Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Christians I Like

Every week or so, I get a "fan" letter from a Christian who just wishes I would die and go to hell and get it over with. They are not always that severe, often they are just venting anger on some level. Take this week's:

"How can you be so critical of Christians? You do realize that there are other religions that deserve more criticism. Namely islam. Do you deliberately ignore the world around you, or are you that ignorant? Try to criticize islam and see what happens. Better yet criticize islam in the middle east and see what happens. You are targeting the wrong religion if you are concerned about how it treats people. I suggest you do some self evaluation before you turn completely into an arrogant anti-theist/anti-Christian like most of your followers. Start acting and thinking like an adult. Fix yourself."

Whew!  Really, don't hold back... tell me how you really feel. :)

Part of my response back to this gentleman was an explanation that the reason I focus on Christianity is that I was a Christian for about 30 years.  I am not Muslim, nor do I really know any (for a critique of Islam, I would suggest Ayaan Hirsi Ali).  However, if I have been unbalanced in any way, allow me to offer some names of Christians whom I think are really great.  This does not mean I agree with them on all points, but I think they are a force for positive good in this world.  I would love to sit down and have a beer with any of them.  This is not a complete list, but these are folks I have read, listened to, or seen recently:

Richard Rohr is a Roman Catholic Monk of the Franciscan order.  He has had a profound effect on the way I view the world.  His book Everything Belongs is impactful on me even now as an unbeliever.  Richard's teachings spur one on to be a better human being.

"Judgment is not, by and large, a search for Truth. It is certainly not a path toward Love. What it is, is a search for control - a way that the Ego positions itself as better, righter, above, correct, in charge, in control. Once you see that... judgment starts losing its fascination. My great disappointment in so much of institutional religion is that it actually trains us to be judgmental."

Walter Brueggemann is an Old Testament scholar and theologian.  He is brutally honest about the Old Testament and doesn't let "God" off the hook for anything.  I have found him to be a hard read (he is very academic in his writing) but an engaging speaker.

"When serious people of good faith disagree, they've got to go back into the narratives and come at it again. One of the problems in the church is that people are not willing to do that. People have arrived at a place where they think they have got the answer."

Marcus Borg is a New Testament scholar and theologian.  Marcus has a calm and peaceful approach when confronting fundamentalist religion that I genuinely aspire to.  He can get you attracted to the teachings of Jesus even if you have no desire to be a Christian.

"People who think of God as a warrior may become warriors themselves, whether in a Christian crusade, a Muslim jihad, or an apocalyptically oriented militia. People who think of God as righteous are likely to emphasize righteousness themselves, just as those who think of God as compassionate are likely to emphasize compassion. People who think God is angry at the world are likely to be angry at the world themselves."

John Spong is a theologian and retired bishop of the Episcopal church.  If you don't like my critique of Christianity, you wouldn't want to go to one of his lectures.  For all of his critiques, he desperately wants Christianity to flourish and as such works relentlessly to steer it away from the fundamentalist cliff it is heading towards.

"All religion seems to need to prove that it's the only truth. And that's where it turns demonic. Because that's when you get religious wars and persecutions and burning heretics at the stake."

Rob Bell is a pastor and author.  I think Bell has done wonderful work in moving Christianity away from a theology of Hell and towards a theology of Grace.  His style is a little too "celebrity" for my tastes, but what he has to say gives me hope that Christianity can one day move from a religion that is derided by unbelievers to one that can be respected.  Though I no longer call myself Christian, this video still moves me.

The Choir is a band I started listening to back when I was a teenager.  Through my many stages of Faith and non-Faith I was able to bring them along for the ride.  I went back to church some months ago to catch them in concert and enjoyed them as much as ever.  They have an honest and non-preachy style that I think few Christian bands can even understand.  Mystery and uncertainty are travelling companions on this road of life.

Wes Ellis, John Shore, and Rachel Held Evans are a few of the many bloggers I follow who add a positive note to the discussion of religion in the public square.  Again, it is voices like theirs that makes me think that Christianity may still have brighter days ahead.

I have many friends and family I could add to this list, particularly in the Mormon community where I reside.  I know many people who are a credit to their faith.

Being a Christian does not default you to being a good or a bad person. I think in many ways Christianity works as Bill Cosby described alcohol - it intensifies your personality.  If you are compassionate, you will read your scriptures and find encouragement toward compassion.  If you are a bigot, you will find divine justification for your bigotry.

As always, the responsibility of how you behave in this life is yours.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting! Such good connections. I cannot wait to read Rob Bell's new book. I heard about it at church this summer and it is on my list of must reads. I so love the Choir and loved seeing the video.

Anonymous said...

Well... I will say this..... It seems to me you are still searching for a method and not a living God...... Moses met with God almighty..... so did Noah talk to God Almighty..... So did Elijah..... He is one God that always was God to his people.... sending his son atoned not only the chosen people, but the rest of the world back to him, those that would believe...... there is no method here.... the bible is not a method book.... its the story of God and his people..... And Jesus came to open a door for anyone to become a son or daughter of the most high.... quite an amazing thing.... It seems you are now in an intellectual struggle....... the first comment that the christian wrote you said to "change yourself" that's just another way of man...... God changes us..... he changes our hearts to be like his...... he shows us who he was in the bible..... its a relationship...... its a beautiful story of God being very personal with his people..... and them continually falling away..... but he keeps making a way....... Judgement bad??? judgement stirs the fear of God.... anyone who knows that they are a sinner, knows how prone they are to wickedness.... and they know they need grace..... I have gone through trials of my own where my sin was very strong and I knew without God pulling me out I was helpless..... I guess a person sees their need for God when they become helpless on their own..... and those who choose pride feel they can do it on their own.... I for one cannot.... and am amazed that the gift of grace...... grace is not a teaching.... its a happening and a spirit..... the holy spirit fell on the apostles.... they were able to cast out demons like Jesus did.... how can anyone deny this is my question....... but people.... and I once did...... tis a freaky world..... and there are many blinding spirits.... I say take heed...... fear of hell can bring someone to repentence..... all things have purpose....... did I ever fear hell..... yes..... was it bad .... no .... after examination of myself within this fear.... I realized I had been denying God in my life and I was really living in sin..... and I repented....... people who don't want judgement..... are just at that..... they don't want to be judged..... they don't want to admit if there is right and wrong in there nature...... they want to do what they want..... instead of trusting God...... That's just how I see it.....

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