Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter & Reality; a Semi-Lament.


"Precious and fragile things, need special handling.  My God, what have we done to you?

We always tried to share, the tenderest of care.  Now look what we have put you through.

Angels with silver wings, shouldn't know suffering.  I wish I could take the pain for you.

If God has a master plan, that only He understands, I hope it's your eyes He's seeing through.

Things get damaged.  Things get broken.  I thought we'd manage.  But words left unspoken, left us so brittle, there was so little left to give."
Depeche Mode

I'm pretty sure that this is the first & only time I've begun a blog post without any Scripture verses.  Hmmmm...

And today is Easter...
and, yes, he HAS risen.


Also, I know I haven't posted in a LONG time.  I had some problems with Blogger, and I am far from being the most technologically proficient guy.  I had a friend help me out.  Thanks to him, things should be running fairly smoothly for me from here on out...at least as far as this online thing goes.

The rest of my life, not so much...

____________________


Let me state for the record that I am a truly terrible Christian.  
In fact, at best I am a "Second Class Christian."

#1. I have been told by certain Charismatic friends that I am disobedient because I have not been "Baptized in the Spirit," with the evidence of speaking in tongues.
#2. I have been told by some Catholics I know that I am in danger of the fires of hell...or at least purgatory, because I have not embraced the true church.
#3. I can be a christian, but I will walk with a spiritual limp because I am not a Calvinist.
#4. I am in error, because I am not a Dispensationalist.
#5. I am a Compromiser & False Teacher, because I have no problem what-so-ever with Evolution and the rest of modern science.

Recently, I've run into more than a few people who are Eastern Orthodox.  In one form or another, they have implied that I am not a part of the true apostolic faith.

It really stinks when you just want to put your faith in the faithfulness of Jesus.
I mean, what kind of Christian does that?


If I am lucky enough that God's grace is actually powerful enough to redeem a loser like me, I guess I'll be sitting at the little kid's table in heaven. (That's not such a bad thing.  I'm pretty sure C.S. Lewis will be there with me.)



If I took off my subconscious/emotional/spiritual/"whatever" shirt and showed you my chest and back, you would not see a sculpted work of "buffetude" from some gym work out.  No, what you would see are scars.  Lots and lots of scars. (My Dad told me a month or so ago, that I've seen a lot of pain in this life.  I hadn't thought about it all that much, but he's right.  Mostly in others, but plenty on my own.)

The ugliest and most painful scars that you would see on me are the ones I've been given by my fellow believers.  And they are all over the place on me.


We all have scars.  That's a part of life.  We all carry them in various ways.  Many of us just put on a long sleeve turtleneck sweater in the summer.  Personally, I try to stamp mine into the ground.  It never works.  They're still there.

____________________


As of late, I've been looking for a new church to attend.  Specifically, I'm looking for a church that has a Sunday night service.  I have to work Sunday mornings now, so I don't have a lot of options.  I'm not interested in a Saturday evening service.  I get off really early on Saturdays, so I'd like to fish with my dad or go ride my bicycle.

It's pretty meager pickings trying to find a Sunday night service.

Then there is the problem of ME.  I am a walking, talking, living breathing difficulty.  I've never felt like I truly fit in anywhere.  I'm way too "Contrarian" for my own good.  I'm drawn to controversy, and I love to ask questions. (Christians HATE it when you ask questions!) I thrive on the weird stuff in the bible, and love it when there is stuff there that is either difficult, or impossible to explain.

I HATE simple minded answers!  Towing the party line does not impress me.  All it does is tell me that you are to lazy to think for yourself.  Worse, that you will be completely unprepared to answer the questions of someone who is truly hostile to the bible and the Gospel.  Worst of all, if you are a parent, and you push this nonsense on your kids, don't be surprised when they leave the faith after being confronted with well thought out alternatives, and your simpleminded answers don't have much traction.


Actually, while I'm on this subject, here are two "Easter" themed videos that I really, truly love.  I've read most of Rob Bell's books, and a few by Peter Rollins.  Don't get me wrong, I have some extremely profound differences & disagreements with these guys!!!

But at the same time, I like to get their perspective on things.  They are both thoughtful and highly intelligent.  Plus, I don't really believe that you can know your own opinions properly unless you see it from as many angles as possible, including those you don't see eye to eye with. (And if American christians would stop being so afraid all the time, they might just try that.) Honestly, there is no counter idea/philosophy that has caused my faith in the resurrected Christ to be shaken.

Resurrection: Rob Bell from Rob Bell on Vimeo.



I Deny the Resurrection from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

The last one there, in particular, makes me think about the general lack of any type of social justice movement among American Evangelicals.  Near as I can tell, Jesus put a high premium on how we treat "The Least of These."  But you almost never hear anything from any of the big Evangelical leaders on these issues.  Not much about poverty, racism, sexism, pollution and creation care, and in some cases being down right anti-emigrant & anti-refugee.  They are "Pro-Birth" to be sure, but after that, they give the whole idea over to the Left, and what is more often than not, watered down Liberal theology.

Rob Bell asked WAY too many questions.  We pushed, shoved and kicked him to the door of standard  Evangelicalism.  When he walked out the door, we all stood back and said, "SEE, I told you so."

A friend of mine once noted to me that she had "Kicked him to the curb a long time ago."  My response was, "Yeah, we Christians are known for kicking people to the curb..."


So, with an attitude like mine,
it makes me a bad fit in most American church bodies... 



At the church I used to attend, I had an incident over a year ago.  Apparently, I am amazingly good at offending the feelings of people who have never bothered to even try to get to know me.  Through a truly stupid, yet innocently intended, comment on social media, I really angered a person at my church body.

Again, this person has never, EVER tried to get to know me, even though I went there for 10 years.  They had never said more than a passing "Hi" to me in all that time.  Yet, my comment, which was NOT directed at them, got them so riled that I was tossed out of a position I was in.

Personally, I would have worked for instant reconciliation if I had been a pastor.  Get the two sides together and find understanding and healing.  But that didn't happen.  I got the boot instead.  So I felt humiliated...still do.  And now I have a brand new scar.

I left the church for a while, feeling completely embarrassed.  I started going back a few months later, but it was never the same.  Every time I see this individual, I feel finger nails pulling at the scab.

The best...or worst part, of being gone was the reaction of people who I thought were my friends at this church.  I invested at least 10 years there, trying to develop relationships...and I really, truly tired my best.  I can count on less than one hand, the number of people who tried to call or get in touch with me.

When I did start going back, most seemed to not notice that I had been gone.  A few did and said things a long the line of, "I was wondering where you were."  Hardly the stuff that gives you confidence and enthusiasm to want to get involved again.


This time around, I told a select handful of people that I wouldn't be coming back due to work.  I told a friend I wanted to see how many people noticed or cared.  So far, nothing.  One pastor, on my last day, said that he wanted to get together and talk about weird stuff in the bible, because he knows I love that stuff.  I told him I would love that and to call me any time, and we could set it up.  He hasn't called.  He won't.



Today, I told a friend that I was looking for in a different church.  I also informed him that unless God told me directly to ever get involved in any kind of formal ministry again, and I did it anyway, I should be confined to the mental ward at HCMC downtown.

I don't know how many decades I have left on the planet, but I would like them to be relatively peaceful.  Working with Christians in a formal capacity is anything but peaceful.  At least that's been my experience.

Of course, all of this could be my fault.  I know I'm wired differently than most folks.  I get that.  I wish that God hadn't designed me to be a Square Peg.  But it's what I am.  I didn't think being a pain in the ass was a spiritual gift.

I simply am a bad fit for most American Christians.
I have to live with that.

____________________


For the past few months, I've been thinking a lot about wether or not you can lose your salvation.  I've also been wondering about all the people I've known over my life, and if they really are Believers.

For most of my life, I've believed in the concept of "Eternal Security."  I.e. "Once saved, always saved," based on the first chapter of Ephesians.  Another way of putting it is that if you leave the faith in one form or another, you were never truly a Believer saved by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the first place.

But I question that now.

I've watched many people walk away from the faith.  But I often wonder about those who claim to follow Jesus, yet hold to some of the weirdest shit possible when it comes to the bible and Christianity.

I know one guy...known him since he was a kid.  He grew up in a Christian home, went to  a Christian High School and college.  Talked the talk, etc.

 I don't know what he's up to now, other than being an Air Force officer.  But the last few correspondences that we shared, he was following some crack pot, far-right preacher.  He sent me a 6 page screed on why Jesus wants us to own assault rifles in case we need to overthrow the federal government. (Alrighty then...) Nice to know he's in the military, isn't it?


I also know of others who have really twisted the bible so that they think it's perfectly fine for a man to surgically remove his penis and get falsies implanted.  God clearly made a huge mistake and put him/her in the wrong body...and if you torture the bible long enough, it will agree with you.

For the record, I can totally identify with this impulse.  I might not look it on the outside, but on the inside I am 6'3, with a full head of blonde hair, and rippled abs.  I'm also of Japanese decent.  THE PAIN IS REAL, PEOPLE!!!!

And I could go on and on and on and on and on...

Friends and associates I've known, who have now wandered into some extremely weird corners of the faith.  They are so far out there that I have no idea what they really want other than to have their own thoughts and ideas tickled and affirmed.

It's like Jesus isn't good enough anymore.

We need to have something else.  Something "Religious" to prove our position and make us feel better.  Faith isn't enough!  We need to have some sort of "Works" to live by.

Maybe it's voting for a certain party.  Maybe it's owing guns for Jesus.  Maybe it's encouraging men to wear dresses...even if it doesn't flatter their hips.  Maybe it's telling Jesus that all religions are his equal.  Maybe it's telling Jesus that sin isn't so bad that he shouldn't take it seriously.

WHAT EVER!

And maybe simply isn't me or anyone else being very merciful.

____________________

After all of that, you may be right to ask, "DUDE, why do you even BOTHER with Christians and Christianity?!?!?!?!?!"

A fair question, to be sure.

And I ask myself that A LOT!


What it comes down to has everything to do with Easter.  The reality is that I simply cannot deny the resurrection.  I can't.  It's been almost 2000 years since the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That is LONG before the advent of modern science.

No one can prove it in a test tube or laboratory.  No one can produce a body after all this time.  But I simply cannot deny the resurrection of Jesus.

Why?

Despite the average Christian being an asshole, myself included, the church has survived in spite of itself.  In fact, as religious movements go, the early church should have died off within a generation.  To my knowledge, the early Christians were the only group of people I know of who got absolutely nothing for their troubles.  No wealth, fame or power.  Only torture and death.  Yet they believed in the impossible.  A man, their king, resurrected from the dead.  And they were willing to die for that belief.

The fact also remains, that despite me being a pain in the ass, I have seen over and over and over again the solid evidence in my own life, that this man/king has taken care of me even when/especially when, I really didn't deserve it.



I have my struggles...particularly when it comes to other American Christians.  I get very, very angry and frustrated.  But I haven't lost hope.  Mostly because my hope is NOT in other Christians.  My hope is in Christ.

Every day, I try to keep my faith
in the faithfulness of Christ.

I hope that's good enough.


Why?

Because he HAS risen.


Peace

Joe






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