Monday, April 27, 2015

WWJD Revisited....

On a Christian blog called Formerly Fundie, in a post about the mistaken notion that Christians should try to “take our country back,” the following paragraph stood out.

Instead of just blindly following religious leaders off a cliff, Jesus people should always be asking and wrestling with the questions of, “But what did Jesus say about this? What did Jesus do? What example of Christ have we to follow?”

May I respectfully suggest that this is not rocket science. We can figure it out if we want to. After all, Jesus lived it out in real life situations for us to see. It’s not the knowing that’s hard….it’s the doing that’s sometimes damn near impossible.

There are four gospels all telling the same story (give or take a few minor contradictions). Jesus displays the same behavior, values, compassion, morals, faith, beliefs….sets the same example….throughout all four of the Gospels yet we struggle to figure out how a Christian should behave.

During the recent upheaval in Indiana, John Pavlovitz, a popular blogger, wrote these words that Jesus might say to modern day Christians:

You were designed to do this, to be this.  My kindness, my goodness, my forgiveness; you were created to be the method of transportation for all of it.

My beloved, I placed you here, not to defend or protect or replace me, but simply to reflect me.  That has always been my most critical commandment and your most pressing obligation; loving God and loving others. I thought that I was clear on that, when I was asked this before.

The thing is, he was clear. He was very clear. Could it be that we just don't like what we see....?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why Me? Why Not Me?

I wrote the following this past weekend - just now getting it posted.

I am in Ellwood City this weekend visiting my mom. I left yesterday afternoon from work, made the four hour trek across Interstate 80 and arrived at my mom’s in time to visit for a while and watch a few “as seen on TV” preachers that she’s taken a liking to. I enjoy visiting my mom even though I hate the drive and the lack of an internet connection here in her apartment.

I can venture across the street to Burger King, or a few blocks farther down to the city park on the main street where Armstrong cable provides free internet, or to the library a few blocks farther or across town to McDonald’s. That is a lot of free wifi choices for a small town like Ellwood City.

I walked to the library earlier today. It is consistently the noisiest library I’ve ever been in. Every. time. Loud librarians, boisterous meetings, noisy patrons and today they were hosting some kind of American Girl doll event. Quite a few little girls showed up with their mothers and grandmothers holding their American Girl dolls by the hand. It was kind of cute and since it was a first for me, I enjoyed it but it was still noisy. Just Noise (my favorite white noise app) blocked out the hub hub.

I tuned into Facebook and was surprised to find a status update from a friend of mine about a shooting last night in Williamsport. Five people were shot as they left a local bar called Imbibe. An earlier altercation in the bar seemed to be the starting point of the attack, but none of the victims were involved in the dispute and were merely innocent, probably drunk, targets leaving a bar at closing time. Been there, done that.

Come to find out that my birthday boy (25 years old yesterday) was celebrating at the very bar not too much earlier. They left for more celebrating at another bar in town. My daughter, who works around the corner from where the shooting took place is sometimes part of that closing time group of partiers. She was out of town with her boyfriend.  

Nobody died although there were two life threatening injuries that involved Life Flight. Suspect is still at large. I am thankful I was not one of the moms who received an emergency call at 2 a.m. My offspring are not lying in a hospital bed at Geisinger. But it could just as easily have been one of them. Different timing, different plans and it could have been a whole different scenario. But for the grace of God, there go I. Figuring out why it wasn't is above my pay grade but I am infinitely grateful.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Love is a tenet of the Christian Faith

The other day, I listened to a sermon by Adam Hamilton entitled, Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin. He used an illustration about an encounter between Billy Graham and the Clinton’s that took place at a public event during the firestorm of the Monica Lewinsky/”I did not have sex with that woman” debacle….

My father is so accepting, so nonjudgmental," says eldest daughter, Gigi Graham Tchividjian. During the height of the Clinton scandal, she was her father's date at the 75th anniversary celebration for Time magazine. The Clintons were also in attendance.

"Daddy sat with the Clintons and was so warm and gracious," Tchividjian told Charisma. "In the limousine going back to the hotel, Daddy and I were talking about how difficult it must be for the Clintons with so many people gossiping and judging them. His comment was: "It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict; it's God's job to judge; and it's our job to love."
The excerpt above is from a Charisma article

I love that exchange…

I never really paid that much attention to Billy Graham in my BC - before Christ life. Oh sure, my grandmother used to watch his crusades on her little black and white TV when I spent my summers with her. She would cry during his altar calls when folks came forward in droves. I didn't pay much attention to him after I became a Christian. He was getting old. His crusades were fewer and farther between.

A few years ago, I came upon an article on one of those cult watcher blogs about a conversation between Billy Graham and Robert Schuller that smacks of universalism. It resonated so I wrote about it in a post called A Vortex with a Different Name.

I remember other here and there reading about Billy Graham; his reaction to a close call on an airplane (he was very afraid but trusted God with the outcome). And I’ve been reading snippets this morning, my curiosity piqued by this story of his encounter with the Clintons. He had/has his critics. Many criticized his seemingly lukewarm commitment to integration. Others point out that he was either too involved or too UNinvolved with politics. I’ve read some quotes, perhaps taken out of context, that are questionable. Sometimes he seemed to waffle back and forth on some issues.

But the encounter above illustrates a key component of Christianity. As Billy Graham points out, a Christian’s job is to love. You know, the greatest commandment...the command that sums up all the law….love God, love your neighbor as yourself.

Greg Boyd repeats this same sentiment in a video from 2012 during the time a vote on a gay marriage amendment was taking place in Minnesota. Greg Boyd is not one to back away from controversial issues (as he is accused of in the comments) and has taken infinite slack about his opinions and beliefs.

(Probably) More of this rambling, somewhat disjointed discourse to come…..

Monday, April 6, 2015

“CYA” is not a tenet of the Christian faith

The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. Change is the one quality we can predicate of it.” – Oscar Wilde

Well, yes and no….

In the recent and ongoing battle taking place in Indiana, we see a spectrum of human nature on display. Unfortunately a lot of it is just ssdd….same shit, different day. Different decade...different bias, but at the heart of it is the human tendency to sort people into categories….us and them.

Are Christians being treated unfairly in this country….even persecuted? One big issue I have with this persecution thing is that it seems many Christians are crying wolf. For so many years, Christians were the king of the hill. Now, when the law requires them to extend the same rights they enjoy to others, some cry persecution. Not being able to force our views and beliefs on others is not persecution. Having to give equal rights to religions and lifestyles we disagree with is not persecution.

But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Christians are losing their rights these days and they are being persecuted. Why does this comes as such a surprise… outrage to Christians. It’s not like Jesus did not address this when he said, “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you”(Jn. 15:20).

The recent law in Indiana is meant to protect religious folks from being sued for refusing service that goes against their sincerely held religious beliefs.  When it is factored down to its lowest common denominator, it seems earmarked to protect Christians who refuse to provide their services to gays….specifically at a gay wedding. The law is vague and there are tons of loopholes that seemed to allow businesses to refuse service almost on a whim. There is an amendment in the works that is a bit more specific but it still seems to be motivated mainly by prejudice and a “cover your ass” mentality.

As far as I can tell, Jesus never taught this. “CYA” is not a tenet of the Christian faith.

I’ve wrangled with this since the day it was announced and Facebook and the internet lit up with indignation. I’ve read articles and blog posts both pro and con. This is a big topic that goes beyond the situation in Indiana. It deals with what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I plan to share some of the stuff I’ve been reading, with my two cents worth thrown in at no additional charge.

More to come…...