Not that kind of Christian

Not that kind of Christian December 8, 2012

In case you weren’t sure, I’m a Christian.  But wait, I’m not that kind of Christian. I’ve felt it and said it dozens of times. Have you? You know, when someone finds out you are a Christian and you feel like you must clarify, or worse, apologize? We see the pictures on Facebook. We read the stories on HuffPost. We watch the videos on YouTube. We hear the stories of people hurt deeply. We read the posts from friends and family right on our own timelines and many of us carry the wounds deep inside of us. We are bombarded with the pulsating sights and sounds of “Christians” who are the very reason you don’t want anything to do with Christians. Millions have been hurt or totally turned off by Christians such as Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, Mark Driscoll, Creflo Dollar, Debi Pearl … local pastors, aunts, uncles, moms and dads. Unfortunately I don’t have to belabor this point too long – these stories permeate our culture.

This is hard for me, but I guess before I go on I need to claim a couple words that are hard for me.

One – judgmental – yes, I guess I am. I am afraid there are those out there who claim the name Christian who I would, though not my right, I would classify as, well less than stellar examples of living gospel life (maybe I would even, in very special cases go so far as to say they are in fact not Christian at all). Who? Well, those who use the bible as a weapon, those to choose ignorance and fear over holy questions and loving compassion, those who actively work to exclude people from God’s table, those who put Mammon before God and those who worship the flag right along side the cross.

Two – Evangelist (I know, right?) I just feel it is high time we who walk this path of radical hospitaltiy tell the story and claim the name lest we leave it for all time to another sect.

Sure, we know the ways folks who claim that name have really f’d up but there is so much more to our story. There have been and still are amazingly faithful people out there who are loving, justice seeking, hungry feeding, chasm closing Christians whose stories just don’t seem to make the news. When we fail to tell the story we are allowing others to define Christianity and thus continue to drive the “rise of the nones” (Google the phrase, way too many links from which to choose).

So, in case you are so called to reclaim the story, here are just a few names of people you can lift up (or paste in) the next time you read a comment claiming that all Christians have been and still are “backward-ass haters.” I’m not saying the folks on this list are perfect, nor is this list ANYWHERE CLOSE to comprehensive (nor in any order than stream of randomness) but when I asked friends on Facebook these are some of the names shared as examples of Christians who’ve done it quite differently than some that have become the poster children for western Christianity.

Dorothy Day
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Henri Nouwen
Anne Lamott
John Shelby Spong

Frederick Buechner
Sara Miles
William Sloan Coffin

Shane Claiborne
Nadia Boltz-Weber
Gene Robinson

Brother Lawrence
Nelson Mandela
Parker Palmer

Matthew Fox
Diana Butler Bass
Phyllis Tickle

Susannah Davis
Peter Wallace
Jay Bakker

When I asked friends on FB to name the beacons of light they lifted up the names above as well as:

Rachel Held Evans, Bruce Reyes Chow, Doug Pagitt, Susan Thistlewaite, Steve Knight, Justin Lee,  Anne HowardCandace Chellew Hodge, Christian Piatt, Brian McLaren, Jennifer Butler, Eric ElnesBarbara Brown Taylor, Yvette Flunder, Rosemary Radford Ruether, Letty M. Russell, Leonardo Boff, Roger Wayne Wolsey, Carol Howard Merritt and Brian Merritt

Anna: “Joe Bessler (prof at Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa), Yuki Schwartz, Clint Collins, Crystal S. Lewis”
Dave: “my mom”

Carol: “Singers: Andra Moran, Christopher Grundy, Prof. Gaylord Noyce”
Mark: “We mustn’t forget Millard Fuller, Jimmy Carter, MLK, and the Rev. Dr. Mattie Hart (retired professor of religion, Flagler College)”

Kara: “Amy Laura Hall and Tim Tyson”
Leah: “Anne Lamott as a writer, but as a real person who I’ve have the pleasure to know, John Merchant. When I think of everything I hope to see in “a man of the cloth”, I think of John.”

Sarah: “Father Michael Pfleger”
Diane: “Two friends who minister in the trenches, Alice Hielker and Robin Lee Fitch. A FB friend who writes a conservative but very loving, accepting and affirming daily blog, Wayne Flowers. Steven Colbert. Hannah Deathrow, a friend, who adopted 4 international children. Steve Alper”

Steve: “Howard and Margaret Montgomery. In fact, the whole Montgomery clan — from Howard and Margaret down to their great grandchildren.”
Michelle: Gregory Boyle (founder of Homeboy Industries), Helen Prejean

Bruce: “I would lift up Revs Anna Hall, Michael Piazza, and Cameron Trimble.”

Cheryl: “Walter Bruegemann wouldn’t teach in his own church but could be found Sunday after Sunday washing coffee cups during the fellowship hour.”

Peter:  “Ronald Thaxton and Nancy Thaxton were some amazing people who were transformative in my life 20 years ago – they started the process of teasing out answers to questions – many planted by a close friend who did not get my “church thing” when I decided to follow Jesus some several years before that. Jay Bakker, Adele Sakler, Kathy Silveira Escobar, Kathy Verbiest Baldock, Pastor Nar, Pat Green, Rebecca Bec Cranford-Smith”

One friend said: “Gandhi was a way better Christian than most Christians”

And here are just three cool videos ( Lord knows there are a gazillion more) for your viewing and sharing pleasure.

I invite you, IMPLORE you, to share names, stories and links in the comments below. The more stories you can share of love and service from local settings the better!  Please help make this post a resource that Christians can pull from when ever they feel the need to say “I’m not that kind of Christian, but I just might be this kind of Christian.”

Circular Church from David Keller on Vimeo.



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303 responses to “Not that kind of Christian”

  1. So glad to read this – I see so much of “That” kind of Christian – men & women who call themselves out on FB as “good Christian girls” and “Godly men” while spewing hate and judgement about others and all the time “sinning” by the rules of their chosen denomination as well. I do see the other kind – loving, trying to live as an example as best they can – but that breed is rare. Sad. Remember non-Christians are always watching, and we take note of consistent behavior.

  2. Not sure if anyone listed this man, since there were too many comments to read them all: Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers, minister of the Mayflower Congregational UCC of Oklahoma City, professor of philosophy at the U. of Oklahoma, and author of the books “Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshipping Christ and Start Following Jesus” and “The Underground Church”. Both books should be required reading for all Christians! You can hear Dr. Meyers’ wonderful, enlightening sermons on the church’s website at

    Someone already recommended Marcus Borg and his books — I’ll second that!

  3. I have a very difficult time appreciating the basis of this column after personally interacting with some of the listed examples of “beacons of light.” Too many theologians throw themselves at broad social works while they treat each other with petty disdain, lies, anger and distrust. Their macro-scale intentions belie seriously debilitating micro-scaele personality failings. For such people, the Bible may not be a weapon but it is a spiked shield, and righteous struggles over loving compassion are theoretical constructs that provide justification to externalize negativity.

    We cannot blithely ignore such attitudes at home as a mere personal fault, forgiving small sins because of all the Christian good they do otherwise. The concept of community is valueless if it is not based on the relationships between individuals. How can we love our neighbors as ourselves if we are incapable of loving ourselves to begin with? Efforts to reshape the world MUST incorporate efforts to reshape ourselves. And I haven’t seen that very often.

    “That kind of Christian” is alive and well in this column, still screwing up other people’s lives one at a time while they work so hard to make sweeping social changes.

    Nicely written otherwise, though. I appreciate your attitude and perspective.

  4. I didn’t see Desmond Tutu or Corrie Ten Boom listed anywhere. I think they definitely deserve a mention.

    • Yes, yes! Others have lifted them up, thank goodness! Thank you too for making sure we did not miss them.

  5. We MUST add Brennan Manning to the list! He is probably most well known for his book Ragamuffin Gospel, but my favorite book of his is The Furious Longing of God. A MUST READ FOR SURE!!! This man exudes God’s OUTRAGEOUS GRACE for EVERY person – especially the down and out!

  6. I would like to add Brennan Manning (author of Raggamuffin Gospel) to the list! I love ALL his books but my absolute favorite has to be The Furious Longing of God. If you haven’t read it, you really should!!

  7. When was I accusatory and aggressive, Kimberly, for that certainly was not my intention? When did I not display love? It seems to me as if you simply don’t like it that I hit a nerve about Matthew 25 being the heart of the social justice gospel. That is the truth, isn’t it? Why are you not willing to admit that?

  8. There are two names that I have searched for and just can not find…Marcus Borg and Dominic Crossan. Their examination of some of the pivotal seasons of the liturgical year and the People of the Way (Paul, as an example) are just enthralling. The treatments they give allows faith to exist along with that sigh of relief that believing the incomprehensible is no longer required…

    Also deserving mention is Rev. Dr. Terry Chapman, Pastor at the Forked River (NJ) Prebyterian Church. His wisdom and guidance has made a difference to so many who are on the journey. His book, SABBASTH PAUSE (Woodlake Press) is an invitation to really reflect on The Way and just what and how following Christ means.

    • I have to apologize…Terry’s book is SABBATH PAUSE. I am not the best typist (or proof-reader, evidently) going…


    • Thanks for mentioning Borg and Crossan. They have rocked my universe in the very best way.

  9. I am glad to see this post and the comments that follow it. I was raised in the Episcopal Church. In college, I encountered the doctrines enshrined in the church’s Articles of Faith (in the back of the Book of Common Prayer, at least they were in 1964). When my priest was unable to give me a commonsense explanation for why these were our doctrines and why the Body of Christ comprised so many subdivisions, I gradually lost my faith. Eventually, I became a Bahá’í, and have remained in that Faith, spiritually nourished and sustained, since 1970.

    I explain this to show that I respect the Christian faith and indeed revere Christ Himself as a Manifestation of God. Over the years, however, I have observed that the people who make the most ostentatious show of being Christians are also among the most ignorant, bigoted, intolerant people I have encountered or heard about. As a result, when I hear “Christian,” my guard goes up, for the same reason I put my hand on my wallet when I walk through a crowd in Times Square–I’m not accusing anyone, just making sure I don’t get hurt. This is the reputaton of modern American Christianity created by the antics of Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham and all their ideological fellow-travelers.

    As I said, I am glad to see this post and the comments. I am struck by the fact that I don’t know most of the names listed as exemplars of the Spirit of Christ, and the ones I do know are almost all either dead or very old. The thought occurs to me that the ostentatious “Christians” hold the stage because the true Christians, living the Christian life, are too humble and self-effacing to force the others off it. That is as it should be, but it might be wise for the true followers of Christ to unite to ask the media, which gravitate to the ostentatious ones because they make good copy, to balance their reporting with comments on the same topic (national disasters, HIV AIDS, homosexuality, etc.) from the true Christian perspective. I am also a journalist, so I know that a responsible journalist would welcome this kind of input.

    Can the fragmented Body of Christ rise to this challenge?

    • Dear Tom, I have dabbled as you have, only with a different result. With your forebearance, may I offer my reasonings?
      Baha’i Faith argues that Judaism is too old to meet modern man’s needs, whereas Christianity is too young, with Baha’i being the happy middle ground. Where this misunderstanding fails, as a religion, is that the two are one and the same. Jesus is Jehovah. Moreover truth and originality come first, not last. What you are trusting in, therefore, is a man-made theology based upon pieces of the Bible. If you are going to follow such ideas as that, why not make up your own religion?
      I, too, began raised as a Methodist. Do you know what that is? If we look at rites and rituals, it would look something like this, moving towards less formality: High Catholic, Low Catholic, High Episcopalian, Low Episcopalian, High Methodist, Low Methodist…etc. So, essentially, the tradition of men in which I grew up, had much less ritualism than yours, but the doctrine was about the same. Like you, I began to smell something fishy, but couldn’t put my finger on it. Like you, I just lost my ability to believe in something with such a lack of credibility.
      Unlike you, I just lost interest — became an atheist (without God). And when I decided to resume a faith, I reasoned that perhaps I had misjudged Christianity. What if God isn’t Methodist, or Episcopalian, or Catholic? What if Christianity was incrementally mistaught to be so far off track, today? It’d be wrong, you see, to blame God, or Christianity, for the flaws brought to the faith. Wouldn’t that explain the false Christians you disdain so much? Wouldn’t that explain the incongruities you sensed but without figuring them out?
      I can only assure you that I returned to the Bible, seeking to find out how the Bible could be true, rather than how it could be untrue. As a journalist, you can appreciate the approach to an unknown makes quite a difference in the result. As a language arts teacher, I can testify that the Scriptures do withstand critical analysis, using the mechanisms of my expertise. I encourage you to start with a KJV, and plod through it.

  10. Eric Metaxas, Dinesh D’Souza, Eric and Leslie Ludy, Chuck Colson, John Stonestreet, Leonard Ravenhill, Francis and Edith Schaeffer, Corrie tenBoom, Ravi Zacharias, Ken Ham, J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Keith Green, Monica Cole, James and Betty Robison, Franklin Graham, Charles Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Piper, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Patrick Henry, William Bradford, William Blackstone, Del Tackett, Squanto, Dr. James Dobson, Shirley Dobson, Ryan Dobson, Joshua Harris, Alex and Brett Harris, D. James Kennedy, Tullian Tchividjian, Beth Moore, Amy Carmichael, Lottie Moon, Hudson Taylor, C. S. Lewis, John Lennox, St. Augustine, Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort, Martin Luther, Jill Stanek, Shawn Carney, John Wesley, Susanna Wesley, William Wilberforce, John Newton, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Stanley, Greg Laurie, Polycarp, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Thomas Becket, Charles Swindoll, Rees Howells, William and Catherine Booth, Jim and Elisabeth Elliott and many more!

    • No, no and no – if you include the Dobsons, Piper and Franklin Graham on this list then you are deeply confused about what kind of Christian I am and the kind of Christian I have asked people to lift up. This list included some of the very Christians that I mean are giving Christians a very bad and frightening name. How you can list Bonhoeffer right next to Piper I will never understand. Sister, I will keep you in my prayer.

      • If you disagree with only those few I listed, you and I are more on the same page, than not. Is that not reason to rejoice, Kimberly? I do not understand your revulsion towards the Dobsons (Godsons), John Piper and Franklin Graham? Would you mind informing me of your disdain?

        • No, I do not rejoice for the anti-Christian, sycophants Dobsons, Piper or Franklin Graham. Those who work tirelessly, lie sickeningly and spend piles of money to deny me civil while and mis-educating Christian sisters and brothers into hateful homophobes…it is NOT Christian what they do.

          Please read way more of my blog posts and you will find the information and illumination you seek.

          • The exemplary Dobsons, John Piper and Franklin Graham have always obeyed the precepts set forth in the Sermon on the Mount, and they certainly give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, are hospitable to strangers, clothe those in need of being clothed, look after the sick and visit those in prison. Samaritan’s Purse is always the first organization on the scene of any disaster, and they generously meet the needs of the lesser among us all around the globe on a continual basis. Dr. James Dobson has ministered the Gospel of the Good News to families for decades. John Piper is a wise and loving man who makes comments such as this, ““Realize that the aim of the Prince of Peace is not peace with unbelief and disobedience. Those are the enemies that must be destroyed, lest they destroy. When the amnesty of Jesus is despised, division is inevitable. What we meet in the biting language of Christ is a form of love that corresponds with the real world of corruption, the dullness of our hearts and the magnitude of what is at stake in our choices. If there were no great evils, no deaf hearts and no eternal consequences, perhaps the only fitting forms of love would be a… soft touch and tender words. But such a world does not kill the Son of God and hate his disciples.”

            • Ginny, my heart is sad for you because you seem to be locked into articulating THAT kind of CHristianity that is painfully destructive and counter to a gospel of love. I am so sorry and will continue to pray that love and peace find you and that literalism and fear release you from their sick and hateful grip.

              Peace be with you sister.

              • Of course, someone can perform good deeds without giving their heart, will and soul to Jesus and His authority. Since God creates everyone in His image, there is beauty in one and all, whether they have accepted Jesus into their hearts and souls as Lord, Master and Saviour, or not. Each of us is gifted by Him uniquely to display His characteristics in each one’s distinct way. However, the good deeds that are done without acknowledging Him and giving Him all the glory, will be worthless in God’s sight. “We are saved by faith alone, but not by faith which is alone. That is, we are saved, not by anything we do, but by grace. Yet if we have truly understood and believed the gospel, it will change what we do and how we live. Unlike cheap grace, which means going to church and hearing that God just loves and forgives everyone, so it doesn’t really matter much how you live, anyone who truly understands how God’s costly grace comes to us will have a changed life. Costly grace changes you from the inside out. Actions must follow what one believes, else one cannot claim to believe it.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer When we live for Jesus, out of our faith in Him, we will do good works in His name. Faith without works is dead. But works without faith in the One who calls us to Him is for naught. It will be burned up. If we bring material bread to the hungry without, at the same time, bringing them the Bread of Life, it is not significant to God. We must first give thanks and praise to the Maker of the bread, our Bread of Life. We must bear witness to the fact that He is the giver of all gifts, including bread, and that without Him, there would be nothing to give the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. Only because of Him do we even have life. Only because of Him do we have the hands, the feet, the mouth, the heart, the knowledge, and the compassion to reach out with eternal purpose to touch the life of another, to make a difference for good in this life, as well as a lasting difference in the next. It all boils down to abiding in Him. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” ~Galatians 5:1 We are free in Christ to do that which is right, to surrender all to Him, His will, His way. We are not free to go back into bondage in Egypt, back into living for our own sinful will and way. We are not free to take license in the freedom of Christ to live however we selfishly want to.

                • Ginny, my sister, this is the last I will engage you because you have the aggressive and accusatory posture that is the antithesis of Christian love. I will once again invite you to read more of my blog, read the authors I have listed above and open your heart and mind to the understanding that the version of Christianly you revere has clear and present unChristlike elements that I seek to counter in order to reclaim the gospel from the likes of Dobson and Piper and their followers who taint the very name of Christ by their behavior. There is a way of light and love and what you lift up does not represent it.

                  With sincere prayers for your opening.


              • Hi Kimberly, Another type of Christian whose writings you would find supportive is the late Rev. Peter James Gomes Phd. He was the one time Chairman of the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Harvard University and Chaplain at The Memorial Chapel at Harvard. He was a “gay Christian” and his book “The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind” helps clarify most of the so-called “clobber passages”. As a straight male, it helped me to understand and accept how Christianity had so misinterpreted thjis matter. Thank you for your blog and may God bless you!

                • I do not understand how it is possible to arbitrarily pick the sins one can continue doing. Peter, who had the keys to the kingdom, said follow peace and HOLINESS, without which no man shall see God. Sin was remitted by the atonement of the cross, and at each sinner’s own baptism (death to sin, burial and resurrection.) Why, then, once freed from the bondage of sin, would anyone want to pick back up a favorite sin or two?
                  How is there more than one kind of Christian? Are we a Christian by our say-so and high opinion of ourselves? It seems to me, your whole platform needs rethinking.

  11. very interesting thread. I am on the left edge of evangelicalism, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I am member of the UMC and am frustrated with the fact that they are stalling/resisting on acceptance of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. I do not have all of the answers but I will offer the name of Dr. Pete Gathje. He is an Ethics professor at Memphis Theological Seminary. I just finished my course work for the M.A.. He is the associate pastor of manna house in Memphis and a wonderful human being and follower of Jesus. I want to have the grace of spirit to never be a judgemental ass, but I also want to resist the pull to be smug and judgmental of “those kinds of Christians”..

    • Jason I appreciate your willingness to be kind and gentle and not judge others as those kinds of Christian, I really do but I am afraid those kinds of Christians need to be called out when what they spew is hate. What they offer the world is not Christ but their own limited world views justified by their (or what others have told them) interpretation of the Bible. Check out my newest post –

  12. I’m pretty sure that if they were doing their ministries on earth now, you would not include the Apostle Paul in your good list, and likely not Jesus. I am content to wait for heaven to see who exactly represents Jesus Christ and God the Father and the Holy Spirit, and who doesn’t.

    • You may very well be right about the Paul you think you know from the limited knowledge any if us can have about him or those writings attributed to him but you have no idea what you’re talking about if you think that I would not include Jesus at the head and center of all that is just and loving and true. You clearly do not know me but have the arrogance to make a statement presuming that you do.

      • Kimberly, are you making the claim that current New Testament scholars are in doubt as to the authorship of the Epistles of Paul? As far as I know, absolutely no New Testament scholar believes that the writings of Paul are not authentic and attributed to him. Are you willing to do away with three-fifths of the New Testament? Does this not sound like cherry-picking cafeteria Christianity? I daresay that you take Matthew 25 literally, Kimberly. Why then do you not take Romans 1 literally? It sounds to me as if you have come up with your own Bible, the way Thomas Jefferson did.

    • No, I’m afraid you did not miss his name on the list. I struggle with including Jim Wallis…

      He has indeed spoken and acted on behalf of many of our most vulnerable citizens and are fragile planet but his refusal to include LGBT children of God and the full life of the church troubles me deeply.

      That is definitely my own struggle and a blindness of mine that I am working to resolve. There is much work to be done in the world and my equality is not the only equality for which we strive. So thank you for adding his name or I could not.

  13. Joyce Rupp. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend her “Fragments of Your Ancient Name”. She is my favorite spiritual author after Henri Nouwen and has written many other books and reflections.

  14. The “Nuns on the Bus,” esp. Sister Simone Campbell
    Jon Foreman (and all the members of Switchfoot), who wrote a song about the above-mentioned John Perkins

    • Oh yes! Thank you for reminding me of the Nuns on a Bus! I am so grateful for all the folks who’ve filled in the gaps of this list, our list!

  15. jgweekie:
    What Spong puts out (on the Web, etc) obviously has some “connection with” Christianity: Christianity is what he goes on about! Okay, he often sounds as though he had some kind of hotline to the Truth – but I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that he hasn’t. He sounds to me like a guy in a permanent argument with himself: an angry man screaming for an answer to the questions he’s putting out or, if not for an answer, at least for fellowship in the questioning. I personally would only have one or two (or 3) little points to nuance with respect to your credo (Christ being the perfect Son of God, who lived a sinless life, who died and rose from the dead as propitiation for our sin), but that’s beside the point: you don’t answer the kind of scream Spong’s trying to put into words by throwing a credo at it. I mentioned Anders Behring Breivik: Spong is (somewhere off-field) on Jesus’s side. (Jesus was a bit off-field too, you know…)

  16. Spong’s theology has no connection to Christianity. Without Christ being the perfect Son of God, who lived a sinless life, who died and rose from the dead as propitiation for our sin, it is not Christianity.

    • Fundamental thinkers do not OWN Christianity, nor do they get to decide the only definition. For many of us, Christianity, through the ministry of Jesus, teaches inclusion. Not exclusion.

  17. Bob Dylan

    Pete Seeger (Turn Turn Turn)

    Kanye West (His song after Katrina almost made me cry and gave me goosebumps)

  18. Bob Dylan

    Pete Seeger (Turn Turn Turn)

    Kanye West (His song after Hurricane Katrina almost made me cry and gave me goosebumps!)

    A wise homeless man named Frog who once told me musicians are the prophets of modern day.

  19. Three theologians and philosophers who I would see included, partly for their writing but the last for his life and outlook: Richard Kearney, John Caputo and Paul Ricoeur. In one of his last works, very much aware that he had little time left, the interviewer asked him for his opinions and the afterlife and whether he would end up in heaven or hell. After a lifetime as a practising Christian and theologian, Ricoeur just said, “I don’t know and it’s not for me to know.” I would love to spread that sense of a willingness not to know, and not to be in a position to judge, that is far too often absent from those whose calling seems to be to denounce.

  20. I got a job as a campus minister at the University of Nebraska, after I was forced to leave a southern church because I had taken a stand for racial justice, When I I worked with student activists in the north I was spit upon because I had worked in the south. I remembered my father’s experience when he was spit on by member’s by by WWI veterans, when he showed up in Washington DC at the Bonus March in 1931 because he wore the uniform of a military chaplain. In both of the cases, we were Christians who were assaulted because we were misunderstood. It sounds impossible to tell people that you are “the right kind of Christian.” I don’t hear Jesus saying that he is the right kind of Jew. I think there is a smugness and wrongness about this kind of thinking. This is why I delete the Facebook Posts of the ?Christian Left” because this is not the way that the world works or the way that the gospel works.

  21. Here are some names that I did not see “up there.”
    Leroy Seat (The View from this Seat blog and on Facebook): Biblical/historical perspective on current events
    Glenn Hinson: Early church/Christian mysticism.
    Glen Stassen: Biblical ethics.
    Tony Campolo: Sociologist/activist and preacher.
    Ron Syder: Rich Christians in a Hungry World.
    Slayden Yarbrough: Church and State history/law.
    Evelyn & Frank Stagg: Woman in the World of Jesus.
    Anthony de Mello: Jesuit Hindu mystic – How to Love – can be watched on YouTube.
    All are authors and all but the last were/are my teachers directly.

  22. I would add the name of the Reverend Alan Tysick. For many years he ran the Open Door, later renamed Our Place, drop-in centre in Victoria B.C. The Open Door/Our Place is the “living room of the street community,” where people with nowhere else to go can have a bite to eat, take a shower, have a hot cup of coffee, play a piano, use a computer. Reverend Al would also go out on the street looking for people who needed his help, and he didn’t require them to listen to a sermon before being helped.

  23. I am a Catholic. I stopped going to church 40 years ago. I search for another denomination. Although the church masses differ from one another, the principal practiced by many members are very similar. Although all Christian denominations have the Bible as God’s guidebook to life, many Christians use those lessons to damn others in God’s name. Ignoring warnings to refrain from judging or be judged yourself and Jesus attempt to refocus Peter to his own spiritual growth when he pointed his finger toward others. After a 40 year commitment not to allow extremely judgmental and controlling Christians to keep me away from any Christian church, I returned. Although my new Christian friends were friendly and welcoming at first, the elections allowed them to display their demons. Like demons, a whole array of awful statements were spewed about people they do not even know, but make those judgments made based solely of things they heard about. Despite God’s warning not to bear false witness, I believe I saw pleasure in this by Christians. I made it clear that I would not participate in any of it because I though it was all evil and I would not vote. I also remembered why I would not attend church 40 years ago. I do not want to be near people who read the Bible and judge others with it. The Bible is God’s philosophy of how he wishes we lead our own lives. It is God’s business to take care of others, it is not our business to judge others. Our job is to love others and hope through our love, they love Jesus too.

    • Did you tell them? Particularly of false witness. The time to say so is when the witness is held, because that’s one thing that’s nearly impossible to see in yourself.

  24. I have been reading a lot lately about the philosopher, feminist, and socialist Simone Weil, who grew up atheist but felt drawn to Christianity later in life. She says she didn’t pick Christianity, it picked her. She selflessly gave her life to helping those less fortunate than her.

  25. I loved this post and lots of the names mentioned even though I’m probably “that kind of Christian.” A couple of names I might add are John Perkins – civil rights guy and writer from Chattanooga; Dennis Haack – writer; Andy Stanley – very thoughtful mega church pastor in Atlanta; Dick & Marti Keyes near Boston at L’Abri.

  26. I would submit the name of Dan Buttry. He goes to minister and teach, sometimes preach but more teach, peace. He travels from Hamtramck, MI to the world and is making a difference. Blessings to Dan and his work!

  27. Has anyone mentioned John Shore? I might have missed it, it’s 3 am, and I should be in bed.

    Now, you’re probably far more grown up Christians than I am, but, I’ve also found that some of the people claiming to be Christians, like, oh, say, WBC, the group that pickets military funerals and tries to convince the whole world how much God hates them…I keep wanting to take a bible and tell them the line is ‘God so loved the world’, not hated it. If we weren’t meant to know who were christians, and who weren’t, then why would be specifically told to test the spirits?

    “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1 Even Jesus told us there would be wolves in sheep’s clothing. The story of the grain and tares growing together comes to mind. It’s been told to us from the beginning that we’d be in a spiritual war, in which the sons of the kingdom of God would be revealed. I’m just pointing this out to assure you that you are right, you are right to see this division, you are right to call attention to it. I’ve been struggling with this so much in the years, that if I did not believe in Jesus and God as strongly as I do this keyboard under my fingers, I would have never called myself a Christian. The spirit of God that is in you is going to react to blatant evil being called good, and that’s not wrong- Jesus’ harshest words were to people who claimed to have the truth but were keeping people from coming to God. Jesus’ one violent display, chasing people out of the temple, was in reaction to evil people standing in the way of letting people into the synagog, after all, and He called the Pharisees whom some of those claiming Jesus is their lord resemble, hypocrites, pits of vipers and unmarked graves, after all. So, do not be shy, and suppose that you are not loving your neighbor if you call a spade a spade. Of course, even Paul used to be a Pharisee, so, there is always hope…however, sometimes it’s really nice to know that you aren’t the only one. Also, if you’d like to know, there is a page called the Christian Left. It’s not exclusively Christians, but you are not alone in feeling a reaction against the people held up as Christians by the media.

    • Elizabeth,

      You sound like a very “grown up” Christian to me – as much as any of us can be – it is a journey eh? Thank you for your words of support and encouragement to speak boldly and call evil what it is. I appreciate your willingness to call out WBC – I do indeed believe their actions are evil – so much so I can barely speak of them even when calling out the differences between “fundies” and the rest of us. I just cringe when I even think of including them in a conversation about what is and is not Christian because they are so far removed from what slightly resembles Christianity. But you are right that we need to keep saying so as long as they keep claiming they are.

  28. PPPPS: My Dad was a deeply faithful Christian, but he said he didn’t believe in a “personal” god. I don’t know what he meant by that. But he said that if he was mistaken and such a “personal god” really did exist, then he looked forward to dying so as to be able to tell Him exactly what he thought about Him. Well, my Dad died a few years ago; so I guess we can all rest assured that God now knows exactly what Ken McGill thought about Him. I’m sure it did them both a lot of good.

  29. PPPS: Another story… I was pouring out my soul to a young Tibetan Lama, a disciple of Sogyal Rimpoche, in Paris. He heard me out, and said “You don’t like Samsara, do you?” (opening a window I’d thought was supposed to be kept bolted shut).

  30. PPS: Father Loftus was our local Roman Catholic priest. When, in my teens, the things I’d been brought up hearing in our Congregationalist church just stopped meaning anything to me and I got interested in Buddhism, my very Protestant mother thought that maybe a Catholic priest was the best person for me to talk to.. Go figure… Anyhow, I was happy to go and meet him. And he was absolutely delighted to hear that Buddhism was “ringing a bell” for me and gave me God’s blessing and wished me a “bon voyage”. He’s dead now, but this is just to let him know that the voyage was there and back again, and that his blessing stays with me now and forever more.

  31. Jen Hatmaker and her blog need to be on this list of Christians who live the words and work of serving the underserved and blessing the not so blessed and feeding and clothing and caring for and talking to and walking among the marginalized.

    • Dawn,
      Thank you for introducing me to Jen. At first glance it seems she is engaged in powerfully necessary ministry!

  32. Kimberley, don’t be too shy to say “Maybe I would even in very special cases go so far as to say they are in fact not Christian at all”. Just think Anders Behring Breivik: “maybe” doesn’t come into it!

  33. I’m so glad to see Nadia included in this list. I’ve never met her but listen to all of her sermons and read anything of hers I can, often have wished I lived near the church she pastors. I would include the lutheran theologian, Gerhard Forde. He led such a quiet unassuming life but wrote and taught a theology that to me is life changing.

  34. Kimberly–
    I’d certainly echo Bono and Colbert–anytime someone in the culture represents a more loving or thoughtful Christianity, it’s a bonus. I’d add two folks who have profoundly shaped my work, NT Wright and Rowan Williams. Both are intellectuals of the highest order, and Williams, while battered by trying to keep the Anglican ship together, is a progressive who seeks peace and justice and one of the most deeply holy people I know.

  35. Here is someone maybe a little out of left field. I had never heard of Beyers Naude before visiting the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg last year. There were many lasting impressions from that afternoon – not the least being my wife and I could not have been wed under that system, but this mans story is yet another example of what it means to live the truth once you realize it…

    • Thank you SO much for sharing his name. I am so grateful to learn about such an incredible Christian. I am ashamed I was previously ignorant of his faithful work!

  36. Billy Graham – a long life w/ integrity- Cliff Barrow, George Beverly Shae – that whole group – difficult to do while in the spotlight. His daughter, Ann Lott.
    Would agree w/ Phyllis Tickle. And so many on the list. But I especially think of the countless saints for whom we have no names. Standing in a church from the 4th century I was struck with all the many Christians who had been before me and had prayed for the future Christians- and all the nameless to me who have given their lives standing for Jesus Christ.

  37. Rob Bell. LOVE WINS. Velvet Elvis author. TIME magazine top 100 most influential persons in the world.

  38. Just thought of a few more names that weren’t mentioned. Mel White. Ralph Blair. Peggy Campolo. Kathy Baldock. And I know it has been said but I really can’t stress Justin Lee enough. Without the gay Christian network, I would have no faith at all. I owe them, and I owe Justin my life.

    And this may be controversial but despite his beliefs on some issues, I really like Tony Campolo for his graciousness in talking about the issues, and his sincerity in wanting Jesus. He gave a great speech at one of the GCN (Gay Christian Network) Conferences that I have listened to and re-listened to many many times.

    • His sincerity in following Jesus**

      I am tired, its 1.45am where I am, I should go to bed. Sorry.

    • You know, it’s been a little like making a guest list for a Christmas party – you know there are names of people dear to you that you are just not pulling out of the cobwebs when someone says, Mel White and you think – well of course :).

      I also like your suggestion of Tony Campalo. I agree with your understanding of who he is and what he brings to the conversation.

      Thanks for adding these important names and ideas to the conversation.

  39. Cynthia Bourgeault and Marcus Borg, two authors that helped me to realize there was a whole side of Christianity that I had never known, because all I had ever ‘seen’ was the tv evangelists that made be cringe. Reading Mitch Albom’s ‘Have a Little Faith’ was also a book that led me along the road I am now on.
    An all time favourite? Thomas Merton – his words of awe and wonder, Jim Burklo, hmm many others. Great article!

    • Yes, Borg definitely got my synapses firing in new ways when I first encountered his work. It is funny what I impacts us as we journey through this thing called faith. Anne Lamott’s “Traveling Mercies” had a huge impact in my life and then so did a great book called “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” by Christopher Moore.

  40. I read the list, and although some I agree with (Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, Henri Nouwen), I am appalled at your inclusion of others. Spong? The guy has claimed that the Blessed Mother was raped and that St. John was a homosexual. He thinks any belief that is considered miraculous to be a fraud. Gene Robinson? A gay man who walked out on his family for a gay relationship, and laughs in the face of traditional views of Christian morality. Yet you fail to include Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John Paul II, Heinhold Niebuhr, and Martin Niemoller. Why do you exclude such fine Christian thinkers as Archbishop Charles Chaput, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, Father Robert Barron and Mother Angelica? Your list is fraught with psuedo-Christians who are good “humanists”, but who are more prone to be agnostics rather than believers in the Truth.

    • We did not intentionally exclude Mother Teresa, so thank you for lifting her up, as well as a few others – but not all of the names I would agree about. I appreciate your concern about Spong because not all of his theology is palatable to even very progressive Christians. As a Christian lesbian who has walked a long and winding road herself I respectfully and completely disagree with your attack on Gene Robinson. I am afraid your notion of “traditional Christian morality” may be limited to picking and choosing dogma and doctrine from the later half of the 20th century and turning a blind eye on the “traditional” values and morals that permit slave owning, murder of children and wives and many other things that are “biblical” but reprehensible.

      • Kimberly,

        I also respect you and your viewpoints, and I apologize for sounding ultra critical of Gene Robinson. I do not believe he stands as a beacon of light in any traditional Christian sense. However, I admit I do not know him, and if I am wrong, I am sorry for “attacking” him. However, I wonder what you meant by your final sentence. I agree that slave owning and the other things you mention are reprehensible, and I am NOT turning a blind eye toward anything! As a convert to Catholicism I am very orthodox in my beliefs, and sadly, many persons on your list are strongly pro-choice (which is CLEARLY the same as the “murder of children.”) As an example, I personally have met Archbishop Chaput on many occasions , and his views are absolutely in line with Christian doctrines from the very beginning. He is attacked in “progressive” circles and that is equally reprehensible. Cardinal O’Connor and others like him have been called bigots and homophobes for supporting traditional marriage and sexual values. Yet he often visited AIDS patients and prayed for them.

        The point I’m making is this…progressive or orthodox, Catholic or Protestant, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and we will all stand before the Lord one day. He is in the business of judging…not me (or anyone else. on earth). God bless you and thanks for your column.

        • Mark,

          I am afraid we are walking very different Christian paths. I could not be more turned off my rigid orthodoxy/othopraxy – especially when such stands as a barrier rather than a portal for so many. I am antiauthoritarian in every sense of the word (which is why I know God has a sense of humor since God gave me a cop with whom to fall in love and raise a family). I am not one who sees anything extraordinarily holy about the papal office nor the man who holds it. Nor am I bound to only relating to God as he. God is far more than our feeble, mortal minds can comprehend and (I do not say this lightly) can not even be confined to the bible or Christianity. Christianity does not own God but it is my path that points me to God much as Islam, Buddhism, Judaism or Hinduism points other to That Which Can Not Be Understood. Yes, this is Christian theology for it is Christ like to move beyond the rigidity of religion and seek to live in The Spirit that is here, now – within me and within you…and within Gene Robinson.

          If you discount Bishop Robinson as a Christian, then you also claim the same of me. I am a lesbian, living a faithful life with the woman that God brought to me.

          If you disqualify pro-choice people as unChristian, then you do me as well. If you believe that pro-choice can be simply boiled down to mean pro-murder then you are choosing to limit your understanding of a very complex issue around very real and complex people.

          The version of Christianity you articulate is exactly one of the versions I believe, with all my prayerful, faithful heart (discerned in Christian community with other prayerful, faithful folks) , is distorting the radical love of God as revealed in Christ.

          That said, I do greatly appreciate your respectful tone in this conversation even if your perspective seems as narrow and arrogant as orthodoxy is training to you be.


          • Kimberly,

            Please understand something…I am NOT “discounting” anyone as “Un-Christian…” not Robinson, not you, not ANYONE. I recognize that many people want to follow Christ and are living their journey as best they can…but many of them have a distorted view of Christ’s teachings. Yes, He loves us all, and He wants us to share in His Victory over sin and death. But He DEFINITELY, wants us to overcome sin and to live in true freedom. We as Christians are called to protect ALL human life, from conception to natural death. Sadly, many Christians (including many of my fellow Catholics) choose to contracept, to abort innocent children, to favor euthanasia, etc. MY “faithful heart” tells me that such activity is a sin. Jesus told us to “repent, AND SIN NO MORE.” Therefore we need to abandon those evils and follow the Truth. We Catholics know “the Fullness of the Truth,” but there may be other possible ways to God that only He reveals. But a lot of “anti-Authoritarian” people want to believe that “anything goes” and that God is going to save everyone…no matter what. That is a sad lie that will separate them from God eternally. I am not saying this…God has said it. But I pray for ALL of us to find the path that leads to eternal life. If and when we meet, whether in this life or the next, I hope you will see me as a Christian brother who loves and respects you, and realize I am not arrogant or narrow. I am trying my best to live the Truth that Christ has taught me, even though I may come up short at times. Please give me credit for that.

  41. Rev. Keith Mozingo of Metropolitan Community Church of Baton Rouge, Louisiana ( . And he is also a gay evangelical, pretty rare in the more openminded denominations and a good southern boy. We are on Youtube so check us out.

  42. My grandmother (remaining nameless for my family’s privacy). She was warm, loving, caring, patient, who rarely lost her patience with me even when I most deserved it. She was a devout Catholic, in mass every morning for most of the life I shared with her.

    And she loved M*A*S*H and the Golden Girls. It’s such an incongruity to me, but it makes me love her more.

    She didn’t affect the world at-large, but she affected mine.

    • PJ, your grandmother sounds a lot like my own (we called her meemaw). I often say she was one of the truest examples I have ever personally experienced of what it means to be a Christian. She was love, she was light and she was beautifully warm. Thank you for lifting up the most important examples we have – the one’s closest to us.


      PS – I am especially fond of your grandmother now cuz I loved M*A*S*H as a teen (yeah, I was weird).

  43. Bill Moyers, Jimmy Carter, Stephen Colbert (in an odd sort of way),
    And I would add that there are whole denominations out there that are working tirelessly against this kind of abduction of the Christian message. I urge everyone interested in this post to go to the United Church of Christ and look them up ( Likewise, the Society of Friends (the Quakers) stand valiantly against the destruction of the message of the Christ.

  44. I would like to. add Richard Rohr, James Alison and Sister Helen Prejean…oh and Fr. Patrick Brennan and Roy Bourgoius.
    As a Catholic Christian, these people give us hope because of their distinct ability to live in the world as people of joy and love. Fr.’s Patrick and Roy are giving up everything to be Jesus in a world that does not want to be reminded that he wsas crucified for a reason.

  45. I don’t bother defending Christianity by naming “good” Christians. I am a follower of Christ because I choose kindness and compassion over judgement and anger. I try to lead a life of service and humility. I love God and my neighbor. I don’t hold grudges. I don’t claim perfection in any of these practices, but I can say that the more I practice them, the stronger my faith is, the more peaceful my heart is. None of this is affected in the slightest by what anyone else thinks of me or my faith.

    • Fair enough Mark but for my part I am saddened by folks who are convinced that all Christians are, as my meemaw would say – ugly bugly. I am called to live my faith for more than myself but as a gift to others in response to the gift of grace I have received. There is no reason why we should allow the folks who use the bible as a weapon the claim the name as if other Christians do not exist. I also would love to think that by sharing the stories of so many Christians, who like you seem to me, choose kindness and compassion over judgment and anger. If we don’t keep telling the story then those who are looking for a loving, generous, justing seeking Christianity just might never find it. For me and mine, that really matters.

      • For my part, I don’t think all Christians are bad, but I am convinced that essentially all of contemporary institutional Christianity is, as you say, “Ugly Bugly.” I am also convinced that Christianity has no inherent superiority over any other form of spirituality. I have found no special correlation at all between Christian identity and Christ-like behavior. Decent people find their inspiration to decency in every religion and no religion at all. The twisted ones who live in rage and selfishness find or craft justification within all of these systems as well.

  46. I agree that Desmond Tutu ought to be on the list, as he is one of the leaders I revere! Another person I admire is Becca Stevens, founder of the Magdalene Project in Nashville. Her work looks to me like a very real example of how to be the heart and hands of Christ in the world.

  47. Founder of Metropolitan Community Churches Rev. Troy Perry. Without him, and others that joined with him, I doubt there would be any “gay dialogue” in Christianity today.

    • Absolutely David, thank you for sharing his name and reminding of his important ministry and leadership.

  48. A few incredible people who should not go unsung:

    Clarence Jordan (& the Koinonia Farms crew)
    Toyohiko Kagawa (the kind of Christian who should be a household name!)
    Ched Myers
    Archbishop Oscar Romero
    Jacques Ellul

    And he’s a bit more checkered, but I still have a soft spot for Jimmy Carter.

    • YES – These are great names to add and a couple I needed to get to know. So sorry I myself left off Clarence Jordan because I greatly admire what they have and are doing there. And how could I have missed Romero? This is the reason I needed to crowdsource this list. I hope everyone who stops by takes time to Google EVERY name shared.
      Thank you Matt!!!

    • Indeed Zoë, there is a great cloud of witnesses too long to name in a small space like a blog. I am glad you have been blessed by good and loving Christians and I am sorry that in your experience the name Christian means they have a bad reputation to disprove.


  49. Interesting that in the list of people quoted above, the ones that I recognise (I’m an Australian) are the ones I know of because of their fruits, not because of their faith. Their actions may well be because of their faith, but its not what they are known for. And this, IMHO, is the point. If you are primarily known for shouting ‘Lord, Lord’ at every corner, you’re not doing it right. IMHO, anyway.

    • I believe you are right Vicky, we “preach” the Gospel far better with actions than with words.

      Hey, thanks for stopping by all the way from Australia!

    • Rhonda,

      I am sorry, but this is the very sort of “Christianity” from which I hope to rescue the Gospel. I find this sort of circus simply deplorable and the antithesis of everything Christ represents. I hope you will do a little work and read about the names and churches listed here in the blog and by the many folks who have lifted up loving, justice oriented examples of Christians.

      Your sister in Christ.

  50. Since you live in Atlanta, I suggest you check out Ed Loring and Murphy Davis and the other members of the Open Door Community at 910 Ponce de Leon or check out Hospitality, the community newsletter.

    • OH MY LORD – what a dufus I am! You are so right. When I first encountered The Open Door (decades after they had begun their good work) I was touring the facility as s seminary student and I had the profound sense, deep in my soul that I was only pretending to be a Christian while these folks were actually committed to giving their lives to it fully. Thank you for reminding of what I should not have had to be reminded.

  51. Perhaps more than anyone cares to hear about my feelings on this matter-
    But here goes…

    Christian No More

    I certainly can find nothing clear by reading the Bible. I have read it a lot and it makes me very irritated and depressed. I understand I have to let it go and not subject myself to Bible material anymore.
    I would agree in a way it makes some things clear- but I have a huge problem with it. The beginning parts of the Bible make it very clear women are property of men. Fathers can sell or otherwise barter their daughters, and they love to have the popular guys having sex with their daughters. The other day I was reading the Bible at work. I happened to be on the story of Jacob and how much he desired Rachel. It turns out Jacob can have Rachel if he works for Rachel’s father for 7 years. He seems to really love Rachel because the 7 years goes by so fast as if it was a small price to pay.
    BUT- the big day comes- and the bigger night. Jacob has worked the 7 years and he will get his Rachel. He will “Go in unto her” as the Bible says over and over and over again. The guys want to go “In unto her” is used in the Bible more than I can stand.
    But the big night comes and Rachel’s father sneaks in Rachel’s sister. You have to read this! THE NEXT MORNING- imagine Jacob’s shock when he goes to kiss Rachel good morning and finds it is Leah! Apparently Rachel’s father wanted his younger daughter “entered” first. How can I read this story in 2012 and think it is a good story or understand it? I think, “Well, this was before the invention of the light bulb.” Jacob has loved and worked for Rachel for 7 years but doesn’t know he went “In unto” Leah? It ends up as so many Bible stories end up. Jacob goes “In unto” Leah and “In unto” Rachel and “In unto” Rachael’s hand maiden AND “In unto” Leah’s hand maiden over and over and over producing lots of babies. Shall we read the word of the Lord?
    As I was reading this story at work a patient came over and I immediately put the Bible away, but she had seen me. She said she thought it was beautiful I was reading it. I was embarrassed as if I had been caught with porn. I’m reading a story about a guy banging a couple of sisters and I get big credit for it.
    OK- Sampson. Sampson comes upon a beautiful woman bathing. He wants her. I read this story in 2012, and what does Sampson do? He tells his parents to get her for him. How romantic is that? So Sampson gets this woman as his wife. But this wife still lives with her father for some reason. Well- when Sampson wants to “Go in unto her” he goes to her father’s house to do that- but finds there has been some kind of misunderstanding. The father thought Sampson didn’t really like her, so he gave her to one of Sampson’s buddies to “Go in unto.” The father offers his younger daughter and points out to Sampson that she is prettier. I don’t have daughters, but as best I can imagine I can’t see myself trying to sell some young man on the idea of having sex with my youngest daughter because she is prettier than her older sister. Is this Godly parenting advice? Marketing the younger sex objects in the family? It is the stuff of Bible reading, and the reason we don’t honestly read it, or read it honestly.
    Is it of benefit for people to read such stories today? They depress me by their lack of compassion or romance, and then the nonsense. Sampson is so upset he gets 300 foxes and ties them together and makes torches of them- sending them into his father in law’s crops burning all the crops.
    I will ask anyone- anyone- to just go out and get 10 foxes. Go ahead and try it.
    You can keep reading. Sampson gets his ultimate bride- but we all know Sampson had super strength due to his long hair. Is there anything to discuss about the value of these stories? Isn’t Harry Potter much better? OK- cool idea to have his hair grow back so he can kill lots of people, but to say this is the word of God or history is diagnostic.
    I am not better off for having read these stories. They do not inspire me, comfort me, or educate me.
    You want the New Testament? In the 7th chapter of Mark’s Gospel Jesus and his followers get in trouble because they do not and will not wash their hands before and after meals, and they do not wash cooking utensils. We know hand washing is the single most important means of infection control- and Jesus is against it. This is an example of profound human ignorance- not Divine inspiration.
    Here’s dishonesty for you!!! Jesus against hand washing is right in the 7th chapter of Mark and we NEVER hear about it. Nobody touches that.

    There are things the Bible makes clear. Jesus in the story of the rich young ruler makes it extremely clear the wealthy are way too inclined to put their trust in their wealth and not spirituality. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus notices when the widow gives a smaller amount to the temple- that she has given more than anyone else. She gave all she had. Jesus sees the nature of the problem and calls everyone on it. According to Jesus we are to “Give to him who asks of thee. If someone asks you to go a mile, go with him two. If someone asks for your coat, let him have you cloak as well.” Yet in today’s world it seems to be the Christians who are most enraged if asked for anything. Especially if asked to give up anything, which shows just how much the things matter. To meet the basic needs of our fellow man for food and especially health care there are ideas to ask help of the very wealthy out of their exponential abundance. BUT- it is those who most announce themselves as Christians who oppose taxing the rich, and oppose Obamacare. So Jesus was wasting his time with those teachings.
    When the bad guys came to arrest Jesus- his close friends and followers drew swords to stop them- but he forbid them to take up weapons. “All who take up the sword fall by the sword.” We know his teachings involve turning the other cheek anyway. As with putting trust in wealth instead of spirituality- people may be inclined to put their trust in weapons rather than spirituality. It amazes me how Jesus understood the nature of the danger in weapons. Jesus opposed them. BUT- it is the people who most claim themselves to be followers of Jesus who are against even regulations about people getting weapons. It is the Christians who want wealth and guns. I have no answers in regards to how this can be.
    I am a man of reason. Most burglaries occur when homes are unoccupied. If the home owners are gun owners the guns are among the items stolen feeding them to the criminal population. Police officers are put through countless hours of firearms training yet we hear weekly of innocent or unarmed civilians shot by police because of the complexities of violence. Yet Christians especially claim every Tom Dick and Harry should have guns- thinking that creates a safer world when trained officers cause so much wrongful death.
    Let’s try an experiment. The FBI uniform crime report for the years between 2006 and 2010 reveals 47856 people murdered by firearms in the United States which is more than twice the number killed by all other means. I feel this number. I see mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Christians- you do not feel anything. You do not see this number. Your only awareness is you want guns. You are arguing to make the killing of human beings as easy as humanly possible. I can’t be one of you. I can’t let anything cloud my need for the well being of my fellow man. I have no desire for a killing tool- but you insist “Thou shalt not kill” be displayed in public buildings and want your guns.
    Jesus exuded compassion, love, understanding, and forgiveness. People of his time often got themselves against other people- like against the woman taken in adultery, or against having children present, or belittling the widow who gave so little. It never worked to try to get Jesus against anyone. But I notice it is those who make the biggest claims to be the followers of Jesus who are against others today. Against gays, against women, against scientists, against political parties who most serve the clear agenda of Jesus mentioned above.
    My only consolation in these matters is that the teachings of Jesus were so sensible as well as compassionate- and serve the cause of human well being so well that his ways are winning the day. I am profoundly sorry and embarrassed that it is the followers of Jesus who drag the process.
    If claiming to be Christian means one opposes the teachings of Jesus I will have to sacrifice that title on his behalf.
    I find it so significant that the only things Jesus asked of God are things we can freely ask of human fathers or each other. That we may have our daily bread, be forgiven as we forgive, that we not be lead into temptation but delivered from dangers against our well being.

    John H. Bidwell

    • Everything you said is the reason I have written this post. I hope you will look into some of the broader theological discourses that many of these authors offer. I am the sort of Christian, as many of these might claim to be, that takes the bible seriously BECAUSE I don’t take it literally. I am working on a post by that name so I hope you will come back and share in the conversation.


  52. How did everyone miss (retired) Bishop Desmund Tutu? He’s a brilliant man, and brilliant Christian and he gives me so much hope.

  53. As an a-theist leaning toward pantheism (the “sexy” version of atheist according to Dawkins) I have NO PROBLEM with Christ or even most of his followers. But as long as there are dominionists and creationists in your fold trying their “damnedest” to to turn my republic into a theocracy and my science into stupidity I will be complaining LOUDLY (but politely) about christian dogma. I also complain about hindu, islam, and even buddhist dogmatists who revere their dogma and their doctrine more than peace, love and the “golden rule” found in ALL religious and ethical traditions! Do nothing to others you would not want done to you should be everyones simple creed – (including atheists who are rude, crude and down right obnoxious)! Sorry you and other good people are getting caught in the cross fire!
    PS Thanks for the list, I’ve read books by or articles about most of the people on your list but I MUST look up Phyllis Tickle if for no other reason than her charming, smile inducing name!

  54. Here’s the thing. I don’t think I’m “that kind of Christian,” but every time I judge another Christian, not knowing their heart, I’m the OTHER kind. We will be surprised when we get to heaven, this I know.


    • Indeed Sarah, I totally agree and that is why I had to claim my failing up front. I also agree that many of the Christians who participate in giving Christians a bad name have light within them as well. What I can see is the fruit of their “spirit” and when that fruit is the pain of others – even unto destruction – well it really is time to call that not of Jesus and not Christian.

  55. Most of these folks are authors who combine a profound love for the splendor of Christian spirituality with a clear commitment to social justice, radical inclusivity, and authentic hope: Richard Rohr, Phyllis Tickle, Cynthia Bourgeault, Michael Casey, Mary Margaret Funk, Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong, Kenneth Leech, Gareth Higgins and pretty much everyone associated with the Wild Goose Festival, Anne Lamott, Brian McLaren, Martin L. Smith, SSJE…. those are just the ones off the top of my head. I agree so much about befriending the call to evangelism: we need to fearlessly proclaim the lavish inclusivity of Divine Love.

    • Carl,

      YES and YES! Thank you for these some that echo what others have offered and some names we had not yet called out. YOU sir are one of the good ones too.


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