Roman Empire.  In that alliance, unity of belief became politically useful – and enforceable.  The fusion was problematic from the beginning.  The church participated in the identification and execution of about twenty-five thousand people as heretics.  The religion that was ostensibly founded by a nonviolent man of peace had now embraced the very violence he rejected.
Dynamic faith that moves mountains was out; static belief that burns or banishes heretics was in.  Catalytic faith as an agent of social transformation was out; codified belief as a tool of social control was in.  As I ponder what this atrocity has meant in our world, I recall Woody Allen’s statement that if Jesus could see what people have done in his name, he would “never stop throwing up.”

Buy the book HERE.

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What we need is not simply a new way of thinking, although our quest leads deep into and through the mind. We also need a new way of ‘being’, a new inner ecology, a new spirituality that does more than make us opinionated and fastidious, but that renders our souls an orchard of trees bearing good fruit, rooted in who we are before God and who we are becoming in God.
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“We’ve gotten ourselves in a mess with the Bible.”

“First, we are in a scientific mess.  Fundamentalism…again and again paints itself into a corner by requiring that the Bible be treated as a divinely dictated science textbook.”  “This approach has set up Christians on the wrong side of truth again and again.”  “Many pious people deny our environmental crises by quoting Bible verses and mocking science.  Just as they were the last to acknowledge the rotation of the earth and its revolution around the sun, they’ll be the last to acquiesce to what science is telling us about our growing ecological crises.”

“Second, we are in trouble in relation to ethics.”  “…we are stuck now…largely obsessed with narrow hot-button feuds (eg. abortion, sexual orientation, nationalism, genetic engineering) that end up being little more than litmus tests for political affiliation.”
“In the United States, white Evangelical Christians are the most fervent advocates of government-sanctioned torture and…frequent churchgoing is a statistical indicator of support for torture.”

“Third, we are in deep trouble relating to peace.”   “When careless preachers use the Bible as a club or sword to dominate or wound, they discredit the Bible in a way that no skeptic can.”
“It’s an old and tired game:  quoting sacred texts to strengthen an us-versus-them mentality.”  “In case after case in the past, there is a kind of Bible-quoting intoxication under the influence of which we religious people lose the ability to distinguish between what God says and what we say God says.

—-  Taken from “A New Kind Of Christianity” by Brian McLaren. Buy the book HERE.

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“There are two ways to read the Bible, frontwards and backwards.  If we locate Jesus primarily in light of the story that has unfolded since his time on earth, we will understand him in one way.  But if we see him emerging from within a story that had been unfolding through his ancestors, and if we primarily locate him in that story, we might understand him in a very different way.”

—- Taken from “A New Kind Of Christianity” by Brian McLaren.  Buy the book HERE.

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