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Posts Tagged ‘Christian’

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

  • And of all things visible and invisible.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord.

  • He was begotten, not made and is of one essence with the Father.
  • Through him all things were made.
  • Who for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.
  • He was made incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit, and was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
  • He suffered under Pontius Pilate.
  • He was crucified, died, and was buried.
  • He descended into the place of the dead.
  • He rose from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
  • He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
  • He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.
  • His kingdom shall have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

  • Who is the Lord, the Giver of Life.
  • Who spoke through the Prophets.
  • Who with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified.

I believe in one holy Church.

  • Which is universal, and for all peoples.
  • Which is the Communion of Saints.
  • It is timeless and beyond the reach of mortal death.

I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.

I look for the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting.

  • Which is a bodily resurrection.
  • The righteous shall enter the world which is to come.
  • The righteous shall not taste of death again.

Amen.

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Unfortunately the time in which we live is plagued by fear and war. This is nothing new to the human race, and as Ecclesiastes states, there is nothing new under the sun. Every age of man is full of war, plague, and strife. How can it not be? Man has sunken to the depths of its own animus, barely reminding itself that it is greater than beast. For man looks at those who are made in his own likeness and greets them as brothers, yet he despises those who bear even the slightest of differences from his own appearance or behavior. This too, is nothing new. Our ancestors enslaved others who were not their own. Perhaps for speaking a different tongue, or having a different colored skin, or even perhaps a different religion. Man will find any excuse necessary to cause pain, war, and death. It is the way of the world.

But need it be this way? By all accounts the way of the world is full of strife and is generally unpleasant. When evil is done, it requires not only equal payback, but great wrath upon all who stand opposed. It is for this that the law was written, “an eye for an eye”. Not that justice would be certain to be meted out, but to ensure no greater than equal justice was served. For the wrath of mankind is prone to vengeance above and beyond fair and equal measure.

The Christian voice goes above and beyond this fair and equal measure of violence, and dispenses with it altogether. As the apostle Paul says, we battle not against flesh and blood, but against dark forces. Our battle is against the forces of darkness which control the nations of the world, and which daily battle in the heavenly places. For the message of Christ is that we do not retaliate against those who do us harm, but that we conquer evil with love and forgiveness. As our Lord has commanded us to turn the other cheek, we must obey. For he disarmed Peter in the garden, so has he disarmed us.

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I remember the first time I was introduced to Christian Pacifism. It made literally, no sense to me whatsoever. As an eighteen year old kid (saying that as a twenty-six year old kid), the thought of Christian Pacifism was anathema. The very idea made me sick to my stomach. Pacifism wasn’t Christian in my eyes, it stood in direct contrast to everything I had been taught to believe by my culture.

My parents didn’t raise someone who was so easily turned away from differing viewpoints, however. The more the idea of pacifism disgusted me, the greater I wanted to delve into it and see why someone would commit to such lunacy. It also required me to confront head-on passages of Scripture that not only went against my worldview, but against the very god I believed in.

Having a crisis of faith is never fun. People don’t do this for kicks and giggles. The very bedrock of your faith is shaken to its core, because it was built on something that you’re not sure will withstand the test of time. Jesus gives a parable about this in the Scriptures. Everyone who builds the foundation of their faith upon the teachings and actions of Jesus will be able to withstand all the winds and rains and storms that may come. But those who do not build their faith upon the example of Jesus, will be like a man who builds his house on sand, and the first storm that comes will knock it down. And great will be its fall. (Matthew 7 & Luke 6)

The more I dug into Scripture, and the more I read the words of Jesus, the more my foundation began to crumble. My faith, my house, was built on sand. And the fall was great indeed. I became confronted with the very same question that plagued C.S. Lewis during his own crisis of faith. Either Jesus was a madman, or he was the Son of God.

Fortunately beneath my sand, was a bit of bedrock. That happens sometimes. My house fell, but I was able to clear away the sand, and begin building anew. It took some time, but I knew the foundation was firm (although I do still find granules here and there). My neighbors and friends and family laughed at me. I probably felt a bit like Noah, my faith being mocked. Yet I knew that somehow everything would be alright, because my new faith was built upon a Gospel that was solid. A Gospel of Love.

There have been some bumps along the way. Faith journeys are never easy. And there have been storms, Lord have there been storms. I’ve had hurricane winds blow against my heart and soul, and there have been times when it was all I could do to not give in. But our God is a mighty fortress, and happy are those who put their trust in Him.

The journey isn’t over yet. I still have a long road ahead of me. I’m still learning this path of love and peace, trying to show mercy and grace. (It’s been eight years since I started on this road, and you’d be surprised how little you actually learn in that time). A little something that helps me along in this regard is a quote by Stanley Hauerwas: “I say I’m a pacifist because I am a violent son of a bitch. I’m a Texan. I can feel it in every bone I’ve got. And I hate the language of pacifism because it’s too passive. But by avowing it, I create expectations in others that hopefully will help me live faithfully to what is true. But that I have no confidence in my own ability to live it at all.”

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It is remarkable to me that there are so many who view the Catholic Church with such disdain, even now. Do not misunderstand me, I’m no Papist. My great-grandfather’s dying words were, “Damn the Pope!”. But surely we have come to a point in the Christian religion where we can disagree on secondary issues, even so far as to call each other out on where we disagree, without questioning the salvific status of the other person.

No man has knowledge of who will enter the gates of Paradise. But I do not see how one can damn another professing Christian, especially when it is a man like Pope Francis who seems so remarkably intent on spreading the Good News of Christ to the poor and the least of these. It seems to me, that Pope Francis is the most Christ-like pope there has been in ages.

Do I have issues with the Church of Rome? Absolutely. For starters, they can begin to renounce papal infallibility when speaking ex cathedra, begin to consecrate women to Holy Orders, and allow Latin Rite priests to marry. But these are not salvific issues. None of them contradict the message of the Gospels, which is salvation through faith in Jesus Christ evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit.

However, I have noticed a remarkable lack of the fruit of the Spirit when it comes to folks who lambaste the Catholic Church and Pope Francis, and refuse to acknowledge his stature and prominence in spreading the Christian religion. They would sooner gnaw off their own foot, than to admit that the Pope may indeed be a Christian, and may indeed be advancing the cause of Christ.

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What does it mean to have faith in God?

The Shema Yisrael (usually shortened to Shema) states, “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” The Shema is found in Deuteronomy, and forms the basis of most Jewish prayer services. It is a continual reminder to the Jewish people of the Divine kingship of YHWH. It is both a statement, and a prayer. The statement, continually professes their belief in the Lordship of God. When said as a prayer however, it is a cry for belief in times when one is not quite up to the task of believing.

Throughout Jewish tradition, it isn’t quite so important to get all the answers right, as it is to wrestle with the tradition itself. This is an important part of Jewish education. Learning the Torah and being able to recite it verbatim, is quite useful to the education of Jewish children, because once they know the Torah, they can then begin to dissect and examine it as a whole. Once they understand the Torah, they can question it. And to question, means they have begun the journey of faith.

This ties back all the way to the Patriarch of the Jewish people, Jacob. On his way back to Canaan, Jacob encounters an angel, an emissary of the Almighty. There, they wrestle, and Jacob refuses to let go unless he receives a blessing from the angel. The angel blesses Jacob, and changes his name to Israel, meaning “He who struggles with God”. Jacob and his progeny forevermore have been characterized by this struggle, and God has blessed them for it. The core of the Jewish faith, the core of Israel, is wrestling with God.

Ironically, even though Christianity began as a sub-culture of Judaism in first century Palestine, Christianity has taken an altogether different approach to faith. Most Christians do not find value in the struggle, rather Christians are instead encouraged to put aside doubts, and place their faith in God. This strikes me as being rather simplistic. I am not sure that I understand how one is supposed to place their faith in God, if they haven’t wrestled with God enough to be sure that He indeed is God. Why should I follow His precepts if I do not believe them to be intrinsically valuable? I cannot find them to be intrinsically valuable if I do not first wrestle with them. Thus placing faith in God without confronting Him with my doubts.

Truth be told, if God truly was uncomfortable with my doubts, I’m not sure He would be worthy of much praise as a deity. But a god who can handle any doubts I throw his way, and a god who is totally cool with wrestling with me throughout all of my trials and tribulations – that is a God. That is God, who is totally and completely so powerful and beyond compare, that He encourages us to confront Him head-on. He challenges us to engage with Him, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

Belief is passive. I can claim my belief night and day, and shout it to the rooftops. I can do my good deeds, night and day, and proclaim them for all the world to see. But faith is done in secret. It requires strenuous activity that is best done when others are not around. Faith requires that we be completely vulnerable to the thought that our lives are not our own, that we may indeed need to be changed or molded by the Truth. Sometimes, faith in God necessitates a renunciation of previously held beliefs – no matter how strongly we believed them. Sometimes, faith in God requires wrestling with anything and everything we thought we knew, just to get a taste of what is real.

Belief is passive. Faith is knocking down the door and saying, “Oh no you bastard, I want what you’ve got, and I’m not taking no for an answer.” Faith is wrestling with God – and winning.

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I am a Christian.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the figure upon whom all should base their lives and hope.

I am a fundamentalist.

I believe in the fundamentals of the faith – that God loves the world so much that He gave His only Son to die for it. God became man, so that men might be reconciled back unto God. And that this love is for everyone, regardless of race, creed, national origin, or sexual orientation. This love extends from east to west, and beyond the farthest star. It has no end.

I am a Biblical literalist.

I believe that the Bible should be taken exactly as it was written, for the people to whom it was written. It is not an instruction manual, nor a history textbook. It is a story that unfolds from the mythical proportions of the Genesis story of Creation to the glorious reconciliation of earth and heaven in Revelation. (And there are a few things Jesus instructed us to do between now and then, so I really think he meant it).

These are not definitions that most folks associate with those terms. But I figure it is about time to reclaim them.

I fundamentally believe that the love of God does not stop based upon whether you are divorced or married or single. The love of God extends past petty racial divisions. It extends past modern concepts of sexual orientation and gender roles. It extends past temporal political lines and all geopolitical boundaries. God loves you whether you are rich or poor, saint or sinner. He makes the sun to shine on both the righteous, and the wicked. Because His love for us is endless.

And it is through that love that the literal meanings of the Scriptures need to be read. Through the lens of Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son. He who is from the Beginning. This never failing love of those who are downtrodden and oppressed. Who was quick to turn on the religious elites for snubbing their noses at the “wicked sinners”. He who was without sin modelled a life of forgiveness and compassion. He partied with whores and drunkards, and on at least one occasion, was the reason the people were drunk to begin with. He who was more prone to make sure that the religious types didn’t think that their piety would save them, and point out that the simple yearning faith of the sinner would guarantee salvation.

See, my teachers as a child taught me that the Bible was the Word of God, and that it was to be taken literally. Not to change a single iota of the text. And they taught me that God loves me no matter what. The problem is, I think I learned the lesson a little too well. I learned that God doesn’t love you only when you do good. And that He isn’t a Republican (or a Democrat!). I learned that He probably isn’t a capitalist (or a communist!). That God exists so outside of our preconceived notions of religion, that when we encounter the true God of Israel – we cannot help but fall upon our knees, beat our chests, and plead our unworthiness.

Yet He picks us up, dries the tears from our cheeks, and says that He is with us always…even unto the ends of the earth.

So, yes I am a Christian fundamentalist who believes in Biblical literalism. But I also am a worthless sinner who beats upon his chest daily. For I am a Pharisee, and I am the chief of sinners.

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I cry out to you O Lord, in the depths of my despair. My cries for help have fallen on deaf ears, and those who could help cannot be found. My God the fear that wells up within my soul! Shall Hades continue to reap his wealth from my Tartarean sorrow? Only you can save me, my God! Are you not my shepherd? Hear me O God of Job; He who has crafted the universe! Release me of this I beg of you! You are the Father who gives only good gifts; the God who hands not over death to His child who asks for bread. Grant your Holy Spirit to comfort me! By the power and the passion of the Cross, free me from these chains!

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