I wish it were otherwise, but, unfortunately it’s true. Everything within me resisted this realization. But, the time has come to admit it: I’m an Evangelical reject.
The more I write the clearer this sad truth becomes. This blog, as much as it’s served as a place to flesh out ideas I believe to be central to expressing the euangelion (gospel [hence, evangelical]) in our day to our culture, also continues to damage my reputation in the evangelical circles that I run in.
I’ve had friends distance themselves from me because they think my views blindly accommodate for twenty-first century secular culture. (Read Entire Article)
Something happened last week. I went on a retreat with an amazing spiritual director / teacher named Jan Johnson. By the end of our time together I realized that I’m done with living like a Christian.
- I’m done serving the poor.
- I’m done going the extra mile.
- I’m done being a husband who strives to love his wife as Christ loves the church.
- I’m done visiting the sick.
- I’m done opening up my life to Christian community.
- I’m done loving my neighbor. (Read Entire Article)
I’m told that coming out of the closet involves risk on the part of someone who identifies with the LGBTIQ community. How will my family and friends respond? Will I be labeled as an outsider? When people choose to love these folks, no matter one’s convictions about sexuality, I believe that God is honored. The center of Jesus’ teaching was love of God and love of neighbor. To love one’s neighbor is to foster safety. When our actions, words, or cultural setting forces people into hiding, something needs to be overhauled by love.
I’ve blogged now for about 3 years (off and on) and for about 1.5 years with a bit of intentionality. My first site, Groans From Within, began the writing journey.
An early post I wrote raised concerns. I provocatively titled it: My Evolution Towards Theistic Evolution.* When a couple friends read this, I was accused of being an atheist. Someone then forwarded that article to my senior pastor at the time, attempting to get me fired from my youth pastor position. Luckily, my leader had an open mind on this particular issue. Yet, this incident drove me into theological hiding, with a determination to prevent this from happening again.
Then, about a year later, I left that church and moved to a new community. Up to that point, my site only displayed my first name out of fear that I would create “church problems.” I did everything in my power to keep my online life completely separate from my ministry. Essentially, I hid. (Read Entire Article)
When the news came in that Osama Bin Laden died, I didn’t know what to feel. To be honest, my initial reaction exuded a sense of triumph, but that soon faded. Then, a thought came to me: “I don’t know if today is one worthy of joy or mourning?” Certainly Bin Laden created chaos in the world. He definitely chose a path of evil rather than the common good. Hatred towards this terrorist is not only justifiable, but a way to counter the pain he caused the families of the 3,000 innocent victims of 9/11. He will forever live on in our history books in the company of Hitler, in infamy.
But, should we find joy in this? That is my question as I watch new reports of young adults waving flags and dancing in the street. That is my question for those who will go to the local club, pub, or bar tonight to get a drink on this epic day. Should we, specifically followers of the crucified Jesus, find joy in the death of this evil man?
Consider this potent verse from the prophet:
Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Ezekiel 33.11
It seems that God takes “no pleasure” in the death of the wicked men and women of the world. This includes the worst of the worst, namely Osama Bin Laden. And if God feels this way about the death of the wicked, about those we consider the enemies of the common good in the world, Jesus takes this teaching to a new level. (Read Entire Article)
Mark Driscoll gets this one right. Seriously. In my opinion, we ought to have the freedom to use language contextually and not be bound by religiosity. That doesn’t mean that we ought to cuss like a sailor, but words have power… even what our culture considers offensive. (To be clear, I don’t often agree with under-girding theological assumptions that drive his use of foul or provocative language at various times)
I grew up in a context where Paul’s words were oft quoted: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…” I wonder what determines unwholesome speech? Does the popular culture? Does the FCC? Nope. The answer comes in the second part of the statement: “…only that which is good for building others up ACCORDING TO THEIR NEEDS.” This statement both relativizes cussing and invites contextualization. The test, does using this word tear someone down or build up? If it doesn’t tear them down (because it is part of a language they understand) then we ought not live in a legalism that the Scriptures don’t impose. (Read Entire Article)
It’s time to ban divorce. That’s right, I said it. We need to protect the sanctity of marriage by following the New Testament teaching of Jesus that couples are not to divorce. The days of Moses are over and marriage is too important to allow for anyone (unless there is provable adultery) to corrupt this holy institution by calling it quits, even when life gets hard with your partner.
I’m so tired of the statistics being thrown around about how evangelicals choose divorce just about as often as people who are unchurched. We need to make sure that those unchurched types have absolutely NO way out of their vows that they made before a judge in a courtroom. Christian or not, our society will be more moral if we make it legally impossible for any couple to call it quits! And what’s my defense? Jesus said it… I believe it… that settles it! This is why, starting with this blog article, I want to invite you to sign my petition to add a constitutional amendment banning divorce to the next ballot. If we can win the battle for marriage at the amendment level, we will have won a great victory by turning this nation back toward its fundamental Christian roots. (Read Entire Article – If you don’t, you will completely miss the point of this one!)
This is the age old question: Can a person lose their salvation? Of course, two broad schools of thought emerge in theological discourse.
On one end of the spectrum are the 5.5 point Calvinists (not really sure what the .5 is all about). This is representative of Mark Driscoll’s perspective (and basically most of the Gospel Coalition folks). This group of thinkers believe that God not only preordains all things (yep, every last event in world history) but that God ordains some to eternal life and some to eternal torment. They would then contend that all people deserve eternal torment and therefore the fact that God chooses some demonstrates his infinite mercy and wisdom.
And no, lets be fair to this perspective: they don’t believe that evangelism is void (as many on the free will end of the spectrum often accuse). Rather, they believe that the truly elect will hear the message (through evangelistic efforts) and will awaken to their right standing before the Father (upon repentance and a belief in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus). Evangelism matters here still because we are the heralds that God uses to summon sinners into their elect-ness. Those who refuse persistently to believe the message must not be elect. Here is what Mark Driscoll has to say about this issue: (Read Entire Article)
I grew up in church. Not a typical middle class, white picket fence, awkwardly perfect church goin’ family situation, but in church nonetheless. Most of what I recall from those early childhood and teenage years bring memories of good things. People genuinely taught me that loving Jesus matters more than anything else in the world. The world, after all, is corrupt and the place we truly long for is far, far away – heaven. So we are to love Jesus and hate the world.
Now, this is not hatred toward the people on earth. I did not grow up going to a church that taught that we ought to tell outsiders how much they suck, but that this “world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.” World and physicality = bad. Jesus and spiritual bliss in a distant heaven = goal of the game.
This distinction came with a subset of beliefs about the destiny of God’s world. Eventually this planet would be destroyed and we Christians would “fly away” to heaven at the rapture of the church. Certain Christians understood the timing of the rapture as it corresponds to the book of Revelation differently than others, but no one ever denied the imminent return of Jesus to evacuate the church out of earth. Today, there is a group that believes that they have calculated the exact date of this escape from earth: Saturday, May 21, 2011. This sect does not represent most of those who believe in rapture, but what they have in common is that a day is coming when this world will be “Left Behind.” (Read Entire Article)
For the past several weeks, many of us who believe that the economic values of the United States are broken, have watched Occupy Wall Street on the news with awe. There’s something about a nonviolent protest that gets any coffee-drinkin’ progressive excited about “stickin’ it to the man.” This prophetic display reminds many of us of the subversive Jesus who exposed the dehumanizing systems of the world – whether through overturning the unjust tables of the Temple or being executed by Rome for claiming Kingship over-against the Empire. I’m convinced that the Occupy Movement correctly asserts that the distribution of financial power lacks morality. In the United States, the ratio of 99 to 1 makes an appropriate point: something’s gotta change.
Interestingly, Jesus speaks of a shepherd who has 99 remaining sheep when 1 wanders off:
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? Matthew 18.12
This begs a question: What are we to do with the “one that wandered off?” Could it be that in our day, this “1” might represent the rich of Wall Street? In other words, the 99 find solidarity together, but this “1” sheep believes that if it goes away on its own, away from the community, that greener pastures might be found. It seems that many on Wall Street, the 1%, have indeed found the “green” that they were looking for and are getting fat because of it. (Read Entire Article)
When we cling to the sword, we flip the cross upside down to use it as our tool of death instead of God’s tool for bringing life.
And so the story goes…
I can remember a scene in the movie Independence Day. The drunken dad turned heroic father, Russell Case, chooses to sacrifice his life by flying his fighter jet into the belly of an alien ship. One of the best-known quotes from any popular movie in the last 20 years is in this clip. Russell says: “All right, you alien a-holes! In the words of my generation: Up Yours!”
Up yours. These words dictate the attitude of enemies to each other. To say “up yours” is to give the metaphorical middle finger and to ultimately say to the opposing side that “you have no power over me… my power is greater than your power… and if I have to, I’ll show you how strong I am!”
So, what do we do? When we’re threatened we show our guns. When we’re attacked we draw the sword. This story recycles itself in numerous ways. It started with Constantine, then the crusades, then the slaughter of millions of Native Americans, then the various wars to secure a stolen land, then the wars throughout the 200-plus year history of the United States, and then the “war on terror.”
Western Christianity, and specifically the American stream of it, has a history of naming an enemy, characterizing it in an “us versus them” dichotomy, and then inviting the church to turn the cross upside-down to wield it as a sword against them. This is the “up yours” that the church often encourages as the pathway to justice. Too often Christians are quick to give the middle finger toward what they perceive to be evil, but in the process run the risk of becoming the very evil they are fighting against. Greg Boyd makes the following observation:
In the name of the one who taught us not to lord over others but rather to serve them (Matt. 20:25-28), the church often lorded over others with a vengeance as ruthless as any version of the kingdom of the world ever has. In the name of the one who taught us to turn the other cheek, the church often cut off people’s heads. In the name of the one who taught us to love our enemies, the church often burned its enemies alive. In the name of the one who taught us to bless those who persecute us, the church often became a ruthless persecutor. In the name of the one who taught us to take up the cross, the church often took up the sword and nailed others to the cross.
Our fractured human tendency revokes the imagination necessary for being followers of a crucified revolutionary. To often we embrace the power to turn the cross upside down as we tell our human enemies “up yours” – with our swords clenched. We give those “evil” people the middle finger of retributive justice to make sure that they know not to mess with us “good” people. (Read Entire Article)
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