LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

“They can’t all be true” April 16, 2015



OK. I don’t usually just post a link to another blog.
BUT, here’s an exception for a REALLY GOOD article by Roger Wolsey:


4no3

Perspective

 

 

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road? November 16, 2012

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?
– Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World –

Brian D. McLaren


This is a very important and timely book.  Many are so tired of how Christianity has been co-opted, they’ve opted out of Christianity all together.
Others have  “watered down” their identity to the point of making it meaningless.   Brian believes we do not have to choose between a “Strong, hostile” Christianity and a “Weak, benign” Christianity.
There is a third way, he proposes, of a “Strong, benevolent” Christian identity;  one that can love, respect, and walk along side those of other faiths without needing to convert them, or be converted by them.  
He proposes that we can find common ground, since no one religion has a monopoly on God.  And we better understand the “kingdom of God,” as the commonwealth of God.”

The suggestions written here are not all theory or conjecture.  Brian has put this walking-with-the-other into practice.


Early on we look at “Conflicted Religious Identity Syndrome (CRIS).”  This is where we know “there is something good and real in [our] faith,” and yet we can no longer abide the “hostility toward the cherished religions of [our] non-Christian neighbors.”  This, in part, is what caused Anne Rice to proclaim “In the name of Christ…I quit Christianity.”
We look in detail at the “Us – Them” mentality that has caused such horrors throughout history.  We see that the histories that are told, who tells them, and where they start the story, shapes our worldview.  We look at the historical realities of Christopher Columbus to illustrate the point.  Of course, in this type of discussion, there’s also no way around talking about the almost unimaginable influence of Emperor Constantine on Christianity, from which we’ve still not escaped.

In another section, an amazing section,  we imagine new ways to interpret and practice the beloved doctrines of Christianity; ways that are, in fact, more in line with the life and teachings of Jesus.
The chapter in the section on baptism was awe-inspiring.  It makes me want to get baptized again, with this new, fuller, and better understanding.

The chapters of the next section cover our liturgical practices.  We see how our liturgies can camouflage injustice, usually without our even being conscience of it.  But we also discover how we can participate in holy celebrations in ways that are loving and inclusive without giving up our own identity and convictions.
McLaren gives many good suggestions for transforming Lent, Easter, Christmas, and other Christian traditions.
And, of immense importance, we are challenged to “read and teach the Bible responsibly and ethically, following the strong and benevolent examples of Paul and Jesus.
We will pick all passages that advocate hostility, vengeance, exclusion, elitism, and superiority to remind us of where we would be if not for Christ.
And we will choose all passages that advocate reconciliation, empathy, inclusion, solidarity, and equality to remind us of where we are going and who we are called to be in Christ.”

“The Missional Challenge” portion looks at what “missions” has meant, versus the actual missions to which we are called. There is a huge, grave difference between trying to convert others to your religion, and doing the hard work of love, healing, and justice that Jesus actually taught.

Let me say, although this book is primarily directed to Christians, the principles apply to Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, and, well pretty much everybody.  (One of the “recommendations” listed is from a Rabbi.)

I know many seem to think that a benevolent approach is all about compromising beliefs, being wishy-washy, etc. etc.
“It doesn’t matter what you believe,”
“All roads lead to God,” and so on.
I must admit, at one time I also thought that way.  Hey, that’s what I was taught.   This new book from Brian McLaren goes a long way toward showing that nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s like Papa said in The Shack:  “Most roads don’t lead anywhere, [but] I will travel any road to find you.”

Not everyone is comfortable with lack-of-conflict.  As Brian states, “There are few actions better guaranteed to engender conflict than proposing love and understanding for those identified as outsiders and enemies.”
But for those willing to take the chance, they will find a better Christian identity.  A truer Christian identity.  One rooted in Christ-likeness, expressing “Christ-like character, Christ-like vision, and Christ-like virtues and values,” treating others with “understanding, respect, human-kindness, [and] benevolence.”


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Quotes:

– The stronger our Christian faith, the more goodwill we will feel and show toward those of other faiths, seeking to understand and appreciate their religion from their point of view.

– I have no doubt that Jesus would actually practice the neighborliness he preached rather than follow our example of religious supremacy, hostility, fear, isolation, misinformation, exclusion, or demonization.

– Jesus himself spoke pithily and often about religious absurdity.  He surely elicited some laughs when he portrayed religious leaders as straining at gnats and swallowing camels, whitewashing tombs, scrubbing only the outside of a filthy bowl, and so on.  His whole ministry was a kind of guerrilla theatre.

– God is not a doctrine to be mastered but a mystery to be mastered by.

– We are increasingly faced with a choice, I believe, not between kindness and hostility, but between kindness and nonexistence.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– [A] gracious space of solidarity…is what Jesus called “The kingdom of God.”

– There is nothing that hurts any religion today more than it’s own establishment.

– The tensions between our conflicted religions arise not from out differences, but from one thing we all hold in common: an oppositional religious identity that derives strength from hostility.

– [We must] go through a profound rethinking of our history.

– A distorted doctrine of chosen-ness tells many sincere but misguided Christian Zionists that the Jews have been chosen by God to own certain land without concern for the well-being of their non-Jewish neighbors.  Sadly, Christians, Muslims, and Jews, for all their differences, have imitated each other again and again in misunderstanding and misapplying this doctrine of chosen-ness.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Jesus has often been presented as a weapon and a threat, more wolf of God than lamb of God, filled more with the spirit of a hawk than a dove, more avenger of heretics than friend of sinners.

– [We must be] willing to challenge violent and exclusive conceptions of God in light of the nonviolent and inclusive way of Christ.

– When this benevolent logos comes, full of grace and truth, we do not welcome him.  We reject him.  We kill him, in the name of our preferred and familiar logos of hostility and violence.

– We can understand human religions — all human religions, including our own — as imperfect human responses to our encounters with the Spirit who is present in all creation.

– [In the story we call “The Prodigal Son,”] The lost son is the older son.  He’s the one who doesn’t know who he is, where he is, or what he’s doing.  He’s the only outsider – – placed there by his own refusal to love.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– A baptism of repentance means a radical, far-reaching rethinking of everything.

– To be truly “in Christ” does not mean embracing “yet another identity,” but rather “lay(ing) down the various identities that would otherwise define us.” [McLaren with Peter Rollins]

– For Jesus, the rich man’s appathy about the poor man’s poverty was a damnable offense.

– Interpretation will always to some degree manifest the character of the interpreter.

Liberation is the best one-word synonym for salvation.

– Charity will also lead to advocacy — speaking and working on behalf of the voiceless and powerless, using the tools of local, national, and global citizenship to work for the common good.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

The Year Of Living Biblically June 8, 2012



I have a friend who, concerning the word “biblical,” has stated “Oh my gosh, I hate that word!”
She’s a very astute young woman.
It’s a word that’s tossed about, misused, and frankly has come to mean little more than saying “God is on my side.  You loose.”
If, however, the word has ever been used correctly, A. J. Jacobs has done so in his book “The Year Of Living Biblically.  One man’s humble quest to follow the Bible as literally as possible.”

Here’s a blurb from Mr. Jacob’s website:

“The Year of Living Biblically answers the question: What if a modern-day American followed every single rule in the Bible as literally as possible. Not just the famous rules – the Ten Commandments and Love Thy Neighbor (though certainly those). But the hundreds of oft-ignored ones: don’t wear clothes of mixed fibers. Grow your beard. Stone adulterers. A.J. Jacobs’ experiment is surprising, informative, timely and funny. It is both irreverent and reverent. It seeks to discover what’s good in the Bible and what is maybe not so relevant to 21st century life. And it will make you see the Good Book with new eyes.
Thou shalt not put it down.”

This book was recommended to me.  Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have read it.
Had I not, I would have missed out on an entertaining, fun, poignant, and quite strange journey.

Officially, Mr. Jacobs is Jewish.  He is, though, in his own words:
“Jewish like the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant.  Which is to say, not very.”

Having never been a very religious man, A.J. wanted to explore religion and the Bible for himself.
There are many things he discovered that were not surprising.
For example, the fact that no one, absolutely no one, follows all of the Bible literally.
Everyone “picks and chooses.”
He finds, as expected, that, passage to passage, there are many contradictions within the pages of scripture.
He also marvels at how “these ethically advanced rules and these bizarre decrees  [can] be found in the same book.”
“It’s not like the Bible has a section called ‘And Now for some Crazy Laws.'”

There were also some results the author did not expect.

He began to enjoy prayer:
“Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendent, beyond the everyday.”

He became a more thankful person:
“I’m actually muttering to myself, ‘Thank you. . .thank you. . . thank you.’ It’s an odd way to live. But also kind of great and powerful. I’ve never before been so aware of the thousands of little good things, the thousands of things that go right every day.”

And he experienced a new-found power in forgiveness:
“There’s a beauty to forgiveness, especially forgiveness that goes beyond rationality. Unconditional love is an illogical notion, but such a great & powerful one.”

A.J. spends his biblical year going through the Bible front to back.  Thus, he doesn’t get to “New Testament living” until the last 3rd or last quarter of the book (month 9 in his year).  When he makes the transition he faces a question many still find confusing.  “Should I continue to follow all the rules of the Hebrew Bible?”
Unfortunately, he didn’t ask me. 😉

In this portion, he looks at many brands of Christianity (There are reportedly almost forty-THOUSAND  Christian denominations), including “The Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell- style,” of conservative fundamentalists, and the “Red Letter Christians” who focus on social justice, poverty, and the environment.  Both camps use the Bible, “but they come out with radically different agendas.”

Through the old and the new, A.J. Jacobs’ year-long adventure is anything but dull.  He lets his beard grow (which his wife is not terribly fond of), he wears all white. He visits and consults all manner of bible-based religious groups from the Jewish cultures to the Amish to the Catholic and many many others.
One of the best parts is when he actually “stones” an adulterer.

This is a fun and very different type of memoir.
Where ever you are in your journey of life, I think you’ll find great pleasure in letting Mr. Jacobs share his journey with you.

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

————–

Some Quotes:

– More and more, I feel it’s important to look at the Bible with an open heart.

– I’ve rarely said the word “Lord,” unless it’s followed by “of the Rings.”

– The problem with a lot of religion…is that people have interpreted the Gospel so much, we’ve started to believe the interpretations instead of what Jesus said.

– Your behavior shapes your beliefs. If you act like a good person, you eventually become a better person. I wasn’t allowed to gossip, so eventually I started to have fewer petty thoughts to gossip about. I had to help the less fortunate, so I started to become less self-absorbed. I am not Gandhi or Angelina Jolie, but I made some progress.

– Falwell’s version of Christianity bears practically no relation to Jesus’s message.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The whole bible is the working out of the relationship between God and man. God is not a dictator barking out orders and demanding silent obedience. Were it so, there would be no relationship at all. No real relationship goes just one way. There are always two active parties. We must have reverence and awe for God, and honor for the chain of tradition. But that doesn’t mean we can’t use new information to help us read the holy texts in new ways.

– Polygamy was, if not the norm, completely accepted. The Bible doesn’t forbid polygamy.

– It comes back to the old question: How can the Bible be so wise in some places and so barbaric in others? And why should we put any faith in a book that includes such brutality?
[This is where, due to an unhealthy view of scripture, many Christians say something stupid like “It’s all about balance.”  Sorry.  Wrong answer.  Some things just can’t be balanced.]

– My reading list grows exponentially. Every time I read a book, it’ll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It’s like a particularly relentless series of pop-up ads.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– The flood is such a tragic story — the drowning of millions of people and animals — and how strange it is that it’s always made into cute kids’ toys.

– Dr. Ralph Blair is a hardcore Christian evangelical. Ralph Blair is gay. And out-of-the-closet gay.

– Who are we to say that the Bible contained all the wisdom? You can commit idolatry on the Bible itself.

– Ancient Israelites didn’t have the clearly formed concept of immortality of the soul, as we do now.

– There is no scandal in supposing that Jesus married and had children. It is very doubtful historically, but not troubling theologically.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– There are thousands of fundamentalists who want to set up a biblical government. They are the American Taliban.

– Never blame a text from the Bible for your behavior. It’s irresponsible.

– The idea that we can work with God to evolve the Bible’s meaning — it’s a thrilling idea.

– I need something specific…Beauty is a general thing. It’s abstract. I need to see a rose. When I see that Jesus embraced lepers, that’s a reason for me to embrace those with AIDS. If He embraced Samaritans, that’s a reason for me to fight racism.

– The year showed me beyond a doubt that everyone practices cafeteria religion. It’s not just the moderates. Fundamentalists do it to. But the more important lesson was this: There’s nothing wrong with choosing. Cafeterias aren’t bad per se. The key is choosing the right dishes.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.




 

The Gods Aren’t Angry July 23, 2011



“So, There’s this cavewoman…”

Thus starts this wonderfully educational, informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining presentation.
As usual, Rob weaves theology, history, culture, and philosophy into a beautiful verbal tapestry, where we learn of various religions, as well as the proposed beginning of religion.
We discover the nature of God along with pre-biblical, as well as biblical, characters.

There’s a positively refreshing and, somewhat freeing, understanding of the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac. It’s right in tune with McLaren’s teaching of the evolving understanding of God. Not that God changes, but our understanding of Him has, and must.  Rob helps us enter in to Abraham’s mind-set, and see how God was showing himself as incredibly different from the other “gods” of Abraham’s day.

New light is also shed on the incident of Jesus in the temple with the whip.
[So many use this story to justify violent behavior. I’ve frequently stated that nowhere in the text does it say or indicate that the whip ever made contact with a person, thus causing bodily harm. Jesus rebuked his disciples for that kind of action. To do so himself would have been contradictory to everything he taught and held to be sacred.]
Anyway, Mr. Bell, again using history and the culture of the day, helps us see what may have actually been going on here.

We, at one point, get into a good discussion of the book of Hebrews.  We see how radical this book was in its time and setting.

There’s so much more he goes into in this approximately 90 minute production.
At the end, he brings it all home in a way that timeless truths, and a love of God, can be applied today, in our world, in ways that truly matter.

As would be expected, much controversy emerged over the content of this video.  But, as one blogger noted:
“The watchdoggies didn’t see the gospel because they weren’t looking for the gospel.
They were looking for the reformed religion they’ve invented to make themselves feel better.”
When those “watchdoggies” start howling, that’s a pretty good sign there’s something worth listening to.

— df

Buy the video.  Click HERE.

—————————————–

What others have said:

Rob Bell does an amazing job of weaving historical narratives and Christian and Jewish literature together with contemporary questions about faith and what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a pluralistic and postmodern culture. You will find this video presentation to be refreshing and challenging.
— C. Lambeth

Loving God and loving one’s neighbor go hand in hand, not just in word but in deed. The beauty of Bell’s vision is that the things he’s relating could be done by anyone. You don’t need an MDiv to change someone’s world. You don’t need a certificate to make things better for someone in need. I think Rob Bell is purposefully singing alto on many issues because all the parts of the music are beautiful and worth focusing on. Some people listen to Rob Bell and can only hear a failure to stick to the melody. But I hear someone who really understands the melody and can make it even more appealing to people.
— John Sexton

Buy the video.  Click HERE.

The thing I most enjoyed about it was his constant comparisons to Old Testament sacrifices and the Grace of God. This release explained what the Gospel is in a way that I have never thought of before. I am honestly thinking (as a pastor) that if you have someone with doubts in the existence or even love of God, allowing them to borrow “The Gods Aren’t Angry” and “Everything is Spiritual” may dismiss their doubts and get them on the path they need to be. Thank God for teachers like Rob Bell who speak in a way that even the biggest biblical novice could comprehend 10,000 years of history.
— Matthew C. Hafer

Rob once again turns Christianity (as we Westerner’s know it) on its proverbial head with his lecture: THE GODS AREN’T ANGRY. I found this DVD not only to be a breath of fresh air, but couldn’t stop saying “WOW!” for 15 minutes after it had ended. You will be inspired.
— David Margulis

Buy the video.  Click HERE.

 

 
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