Being Liberal

It’s funny. Theologically, I don’t consider myself a liberal at all. My views simply feel to me like growth into knowledge, which has happened over a long period of time, and which actually include far more claims to not know than to know. But I know I am seen by some — perhaps many — as being liberal which, I think, will happen when a person stops claiming to know things that some might believe the Christian faith absolutely depends upon knowing.

I have even met people who simply say, “You’re a liberal,” and think my own opinion of my views doesn’t matter at all. They need so much to put me in a box so they can oppose me. Interesting it’s always conservatives who do that. When I side with conservatives on things, liberals never try to force me into the conservative box. I wonder if that means anything.

7 Reasons I Hate the Culture War

Being a progressive Christian is a tough racket. It seems most Christians are not progressive which, if you read the linked description of the term, indicates that most Christians are still defined largely by polemics (being against things). Perhaps nothing better embodies polemics than the culture war. In reality, the culture war is toxic to Christianity and actually has almost nothing to do with it. Christians need to reject it right now and adopt gospel priorities. Here are 7 reasons I hate the culture war.

1. Its issues (the “war on Christmas,” homosexuality, abortion, prayer in schools, etc.) are not gospel issues.

2. Despite #1, it nevertheless positions itself as THE Christian voice in our society.

3. It mistakes preferences for commandments. Let’s face it, Christians may prefer nativity scenes in public places, but there’s no command that we should have one or are entitled to one. An atheist seeking to eliminate said nativity scene has as much right to the judicial process as a Christian does and is doing nothing wrong by seeking to eliminate it. Further, if he should win, Christians have lost nothing essential to the practice of our faith. We fight heated battles over issues where we stand to lose nothing, other than “But I think it’s nice…”

4. It is largely sentimental and not substantive.

5. It seeks, focuses on, and requires an enemy. In the culture war, the enemies are liberals, atheists, and gays. Gospel-wise, the moment someone is identified as an enemy, we are commanded to love and pray for them. Christians fighting the culture war do exactly the opposite.

6. In focusing on enemies and enlisting people (especially pastors) in the war, it marginalizes Christianity. Christians cannot redeem the culture by fighting for it, but only by modeling the love and sacrificial lives Christ actually called for. It is thus an aspect of the Christian faith that is almost entirely “of the world.”

7. The culture war focuses heavily on our “rights” as Christians. This is perhaps one of its most toxic aspects, because according to Jesus Christians have no rights whatsoever except the right to die to self and follow Christ. By recruiting Christians into a war and requiring them to fight, the culture war leads Christians into today’s equivalent of the Crusades. Years from now, Christians will be as embarrassed by the culture war as we are of the Crusades and Inquisition. I hope.

Light and Darkness

What of the horrific shootings today in CT and the stabbings in China? My heart breaks, along with the hearts of all decent people. These are a few sentences I wrote for this week’s sermon, yesterday. I am reading them today with new eyes and will not deliver them Sunday in the same way I had originally planned.

The story of the birth of Jesus is not that the light comes and extinguishes all the darkness and we all live happily ever after. For now, we live in a world filled with both realities. It is a world of incredible darkness and light. A world filled with death and life. Life is always there with death. Light is always shining in darkness. There is always hope. And the darkness can never extinguish the light. No amount of evil, or suffering, or violence, can extinguish the light. That is the message. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Watch What You Eat (with your mind)

I came across this piece today on The Huffington Post, and I thought it was one of the best posts I had seen on how the mind works and the obvious fact that the untrained mind cannot be a peaceful mind. This comes from a Buddhist writer, but it applies equally to all people — any religion and no religion. Here, in a nutshell, is the reason every human being needs to meditate.

Seeing God

Courtesy of xerones, licensed under Creative Commons

Courtesy of xerones, licensed under Creative Commons

Seeing God is normally impossible

In an earlier post I wrote about the importance of seeing God in all the places where he (or she — I know that’s uncomfortable for some, but c’mon — you know God isn’t male or female!) is. In my last post I said one way to do that is to make the move from religion to spirituality. This is critical. Just as critical, is learning to be quiet. This cannot be overemphasized. Meditation is the way people have learned to be quiet for thousands of years, across cultures and across religions. Seeing God in the world only happens as you learn to see God in yourself. If you are not spending liberal amounts of time quiet and alone, seeing God is nearly impossible. As long as you are rushing about here and there, filled with urgency, thoughts darting through your mind at a thousand miles an hour, you will lack many things: peace, perspective, the ability to let go of thoughts before they carry your emotions away, and — most of all — the confidence that God is in you (and the world around you) and is growing in you daily.

Seeing God is rare, even among religious people

If you ask most Christians the last time they were confident that God did something amazing in their lives, they will tell you that it has been a while — a few days or weeks ago, a few months ago, several years ago, some will even say it has been a few decades since they were certain of God working in their lives (the theological word for which is simply “grace”). This despite the fact that most Christians are striving constantly to do good and be good, and beating themselves up considerably for falling short.  

Continue Reading »