Saturday, December 12, 2009

How Would Others Refer to You?

There is debate amongst some in Christian circles about the term "Christian". Some have quit using it, and instead take on various euphemisms such as Christ Follower, Follower of the Way, etc. Others most often go by their particular sect - Lutheran, Mormon, Catholic, Pentecostal, etc.... Others stick with Christian because they either agree with all the baggage that now comes with the name, or they are determined to reclaim it from the more fundamental faction of the religion that now seems to typify the word.

I find myself rather ambivalent about it. I discover I am rather more interested with what word comes to mind when people get to know me. It seems rather pompous if I give myself the name Christian, but everyone else is thinking asshole.

Still, I see myself more and more on the outer edge of Christian circles ... and am finding myself happy there. The things that impassion the majority of Christians are no longer even a blip on my radar. For example:

• I do not believe God has any more investment in America than anywhere else. It is pure ego and insecurity that drives us into all of this "God is on our side" language.

• There is no "War on Christmas".

• I believe abortion is the murder of innocent life, but our attempts to legislate it away is closing the door when the horse has already left the barn. It is easy to shout against abortion, it is a sacrifice to work for the changes that need to come about to make a real difference.

• Christians are no different than anyone else.... really..... at all.

• I do not believe that any soul will spend an eternity in a place called Hell. Nope, not one.

• I believe prayer in public schools is motivated by a desire for power, not piety.

• I do not believe it is a threat to my children, nor to my marriage, if homosexuals marry.

• I believe the world would be a better place if the head of every ministry quit, then went and got a job at their local hospital.

• I do not believe in any kind of "rapture". I believe God wants us to redeem this world.

• I believe God is as close as out next breath, but that most Christian rhetoric shields Him from view.

• I believe Christianity competes with other religions, and that is a mistake.

• I believe most Christian parents lead their children to make spiritual decisions that they are not yet equipped to make.

• I believe organizations like Focus on the Family do more harm than good.

• I believe most churches indoctrinate their congregations and are houses of theological inbreeding. Inbreeding is bad in genetics and worse in theology.

• I believe Christians spend a lot of time working on "belief" rules (inerrancy of scripture, hell, trinity, salvation, etc..) so they can divide people into in/out and thereby give themselves a higher position.

• I believe Christianity has completely jettisoned the command to "love your enemy" and in doing so we have lost the heart of the gospel.

• I believe God stands with the poor. Christianity honors the poor while inside church doors, but mocks them in political discussions.

• I believe there are Christians who live contrary to what I have said, but they do not own the term "Christian" here in America.

I was motivated to write this after reading a quote this morning by Dorthy Soelle on Catholicanarchy. Her definition of Christianity would probably not be favorably received in many church circles.

“In a theological perspective it is evident that the content of this fascist religion [right wing Christianity] contradicts the message of the Jewish-Christian tradition. The God of the prophets did not preach the nation-state, but community between strangers and natives. The apostle Paul did not base the justification of sinners on the Protestant work ethic, but on grace, which appears for young and old, for diligent and for lazy people! And Jesus did not make the family the central value of human life, but the solidarity of those deprived of their rights. The most important norms of the Moral Majority are not contained in Christian faith, as we can see from the many critical remarks against the family that appear in the gospels. It is characteristic of Christofascism that it cuts off all the roots that Christianity has in the Old Testament, in the Jewish Bible. No word about justice, no mention of the poor, whom God comes to aid, very little about guilt and suffering. No hope for the messianic reign. Hope is completely individualized and reduced to personal success. Jesus, cut loose from the Old Testament, becomes a sentimental figure. The empty repetition of his name works like a drug: it changes nothing and nobody. Therefore, since not everybody can be successful, beautiful, male, and rich, there have to be hate objects who can take the disappointment on themselves. Jesus, who suffered hunger and poverty, who practiced solidarity with the oppressed, has nothing to do with this religion.

“At a mass meeting a thousand voices shouted: ‘I love Jesus’ and ‘I love America’—it was impossible to distinguish the two. This kind of religion knows the cross only as a magical symbol of what he has done for us, not as the sign of the poor man who was tortured to death as a political criminal, like thousands today who stand up for his truth in El Salvador. This is a God without justice, a Jesus without a cross, an Easter without a cross—what remains is a metaphysical Easter Bunny in front of the beautiful blue light of the television screen, a betrayal of the disappointed, a miracle weapon in service of the mighty.”

15 comments:

Redlefty said...

Powerful thoughts! There's a lot there and I'll need to read through some more, but most of it I'm onboard with.

You get bonus points for the "inbreeding" analogy -- that one was new to me!

Steve H. said...

I rather feel like a mosquito at a nudist colony, "I don't know where to begin" :)

Andrew said...

Steve- I just can't picture what I said that you might disagree with. ;)

C. L. Hanson said...

It's a common conundrum -- reject the label or try to reclaim it. In this case, I think it makes sense to try to reclaim it. If you believe that Christ's teachings lead to the values you espouse, you'll likely have a better chance of convincing people from within the Christian community.

BTW, since you're in SLC, I hope you don't mind that I've added you to our blogroll on Main Street Plaza. It's an LDS-interest group blog. The community is largely atheist, but we like to get discussion from people representing different viewpoints. It's particularly nice to hear from Christians who aren't part of the "Religious Right" so that we're not tempted to paint all Christians with the same (negative) brush (as we might if we only hear from the Christians complaining about the so-called "War on Christmas", etc.)

Steve H. said...

I guess I won't focus on your statements as we'll debate those individually in the weeks and months to come. So I'll just nip a bit at your reading material. Dorathy Soelle says, "And Jesus did not make the family the central value of human life, but the solidarity of those deprived of their rights."

Is this a liberation theology book out of El Salvadore circa 1981? Christ made his central value the "solidarity of those deprived of their rights"?

She had me with that the family was not the "central value" I'm like "cool, I'm with you" but then to say instead its "workers of the world unite yada yada yada" Good Lord help us.

Bro, its cool to disagree with stuff and call it the Easter bunny but you don't do your self any favors by then basically saying, "because its really the Tooth Fairy"

Steve H. said...

I guess I won't focus on your statements as we'll debate those individually in the weeks and months to come. So I'll just nip a bit at your reading material. Dorathy Soelle says, "And Jesus did not make the family the central value of human life, but the solidarity of those deprived of their rights."

Is this a liberation theology book out of El Salvadore circa 1981? Christ made his central value the "solidarity of those deprived of their rights"?

She had me with that the family was not the "central value" I'm like "cool, I'm with you" but then to say instead its "workers of the world unite yada yada yada" Good Lord help us.

Bro, its cool to disagree with stuff and call it the Easter bunny but you don't do your self any favors by then basically saying, "because its really the Tooth Fairy"

Logan said...

I rather feel like a mosquito at a nudist colony, "I don't know where to begin" :)

Eeeewwwww! :)

Actually I have to agree with Steve on liberation theology...that's one idea I've never bought into. Not that Jesus is not on the side of the oppressed and all, but I don't buy that the central message of his life was worker's rights...it was a much deeper message.

Andrew said...

No, and I don't agree with the entire quote, I just found it's contrariness interesting. The part that particularly caught me was :

"The empty repetition of his name works like a drug: it changes nothing and nobody."

Sarea said...

I feel like I have been very absent from your blog, but I have had a good reason (or two or three). I am thinking that I lean more towards Steve's thoughts on this, but one thing I TOTALLY agree with you about is letting children make decisions too young! My parents almost looked offended when I told them that I would NOT encourage my kids to accept Christ or get baptized before they were well into their teens. . .Not to say that I would discourage them, but I just see so many kids doing this and parents gushing about it and it makes me sick and a little sad. I got 'saved' at age 5, baptized at age 12 . . I had NO idea what i was committing to or agreeing with, nor the seriousness of my decision. Do I regret it? No, but if I had it to do over again, I would do it much differently!

societyvs said...

I am always trying to define what I am - I stick with Christian because I relate best to that term (and it's where I started my spiritual journey).

I pretty much agree with all you got going on here and have for some time - it pays to open-minded! I think the Christian religion is very much a religion and the more they push their 'rules' the more one gets to see how their own rhetoric is pretty much garbage and 1/2 truths 1/2 of the time.

There is a good reason to rail against that - it's absurd and needs to be talked about.

Andrew said...

CL - I am glad to be on your blogroll, thanks!

Sarea - Yeah, my inlaws led my daughter through a sinner's prayer when she was like 5. She has no memory of this, but they feel safe with her now. They are concerned that my son is not yet saved.... like Steve's nudist colony comment, I don't even know where to start with that worldview.

Society - I have been questioned on whether I am being argumentative when I write stuff like this... I hope not. I rather think, as you indicated, this needs to be said outloud.

Don said...

Andrew- Feel like you've been reading my mind. Can't find a single thing in the list with which I have a real problem.

Cody Stauffer said...

Andrew- beautiful stuff, man. All things that have been on my heart as well the last 3-5 years. Thanks for being bold enough to but them out there so succinctly!

One other thing- where did the Bart Compolo post go? I loved that thing, and was excited you had it.

Andrew said...

Cody - It's still on my blog. It is at http://mrhackman.blogspot.com/2009/05/bart-campolo-on-limits-of-gods-grace.html

That article made some big shifts for me. It is like that quote Mandella uses "when we let our own light shine, we give permission for others to do the same" That is what that article did for me.

BTW... are you headed to New Mexico in April for the conference again?

Michael said...

Hey Andrew. You might be interested to know that I used this article as a jumping-off point for my own blog post.
http://randomaccesspenguin.wordpress.com/2010/08/10/what-defines-a-christian/

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