Christian radio host: Maddow’s ‘demon-possessed’ viewers proof of Antichrist (via Raw Story )

Wow. Just wow. I grew up in this environment, and I'm telling you, this view is PROMINENT in the evangelical community. How I wish it weren't.
Christian radio host: Maddow’s ‘demon-possessed’ viewers are proof of the Antichrist (via Raw Story )

A Christian radio host who is dedicated to covering the Second Coming of Jesus Christ says that MSNBC’s host Rachel Maddow’s “demon-possessed” viewers are evidence that the “spirit of Antichrist is loose in America.” During her show on Tuesday…

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Apology from Kickstarter yields graceless responses

image from skeptoid.com

image from skeptoid.com

Read this apology from Kickstarter, and be sure to read several of the comments after it.

This is what hard hearts and gracelessness look like. While most people are very cool, some actually articulate, “Until I get answers to (x and y), I’ll have to assume you were up to no good.” Or “Too little, too late.”

It’s good to do research. It’s good to ask people to be accountable for their actions. I hope Kickstarter DOES respond to some of the questions being asked. But the attitudes are disturbing to me. As a leader, it makes my stomach hurt to be reminded that people are really out there who, despite acknowledgement of mistakes and a humble and sincere apology, still assume wrongdoing and want to see someone hang.

I have to meditate and clear my head when I see stuff like this, or I get sucked into that kind of sick negativity — not sucked in in terms of becoming graceless in that way, but in terms of allowing an equal and comparable negativity to grow in my own heart towards graceless people. Which is, of course, the great spiritual irony and leads to self-righteousness and pride.

I will do the work in my heart and head that is required to not become part of the world’s negativity. Still — I just do not understand this at all.

 

 

Twelve ways to intentionally cultivate character

intergrity-cultivate character

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12 ways to intentionally cultivate character:

1. Do whatever you must do to come to sense how deeply you are loved by God.
2. Constantly make the choice you know is right instead of the choice that is easy.
3. Never say a bad word about someone else. As you get better and better with this, keep raising the bar higher and higher. We can never be too careful with words.
4. Learn to pray, meditate, and be in silence and solitude every day for at least some period of time.
5. Learn to control your mind and your thoughts.
6. Instead of finding reasons to excuse your wrongdoing, find reasons to excuse and forgive the wrongdoing of others, and deal with your own wrongdoing in prayer and silence.
7. Be quick to apologize, to accept responsibility, and to give credit away.
8. Put away anger and lust.
9. Determine to never again intentionally mislead someone about something.
10. Determine today to abandon forever all attitudes and actions that do not or cannot take you where you want to go.
11. Forgive yourself for your own mistakes, sins, and oversights, and accept the forgiveness of God.
12. Seek out whatever help you will need in doing the above — accountability, counseling, forgiveness, whatever it may be.

If you are not a praying person, do everything on this list anyway, without the prayer part!

The Best Things About Christianity

cross - christianity's finest contribution

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In my last post I was critical of Christianity. Well, really more about the church. In this one, I want to point out what I believe are Christianity’s finest contributions to the understanding of God.

1. Jesus

Christianity’s greatest (and in my opinion matchless) contribution to our understanding of God is, without question, the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth. I have heard people argue that Jesus was not divine, that he was merely a good man and a great teacher, but I have never heard anyone argue that Jesus was not, at the very least, a man among men.

Christians, of course, believe Jesus was very much more than that. We believe that Jesus was God, that he was, and is, “the image of the invisible God”, that when we watch Jesus, we are watching God. We believe that if you want to know what God is and is not, you can see God in Jesus, but not in the same way you can see God in, say, me. While I hope you can often, even usually, see God in me, there are unfortunately times when if you look at me you will see see little God, and a huge, ugly, stinking pile of me. Christians believe that at any and every moment, Jesus’ life was the life of God. If you want to know how God loves, watch Jesus. If you want to know what God values, watch Jesus. If you want to know whether a Christian is living the Christian life well, watch Jesus. Don’t just follow, or rebel against, authority. Watch Jesus.

Now I’m a fan of Buddhism. I admit it. I admire a lot of its teachings (a ton of them are shockingly similar to those of Jesus), and I believe its contributions to spiritual knowledge are incredibly significant (the centrality of the irreplaceable art of meditation, its eight-fold path, its four noble truths, etc.). I believe there is a lot we can, and should, learn from it. Still, I am not a Buddhist for a hugely important reason. That reason is Jesus. While Buddhism teaches about Nirvana, a final blending into an impersonal energy, the incarnation of God in Jesus tells us that God is personal.

This matters because if you have ever had a friend or loved one pass away, Buddhism says that particular person is gone forever — they have either reincarnated as another person/creature, or they have reached Nirvana and blended into the impersonal energy of the universe. Many branches of Buddhism do not even believe in anything they call “god.” Christianity, on the other hand, says that person continues to exist, although not in a way you or I can currently understand (1 Jn. 3:2; Col. 3:3-4). For more information on this, see one of my posts about the false self.

2. Trinity

Christianity understands God as one, yet existing in three aspects, or “persons”. The magnificence and beauty of this is hard to overstate. Stated simply as possible, God the Father is the power source, God the Son is the one who, like you, has been embodied and therefore “gets you”, and God the Holy Spirit is the one who can “live in you” moment by moment and show you what is true. That, of course, is a hugely oversimplified summary, but it’ll have to do. Perhaps the best picture of this in the gospels is when Jesus prayed. There you have God the Son, praying through God the Spirit, to God the Father.

3. Crucifixion

Jesus’ horrific death, nailed to a cross as a still vibrant young man, stands in marked contrast to the death of Buddha at eighty years old, dying peacefully between two trees. The violence is Jesus’ death should tell Christians something about violence, but most Christians miss it. Instead, Christians speaking of the Crucifixion are usually referencing the death of Jesus as sacrifice for sin, which is unfortunate. There are at least nine different understandings of the meaning of the death of Jesus, and what it actually meant is a mystery. All we can do is contemplate it and be grateful. But if Christians would instead focus on learning to respond to violence, suffering, and opposition in the way of Jesus, the world would be overcome by loving, gracious, forgiving people. “What kind of life would make it possible for me to die that way?” The keys of transformation lie in the answer to that question.

4. Resurrection

This event is the bookend to the incarnation of God in Jesus, and both events say much the same thing, which is that there is actually no separation between physical and spiritual. Spiritual is physical, and physical is spiritual. In taking on human flesh to begin with, Jesus blesses human embodiment. It is good to cry and feel and hunger and thirst and have sex. We don’t have to (and shouldn’t) split life up into sacred and secular. All of life is good. God declared it that way in creation, and again at the birth of Jesus, and again in his resurrection. The human body is the temple of God. But what we also see in resurrection is that the bodies we will have after death will not be the same as our physical bodies before death. Jesus was not initially recognized by those he appeared to after resurrection. We don’t know what the change was (back to our scriptures again in 1 Jn. and Colossians), but it was substantial. Of course the resurrection of Jesus is a precursor to yours and mine (1 Cor. 15:16-20).

For these reasons and more, I am a Christian, and a Christian pastor. Though we have much to learn from other religions (and most Christians ignore this only from fear), I believe Jesus offers us the sweetest, fullest, finest vision of human life, and Trinity the most beautiful, and appropriately complex, understanding of God.

Christianity is my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

No One Owns God

keys - no one owns God

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This tweet from Richard Rohr says God is accessible to every person on the planet, that no one owns God, regardless of religion or lack thereof. What does it mean to believe no one owns God?

Once upon a time, there was no writing. There was no printing press. There were no books. There was, however, God — moving and working in history and in human lives. I don’t know any Christian who would deny this. Without religion, without writing, books, and certainly without churches and theology, this God made himself known in the world and was available to those who called on him (unless you believe God has been asleep at the wheel for 99.999% of all history, in which case you are more Deist than Christian). We see in the New Testament that Jesus complimented the faith of non-Jews, people considered to be godless, and probably incapable of real faith. Indeed, we see in the words of the Bible itself that it is not primarily through knowledge of that book, nor the procedures, beliefs, and systems it lays out, but rather through faith, that we are able to know God. The Apostle Paul affirms that we actually live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). This is to say, our journey forward in God is made up primarily of what we do not know.

That means everything that comes after faith is “extra.” This, then, naturally includes all that we can and do know. That is not to say that some of these extras do not serve very important purposes. If I believed they were unimportant I could not find any reason to be a pastor in a particular denomination and religion. They are important, perhaps extremely so in some cases, but they are, in fact, extra, because they come after faith itself.

Think of God as a big, juicy steak on a plate. The extras are everything — absolutely everything — that is on and around the plate. This includes healthy vegetables (important doctrines such as the Trinity, without which our understanding of God cannot be fully whole), the silverware (understood as the most elegant means by which we can enjoy the steak), steak sauce (particular denominational flavors we add to the steak), refreshing drinks (the type of preaching that helps us get the steak down without choking on it), even the manner in which the steak is served (religion itself). The steak is central, it is “the reason,” so to speak (John 1:1). Everything else in the meal is there to serve the steak, to complement it, to make it more enjoyable, or richer, or to help us get it down better. “In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1). God was accessible and available from the start.

This is what I believer Rohr means by this tweet. God is moving everywhere. God cannot be restricted to one religion. God is even active in the lives of some people who don’t consciously believe in God, yet whose lives regularly manifest the beautiful fruit religious people already know is fruit of God’s Spirit. Don’t you think it’s pretty valuable to know this? That’s why religion matters, and why our particular choice of religion is important. Formal religious instruction helps us identify characteristic ways God may work in our lives. But Rohr again is correct, in that no religion/denomination will prescribe for God how he MUST move. If we think it does, we’re drinking the steak sauce straight, and leaving out the steak!  No one owns God, or will prescribe to him what he must do and what rules he must follow. Indeed, I believe the meaning of this parable of Jesus’ is that no one owns God, that he will give his grace to absolutely anyone he pleases, at any time, and under whatever conditions he chooses.

As a Christian pastor, I believe the Christian religion helps us understand God in ways no other religion does. Without those contributions we would be impoverished in our thinking about God. There are a few particularly potent ideas Christianity brings to the table, and I will discuss those in my next post.