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Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Help us God to know when:

our life, our church, our marriage, our place of work is making us dumber or smarter.

Prayers for those who are:

reeling

robbed

torched

leaving for good

at a four-year low

not smelling the roses

gravely ill

have eyes peeled for naughty

on the run

who are ratting out the polluters.

Finally, forgive the Christians and the Church for running a huge Ponzi scheme.

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From Anonymous:

Dear Liberal Preacher,
 
I am a young college student who is questioning their sexual orientation.  My question is what does the bible say about being gay?  I have always heard it is wrong to be gay and I want to know what you are supposed to do if you can not be straight?
 
Thanks
Anonymous

Dear Anonymous College Student:

I am so glad you are in college.  You will learn that many things you were previously taught are wrong, including that your sexual orientation is a sin.

I am a liberal Christian.  We typically are not certain of much, but I am certain your sexual orientation is not a sin.

I wish I could explain my position in a blog entry but I can’t.  I’m writing a book titled The Sex Education of a Baptist Ministry which explains how I became convinced, with not even an ounce of uncertainty, that one’s sexual orientation and gender identity is not a sin.

Now here’s the bad news.  In my opinion, there are probably two Bible verses which disapprove of same sex.  What they don’t tell you is that many of the verses which are supposedly clear are, in fact, unclear.  Either way, parts of the Bible are simply wrong.  I know that may be shocking news but I want the chance in the book to convince you such is the case.  I also want to convince you that in thinking about God and life and sexual orientation, etc. we (if you are a Christian) need to consider that all sources for our theology are equally valid (experience, reason, church tradition, Bible, science) and are our sources are problematic, including the Bible.

Now I don’t mean to be “smart,” but Dale C. Martin has taught me in Sex and the Single Savior that the Bible does not “say” anything.  Put a Bible in the room and be quiet for two or three hours and listen to if you hear any the Bible say any words (literally, now).  All that is to say that simply referring to the Bible is not enough. The Bible requires interpretation.  Now all interpretations are not possible and not interpretations are equal.  The church throughout its history is forced to use more than the Bible.   Actually, when you consider Christians disagree about what books should be in the Bible, that we have tons of manuscripts and have to pick which ones to use, and when you consider many other factors – well, it’s really just more complicated than many Christians want to be honest about.  Regardless of what I just wrote, for starters I would encourage you to read the Bible and start highlighting all the horrible things in it.  Buy Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s book Jesus Against Christianity.   Read the first 100 pages and then check back with me.

Sorry for the delay in responding to your very important question.  I’ve been in intense pain the last five weeks and am recovering from gallbladder surgery.   (Sorry for not having a drawing at the end of the post.  Just not up to it yet.)

You need to recover from the untruths the church has taught you.

Now here’s a prayer for your healing.  Here are the lyrics of Easy To Be Me (Lifehouse).

“Easier To Be”

Lifehouse

Chasing fireflies
Elusive dreams
This pre life crisis
Is killing me
Beautiful tragedy
Who I was wasn’t me
Yeah yeah

Do do do do
You make it easier to be
Easier to be me

It’s hard to believe
You make it easy…

We speak in silence
Words can’t break
It feels like we are
Falling awake
In a place and a time
Of our own
Yeah yeah

Do do do do
You make it easier to be
Easier to be me

Hard to believe

It felt like the world
Fell from my feet
Gave up on myself

You didn’t give up on me
Let myself go
You were still there
Like coming home
Coming up for air
Yeah yeah

 

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From CN:

Dear Liberal Preacher,
 
I hate church. Despise it. I love the idea of finding a liberal church (like yours) and for once worshipping with people who aren’t afraid to ask the “big” questions. I have been reading a lot of your blog and have been diving into your website, I really love it.  I also have a degree in religion and psychology and currently work in a ministry position, and yet I can’t stand the idea of sitting through church. It is the standing, sitting, singing, and gathering of sweaty bodies that just kind of make my stomach turn. I have come to associate church with cheesiness, fake smiles, and uncomfortable shoes. I wish I wanted to go to church, but mostly I just want to have my Sundays to myself. Is that so bad? How do I get over the “I just graduated college and I hate church” hump?
 
Thanks,
CN

 

CN,

The church needs you.  But the world needs you more, and the world is the point.  And if going to church saps you and is a waste of time, time that you could be using to love the world, well, snub the institutional church.  Or start a cell group yourself.  Do some new form of church.  The Church needs a kick in the pants.  It is impotent and is missing the point/s.

There are no perfect churches and there are no perfect people, but, like you, the cheesiness, the inability to ask big questions, and the fake smiles are just too much.  I mean, have they ever read Job or Ecclesiastes or the lament Psalms?

I’m going to email you the best story I’ve ever read.  It’s about a drunk named Old Ike.  The story is from  Wilfred Pelletier’s No Foreign Land:  The Autobiography of a North American Indian.  Old Ike steals a Gideon Bible and discovers real religion; finds out he is more like Jesus than the priests.  It’s funny, but it’s hard-hitting.

I’m more interested in you following Jesus than being in a church, but if you can, help the Christians in churches.  They need it badly.  Unfortunately, the type of help they want from you (your money, you sitting on the pew, you sitting in a million long and boring meetings listening to people think of a thousand reasons not to do something Jesus said to do) is not the type of help which could make them more faithful, real, and relevant.

 

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From MJ:
 
 
Dear Liberal Preacher,
 
I believe Jesus was a good man and I follow his teachings, but I don’t know or care if he was the son of God.   Again I do follow his teachings because they are the right thing to do; so am I condemned to hell?
 
MJ
 
 
Dear MJ,
 
Like you, I too find much about Jesus that is appealing.  (For the record, there are a few texts in the gospels which reveal a Jesus who either was having a bad day or a Jesus we should not imitate.  Yeah, we’ve got to be honest about those texts too.)
 
And like you, I’m sure I don’t have Jesus’ personhood, Christology, etc. all figured out.  I’m also sure the people who think they are sure shouldn’t be so sure.
 
So no, you aren’t going to hell.  Hell doesn’t exist.
 
As for Jesus being the son of God (or Son of God), well, we really can’t even be 100% sure of what “Son of God” means.   I will not get into all the scholarship on this matter.  What I will do is encourage you to read Bart Ehrman’s Lost Christianities and you will discover just how diverse early Christianity was, including diversity on who Jesus was.  The diversity will astound you.
 
Before closing, I also want to mention a guy by the name of Arius (AD 256 – 336).  The first ecumenical council of the church, the First Council of Nicaea, excommunicated the fellah because they didn’t like his understanding of Jesus.   That’s what the church does with folk who don’t sign  on the dotted line; they excommunicate them.  And, the church sends them to hell.
 
I’m a Baptist.  We are not creedal.  (Some Baptists have not figured this out yet.)  I will not sign on any dotted line, including that of The First Council of Nicea or any other church council.
 
Or put another way, it’s good to have you as my Jesus-sister.
 

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From Daniel:

Dear Liberal Preacher,

One thing I have always had problems with is combining my belief in God and Jesus Christ with capitalism.  I believe we should take care of the poor and the helpless but I also believe they have to also take care of themselves.  I can’t bring myself to think that health care and housing and such are rights that everyone should have regardless.  Honestly I can’t bring myself to believe that greed is completely morally wrong.  I teach at a community college and one of the reasons I teach here is because I like helping people who are trying to help themselves, but everyday I see people who are not and I find it hard to continue caring for them when they are arguably making their own bed.  I enjoy science and went into it for that reason, but I also went into it because I knew that I could find a good job that would provide well for me and for any family I might have.  I can’t see the desire to have nice things, and the desire to have things and be safe (greed) as innately evil.  To me that would be too much like saying capitalism is innately evil.
 
Does being a Christian mean you need to be a socialist?      

Daniel

 

Dear Daniel,

I appreciate your honesty.   Here’s how I honestly feel.  As a Christian I hate voting for political candidates who I know will harm my economic self-interest.  (It also means people I vote for rarely win.)

There is something to the notion that in our efforts to help individuals we can enable them, and thus harm them.  Bleeding heart liberals do come up short on the need for personal accountability.

I’ve decided, though, to err on the side of judging people less.  I find that people respond much better to encouragement rather than judgement.  I know I do.  I’ve seen folk beat up by others, and humanoids who practice daily self-flagellation, who never “figure life out.”  In contrast, I’ve witnessed amazing turnarounds by people who start to celebrate and appreciate themselves, in part, because someone in their life, a teacher or friend or pastor, has affirmed them.

People these days are worrying about the United States becoming a socialist country.  We are a far cry from being a socialist nation.  In American churches capitalism is preached by the minute while numerous biblical texts which blame the rich for poverty are ignored.  (See Proverbs for texts supporting the idea that poverty is the fault of the poor.)

On earth as in heaven.  Ummm.  I’m not sure how that computes, but it seems we might better use our limited time and energy on something else other than worrying about socialism.

One of the most troubling things I’ve read is a quote by Gustavo Guiterrez, “Instead of talking about the Church of the poor, we must be a poor Church.” (A Theology of Liberation, p. 117)

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From Scott:

Dear Liberal Preacher,

Where are all the clergy in the current debates on HEALTH CARE REFORM and the sacramental nature of ALL marriages….gay or straight?  Like where is our backbone!??

Scott

Dear Scott,

Clergy have to make a living.  They have to put food on the table, for themselves and their family if they have a family.  Some Christians say they like for their toes to get stepped on by the preacher during the sermon.  I actually heard a Christian say that today.  It’s not true. 

So preachers like to stick to heaven and hell and psychology sermons.  Typically, the hell remarks aren’t directed to the flock who are “saints.”  Preachers, you might, say preach to the choir.  If sin is preached on it’s the safe sins.

But it’s not just preaching.  Do something Jesus did or said to do and you are out the door.

On the other hand, I know of one preacher at an uppity church who instead of preaching from the pulpit preached in front of the first pew.  This style of preaching didn’t quite fit the socioeconomic image of church members and his marching orders were delivered shortly thereafter.

It doesn’t take much to upset the Christians so preachers tend to lose their backbones.

I don’t say that judgmentally because I’ve got a wife who has a job and I’ve known that if I get kicked out I will be able to eat beans, and I really like beans.

It raises several questions:  Can paid clergy preach prophetic sermons?  Will preachers always be the world’s greatest wasted resource?  Can you be a preacher and not be impotent or gagged?

Another question I have is:  Do we set church up so very little Jesus said to do ever gets done.  We build buildings, which the early church didn’t.  We have to pay for our big buildings.  We need rich people with money to pay for our buildings. Jesus said rich folk have the hardest time understanding and living kingdom of God values.  So……….

Clarence Jordan in his book The Substance of Faith:  Cotton Patch Sermons says, “I preached the word of God in south Georgia, and I didn’t think I would survive the ordeal . . .”

Say a prayer for preachers and churches.

I’m with you, I think health care reform needs to happen and all people, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, should be treated equally.

May the world and churches be filled with more Christians like you!

Chris

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From Lost In Space:

 

Dear Liberal Preacher Man,

I am coming up on my 10th year of ordination. I’ve “been around” a few times, ya know? Still, I have this ongoing dilemma: Why do Christians piss me off so?

Sincerely,

Lost in Space

 

Dear Lost In Space,

First, congratulations on making it to your 10th year ordination anniversary.

Sounds like you’ve been around the block, or perhaps, around the universe a couple of times.

Well, there a million and one ways the Christians can piss a person off, and I’m not even factoring in what they might say or do to the ordained crowd.  Personally, I’ve been blessed, but I’m aware of colleagues, called by God, who – well, they can relate to some comments in Will Campbell’s Forty Acres and A Goat

“When I accepted the call, I didn’t know it was collect.”  (p. 148)

He had “a call but no steeple.”  (p. 5)

He was a “bootleg preacher.” (p. 13)

You didn’t indicate if you had a steeple or not.  Perhaps you are a bootleg preacher.  Either way, I hope you’ll stick with the church and the Christians.  Their pissing you off will continue to be an ongoing dilemma.  You can count on that.  (Just as you pissing them off will occur at a steady rate.)

But back to the Christians, I believe every church ought to have at least one Christian.  If they don’t have one, they need to go out and rent one.”

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