Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Q: "But can't we just ignore the bad parts of the Bible?"

That would seem to be the correct answer to a lot of things, wouldn't it? The Bible seems to have a lot of stuff that rubs people the wrong way.

Like some don't like all the war and slavery and oppression in the Bible, and want to believe God "beyond" or "better" than those icky parts. And that's certainly understandable. Those things are icky.So they just ignore those passages (or say they were written by rogues or primitives of some kind -- which is just another way of ignoring them).

Some others don't like all the stuff about turning the other cheek, helping (not bombing or impeaching or passing laws against) your enemies, putting other people ahead of your wallet, and so on. These folks actually have an easier time ignoring icky Bible parts because they have more than 1,700 years of human-values-based, scholarly "Christian theology" and tradition to assure them beyond any doubt that Jesus was just kidding about requiring all that stuff from His followers.

Problem is, falling either way from the narrow path of what God intends us to learn from the whole Bible means we don't get the whole, real answer to who we're supposed to be in Christ, and how that should translate in the world around us. 

So, the short answer is "NO" -- we can't ignore any part of the Bible. If we do, we do so at our own spiritual peril -- and to the peril of any who happen to listen to us more than to the Holy Spirit, and to the peril of any who are vulnerable (spiritually, emotionally, physically, economically, politically, etc) to our half-rat Christianity.

Consider these points, for a longer answer:

1) It's not God's fault when people (including us) run His meaning through the stinking pig pen of our own sinful selfishness.

Most people ("left", "right", "middle", "nowhere", etc) do only use or overemphasize one part of the Bible over another, as best fits their own personalities, bigotries, and so on. Much of that is just human nature. We've all been raised within certain cultures and sub-cultures and sub-sub-cultures that form(ed) how and what our brains will see or even recognize as reality -- even when we work to get our brains outside the limited culture box of our birth.It's a real human struggle to reach beyond the rain-puddle-deep thinking the world wants us to aspire to.

So we're human! But that's not the problem. What is? Not exercising godly humility regarding our own (or our denomination, or political party, or whatever)'s ability to see the truth even a trillionth of a trillionth or a trillionth as well as God does on His worst day.

We each should be recognizing that we're all just human and actually know diddly about what's required of us by God.Being a Christian human being should make us willing to stand up for what we believe (because that's also required of us by God), but also very hesitant to be a jackass about it. We each should be ever-aware that the best we can do, on our most enlightened, most brilliant day, is actually worth less than a leaf in an outhouse compared to the awesome intellect, good-doing, and justice-performing holiness of God.

Well, that's what we should be doing. What are we too often doing instead?

We're off in the outhouse, glorifying our filth-leaf, and deciding that being pig-headed, or memorizing lots of scripture verses, or getting (or listening to those with) college degrees, means we are now fit to remake what God means into our own image. Why? Because we know we're right, and God's right -- so that means God is the same as us (cue demonic cheering), right? So we can pick and choose the message we want God to mean, like: God doesn't distinguish between good and evil! Or, God knows poor people are only poor because they're lazy! Or, God believes in socialism! Or, God believes in capitalism! Or, God loves the people I love! Or, God hates the people I hate! And WOW! What a God! Just as spiritually spineless and evil as we are! Hooray!

NOT.

When those who claim to follow Christ only embrace the parts of the Bible that make them feel good (whether they make others feel good or not), then what they have isn't Christianity -- it's narcissistic feel-good-ism. It's "aren't-I-grand"-ism. And whether it comes from "right", or "left" or nowheresville, it always means people are going to be hurt, and people are going to be turned off by what they've been convinced wrongly to think is THE Gospel.

God has nothing to do with that. He never has. And He never will.And that's one message we miss, if we don't embrace the whole of the Bible and our human history.

2) Understanding the message God intended for us in the whole Bible takes more than just reading or studying the words on the page.

When we study the Bible, it's true that we have to go back to the original words, in their original languages, to make sure we're getting the real deal. When we do so we have the opportunity to see, for example, that Paul used the same leadership words for women as he did for men (despite most mistranslations today). Or that the verses (like in Timothy) where Paul supposedly said "homosexual" or something similar have been flat out re-worded by sinful human beings just to make it appear Paul and God condemned being Gay.

But we can't stop there. We also have to understand the grammar and syntax and history as it would have been understood when and to the people to whom it was written. When we do that we have the opportunity, for example, to see that, despite the translations and interpretations we get from those who make maleness an idol, Paul wasn't dumping on women and what they should be within Christian fellowships at all, but rather challenging those who wanted to keep them under male-worship's subjugation (Just as an aside: I would love to read a letter from Paul if he had a chance to answer those who changed his words to make it appear he said the opposite of what he truly wrote/meant! Whew!)

But we can't even stop there. We also have to extrapolate or pull the meaning from ancient texts into modern times. For example, the Old Testament is chock full of God's orders to take care of and stand up for orphans and widows. But are we as modern-day Christians to take that as meaning orphans and widows are our only charge? Hardly. If we're using our extrapolation skill set, we understand that orphans and widows were among the vulnerable in that place and time (socioeconomically, but also culturally and legally), and so we are charged with standing up for and taking care of those who are vulnerable socioeconomically, culturally, and legally in this place and time.

This is why we can't just ignore those passages that have been made to appear to condemn Gay people, or that appear to support Christians at war, and so on -- even if we're ignoring them because we think that's a way to show our godly support for the oppressed or victimized. If we do, we're simply shooting our own spiritual understanding in the foot, and we're only half-helping.

For example, those Leviticus passages? Those aren't about Gay people, but about God's people needing to focus on God and be completely different and visibly distinguishable from the evils and evil choices of the world around us. If we extrapolate their meanings into today, we realize that everything we do that makes us blend into the non-Christian world around us is God-rejection. Like, stepping on others to climb a career ladder. Having the really sweet car. Sleeping two adults and two kids in a home that could house twelve. Counting on voting and political contributions to "change" the world. Leaving it to "the church" to take care of the poor. All these things and more are part of the idolatry of the modern western world today, just as men having sex to make magic and burning your children alive to get better crops was to the Hebrews and their evil neighbors 3,500 years ago.

So if we're simply ignoring those passages? Then we're missing a big message from God to His people: be recognizably different, make different choices that actually make you stand out and God look good, as you live out your Christian life and represent Jesus Christ.

Same thing with those passages in Romans 1. Again, not about Gay people, but about straight people. Paul writes that these were people whose natural, God-given sexual orientation was heterosexuality, but who were so out of control they were even having same-sex sex (just like people do today, for "kicks" or because it's "cool" to be rebellious, or whatever). [The only people who can argue that Paul was talking about Gay people here are those who also believe that being Gay is a "choice" -- by which they mean Gay people are really straight people who've chosen to be Gay.]

Yet how often are we presented with two choices regarding these passages:
  1. Accept the false logic and affective prejudice that says Paul meant God condemns Gay people, or
  2. Ignore these passages in order to stand against the oppression of Gay people. 
Neither of those actually covers what Paul's message was in this whole two chapters (Romans 1 and 2). What was his message? That its possible to be so out of control in self-worship, materialism, and God-rejection that nothing appears really "wrong" anymore, or that wrong things appear fun or right. Paul wrote about people who were greedy, envious, ok with murder, lived for bickering and fighting, lied, hurt each other for fun, gossiped, thought really highly of themselves, invented new ways to do evil, crapped on the wisdom of the past, couldn't be trusted, were unloving and without mercy, and suppressed the truth they knew existed -- and who, even though they knew all these things are wrong and deserve punishment, not only kept doing them but also loved encouraging others to do them, as well.

And if we either ignore this passage, or twist its real meaning into something God didn't say (which is still ignoring it)? Then once again, we're missing God's real point -- and we're in actual danger. There is nothing (nothing!) in what Paul describes of those ancient people that does not also apply in full to the western world today, especially as more and more generations pass without having a foundation in the real truth of Jesus Christ. But Paul points out that God not only gets torqued at such ridiculous evil life choices, but also turns His back on the people who insist on making them. And isn't that a message we and the whole world today needs desperately to hear?

3) Getting God's meaning also requires understanding His action through the whole stream of human history, as revealed in the whole Bible.

God doesn't change -- but what He's required or allowed of people at different times in our development as a human race has changed.

The most obvious example is food.  
  • First, Adam and Eve (and all the animals, including all the predators) were to eat only seeds and plants in the garden (but not that one fruit).  
  • But after the flood, God changed that and told Noah now people could eat anything and everything (except blood), and that included animals / meat.  
  • Then after He took the Hebrews out of Egypt, God changed that and set up this huge complicated mess of rules about which animals and foods could be eaten or not eaten and how. 
  • But then Jesus (God) came along later and said that all foods were now clean again.  
God didn't change -- but what He said was ok or allowed did at different times because He had different things to teach or grow people through in those different times. So anyone who says "God's an ass because He says we can't eat shrimp!", or, "God says it's not ok to eat meat!" is missing the truth of the WHOLE Bible, by focusing only on one narrow piece of His work throughout human history.

That same kind of thing applies with slavery, and war, and the rest of those icky things. Just because God said "ok" at one point in time does not mean that was His whole plan, or all He had to offer people. Look at it in our modern human terms:

We let (we actually encourage, with diapers) people going to the bathroom in their pants when they are too young to know or do any better -- but if they do it as teens or adults, BOY do they get punished in one way or another (assuming they aren't having extra difficulties, that is).

God's the same with slavery, war, etc. Look at people back then (not just the Hebrews) -- at the level of their development in morality, as well as cultural assumptions:
  • They burned their children alive in fires built within idols to gain good crops for the year. 
  • They had sex with animals, and with people they had no natural sex attraction or love for (or any other interest in) to keep their cities magically protected. 
  • They tortured people (like slowly, intentionally starving them to death, or hanging them above ant nests covered in honey) all for good family fun (eek!).
We might say they were "morally developmentally challenged" -- and in a big way (I wouldn't have trusted a one of them -- not even with filth-leaf. Maybe especially not with that!). They were all like children that aren't potty trained yet. Shoot - they were like children who didn't even know anything but diapers existed! And that included the ancient Hebrews (that's what a lot of the early Old Testament is for, by the way. If you haven't decided to ignore it, it will show how far even "God's People" were from truly being His people, back then).

And yet this was what God had to work with. These were the people He had to educate and grow and turn around, reworking them into something better. Did they practice war? Did they even wipe each other out? Did they enslave people? Did they treat women like dog meat? Yes. Yes. Yes. And Yes even to the ones not listed here. And God could have just ordered them to stop immediately -- right?

Well, if you're a parent, imagine having simply ordered your little one year old Suzie to stop going to the bathroom in her pants forevermore, starting right now. How well would that work out for you? Not so good. Not so good.

One of the messages of the whole Bible is that God is a parent, but another is that He allows what we call "free will" because nothing else produces real results (in other words, God says, "No robots, please"). He temporarily allowed and even went along with what these folks could do and understand within their own culture (and He does that for you, too -- you did know that, didn't you? And I'm sure you'd prefer He not start only communicating to you like you were the angel Michael). Did that mean these people were still doing a lot of really wrong things? You bet. Just like it's still wrong for a two year old to go to the bathroom in her diaper. But God kept the human race in moral diapers, just like we keep our little ones in diapers, training and re-training and re-re-training, until its time to be more grown up now.

And that was (one of) Jesus' jobs. He undid the "ok" for a lot of old stuff (the stuff that worked with slavery, war, and so on, because that was as advanced as folks could be back then), because it was time for the human race to now start being grownup -- no longer children (like the very ancient people); no longer even teenagers (like the later people of the Old Testament and many people in the New Testament).

4) The whole point of the whole Bible isn't to proclaim or defend one or another human idea. The whole point of the whole Bible is Jesus. Just Jesus.

Indeed, the whole point of human history is Jesus. We're told that from the very first, through the story of Eve and Adam, when God comforts Eve by telling her that the Savior of the world is going to come from her and fix everything that she and Adam just busted beyond repair. We're told that throughout the Old Testament, in every symbol and shadow of things to come -- all pointing to or anticipating Jesus. And of course we're shown Jesus in the New Testament, shown God's real character in the lived example of Jesus Christ, God on earth, who had to do or allow things in the past He didn't really like or approve of, just to grow the human race into adulthood.

In doing so, Jesus Christ demonstrates God's real values, His real wishes, and His real hopes and plans for the human race:
  • Not as the God that loves war, but the God who rewards and stands for peace;
  • Not as the God who's ok with mistreatment of women, but the God who shows the same love, respect, and treatment to women as He does to men;
  • Not as the God who's ok with slavery, but the God who proclaims all people equal and of equal value;
  • Not as the God who cuts off those who aren't perfect, but the God who created and loved each imperfect soul because it pleased Him to do so;
  • Not the God who yearns to condemn, but the God who longs to save and to keep us near Him throughout eternity. 
If we miss any part of that whole Bible message, then we don't really know God. We don't really follow Jesus Christ. 

Our entire understanding of God and His meaning, then, is not to interpret the Bible as those who are still spiritual teenagers do, picking and choosing what to believe and what to ignore, interpreting the New Testament through the lens of what they imagine of the Old Testament, and Jesus through the lens of what they imagine of the New Testament.

No, our understanding -- and calling to be spiritual adults now -- depends upon our clinging to the whole of God's Bible, in the full linguistic, cultural, historical, (etc) context He put it in, and understanding the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, and the New Testament -- and the whole Bible -- through the lens of Jesus Christ.

To be a Christian grownup means we not only take the whole Bible seriously, but we also have no fear in doing so. 

In fact, our very comfort lies in the entire Bible - -- even in those ugly parts -- because it means seeing the hand of God leading and guiding us not only from our spiritually infantile beginning, but through our spiritual childhood and teen years, to the minimum of where we are supposed to be today as spiritual adults.

Our comfort in the whole Bible also means being able to "see" into the future, into what God will be doing in times to come when we'll be required to go from being spiritual 20 year olds to being spiritual elders, with the wisdom and understanding and heart that He originally intended for us to have.

There are no "bad" parts of the Bible. There are just a lot of bad examples to learn from, a few good examples to learn from, and a lot of love from the God who won't let go of human history.

Don't let go of Him.  

---
This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

3 Do's & Don'ts for healing from painful Christianity

There are a lot of people -- and a lot of different kinds of people -- who've been hurt by "the Church" and people in "the Church". 

Many are Gay, but some are straight (divorced, had an abortion, non-comforming somehow, or just in some way "not acceptable" to "the Church"). Race doesn't matter. Socioeconomic status doesn't matter. Where you grew up doesn't matter. Nothing matters.

If the devil decided to stab you in the rump of your religion, that's a wound that can fester your whole life, if you don't heal it. 

And I mean really heal it -- not just "cover-it-up-I'm-fine" heal it.

Getting that real healing is a real journey. And there are many detours and false trails that can make us think we're getting there or even already done -- when, in fact, we're not. I certainly made my own zig-zag journey toward healing, and I've watched and helped a large number of others make theirs over the last many years..

Based on our combined experience, I offer you three Do's and Don'ts, to hopefully make your healing journey that much faster, that much easier, that much healthier:

1) Don't count on those in "the Church" to heal the hurt they are responsible for causing. Do look for those who have healed beyond "the Church" to give you guidance and support along the way.

This is a biggie, because it's a sure thing that the reason a big splat of false Christianity hit your life was because someone else was being a Church-Christian, and not a Jesus-Christian. Church-Christians can be among the nice people of the world, and some are very caring and want to help. But going to them is like asking people in a bar for help paying your hospital bills after you've been hit by a drunk driver. Church-Christians will usually admit that things are far from perfect in their church (or in Christianity in general) -- but they say and mean it as an excuse, not as an intro to getting any problem in it fixed. You'll know that's true when they say you're important, and yes your wounds shouldn't have happened -- but they won't actually take a real stand to protect you or fix the evil that caused hurt in the church.

See, the Bible never says, "Just go along to get along", or "Don't make a (real) fuss when people in the church are acting like asses or making people think 'poo' on God" (in fact, it says the opposite). But that falseness is what Church-Christians are all about. They may feel bad for you, but they will continue to side with, participate in, and go along with their "church" over you and your pain every time -- because to do something Jesus-like, like fixing or no longer participating in the problem, would actually cost them something, like their unrepentent church family (and they also don't like that part where Jesus says you have to give up even your family, if that's what's required to do as He says -- you know, like for "the least of these").

It's even worse trying to get real healing help from a pastor, priest, pope (or prophet, or church teacher, or elder, and so on). Think regular 'ole Church-Christians are hooked into their "church"? Well, those who make their living being Special Representatives doing human-inspired religious tasks God's work for their "church"/denomination, who enjoy respect and honors Jesus always rejected (and said we all were to, too), who have retirement plans and mortgages and career ladders to climb? You really think they're going to do something to risk all that? Hardly (but they'll love you while they tell you there's no need to risk it). 

What they do have to offer you, though, is a course in how to get sucked back in to "the Church". They can't offer you plain 'ole Jesus (because they gave Him up as "too primitive", "too hard", or "too supernatural" years ago). But they can offer you what they have: a path to mashing their decision about who Jesus should have been with their "church" needs ("Here's where you put your contribution to my 401k tithe, each week..") They can even make you feel all warm and fuzzy, all "belongy" and everything. And that can feel great! But it's still short the rest of Jesus that doesn't fit in their church-box. It won't get you really healed (and it will instead make it just likely you'll become a Church-Christian causing or ignoring other people hurt, yourself).

So, who can help you get truly healed? Those who've been hurt themselves, and who've managed through the grace of God to get (as you can) healed so deep into Jesus' arms that they have no room in their hearts for silly things like playing "church" (even if they are the 1 in a million still occasionally hanging out in church), any longer.
  • These are the people who aren't going to stand above you, pretending to be better or more "spiritual" than you because they took college courses and were pronounced "Won't make serious waves in the organizational pool" by their denomination.
  • These are the people who've been wounded themselves, and some of them have even sucked mud in the gutter before they managed to get back on their spiritual feet again. 
  • These are the people who can sit down with you in the real world, and hear and understand your real pain, and even tell you more about the real Jesus -- the Jesus who stays with you and on your side long after the pastor/priest/pope, missionaries, and church workers have all gone home.
These are the people who can describe at least part of the way home to Jesus to you, because they've walked it themselves -- dodging Church-Christians and other manifestations of false Christianity the whole way. These are the people to seek out, examine, and learn from. Will they have all the answers? Of course not -- but you know better by now than to believe anyone/thing but Jesus has all the answers, right?

2) Don't let mistranslations and reinterpretations of the Bible tell you what God thinks. Do read and study to learn what God really put there for you to know and live by. 

There are a lot of different translations of the Bible out now (NIV, Message, NASB, and so on). Every single one of them contains errors -- and even outright lies and remakes of what's really there. It's only been in the last several decades that the truth has come out about God's Bible not-not-not saying He condemns Gay people. But there are also mistranslations and misinterpretations about what God wants Christians to know and live regarding violence, hierarchy, women, the poor, how "church" is to be run, the real qualifications for "church leaders", and so on. There are even rewrites about the nature of God Himself! 

Not even "experts" can be counted on to give us the real truth and nothing but the truth -- because they have their own biases and issues they want to cover up or emphasize in ways God never intended. In fact, "experts" are the ones who've mistranslated and misinterpreted the Bible for us in the first place!

What's to be done, then, if we can't just blindly accept the words some other sinful human being put on a piece of paper and stuck in a book, promising us that it matches exactly what God intended for us to know? Do we have to be geniuses or Bible scholars ourselves? No. But we do have to know the basics, and we have to do our homework.

Just like the first disciples (most of whom couldn't even read and write), we have to learn the basics of Jesus and His teachings, and work our way out from there, listening to and reading what others have to say about various scriptures -- but then, when we have a question or something seems to not "fit" somehow, we need to pray and study along with the Holy Spirit. God understands sincere ignorance -- but He has no tolerance for lazy follow-alongs who just do the minimum and follow leadership or sit in church without question as if that will get them to heaven (remember? that's exactly what the people who ignored Jesus or helped torture and kill Him did).

3) Don't let anyone get (or stay) between you and Jesus

There are two things Jesus says people need to do in this world:
  1. Do what He says to do, and
  2. Hang on to Him (or come back to hanging on to Him!), no matter what happens. 
Jesus fully understands that those who falsely claim to be God's people are a powerful majority -- for now. He truly "gets" that false Christians are wreaking havoc in people's lives, causing all sorts of pain, and doing it all in God's Name. Think He doesn't? Well, check this out, and hear it like the Gay, poor, female, or other despised-minority child of God Jesus said it to:
[Jesus said:] "I see what you've done. Now see what I've done. I've opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don't have much strength, I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn't deny me when times were rough. And watch as I take those who call themselves true believers but are nothing of the kind, pretenders whose true membership is in the club of Satan—watch as I strip off their pretensions and they're forced to acknowledge it's you that I've loved. Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I'll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test.I'm on my way; I'll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown." [Revelation 3:8-11]

Make it your mission in life to learn more and more each day about the real Jesus. Spend time with Him in prayer -- sometimes talking, sometimes listening, sometimes just sitting with Him. Laugh with Him. Read with Him. Keep Him alongside you when you go to dinner. Learn from your heart of hearts how much Jesus IS on your side, and how much He did to give you an eternity where there will never again be a tear or a pain, and where you can live right next to God, forever.

Take back your crown from those who practice crappy Christianity. Accept healing. Accept Jesus' love.

And stop sacrificing your salvation on the alter of other people's sin & bigotry.
    ---
    This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    2 maze lessons that work us, even if we don't work them

    Not the route I took...
    More than a few people have asked me in the last few days about various parts of my spiritual journey. Guess it's been awhile since I made that thing some Christians call a "testimony". ...ok, it's been years.

    But the really important thing -- I think -- is not telling about my life so you can be oh-so-impressed with how spiritual my path has been or how wise or strong or faithful I am (because truly, there's no reason you should).

    No, the only really important things to pass on are the two lessons I've learned (nearly always the hard way) in my getting-close-to-50-years. The kind of lesson-things hardest to learn, hardest to accept, and hardest to appreciate -- until you finally start to reap some benefits from them.

    The first lesson is:
    Human beings (especially, but not only, educated ones) can always-always-always be counted on to make healthy things hurt, simple things complicated, inclusive things cliquish, loving things hatefilled, and easy things hard.
     The second lesson follows the first:
    ...But, if in the deepest recesses of our deepest heart (where maybe even we can't see it yet), if we are even the slightest bit willing, God is always at work behind the scenes to get us where we need to go, anyway.
    Let me share briefly how that worked out in my life, just to show an example.

    Maze Turn # 1 - I was introduced to God through a fundamentalist church of the 1960s.

    That was how I spent my childhood. So, yeah. Do I even need to detail the mess of ungodly, unbiblical, and anti-Christ ideas I absorbed from the truly very well-meaning and intensely (false)-Bible educated people in that church? Most of you will say "No. I get it." But for those who don't, let me just sum it up this way: By the time I was eight years old, I was convinced I had already been such a sinner that I deserved hell so bad even Jesus couldn't save me.

    And it just didn't matter that these church people adored me (and they truly did -- all the way up to when I was an adult and they discovered I'm Gay.) They all belonged to a faith culture that takes the Good News of Jesus Christ and turns it inside out, remaking it into something fearful, painful, violent, self-centered, hypocritical -- just like their unhealed hearts. Even though I left their church when I was eleven years old (they couldn't answer my questions, and that bothered me) their false and twisted and self-serving Christianity damaged me in ways I wouldn't even begin to understand until forty years later, when I finally encountered and was healed by the true Jesus Christ.

    Yet what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? He was instilling in me a love for the Bible, for one thing. Unlike my fundamentalist forebears, I use and study the Bible correctly now -- but like them, I also cling to it, and refuse to be parted from knowing its truth. 

    Maze Turn # 2 - Trying to push the filth of fundamentalism out of my head, I became a tenacious, even vicious atheist by my 20th birthday.

    I'd always been a huge science geek (even when I was a teeny little kid, my birthday presents were things like biology and geology books). But while before I'd understood science as just a way to study what God had created, now I started using science and logic to attack and level any and all religious belief -- including Christianity.

    I meant well. I truly did. Like all my atheist buddies and mentors, I truly believed that any idea of "god" was nonsense and evil. I really believed that the only way to make the world a safe and healthy place was to eliminate all religions, and run things by logic and science, only. 

    Yet what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? He was using all that atheistic insistence on logic, and that hot flame of bullheaded atheistic arrogance, to scorch the fundamentalism from my heart. It took a number of years, but when He was done? Gone. All gone. Nothing ever even tempted me to believe fundamentalism, ever again.   

    Maze Turn # 3 - Once my heart no longer had to keep a door slammed against God to keep out the devil of fundamentalism, a tiny part of my heart slowly began to want God again. But the rest of me fled.

    I had really done a great job convincing myself during my atheist years that God didn't exist. I now really had NO belief in Him any longer. So imagine my confusion to now all of a sudden have a sort of secret longing for God -- a God I was convinced was nothing more than a neurotic superstition. What was wrong with me??? The only conclusion I could come to for some time was that I had a mental illness of some sort. Nothing else made sense to me -- but nothing made my longing go away, either. In fact, it just got worse and worse.  

    And what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? If you're a Christian, you know exactly what God was doing: He was calling me back. He'd let me fall into the flea dip of atheism to rid me of fundamentalism cooties, and now it was time to dry me off and comb me out. Was I going for that? Of course not. I'm much too bull headed for that!

    Maze Turn # 4 - So I started (reluctantly) checking out other religions. At least I wouldn't fall to the disgusting depths of Christianity! (or so I swore).

    Pagan stuff is big in certain areas, as you no doubt know. I tried to get in to some of that, but I kept coming back to the same thing: "If I can't go with a God, why the heck would I go with a goddess, or multiple gods, or fairies, or wood spirits, or whatever!" It just seemed a put on.

    I did check out some other religions, too. But same problem: if I'm not believing it works here, why would I believe it works over there?

    What was God doing behind the scenes with all that? I'm sure He was shaking His head at how stubborn I can be, and how I continued to torture myself. Here I was trying to patch my longing for Him like He was a computer virus, but at least He kept me from falling into another vat of flea dip I didn't need. His hand was there.

    Maze Turn # 5 - Then, since I hated the whole idea of "God" but couldn't make myself stop wanting God, I decided maybe I could soothe my longing by getting into a religion that didn't even have a god. That was my Zen Buddhist period. And I did pretty good at it. Got real good at being able to sit and do nothing for a very long time. Even decided at one point that I would become a Zen priest. THAT would fix that nagging God-longing, I was sure! I was starting to feel good about all this, finally.

    But what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? Well, He seems to have let me go for a time. Just as I did get some healing from my atheism time (but couldn't stay there), I also got some healing from my Zen time -- but couldn't stay there, either. So one day a Zen priest that I admired more than anyone else in the world told me that because of who I was I belonged back in the Christian world. I was devastated.

    The Zen priest's reasons were very Zen-like, and came right out of his Asian culture and beliefs in reincarnation (etc) -- so they had nothing to do with Christianity or God. But I'd gotten the healing I could get from my time there, and God knew it was time for me to go -- or I'd probably never leave. So, mad as a wet cat, out I went.

    Maze Turn # 6 - Try as I might, I found myself still just too damaged by fundamentalism to go back to anything Protestant. So I became a Roman Catholic. Getting back to Christianity of any kind was still not easy for me -- in fact, it was more painful than anything I'd ever done before, with a LOT of stops and starts, before I could finally let God start to heal the damage false Christianity had done to me. In the end it took me three times and several years to complete the Roman Catholic mumbos you have to go through to join up, but then let me tell you -- I was full bore. I've never done anything spiritual halfway, I guess, so after finally getting baptized and so on, I was one intense Pope follower. I even let the priests abuse me for being Gay (one yelled at me so loud the whole church turned to see), and I just knelt there and took it. But dang it -- I'd decided to be a Christian, and I was going to stick it out!

    What was God doing behind the scenes with all that? Continuing to heal me. Teaching me. And then turning my head ever so slightly so I started seeing a new angle. So I started seeing the (really BIG) false Christianity of the Roman Church, too. Since the "newness" was no longer covering for the fact that this wasn't a place to satisfy my longing for God either, after a number of years, I started thinking maybe it was time to go "home".

    Maze Turn # 7 - Except I thought "home" meant a Protestant church. In fact, I thought that through several of them over several more years. But it didn't matter: Gay churches, straight churches, mixed / "welcoming" churches, and conservative, liberal, medium churches -- all. All just inevitably got me all excited thinking this was finally going to be the place I could be whole with God. I even became a pastor and church leader, myself (would have made my grandmother proud, and maybe healed her horror of my previous Roman Catholicism). And yet every single church / denomination / fellowship was a big #)^%*@ pile of human beings, along with all the cultural "church" poo they'd decided to pack on top of God as if that made God "better" or "more accessible". True, some where more poo-filled, some less. But since all that poo covered up the fact that Jesus is supposed to just be there, in your heart, without all the human poo (even your own), nearly all these folks were just as happy to sit around making more poo and calling for new revivals or campaigns to fill in the Holy Spirit gap even they sense on some level in their churches.They were so happy-tranced on what they could do with their religious doo-dads and titles and organizations and good works that they just assumed that must be Jesus in there, making their hearts swim. I still couldn't fill my longing for God. Plus, it was all just starting to gross me out. 

    And what was God doing behind the scenes with all that? Quite simply, He was doing exactly what He's been doing my whole entire life: trying to get me to let go of all the nonsense people (including me) make up about Him, and instead just sit with Him and do what He says! Doesn't mean I don't hang out with church people any longer -- I just no longer buy that they corner the market on Jesus, any longer.

    CHEESE!

    It's taken me nearly every decade of my life to figure out that ideas like "God is about relationship, and not (even Protestant pretend-its-not-ritual) ritual", and "Jesus was serious" are true far, far beyond the self-congratulatory platitudes we make of them when we're twisting His meanings so we still get to do what we want to do, but now feel God-approved in doing it.

    I guess if my life would have a "testimony", it would be that God moves even when we're in His way. He can see even when we're blocking His light. And He can work even when we're sleeping on the job. And my ridiculous maze of a life is good proof of that. 

    Thanks for taking care of all that for me God. 

    ---
    This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    How left-wing Christians have failed - but could recover

    This is how 90% of Gay people see ALL Christians -- and Jesus.
    I have to say, the times in my life when I've been closest to losing my faith have been those times I've relied on left-wing (liberal, progressive, etc) Christianity to teach and guide and protect me.

    That seems strange, considering I'm a Gay person -- someone who is traditionally thought to count on and need the left-wing world for my emotional, spiritual, and even physical safety.

    After all, the political and religious right-wing, with its idolatrous worship of power and hate, and its masturbatory spirituality, has made billions of dollars and earned hundreds of millions of votes getting already-prejudiced people to their checkbooks and to the polls to agree that Gay people like me must be stopped (even at the cost of our lives) from "destroying" everything "good and decent" in the self-loving delusions of right-wing Americans. The secular and religious right-wing has guaranteed in my life that I've been denied employment, housing, family protections, union protection, decent medical care, and even the truth about who I am to God and what God thinks of me -- all because it believes me (as it used to believe people of African descent) a better scapegoat than an ally. And all that because of the sexual orientation God created me with.

    But in steps left-wing Christianity to my rescue -- sort of. 

    Sort of.

    Like men who define "being a man" as whatever they've decided is "opposite female" (and not just its own manly thing), too many of the left-wing have simply defined being "good" or "progressive" (etc) as whatever they've decided is "opposite right-wing" (and not just their own lefty thing).

    So, since the right-wing practices exclusion, the left-wing decides being left-wing means all-inclusion.

    Since the right-wing practices disciplined hate, the left-wing decides being left-wing means undisciplined love.

    And since the right-wing obsessively clings to the Bible (their version of it, anyway), the left-wing decides being left-wing means letting go of the Bible.

    All sounds good. And often done from a good heart, to be sure.

    Unfortunately, though, simply living life as opposite whatever crapola the right-wing has invented to torment the world with today doesn't really work real-world. Instead, it just denatures the truth and effectiveness of the whole left-wing philosophy -- and leaves those counting on left-wing values at the curb. 

    I've been in left-wing churches, for example, that continued to allow an unrepentant child molester to remain in their church -- and therefore around their little girls. Why? Because to even lovingly kick his rear end out would mean being exclusionary/right-wing, right? And heaven forbid a left-wing group of people exclude even someone who's actively harming the weak or vulnerable, because exclusion is what right-wingers do all the time, right? No, the decision was made to continue including this evil man in their fellowship, to put their anti-right-wing living ahead of the safety of their daughters.

    I've also been in left-wing churches that continued to allow people who spout anti-Gay teachings into positions of place, teaching, or authority in their fellowship -- so anti-Christ hate becomes part of their church's left-wing message not only to those hidden and known Gays in their congregation, but also to the greater Gay (and straight) community. Why? Because to tell Gay-haters to stop representing Jesus Christ as a Hater would be an unloving/right-wing, right? And heaven forbid a left-wing group of people not lovingly ignore the damage done by those who participate in driving Gay people into alcohol/drug abuse, self-hate, God-hating religions, and suicide, because letting people keep hurting other people means "we love everyone", right?

    And left-wing churches that proudly leave the Bible on the recycle can are a dime a dozen, these days. So while the right-wing has falsified the Bible and its message through mistranslations and misinterpretations that distort and lie about what God thinks of war, wealth, Gays, women, the poor, and so on, left-wing Christianity has "countered" that by simply refusing to take the Bible seriously. In fact, there's a whole left-wing academic industry that puts out great scholarly works that do nothing more than assure the left-wing that Jesus was nothing more "embarrassing" than just a Really Good Guy (and not that unscientific God-person the right-wing believes He is). So, while the world is starving for the God-strength justice, comfort, and truth found only in the Bible, left-wing Christianity passes out fliers telling people food is oppressive.

    Which all means -- what? It all means that if I as a Gay person go to right-wing Christianity, I'm going to:
    • Be among people who would actively harm me or others who are weak or vulnerable
    • Be among people whose "Jesus" message includes hate against Gay people; and, 
    • Be among people who don't put forward the real truth of God, and God's power, and God's values, as given to us in the original languages and historical, linguistic, and cultural contexts of the Bible, because it doesn't fit how they want to see the world.

    And if I as a Gay person go to left-wing Christianity? Well, that means I'm going to:
    • Be among people who would actively allow others to harm me or others who are weak or vulnerable, in order to remain "inclusive";
    • Still be among people whose "Jesus" message includes hate against Gay people, in order to remain "loving"; and, 
    • Still be among people who don't put forward the real truth of God, and God's power, and God's values, as given to us in the original languages and historical, linguistic, and cultural contexts of the Bible, in order to be "smarter" than that silly stuff right-wingers hold on to. 
    And you know what? To me -- and to millions upon millions of other Gay people -- that's just not enough of a difference to mean that modern left-wing Christianity is any less full of unsafe crap than right-wing Christianity. It just means that if you're a right-wing Christian, you're going to be unsafe and expect me to see you as unsafe, but if you're a left-wing Christian, you're going to be unsafe and expect me to see you as a hero.

    And -- truly -- that's a sorry shame, because it hasn't always been that way. And truly it's not supposed to be that way, at all.

    The values of speaking truth to power (in our fellowships, and not just in the voting booth), of standing up for the oppressed and vulnerable (in our fellowships, and not just in academia), of recognizing and acting against enemies because we're loving them and praying for their hearts to change (in our fellowships, and not just in other countries), and more -- all, all are God's values, and all are demonstrated and talked about over and over and over again in the Bible.

    And you know, those are all left-wing values, as well. Problem today is that modern left-wing Christianity has become as complacent and attached to the world as left-wingers in general. A hundred years ago, lefties put their lives and fortunes on the line for the oppressed, making mistakes -- sure -- but still doing their best standing up for what was right in the Name of God -- while today most lefties just want to go home, write a check to some political organization, and show up to church and congratulate themselves for not being right-wingers. A hundred years ago, lefties still understood that doing things God's way was THE way to get justice and goodness in the world -- while today most lefties think the best way to be a good Christian is to dump everything that marks one as a Christian (including everything the Bible -- "that silly little book of myths and stories!" -- has to say about Jesus and so on).

    The "fix" for left-wing Christianity to be anything more than narcissism (and any more real than right-wing "Christianity" is), then, is for left-wing Christians to once again: 
    • Take back the Bible from the right-wingers and the trashing they've given it, and start preaching its real godly message to the world again (sorry, but little academic-focused, middle-class, friendship book clubs just aren't cutting it);
    • Start promoting Jesus for all his Godly Goodness to the world again, and stop being embarrassed that your religion has a REAL GOD who does REAL GOD THINGS (even when your other secular lefty friends try to shame you for it -- grow a spiritual backbone, for heaven's sake!);
    • Start looking for Jesus coming back to wipe away all the injustice and evil lefties hate, and stop living as if human politics -- even left-wing human politics -- can do more than band-aid the mess this world is in;
    • Start handing out inclusion and protection from the ground up, keeping safe and helping heal those who are the "least of these" (including, but not only, Gays) first, and not helping perpetuate their harm by assisting and comforting those who hurt and abuse them (take a new look -- that may be one of those instructions your left-wing Christianity left out). 
    • Get off that easy-think-that's-really-no-think B.S. that says being "good" is just a matter of saying "yes" when right-wingers say "no", and "off" when right-wingers say "on", because it just makes left-wingers look like educated-idiots, and does nothing to improve what left-wing Christianity produces. 

    In other words, left-wing Christians need to start being the real followers of Jesus their spiritual ancestors were, and that the Bible calls them to be. Until then? Sorry -- it's pretty, and I'm sure it makes you happy. But still not real. Not safe. Not Christian.

    ---
    This article written by Lynne at No Junk. Just Jesus. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.