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Honest belief, and disbelief, honestly.

July 26, 2011 23 comments

I like to write about science and religion. It seems to keep coming up in conversation, especially with individuals I haven’t chatted with much. Most people, however, who are actively involved in discussion of apologetics and atheistic aspects of their worldview realize that science does not disprove Christianity. It must be noted that science does readily disprove many Christians (and atheists as well as man individuals of various faiths). At what point, however, do we associate the beliefs of an individual with their religious ideology? Perhaps an easy question would be, what is the most concise definition of a follower of x ideology?

Ideology & Requirements:
Atheist: Not-theism.
Christian: Jesus Christ the son of God. Holy spirit lives and works. Christ died on the cross as sacrifice and rose triumphant over death. Christ lived as an example to all men across all generations and cultures. (Note, the last sentence carries all of the implications of living a righteous life, centered on Christ and not on our own deeds). In short: God is.

I would agree with those above. I have trouble writing anything positive for atheism, because since there is no real requirement other than to not believe in theism, there are, in fact, many different ideas, often conflicting. For example, an atheist can believe the Christian bible is not an authoritative historical text. Another atheist can believe the acts committed in history recorded with in the text are immoral. However, one single atheist does not need to believe both of these ideas, and quite frankly cannot as I wrote them there, they need qualifiers to make it noncontradictory. In the same way, I can live and serve God and believe the bible is an authoritative text, historically and otherwise, and also support homosexual monogynous marriage, believe God doesn’t give a shit if I cuss, not enjoy Sunday morning lectures, waiver between certain beliefs, and constantly question things that don’t seem right- sometimes results saying I’m right, sometimes evoking a change of thinking. The fact remains, I’m not really too sure about anything, and the more I learn who God is, the less I know who God is. All I know: God is. When I struggle and question, and fight for something to hold on to, some tradition to keep my faith alive, when I deny all that Christianity has to offer, I can do so with at least a shallow sense of peace, because I cannot deny God. Atheism is alluring in many ways, and I blame no one for choosing that ideology, but when their belief in not-god brings them to a point where they say “When I struggle and question, and fight for something to hold on to, some tradition to keep my non-belief alive, when I deny all that atheism has to offer…..” I hope they’re honest. And in that honesty, maybe they can find some truth, like I have. I wonder what that would be for the atheist in that moment. I wonder if in that moment, one could remain an atheist. Perhaps in conversation and writing, and even in thought, but is that person really atheistic?

God is. My positive belief allows me that confidence. What does atheism allow?

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A Jesus Kingdom

July 13, 2011 4 comments

So I was chatting with SocietyVs a while back about church, and I proposed writing about what church really should be. it’s been a week, and I’ve been thinking about it, among many other things, most not so holy, and have some thoughts to share. On Wednesday nights at the Tri-C here in Denton we’ve been reading and discussing Scot McKnight’s book One.Life. This book has a lot to do with tearing down our ideas of church, religion, and Jesus in general, and showing us more of what Jesus actually envisioned his kingdom to be. It’s a great book, actually, and I’ve learned a lot so far. However, it also seems like I’ve been nodding in agreement for a while thinking ‘this has been the conclusion to my search for theology’. In doing so, I’ve missed the point, even while I’m agreeing with it.

Scot talks about being ‘right’ a lot. The Pharisees were in many cases ‘right’ and so are we when it comes to spiritual matters. He asks at one point, why did Jesus come to earth? And the common response, “to die for ____” is ‘right’. However, ‘it’s not right enough” (he always gives credit to Flannery O’Connor when he says this).

So, back to my question. What is church? What should it be? What is Jesus’ dream for church? I have a few more stories to tell about my experiences, and some simple answers as well. But, this all revolves around love. First and foremost Jesus came to teach love. The greatest command is to love God, remember? And that alone is not enough to satisfy the inquiry, he adds, love others. In the sermon on t he mount Jesus pushes love to an extreme, and says ‘Love your enemies’. On the cross he teaches us what this means, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Love. I will never get tired of teaching love, but it’s altogether another story when it comes to actually doing it. I spoke at my church back in San Antonio when I graduated highschool. I was supposed to give a graduation speech, you know the whole ‘road ahead’ thing- we’ve all heard it more than once. Instead I made a careful decision to talk about love. When I go up in front of the congregation I really understood 1 John a lot better. These people needed to hear it, and so did I, so I said love about 30 billion times. Church is love.

Often times the word church is interchangeable with Kingdom. Again, that’s right, but it’s not right enough. Kingdom is all that God owns, and what does God, the creator of everything, not own? I think Jesus vision was more for Kingdom than church.

When I was in Colorado in the summer of 2009 doing ministry with Seven, Benny and Nikki Nowell, and Brad Lemon face, I learned what it meant to follow Jesus. One time we were in a building once used for prostitution and drug trade, and smuggling. It had been repurposed to serve the homeless youth of the Denver area. I remember Benny saying that it had been reclaimed to God’s Kingdom. The imagery of a spiritual battle, and a strong hold once held by evil and now taken by Jesus’ love, and used to fight in love overwhelmed me.

In Colorado we stayed in a church that had a bit of a motto, “church is not a country club for the members, but a hospital for the sick.” The more I think about it, the more I realize that is exactly what Jesus was teaching, and that’s exactly what needs to change. No matter how sick the patient, the hospital treats them. Actually, the sicker the patient, the more welcomed they are into the doors. A man bleeding out needs a hospital. Jesus came to be a physician to the sick, and that’s exactly what Kingdom means. Fighting on the frontier for those who are hurting, with or without any promise of hint of repentance. There is no room for “I love you, if ____” In Jesus’ Kingdom. Many times in church we love, but only enough to get someone into a bible study, and if there is no interest, there is no love. That congregation in Colorado had it figured out, and I need to get on their page, and on page with God.

I work fighting human trafficking with a group called Rahab’s Rope Denton Chapter. Our meetings on Wednesday nights are filled with prayer. We pray for a really long time, and there’s a lot of scripture, and honesty in our prayers. We just bow, or not and people speak when they have something to say. Sometimes there are short phrases, “open our eyes” and “break the bondage of sin within the church” and sometimes an inspired individual goes on for 10 minutes quoting scripture and pleading and praising God. There are long periods of audible silence, accompanied by spiritual outcry. I think Jesus’ Kingdom Church has more prayer in it. And often times silent prayer.

I didn’t want to bash church too much, but there needs to be an emphasis on why prayer is so important. During communion talk on morning at a particular church a man got up and talked about joy. He had a scowl on  his face, he looked horribly miserable up at the podium and his eyes screamed out at you. And his lips said “joy, for what God has done.” He prayed thanks to God, and all that. It was ‘right’… right? In my mind communion is a party! Jesus ROSE for our sins, and lived a perfect example to us. I think communion is a time where we talk, and God forbid, laugh! I mean, what he said was right, so let’s live it! smile for what jesus has done, and hug somebody during communion. I dare you, reader, to bring a loaf of bread to church and a jug of juice, and start breaking it off and passing it around with a big smile and say,” Jesus’ body, right here, broken, and mended for you. And his delicious grape-flavored blood! I love you.” That’s communion.

There’s so much to say about this topic, I think all theological inquiries revolve around getting church ‘right’. I have a strong feeling, accompanied by strong words, that church isn’t something we’re supposed to get ‘right’. It’s the bride of Christ, it’s the body of believers, it’s love. What is right and wrong about that?

“But Jesus, when you leave, how will people know that we follow you?”
“Disciple, do you still not get it? They’ll know you follow me by your love for each other and for them. All of God’s power, on heaven and earth, has been given to me. And I, with all that power in love, am with you wherever you are, even to the end.”

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