My First Guest Post!

Some people have told me they don’t ever submit ideas for guest posts on other blogs because they don’t think they will get chosen. You never know until you try – I have tried a few times and actually got one accepted! Addie Zierman, author of When We Were On Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love, and Starting Over, was kind enough to post my submission for her One Small Change series of guest posts. So please go read One Small Change: Freedom Firm of India for my stories of travel in India and finding small ways to still live out my earlier dreams of changing the world in the midst of the busyness of life. And if you have never read Addie’s blog, I would highly recommend it. if you are recovering post-evangelical, you will find a lot to relate to there (and in her book).

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Anti-Progressive Rant Generators

I work in a field (higher education) where we recognize that there are many glaring problems. Everyone has their own opinion of how to fix these problems – but there are more “solution” opinions than I can count. Some of them are radically different from each other. But one thing we all know: you have to get other people’s positions correct or else you will look ignorant and nobody will listen to your ideas.

I think this is also an important stance to take with the progressive/conservative divide in the church… except for the conservative side seems to refuse to really learn what the progressive side believes.

For example, take this quote from John Stonestreet in his article “Attractions vs. Actions: Homosexuality & God’s Story”:

“The LGBT crowd says same-sex attraction is unchangeable, and therefore same-sex acts are legitimate. Many Christians, meanwhile, realize that being tempted isn’t a sin, but we’ve failed to apply this to the issue of homosexuality.”

This is prime example of a failure to understand what other people believe. The problem is not that people think that same-sex attraction can’t change and have failed to apply Biblical principles to the issue. The point of disagreement is that many people have studied the Bible in-depth and have found that the Bible’s stance on homosexuality is very unclear at best. They acknowledge the translation problems with the few verses that are used in this issue, and have come to take a more nuanced stance on them.

The problem of Rachel Held Evans and Justin Lee and others just writing off the Bible because they feel people can’t change is non-existent.

Blogger Michael Murray had this comment on one of Rachel Held Evan’s Facebook posts that I think is relevant here:

“After a while, these “reviews” (or blog comments or whatever) seem to all be the same, as if there’s an anti-“progressive” rant-generator somewhere that just puts out various combinations of standard accusations: not taking sin seriously, not really loving or obeying the Bible, valuing historical church leaders and practice, and associating with emergent “heretics.”.

At some point, I just have to conclude that these “anti-progressive rant generators” are either outright lying about the people they rail against, or that they are choosing to be intentionally ignorant. I really want to believe the best in people, so I guess I have to believe in willful ignorance. Which I get: straw man arguments are so much easier to tear down. Dealing with someone that logically came to their conclusion? Much more difficult.

To be honest, I don’t really like to be tagged as evangelical, fundamentalist, conservative, progressive, or liberal. My views are a very aggravating (at times) mix of all of these. But for whatever reason, people that tend to gravitate towards one position always seem to become blind to the real beliefs of people from other positions.  I know that the evangelical fundamentalists seem to do this more often, but truth be told there are those on both sides that have big problems with willful ignorance.

So, if I could just make this one suggestion for anyone reading this: please try to consider that the people you label as “the other side” are not as stupid as you think they are.

metamodern-faith-avatarNow, while it may seem like I am completely upset with Mr. Stonestreet, I will point out that his article is a massive step forward for the typical evangelical mindset. Of course, it still only steps into the late 1970s/80s, but it is a step forward. Now if we could talk about the annoying use of the word “chide” to describe Rachel Held Evans words… that would be another step forward. How come when men get on to people it is called a “strong point” or a “passionate plea” but when women say something like that it is “chiding” or “bossy”?

Is The Church Supposed To Be Hated?

Anytime some speaks about why the Church is dying in America, you can expect one of two typical reactions. The first one is people agreeing wholeheartedly as they identify with their own personal problems in the Church. The second is usually a more mean-spirited response that centers around the idea that “if The World™ likes the Church, we must be doing something wrong because The World™ is supposed to hate us.”

(I’m putting a ™ symbol with “The World™” because it seems like every person that uses that term has a different definition that may include other Christians they don’t agree with – so I just want to give credit for creating a non-Biblical idea where credit is due after all)

Ever wonder what God was thinking by creating an organization that The World™ mostly automatically hates? I mean, we say that God loves every single person in the world (the world that Jesus refers to, that is), but then creates a Church that most people are going to hate?

Or did Jesus really teach that we have to expect hate no matter what?

The main scripture used to support the idea that we will be guaranteed hatred is John 15:18-25. I think there are several things many people miss about this passage:

  • It starts with the world “if”. Jesus is only telling you the reason why the world hates you IF it does. But that is not a guarantee that it will.
  • The next part of the passage starts with another “if” – “if you belonged to the world.” Again, not a guarantee that you will be hated – just a recognition of the fact that the world would love you automatically if you belonged to it.
  • We then see Jesus say “this is why the world hates you” which some take to be a guarantee. Seeing that it is in the context of so many “ifs”, many it is really just referring back to the first scenario: “IF the world hates you.” It seems to be more of a comfort for those that are being hated, not a guarantee that we will all be hated.
  • This same passage then says that “if they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” They being the world. Wouldn’t you say its kind of hard to say that hatred is guaranteed from those that also might also follow Christ’s teachings.

To me, what we have in this scripture are three things. First, Jesus is telling us that people hate Him because His miracles make them feel guilty for their sin. Secondly, IF we also end up facing hatred because people feel guilty over the miracles of Jesus, then it is because they hated the One that performed those miracles in the first place (how do we know Jesus is referring to His miracles? Because He said “If I had not done among them the works no one else did”). Finally, Jesus tells us that being of the world guarantees us that we will be loved by the world – but not that it is THE only way to be loved by the World.

Also take a closer look at what versus 21-25 are telling us. Jesus is describing how people have seen His miracles and know they really happened but don’t want to repent of their sins and therefore hate Him because they know the Truth and yet do not follow it.

This is the real source of the hatred: people that have this nagging feeling that Jesus is real, but don’t want to deal with their sins and therefore live in denial of what they know deep down… and then hate Christians for reminding them of that. This certainly happens often to all of us. Even if you aren’t a Christian, maybe you are a healthy person and you have several unhealthy people that hate you because they know they should live healthier but just don’t want to give up their vices. We have probably all been on both sides of many issues like this.

However – none of this is a guarantee that we will be hated or a sign that we are doing something really wrong if we aren’t hated by all. You see, in between those that believe in Jesus but refuse to follow and those that will love you if you belong to the World is whole vast host of people that don’t really hate or even know Jesus, or that at least don’t believe in His teachings. They don’t hate you, they don’t persecute you, they don’t accept Christ’s teachings, they don’t fit any of the descriptions in John 15:18-25. They are just a vast sea of humanity that will probably be drawn more by love than hate.

metamodern-faith-avatarSo, the main idea here is that people will hate you IF they first hated God because they recognize that He is true but they don’t want to follow.  If they are hating you even though they don’t first hate Jesus, it possibly means that you are outside the conditions of this particular teaching of Christ’s. Maybe they are hating you because they know enough about Jesus to see that you aren’t really representing Him very well?

I’m not the first one to have noticed that this verse is not a guarantee that we will be hated by all.

Being Someone That Gets It

Some days it seems like the crazy on the Interwebs just gets to be too much. From people that think Obama is the anti-Christ to people that don’t get what feminism is all about to people that don’t care what gay rights are about to people that do more to hurt and wound the Body of Christ thinking they should write books to tell the rest of us how we are wrong if we don’t see things their way, it just seems like the world is on a path of social implosion.

Sometimes I want to spend all my time writing out comments to put these people in their place. But I just don’t have that luxury right now. What I have to realize is that the biggest problem with these people is really the problem we all have – myself included: “our way.”

We all have a way of seeing things… a way that we “get” the world around us. We tunnel vision in on “our way” of viewing the world and then turn people outside of that view into others that we don’t “get.”

But there has to be a better way. I think there is a better way. I believe that somehow we can be people that “get” where other people are coming from, even if we don’t agree.

Just think how much that would change the conversation around any issue – like, say, Obamacare – if we stopped looking at people on the other side as “disgusting idiots” who don’t see “clear logic.” What if we tried to “get” where they are coming from, even if we don’t agree?

You see, Jesus was one of those people that made a point to “get it” with everyone He met. The Dude that went around saying “go and sin no more” was also accused of being a “friend of sinners.” Think about that for a moment. The Person that created the definition of what sin is would constantly hang around with people that didn’t do things His way. He didn’t see them as “others” who refused to see the “clear light” of His side. He got where they were coming from and chose to talk to them, visit them, even eat and hang out with them in spite of whether they saw things His way or not.

metamodern-faith-avatarOh, and the kicker is that He is the only person who can ever truly claim to be on the right side of every issue. Yet He didn’t act like many of us who think we are always right but probably are more wrong than we realize. Its crazy when you think about it – those of us that know so little about the universe go around like we have all the answers, while the One that created the universe walked this earth to spend time with those who cling to different answers than He created in the first place. Crazy and Divine at the same time.

Life is Beautiful

Worship is a tricky thing. I think what turns most people off to modern worship is that it is so formulaic, so cliche, so manufactured.

To me, the best worship happens when you find it in the most unexpected places. Like this video by the bass player for Motley Crue – one of the most notorious “party bands” on the face of the planet.

In a lot of ways, this video is just Nikki Sixx coming to grips with inner demons, nearly dying, and the hard life that he lived. There is just a deep spiritual element to the song and video that is hard to describe… and maybe not intended. But the lyrics are worship at its finest:

You can’t quit until you try
You can’t live until you die
You can’t learn to tell the truth
Until you learn to lie

You can’t breathe until you choke
You gotta laugh when you’re the joke
There’s nothing like a funeral to make you feel alive

Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

I know some things that you don’t
I’ve done things that you won’t
There’s nothing like a trail of blood to find your way back home

I was waiting for my hearse
What came next was so much worse
It took a funeral to make me feel alive

Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

Alive…
Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

Just open your eyes
Just open your eyes
And see that life is beautiful.
Will you swear on your life,
That no one will cry at my funeral?

When You’ve Lost It All, That’s When You Finally Realize That Life is Beautiful

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