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May 24, 2016

Copyright on background: yayayoy / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright on background: yayayoy / 123RF Stock Photo
Being a “Christian” means “being a little Christ.” Put even more succinctly, it means “following Jesus.”

Can you actually do things on this list and call yourself a Christian? Well, of course. Sadly, people do it all the time.

Are you following Jesus when you vote for these things. Nope.

1) Anti-LGBT laws

Ask yourself: “Who would Jesus discriminate against?”

As you think about the answer, keep in mind that while the Pharisees encouraged discrimination against women, tax collectors, the poor, and even Samaritans, Jesus went out of his way to radically include them all.

Now, “go and do likewise.”

2) Turning away immigrants.

Christian heritage runs through Judaism. We are an immigrant people.

Even our religion began in other lands.

Our spiritual ancestors, Abraham and Sarah were told by God to pick up what they had and start traveling. Moses, Miriam and Aaron led a nation out of Egypt, into the desert and ultimately to new lands. Even Jesus spent part of his childhood as a foreigner in a foreign land.

As Exodus says, we know how it feels to be foreigners in a foreign land. If you don’t think being foreigners in a foreign land is still our story, ask the Native Americans. At best, turning away immigrants makes us hypocrites; at worst, it makes us betrayers of our ancestors and our God.

3) Letting people go hungry.

Gandhi said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”

Politically, hunger causes problems with education, production and civil behavior which are all necessary for a successful nation. More importantly for Christians, Jesus said when we feed the hungry, we are feeding him.

4) Favoring the rich over the poor.

Favoring the rich over the poor is a slap in the face of Jesus, his life, and his teachings.

In terms of the teachings of Jesus, it is bad enough when we allow the rich to take advantage of the poor, but when we create laws which not only encourage the behavior but also protect it? Well, let’s just say it becomes crystal clear how ironic it is that we print, “In God We Trust,” on our money.

5) Advocating for War.

There’s a reason why Jesus was called the Prince of Peace.

Sure, you can quote, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and even two or three other verses but they don’t hold a candle to the more than fifty-some verses where Jesus speaks about peace and peacemaking.

Most of Jesus’ teachings come back to one thing, “love.”

It is way far away from loving a person to kill them.

I guess there’s a reason why we say, “God is love.”

In the end, love wins.

6) Limiting access to healthcare.

Did you ever play the game “Follow the Leader”?

If you don’t do what the leader does, you are out.

Following means you should imitate as closely as possible.

When people who were sick needed care, Jesus gave it to them.

If we are following Jesus, we will imitate him as closely as possible. No, the government can’t repeat the miracles he did but I’ve seen modern medicine do things that are about as close to a miracle as I expect to get. While the government can’t do miracles, it can supply modern medicine.

Every year, 20,000 to 45,000 people die in the U.S. because of lack of access to heath care.

We Christians like to talk about “saving” people. Well, I know of about 20,0000 to 45,000 people who’d love for us to do it and we should – because that’s how love works.

7) Devaluing education.

We learn in Proverbs that wisdom is something in which God delights daily.

As a matter of fact, according to Proverbs, wisdom is better than gold.

When you look at the percentage of our budget which goes to education and at what little help Congress is giving around student loans, it’s pretty clear that delighting in wisdom is something our government no longer does.

To follow Jesus, we need to make education a priority. After all, he was a rabbi – a teacher.

8) Supporting capital punishment — execution.

Jesus died by execution.

He was an innocent man.

Every year, innocent people die by execution in our nation.

It’s time to be a shining city on a hill. It’s time to express the fullness of love, to express the value of life. It’s time to stop the government-sanctioned killing.

9) Forcing your religion on others.

One of the strengths of the faith Jesus taught about was its meekness.

The faith he taught valued free will over compulsion – because that’s how love works.

Compelling people to follow any religion, more or less your personal religion, stands over and against the way Jesus practiced his faith. If you are using the government to compel people to practice your spiritual beliefs, you might be the reason baby Jesus is crying.

This does get tricky. There is a difference in letting your beliefs inform your political choices and letting your politics enforce your religion. This article is about the first part.

10) Donald Trump.
See 1-9.

 

Get your “Progressive Christian Voter’s Guide” here. It’s FREE!!

 

Consider supporting Mark’s blogging. Help create a market for Progressive Christianity. Not through big publishers or big denominations, but through the grassroots. We need to encourage the growth of progressive Christian voices in the marketplace. Even a dollar will help.
 

Mark is a co-founder of The Christian Left. Come and join the conversation!

January 21, 2014

PictureImage credit: iqoncept / 123RF Stock Photo

by Mark Sandlin

 

If any list has been overdone in the Christian blogging world, it’s this list.

Just about every Christian blogger has done one and if they haven’t, they’ve thought about it and then thought better of it – because just about every Christian blogger has done one. (See what I did there?)

And yet, here we are.

You. Me. And my list of things Christians shouldn’t say. Hmmmm – must be God’s will. (And I just realized this list should have had 11 things on it. Oh, well. I have no doubt that it’s on one of the lists out there!)

Before starting my list, the editors in my head need me to say a few things, i.e. the requisite disclaimers. I do not consider this to be an exhaustive list. It’s just the list of sayings I most want to talk about right now. Also, as I’ve explained in other posts, in this “10 Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus” series, I’m not saying that people who follow Jesus don’t do these things; I’m saying that you can’t say you are following Jesus’ example when you do them. Finally, specific to this list, I think people who say these things are mostly trying to be kind, grateful and even humble when they say some of them. But if we really do want to be kind, grateful and humble we need to think about these sayings a little more – and then stop saying them.

10) Everything happens for a reason.
Implied in this is a very specific understanding of how God interacts with the world. Specifically, it says God directs all things. So, mass murders? God had a reason for that senseless act of violence. Stubbing your toe on the door frame? I guess God wanted to smite your toe.

This way of seeing God turns us all into puppets. God’s little play things who really have no freewill. Do you truly think a god needs toys? If so, do you really think we’re the best toys God could make to play with?

9) God needed another angel.
God loves you. God loves your loved ones. God is coming for your loved ones.

You think it hurt when God smote your toe? Just wait ’til God rips out your heart. But it’s OK. They needed another angel in heaven.

See? All better!

Really? No, of course not. Now that you understand what you are saying, can we just stop it?

8) God never gives us more than we can handle.
Ever tried saying this to a person contemplating suicide? No? Well, of course not.

Why? Because it is just wrong.

It’s wrong for the reason that #10 is wrong and it’s wrong because factual circumstances of living prove that sometimes this life does bring with it more than we can handle.

7) But for the grace of God, there go I.
Think about that for just a minute.

How about walking in the shoes you’re grateful not to be in for just a minute? Are they where they are because they lack the grace of God that others receive?

Does God pick and choose whom grace lands upon, intentionally withholding it from some people?

I know that people who say this don’t mean it that way, but that is what they are saying – even if indirectly. Feel free to be thankful for where you are but let’s stop heaping coals on other people’s shoulders – even if unintentionally.

6) I must be living right.
Have you ever been riding in a car when the driver pulls into a parking space right in front of the store and proclaims, “I must be living right!”?

Sure, they are half joking but keep in mind it’s only half joking. Statements like this have their roots in that nasty  “everything happens for a reason” thinking.

These are the same folks who ask God to help them win sporting events. I hate to burst the bubble but God doesn’t care which team wins or how close to the store entrance you get to park your car.

Plus, go back to #7. When you say things like this, what are you saying about the folks who had to park in that very last spot next to the shopping cart return where the car doors get all dinged up? and for that matter, if you are “living right,” why didn’t you take that spot and leave the one up front for someone else?

5) Love the sinner, hate the sin.
The problem I have with this one is the comma. It should be a period.

After further thought, I have a problem with the comma, everything that comes after it and “the sinner.”

Who am I (and who are you) to be deciding for someone else what is getting between them and God? I’m all for doing it in regard to our own lives but in someone else’s life? Hands off. Who do we think we are? God?

Now that I think about it, the problem I have with this one is that there’s not a period after love.

Love. Period.

4) It’s okay to judge.
Recently, there has been a rash of Christian bloggers defending their right to judge. I guess it’s a thing. All the cool bloggers are doing it.

I love being cool. And apparently it’s cool to judge others. So, let me judge them for trying to justify judging others. Don’t worry though – I’m loving the sinner, hating the sin when I do it. So, it’s OK. Right?

Oh, give me just a minute though. It turns out I’ve got a log in my eye. I’ll need to take care of that first.

3) Because the Bible tells me so (or “it’s in the Bible”).
The King James Bible tells me there are unicorns – 9 times.

I’m sorry, I got distracted. What was it you were telling me about using the Bible to prove a fact?

2) Have you heard about Jesus?
Seriously?

1) There are no atheists in a foxhole.
Really? There are atheists in church and you honestly think there are no atheists in foxholes?

Look, I get that the point is supposed to be that when faced with death we all turn to God. However, not only is that simply not true for everyone when faced with death, it is really bad logic.

Let me demonstrate.

When faced with death in a foxhole – grenades flying overhead and limbs being blown off the person next to me – am likely to soil my britches. It does not follow that I should always soil my britches.

In foxholes there are a whole bunch of people trying to stay alive and they pretty much don’t care what the other person believes about God. They just want to stay alive… and possibly a clean pair of britches. (See what I did there?)

 

Picture

June 7, 2013

Jesus, follow, christian, what not to do

by Mark Sandlin

Lots of people claim to be “following Jesus” and then they do stuff like this. Sure, people who follow Jesus do these things all the time but you can’t say you are doing them because you are trying to follow Jesus’ example.

(Clearly, this is not a complete list but it’s a good place to start).

10) Exclude people because they practice another religion.
Jesus was constantly including people and he did it with a radical disregard for their religion. We do not have a single recorded incident of Jesus asking for a person’s religious affiliation before being willing to speak with them or break bread with them. We do have several records of Jesus seeking out those who happen to practice faith differently from him. There was even this one time when he used a hated Samaritan as an example of how we are supposed to take care of each other.

9) Exclude people for what they look like, how they were born or things beyond their control.
I may have mentioned this already but Jesus was constantly including people. Jesus had this rebel streak in him that actually sought out folks who didn’t “fit in.” People who were different, people who were marginalized, people who were made to feel unwanted in one way or another held a special place in the heart, life and actions of Jesus. I suspect he did it because he understood they weren’t actually different at all. Touch the lepers (the “untouchables”). Do it.

8) Withhold healthcare from people.
Did you ever play the game “Follow the Leader”? If you don’t do what the leader does, you are out. Following means you should imitate as closely as possible. When people who were sick needed care, Jesus gave it to them. If we are following Jesus, we will imitate him as closely as possible. No, we can’t repeat the miracles he did but I’ve seen modern medicine do things that are about as close to a miracle as I expect to get.

7) Exclude people.
Last time. Promise. Jesus was constantly including people. It’s a little concept called love. He was pretty big on it.

6) Let people go hungry.
When Jesus said, “feed my sheep,” it was about more than just a spiritual feeding. As a matter of fact, if Gandhi was right (and I suspect he was), you can’t have one without the other: “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” There is not a food shortage in the world — there is enough for everyone. There is not a problem with having a distribution system capable of handling it; I can eat lobster from Maine while looking over the Pacific ocean. The problem is that we aren’t very good at sharing.

5) Make money more important than God (and the children of God).
The love of money really is the root of all sorts of evil. We make choices about what we will do with our money every day. Our choices speak louder than our words. Willingly or not, our choices frequently hurt the least of these and others rather than help them. Sometimes, we even hurt ourselves. Our money is so important to us, we are willing to shop at stores because their prices are cheaper even though we know the products they sell recklessly endanger the lives of those who make them. We buy food which is mass produced with disregard for their health implications because the farmer down the road is more expensive. We’d rather keep more of our money than pay the taxes it takes to provide for those in need. We have a money problem.

4) Judge others.
“That ‘speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye’ and ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone’ stuff? Meant it,” Jesus.

3) Be physically aggressive or violent.
Okay, okay. “Jesus in in the temple grounds with the money changers.” I’ll give you that one but, other than that, Jesus both gave the example of and taught his followers to avoid violent behavior. “Put your sword away, (insert your name here).” So, what about the money changers? See #2.

2) Use the church to hurt people.
For the most part, Jesus practiced Dudeism. That man could abide. However, there were a few times when he seemed to get more than a bit worked up (most notably with the money changers in the temple grounds). What could take this chill, peace-loving, Jewish hippie from 0 to 60 in the flip of a switch? Using an institution whose primary goal is meant to be love to hurt people. (It’s important to note that while you might describe Jesus as aggressive in the temple grounds with the money changers even then he was not physically violent toward people).

1) Hate.
The one possible exception might be “hate” itself but even then hate breeds hate — so best to avoid it.

(Update: A number of people have said this is a politically motivated list. As a response, I decided to show what a politically motivated response would actually look like: 10 POLITICAL Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus).

Picture
December 9, 2014

Copyright: leaf / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: leaf / 123RF Stock Photo

Ah, Christmas! “The most wonderful time of the year.”

A time to gather with family and friends and, with smiles on our faces, pretend we aren’t quietly measuring who received the best present and which of our relatives really, really needs to stop drinking.

A time to hang tinsel and baubles from the tree, and time to hang up our hopes of losing that last 10 pounds this year.

Such a joyous season!

The real point here is that Christmas is what we make of it.

For Christians, however, there are some very specific things you can’t do if you want to actually honor and follow the person we say we celebrate this season.

So, I give you my “10 Things Christians Shouldn’t Do At Christmas.”

As with my other “10 Things” lists (which are linked at the end of this post), this is not intended to be a complete list, but it is a pretty good start.
 

10) Celebrate Consumeristmas

For many people, Christmas starts with standing in line on Thanksgiving Day.

‘Tis the season for mass consumerism.

Regardless of where you personally think Christmas began, Christmas has slowly drifted into the bog of consumer madness.

Like frogs in a pot of slowly boiling water, we never saw it coming.

For Christians, this is particularly problematic because the guy we are celebrating this time of year told us that collecting stuff here on Earth is not the way to follow him. (My apologies to Kirk Cameron whose seasonal movie wants us to believe otherwise.)
 

9) Forget Those Without Food

Jesus once said that when we feed the hungry we are feeding him.

Anyone want to guess what it means when we ignore the hungry?

How about forgetting about hungry children and their families as we scrape the leftover Christmas ham from our plates into the trash?

Maybe we need to change the name of the season to Gluttonousmas? Too many presents, too much food – too little consideration for those in need.
 

8) Forget Those Without Shelter

No room at the inn.

One of the key moments in the story Christians celebrate is the moment when Jesus was almost born in the streets of Bethlehem.

Our need to clean up the Christmas story assumes that the innkeeper told them to use the manger but the Bible says no such thing. There was no room at the inn, leaving Mary to place her newborn child in a smelly feeding trough.

For that night they were without shelter.

Throughout his life Jesus would spend his ministry with no place to lay his head.

This time of year we celebrate a homeless man.

Do our actions, do the places we spend our money, honor that?
 

7) Forget About Immigrants

We three kings from Orient are. . .

Besides sounding like Yoda wrote a Christmas carol, there are a number of things messed up about that line.

First: We don’t actually know how many there were.

Secondly: They were magi, not kings.

Finally: We also do not know where they were really from other than “from the East.”

What we do know is they were foreigners and their revealing of the king’s plans to kill all newborn boys in hopes of putting an end to Jesus turned Jesus’ family into immigrants in Egypt.

Our Christmas story is replete with images of people journeying to new lands. Because of it, Christmas should cause Christians to recommit to embracing immigrants.
 

6) Miss The Message About Resisting Abusive Power

Mary and Joseph and their family had to flee their homeland because King Herod strong-handedly used his power to squash out what he saw as a threat to his power.

I can guarantee you two things: One, in the house where Jesus grew up, the narrative of why they had to flee to Egypt and of the senseless deaths imposed on other families by the powerful was a story that was told time and time again. Two, the focus on abuse of power in Jesus’ teaching and his constant willingness to confront it was no accident.

Christmas should cause Christians to recommit to confronting those who abuse power.
 

5) Forget Those Without Presents

If you have two coats give one away.

In announcing the coming of Jesus, John the Baptist told us what God was asking of us. Coats were just an example – a placeholder if you will.

If you have two Christmas presents give one away.
 

4) Insist Your Religious Celebration Rule Them All

This time of year far too many Christians remind me of Gollum and his Precious. (A LoTR shout out in a Christian Christmas post! C’mon Peter Jackson, give me some promo love!)

One holiday to rule them all: “We nee-eeds it. They stole it from us!”

Never mind that Jesus was Jewish or that there is a list of other celebrations that occur this time of year, there’s a certain cultural privilege in the air that seems so very un-Christian to me.

You can just about bet that the folks calling out for the dominance of Christmas with shouts about what they think is a “war on Christmas” would be singing a new song if Judaism were the dominant religious culture and this time of year radio stations across the land played Chanukah songs.

Technically, they would be singing a new song – not just metaphorically.
 

3) Get Mad About People Saying “Happy Holidays”

To those who get upset about folks saying, “Happy Holidays,” rather than, “Merry Christmas”: you know what “holiday” is short for, right?

Holy day.

Do you really have a problem with people calling Christmas a holy day?

Nah. Of course you don’t.
 

2) Think That It Is Actually Jesus’ Birthday.

Um. So… dang, this is hard.

I’m really sorry to be the one telling you. Um, let’s see.

Remember how when you were growing up the Sunday school teacher told you Christmas was Jesus’ birthday?

Yeah.

Well, um… they lied.

Yeah. Sorry about that.

We don’t actually know when Jesus was born. It was probably in the spring or summer because “the shepherds watched their flocks by night” – something which typically didn’t happen much in the winter in that region. Not to mention they were returning to Joseph’s hometown for a census, which is something that would have probably been done during warmer weather.

Want to celebrate the fact that Jesus was born? Ok.

Want it to actually be on his birthday? Good luck with that.
 

1) Confuse The Religious Observance With the Secular Holiday.

It may be that December the 25th was picked as the date to celebrate Jesus’ birth to compete with or even to adopt the followers of the pagan celebration of Saturnalia, which included decorating with evergreens, gift giving and parties.

Hmmm, why does that seem so familiar?

I bring this up to make a simple point.

A lot of our “War on Christmas” problems would rightfully go away if we simply acknowledged that there are two celebrations of Christmas each year.

One is religious and one is not.

Most of this article actually points to the issues that happen when we conflate them.

So, let’s stop doing it.
 

 
 
Other articles in my “10 Things Christians Can’t/Shouldn’t Do” Series:
10 Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus
10 POLITICAL Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus
10 Things You Can’t SAY While Following Jesus
10 Anti-Gay Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus
10 Things CHURCHES Can’t Do While Following Jesus10 MORE Things Churches Can’t Do While Following Jesus

10 FACEBOOK Things That Make The Baby Jesus Cry

 
 
Consider supporting Mark’s blogging. Help create a market for Progressive Christianity. Not through big publishers or big denominations, but through the grassroots. We need to encourage the growth of progressive Christian voices in the marketplace. Even a dollar will help.
 

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Mark is a co-founder of The Christian Left. Come and join the conversation!

August 26, 2014

little church dark sky
Copyright: pictureguy66 / 123RF Stock Photo

First, let’s just be clear: I’m not saying it is impossible to do these things if you’re following Jesus.

But, I am saying that if you are doing these things you aren’t following Jesus while you do them – because they aren’t what Jesus would do.

Not all churches are doing these things, but there’s enough who are that it’s more than worth talking about.

Also, this is also not meant to be a complete list or even a “Top Ten” list. After all, I’ve already written a list of 10 other things (well, mostly other) the Church can’t do while following Jesus.

This is just a list of ten things that come to mind for me when I think about what the Church is doing that it seems to me Jesus wouldn’t care for very much.

 

1) Be hypocritical.

Okay, if you read the first of these “10 Things The Church Can’t Do,” you caught me.

Yes, this was in the first list too.

But, it’s that important.

If you say you love people – actually love them.

If you say you want to help people – actually help them.

If you say you want to follow the teachings of Jesus – pay close attention to this list.

 

2) Place a U.S. Flag in the sanctuary.

For me, this one is unbelievably straightforward.

Sanctuary space is meant for signs, symbols and experiences which point us toward God.

A flag points us toward a government.

A government is not a god – at least, it’s not supposed to be.

Worse yet, a flag displayed in a space of worship seems to indicate a sense of “chosenness,” “specialness” – basically good old fashioned American exceptionalism.

But, God loves us all equally.

A flag in the sanctuary suggests that God loves some nations more than others.

And, that actually points us away from God.

Get the flag out of the sanctuary.

Put it on your truck, wear it on a shirt or hang it in your yard – but, unless you are going to display the flag of every nation on Earth in your sanctuary, you are creating a worship space that points away from God.

Make it go bye-bye.

 

3) Turn the poor away.

Having worked in quite a few churches, I can tell you, lot’s folks needing help come by frequently.

It’s hard to tell who really needs help and who doesn’t. And it can be a little bit overwhelming. Most churches just don’t have the resources to help everyone who comes by asking for help.

Again, having worked in quite a few churches, I can tell you, because of some of the stuff I just told you, there are lot of churches that just turn people away at the door.

What a terrible problem to have: People believing that a church might be the place to go when they are in need.

What a worse problem to have: Churches consistently turning people away at the door because “they might be pulling on over one us” or “we don’t have enough to help them and also help our own.”

Whatever the reasons, it’s a horrible problem to have: a church turning away those in need.

A congregations doesn’t need a wealth of resources to help a person in need. You could just help them find help.

That only costs time. You know, that stuff you kill waiting for 5 o’clock?

“Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

 

4) Narrowly define who is and who isn’t a Christian.

There are times when I wonder if the Church is more interested in defining who isn’t a Christian than in helping people actually follow the teachings of Jesus.

As organized denominations, we write books of rules defining what you can and can’t do, what you should and shouldn’t believe – basically, who’s in and who’s out.

Jesus took the opposite approach.

He was more interested in showing how the old law is made new when you realize the primary law is to love everybody.

He touched the untouchables and included the excluded.

It’s hard to understand how an institution that invests so much time and energy into defining who can label themselves “Christian” still believes it’s following the guy who shared meals with tax collectors and hung out with prostitutes.

It really makes no sense – so cut it out, okay?

This bothers me so much I even started a whole new series just to write about the issues of dogma where the church needs to loosen up a bit.

 

5) Define yourself more by what you’re are against than what you support.

One of the main reasons people are leaving the Church is because the Church seems to have become “anti” everything.

It’s not that the Church is really anti everything. It just seems like it.

It just seems like it because Christians and our ministers seem to be spending a whole lot of time judging other people for having the audacity not to be like us – and possibly more importantly: not to think like us.

Too many of us are anti anything that we are not or we can’t be.

Following Jesus is a lot more about love and inclusion than about judgement and exclusion.

Tell me what you love. Not what you abhor.

Better yet, take a cue from Jesus and learn to love more.

 

6) Overly focus on maintaing “things.”

Maintaining the building. Maintaining our traditions. Maintaining a particular image in the public’s eye.

They all matter.

They just don’t matter the most.

Maintaining often means resisting change.

If that change is upgrading to a safe ceiling from one that is caving in, maintaing is a good thing. But, if the change you are resisting is that of moving from “what we’ve always done” to something new – well, that’s not always good.

You might want to consider this a little more deeply and make sure that what you’re maintaining isn’t ultimately your continued decline.

 

7) Function like a country club.

If you believe that membership should have its privileges, you are looking for a country club, not a church.

If you believe you are owed something for the money you contribute, you are looking for a country club, not a church.

If you believe that most of the activities of the organization should focus on your needs and the needs of the members, you are looking for a country club, not a church.

Sadly, far too many church members act as if they’ve joined a country club.

Following Jesus tends to be costly not comfy.

Membership has its privileges.

Discipleship has its responsibilities.

 

8) Fail to be an advocate.

Giving money and developing relationships are beautiful and loving ways to practice your faith, but if they don’t move you to advocacy work for those in need. they are but a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

Hiding behind the fear of not being political is tantamount to saying you weren’t paying attention when you read the Bible.

The prophets of God are decidedly political.

They constantly called the leaders of nations on their less-than-Godly actions.

For that matter, Jesus was crucified, in part, because of the political nature of his statements.

It is impossible to advocate for those in need and not be political.

It is impossible to follow Jesus and not advocate for those in need.

(OK, yes. This was on the first list too. But, again, it’s that important).

 

9) Love the sinner hate the sin.

In my article, “Clobbering ‘Biblical’ Gay Bashing” I have this to say about “love the sinner, hate the sin”:

“…we have “softened” our approach, saying things like “hate the sin, love the sinner,” but we fail to recognize that what we are calling a “sin” and the person we are calling a “sinner” are one and the same.

A person whose sexual orientation is homosexual, or bi-sexual, or queer can no more separate themselves from their sexuality than a heterosexual person can.

It’s like saying “hate the toppings, love the pizza.”

It’s just not the pizza without the toppings.

We just aren’t loving the person if we don’t love the whole person.”

Jesus didn’t say, “Love one another, but feel free to hate certain things about people – because, I mean, we are all sinners.”

Jesus said, “Love one another.”

See the period there? I think it should be read out loud.

Love one another – period.

 

10) Teach a “Prosperity Gospel.”

Jesus made it very clear: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
– Matthew 6:24

“And he said to them, ‘Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”
– Luke 12:15

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…”

– Matthew 6:19

Seriously, don’t make me keep going.

Just remember, as a Christian, you’re supposed to be trying to follow a man who had no place to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20).

 

 

Click here for other articles in this series.
 

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July 10, 2014

As I say in all of my “10 Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus” articles, this is by no means meant to be a complete list, but it’s a decent place to start. Also, this is not to say that people are unable to do these things when they are following Jesus, as much as it is saying if you are doing these things, you are doing something counter to the teachings of Jesus.

 

1) Condone violence toward people who are LGBT.

Here’s the thing: that sentence should have stopped after the word “people”.

LGBT, white, black, sinner, saint, scoundrel, savior – you are not loving your neighbor or those you think of as “enemy” when you support violence against them. Jesus said to love neighbor and enemy. (Please note: No ifs, ands, or buts in there).

Love. Period.

 

2) Be against same-sex marriage.

“Biblical marriage” is one of the biggest Christian misrepresentations out there. Yes, in the Bible marriage is between one man and one woman. It is also between one man, one woman and their God-appointed surrogate mother. Not only that, God frequently blessed polygamists like Gideon and Solomon. Jesus himself believed that if a woman’s husband dies and she doesn’t have a son, she must marry his brother and have intercourse with him until she has a son.

I guess I’m a bit of a prude. “Biblical marriage”? You can have it.

Two loving adults wanting to have a committed relationship?

Yes, please.

 

3) Discriminate against LGBT folk.

Recently, a group of Christians asked President Obama for special permission to discriminate against a particular segment of the population.

Worse yet, they want to do it while receiving government funds.

Did you follow that?

They want to take money that the government made through taxing everyone and then be allowed to exclude some of the very people from which the money came.

Oh, did I mention, this particular group is already a marginalized group in the United States? Yep, Christians wanting to take money from an already marginalized group and use it to further marginalize them.

In an oh-so cliché way, ask yourself: “Who would Jesus discriminate against?”

As you think about the answer, keep in mind that while the Pharisees encouraged discrimination against women, tax collectors, the poor, and even Samaritans, Jesus went out of his way to radically include them all.

Now, “go and do likewise.”

 

4) Say that the Bible/God hates gay people.

You’ve seen the signs, “God hates homos.”

Here’s the thing: the Bible never says that. As a matter of fact, it literally couldn’t.

The modern-day concept of “homosexual” is exactly that: modern day. Our understanding of two people of the same sex in a committed relationship was not something the biblical text ever addressed because it wasn’t a concept they understood or thought about.

Not only that, the very few times the Bible mentions anything even mildly related to same-sex relationships, it doesn’t say what most Christians seem to think it says.

No, really.

You can read all about it here.

 

5) Withhold ordination.

Are you sitting down? Okay, good. I have something to tell you and I need you to be ready for it. Here it goes.

Some Christians are gay.

You okay? Need a minute?

Even if being gay were a sin (it is not, see #4), being a Christian isn’t about being perfect. It’s about loving God and loving others. Some Christians are gay. Some Christians are self-important, some are loud, some are polite, some are even agnostic. They are just people being people — not good or bad.

Being gay has absolutely no impact on your ability to love God and love other people. As a matter of fact, I’d argue that if you are gay and a Christian you have über-skills at loving other people. Think about it. Gay Christians are willing to identify heavily and participate in a group that has historically judged, marginalized and persecuted them.

In my book, these are people who could teach us a crazy amount about forgiveness, love and grace.

 

6) Be quiet when people are marginalized and bullied.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Any questions?

 

7) Believe being gay is a choice.

How is it that in the minds of so many Christians, God made straight people straight but gay people chooseto be gay?

I think Kathy Baldock of Canyonwalker Connections has a very helpful perspective on this. She says that kind of thinking comes from seeing same-sex attraction as a behavior rather than understanding it as a part of who someone is.

The classic question that is sometimes asked is, “When did you choose to be straight?” Sure, it’s a bit myopic in understanding of human sexuality, but the point still stands: Sexuality is much more a part of who you are than it is about a behavior you choose.

Admittedly, this answer is more about being rational than about following the teachings of Jesus, but Proverbs does tell us that Wisdom is the thing in which God delights daily.

So I’m gonna stand pat on this one.

 

8) Believe it’s okay to be gay if you are celibate.

As my friend Matthew Vines points out in his book “God and the Gay Christian,” demanding celibacy is at odds with the biblical perspective that celibacy is a gift, not a mandate. For me, demanding that the only way you can be gay and be Christian is to be celibate is the equivalent of questioning God’s wisdom, and that seems like a less-than-wise thing to do.

 

9) Support gay conversion therapy.

You can “pray the gay away” about as well as I can “pray the grey away.”

Trust me, I’ve tried, and my beard is still grey.

Conversion therapy is based on the precept that being gay is a behavior, not something that we are. (See #8). The negative psychological impact and damage caused by conversion therapy is barbaric, unloving and cruel. (See #1 and #6).

It must stop.

We must speak out every time we see, hear or learn about it. Every time.

 

10) Think that the “gay agenda” is anything other than wanting to be who they are and love who they love.

The most important part to know about gay people is the “people” part of “gay people.”

People are people. We laugh, we cry, we want to be loved and cared for.

That’s the radical gay agenda: to be loved.

It’s mine, too.

I suspect it is yours, as well.


Help create a market for Progressive Christianity. Not through big publishers or big denominations, but through the grassroots. Consider supporting Mark’s blogging. We need to encourage the growth of progressive Christian voices in the marketplace. Even a dollar will help.

Facebook continues to make it increasingly difficult for me to let you know about new blog posts like this. Please consider signing up for my mailing list where we can insure you are notified.  Just click here!

Mark is a co-founder of The Christian Left. Come and join the conversation!

 

June 9, 2013

Christian, Politics, Jesus, War, Rich, Poor, Money, Wisdom

by Mark Sandlin

In response to my last article, “10 Things You Can’t Do While Following Jesus,” I was accused multiple times of being political. All I was trying to do was follow Jesus. So, I thought it’d be interesting (and generate tons more hate mail) to show what a list would actually look like if I were being political intentionally. Like the first list, this is not a complete list but it’s a pretty good place to start.

There will be those who comment and send me messages berating me for “making Jesus political.” It’s okay. Fire away. Jesus didn’t worry much about stepping on political toes and the Bible insists that governments be just toward the least of these (the books of the prophets alone make this point very clear). Frequently, people who are the most vocal about not making Jesus political are the same people who want prayer in school and laws based on their own religious perspectives. By a happy little circumstance that brings us to my list:

10) Force your religious beliefs and practices on others.
One of the strengths of the faith Jesus taught was in its meekness. The faith he taught valued free will over compulsion – because that’s how love works. Compelling people to follow any religion, more or less your personal religion, stands over and against the way Jesus practiced his faith. If you are using the government to compel people to practice your spiritual beliefs, you might be the reason baby Jesus is crying. This does get tricky. There is a difference in letting your beliefs inform your political choices and letting your politics enforce your religion. This article is about the first part.

9) Advocate for war.
There’s a reason why he was called the Prince of Peace. Sure, you can quote, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword,” and even two or three other verses but they don’t hold a candle to the more than fifty-some verses where Jesus speaks about peace and peacemaking. It’s funny how things keep coming back to love but it needs to be said, it is way far away from loving a person to kill them. I guess there’s a reason why we say, “God is love.” In the end, love wins.

8) Favor the rich over the poor.
This is actually related to #4. Favoring the rich over the poor is a slap in the face of Jesus, his life and his teachings. In terms of the teachings of Jesus, it is bad enough when we allow the rich to take advantage of the poor, but when we create laws which not only encourage the behavior but also protect it? Well, let’s just say it becomes crystal clear how ironic it is that we print, “In God We Trust,” on our money.


 7) Cut funding that hurts the least of these.

To some degree, this is the inverse of #8. Favoring the rich is despicable. We Jesus minions should avoid it. Hurting the poor? Well, that’s just.. just… um, something a whole lot worse than despicable. Despicabler? Über-dispicable? When Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do it to me,” he meant it. When you cut funding and it hurts people, according to Jesus, you are hurting him.

6) Let people go hungry.
Well, well, well. What have we here? Is this an item from the original top ten list which I claimed was not politically motivated? Looks like I’ve stepped into my own clever trap! Muh wah ha ha! Seriously though, of course it’s on both lists. It is a spiritual issue and it is a political issue. Spiritually, Gandhi said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Politically, hunger causes problems with education, production and civil behavior which are all necessary for a successful nation. More importantly for Christians, Jesus said when we feed the hungry, we are feeding him. So, yes, this item is on both lists – and I’m going to do it again.

5) Withhold healthcare from people.
This time I’m not only repeating an item, I’m repeating a lot of what I said. Did you ever play the game “Follow the Leader”? If you don’t do what the leader does, you are out. Following means you should imitate as closely as possible. When people who were sick needed care, Jesus gave it to them. If we are following Jesus, we will imitate him as closely as possible. No, the government can’t repeat the miracles he did but I’ve seen modern medicine do things that are about as close to a miracle as I expect to get. While the government can’t do miracles, it can supply modern medicine. Every year, 45,000 people die in the U.S. because of the lack of healthcare. We Christians like to talk about “saving” people. Well, I know of about 45,000 people who’d love for us to do it and we should – because that’s how love works.

4) Limit the rights of a select group of people.
Jesus loves everybody – but he loves me best. Kind of sits the wrong way with you, doesn’t it? Well, it should and with good reason. If you spend any time reading the Bible you know that we all were made in God’s image. Exactly which part of us is in God’s image is less clear but what is clear is that we were equally made in the image of God. Any law that doesn’t treat people equally is as good as thumbing your nose at God. Even worse? Doing it in the name of God or based on religious beliefs (see #10).

3) Turn away immigrants.
Christian heritage runs through Judaism. We are an immigrant people. Even our religion began somewhere else. Our spiritual ancestors, Abraham and Sarah were told by God to pick up what they had and start traveling. Moses, Miriam and Aaron led a nation out of Egypt, into the desert and ultimately to new lands. Even Jesus spent part of his childhood as a foreigner in a foreign land. As Exodus says, we know how it feels to be foreigners in a foreign land. If you don’t think being foreigners in a foreign land is still our story, ask the Native Americans. At best, turning away immigrants makes us hypocrites; at worst, it makes us betrayers of our ancestors and our God.

2) Devalue education.
We learn in Proverbs that wisdom is something in which God delights daily. As a matter of fact, according to Proverbs, wisdom is better than gold. When you look at the percentage of our budget which goes to education and at what Congress is trying to do to student loans, it’s pretty clear that delighting in wisdom is something our government no longer does.

1) Support capital punishment — execution.
Jesus died by execution. He was an innocent man. Every year, innocent people die by execution in our nation. It’s time to be a shining city on a hill. It’s time to express the fullness of love, to express the value of life. It’s time to stop the government-sanctioned killing.

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