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Posts Tagged ‘Father’

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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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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We as Christians get mired down in the bog and the muck of rules and guidelines which we have set down for ourselves. Of course we do not mean these to be things that take over our lives instead of Scripture, yet inevitably this does occur. The more we preach out against certain things, the more we find ourselves bound to the rules we created to keep us free. And it causes us more harm than good. For we become known for what we are against, rather than what we are for. Or we forget the initial reason we quit doing certain things in the first place.

During the time of the ministry of Jesus, there were many out to trap him in his words. Once, he was asked what the greatest of the commandments was. Jesus replied that we should love God with all of hearts, with all of our souls, and with all of our minds. Second to that, we should love our neighbors as ourselves. That upon these two things, the entire Law, and all of the Prophets, rested.

That means that at the foundation of the entire Scripture – both Hebrew and Greek – is that we should love. Love God, and love each other. If we can understand this, and use this as the lens with which to read the Bible, we can greatly improve our journey as Christians. For these are the ultimate laws by which we should live our lives. We teach this to our children as babes, that they should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. In a world filled with violence and revenge, we are in sore need of such a reminder.

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Why should we pray to God?

The prevailing viewpoint in America is that we should not pray to God, at all. This viewpoint stems from the period of Enlightenment, and questions whether God even exists. It also posits: that if God does exist, then praying to Him is pointless because He does not answer our prayers. Supposed proof of this statement is backed with something akin to, “if God was real or all-powerful, He would abolish all evil”.

However, I would put forth that expecting God to solve all of humanity’s problems would be more the work of a magician or lesser deity, rather than the God who is described in the Scriptures. Regardless of whether or not one believes the book of Genesis to be historically factual, we have a pretty good idea about what kind of happened. Somewhere along the way, humanity rebelled against God and His perfect plan for the world. Our ancestors screwed up, and we lost the utopia known as Eden. The rest of the Hebrew Scriptures spend tremendous effort trying to convince us of where we went wrong, and how to get back to Paradise. They tell of a God who is constantly trying to get humanity back on the right track, back to perfect harmony.

But they also tell a different story – the story of a human race that though not intrinsically evil, often turns toward evil. God created mankind, and He called us good. But we fell, and we became broken. The ideal vision of humanity was now corrupted. So, not unlike a file that has been corrupted on a computer, we don’t act exactly how we are supposed to all of the time. We need to be restored back to how we were meant to be.

How does that happen?

The short answer, is through prayer. Paul gives us a little advice about this in 1 Thessalonians, where he exhorts us to pray without ceasing. This is a call back to the Gospel exhortation of Jesus himself. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 18, Jesus tells a story about a widow who had been wronged, and a judge who was unjust. The judge did not want to help the widow find justice, but the widow would not let the matter rest. She begged and pleaded persistently, until finally, the judge relented. The unjust judge sought justice for the widow out of pure weariness. He was tired of her nagging.

One could probably take away a negative: that if God is like the unjust judge, then God Himself is unjust. The alternative, and more appropriate take-away, is that if even an unjust judge will find justice after persistent nagging, how much more likely is God to answer the prayers of people whom He loves dearly? Jesus insisted that God will give justice to those who cry out to Him day and night – persistent prayers will be answered.

Why then, should we pray to God? Because He cares for the sparrows and for the lilies; how much more then does He care for us? And if such love is magnified, then how much more quick will He be to answer our prayers and petitions out of love. What father would give his child poison, when he asks for bread?

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