He didn’t just say what I think he did? Did he?

I am facing down the barrell of a conundrum. I have at my fingertips the power of ideas and I am being beset by the strength of structure. I have come to grips with a new war waging, the battle between personal spirituality and personal responsibility. If something does not give I will.

I am finding an ironic situation (mindset actually) within the mainstream teachings of Christianity and it is this focus…what’s so great about personal spirituality? The church teaches that God has made a situation where we are responsible for one thing, our personal walk with Him. That’s groovy and all but call me an atheist if this the whole kit n kaboodle. I am being told that my faith is only to serve myself, to make myself a better person, to change my situation in life, to help alleviate my tensions, etc. All I have to do is serve God and basically He will serve me. From this comes the garbage the of church rhetoric about being blessed (singularily mind you) with goods, homes, cars, a great lifestyle, succeeding at everything I do. So? What does that do for anyone but myself?

Oh I get it go and share this good news with others about how good they can have it if they follow Jesus, mind you ‘in words alone’. They can have all the good things I have of they correctly obey God. I really don’t have to do jack squat as long as I TELL YOU about this faith and if you reject it, go to hell. Again the honus is upon myself and how great my words flow out and if I am convincing enough you will believe God (and me)…ironic thing is whether you do or not I am still feeling like ‘all is well, look at my walk with God…it’s so damn good I have to wear shades when I get to those pearly gates’. Is this faith in Christ? Is this faith in myself? What is really going on here with our attitude of ‘self-serving with a purpose’?

If that is my faith, can some good fundamental Christian just shoot me now. I am going to break your every law. I am going to challenge your every basic teaching. I am going to tear down the church structure and replace it with integrity. I am going to be hated by these ‘self-righteous’ saints and for good cause, I don’t dance when they say dance, I don’t pray when they say pray, I don’t put on the show when they say they are doing one. Like I said, shoot me now you fundie Pharisee’s before I do enough damage that it isn’t irreversible.

I ask for a faith that has some personal responsibility and that’s it. But nooooooooo, this is too damn difficult. All I am saying is I read the word (the bible) they teach from and I saw a faith where helping others takes mass priority over making myself ‘feel good’. I see helping the people that need it as a top priority but the church has some loophole where they can say ‘but our good works will appear as if we are earning our way to heaven’…don’t worry about that since you don’t do nothing for nobody so I don’t think people will ever think that. I see Jesus (who the Christians call God) who lives a life of helping people in so many ways I could write 4 more gospels about it, but here a few examples: heals the leper, destroys racism, accepts everyone, has no class system, heals the blind, causes the lame to walk, cures a demoniac, etc. Now if we want to be like Christ, then shouldn’t we actually believe what we are saying?

I am asking one thing: personal responsibility (which is too much to ask the self-righteous) in what you believe and in who you follow. We teach that God is love and the we should love our neighbor (even have a parable describing our neighbor) but we live like that’s a lie. We do nothing to either prove or show God is love to the people that need it, and who needs it, people who are troubled (depressed, sick, in prison, the poor, abused, etc). Why the hell would anyone care about a God of love or a faith built upon love if it doesn’t do jack squat? How does it help me to know this if I can’t recieve it from you? Oh but God will call them to the faith, they are still waiting and guess what…no call. I guess the phone is off the hook.

If you believe a single word you are saying about Jesus then live by it, plain and simple. If you see the people in need and do nothing but ‘pray’ for them, don’t call yourself a Christian, call yourself a pray-er. If you have the opportunity to help people in need but ignore it, don’t call yourself a Christian, call your self ignorant. If someone asks you for tanglible help and you send them away empty-handed, don’t call yourself a Christian, call yourself selfish. If someone comes to you and needs something and you tell them go to church first, don’t call yourself a Christian but call yourself Biased. Get the picture. If we live like Christ we do like Christ, if not then we are not like Christ. Sorry, I can’t make it seem manipulative.

So the moral of the story is simple, live what you believe and teach and don’t think because you share some words with other people that’s living your faith – it’s not. If you want to earn the moniker of a Christian then live like Christ. If you want selfish faith, cool but don’t cut one and tell me you just planted flowers. The faith I read is not one of selfishness, it’s far from that but I am hard pressed to convince any Christian to get out their comfort zone, how sad. It’s fairly easy to get diluted when all you do is drink what you regurgitate.

Personal Responsibility: 2 Acts

I was discussing with a friend today about some of the problems within mainstream church, or at least some of the problems we ran into. I also had a friend approach me today and tell me he converted to Islam while in jail, interesting. These 2 events threw me into a conundrum and I felt I needed to address an issue I see within the church that gets little press: personal responsibility.

I see personal responsibility as a huge issue that is under-addressed in the church. What exactly gets skipped over, well here is the process. The process of repentance means that as a person that serves God we will ask forgiveness of God (and we get it). What seems to be overlooked a lot of times is that person’s responsibility to the person they wronged. Why is the process of forgiveness ‘cut-short? We don’t address the issues of human to human, main focus is human and God.

1st Shortcoming: Person to Person

The church has a way of focusing on what they deem as ‘spirituality’ and that usually means anything about you and your relationship with God (ex: repentance, prayer, worship, etc). They miss a focus on person to person, namely in responsiblity. I think it’s grand that God forgives me but does my brother or sister forgive me? Are we helping people that have been wronged or wronged others to fix those problems? Is the church really that interested in personal responsibility? Here is my example.

Someone I know had an affair with another person in the church. The problem was presented to the pastor and church board and they decided to ex-communicate the girl. The guy just had to confess his wrong doings and that he admitted to. The girl did not do that, for what reason I am not sure so she was gonzo. I really felt the church glazed over what responsibility was in that situation for both parties. They never as so much as told the two of them to work this problem out amongst themselves or offered mediation. What happened is that girl never came back and that guy stayed…only to have the same situation occur again years later…again the situation unfolded the same way (this time with spouses and children involved). It really sucks that in both situations no help was really offered to give a chance for healing. The guy knew he was wrong but nothing was in place for both sides to deal with the scenario’s unfolding.

My problem with the scenario is no one really cared enough to give both sides the due attention they deserved to ‘deal’ with the problems they found themselves in. This could be due to the fact no one cared about person to person responsibility, as long as they found themselves alright with God then all was good. But all is not good. No one has ever accepted that ex-communicated girl back into the grace of God (she must think God is against her). The couple that left after the 2nd affair never had their problems, anger, jealousies, hurts, and whatever else dealt with. To be honest, these people involved can’t be in the same room together lest something dumb should happen. All I am asking is where was the church leadership and support from the church? It was not existent since they weren’t concerned with solving problems, just each person repenting to God and getting that right…they left out their responsibility to others. I know solving the problem will be rough but it’s a worthy endeavor nonetheless. Can’t have people hating each other forever.

I guess I want to see forgiveness/redemption/unity be a bigger event, something we do one with another also. We should also be placing some focus on what we do ‘one to another’, so as to teach youth and adults how to deal with problems they will face. I know we will do wrongs to each other but the key is ‘taking responsibility’ for our mistakes – to each other and not just to God. This would also teach people there are consequences to actions that we have to both bare and try to make right (that’s repentance). Not saying we will succeed in making things right but it’s worth a try; but that also needs to support of the community around them (the church – in a healing mode and not a gossip/judging mode). We need to place focus on personal responsibility more often in the churches any of us attend, if not for us at least to teach younger people this religion is not as irresponsible as some make it to seem.

2nd Short-coming: Responsibility in what we teach others

The church is filled with hypocrites and this is getting more obvious each year. All hypocrisy is is teaching people a value while you don’t live by it (quite common). If you tell people to not smoke or drink and you do both then don’t teach it (simple). There is also a problem with some of the other ethics the church teaches, I call them ‘lofty ideals’. If people are being taught God cares about everyone then shouldn’t we live that as if that is true? The church teaches things that are troublesome, at least to me. An example.

My friend is a muslim now and I grew up with the dude, I knew some aspects of his tough life…I had been there too. His mother and family attended church with me for years and they were rather devout (I guess). The family shared with my friend about church, in words more or less. He would be in out of prison but it seemed there was no due attention paid to his situation, or bettering that situation…he got words and words should suffice. Now he is a muslim, why? They gave him the due attention and structure he required…they gave him something bigger then words…action. Can’t say I blame him for the decision, at least he’s bettering his life. The problem really lies in what he was taught (and saw) from his family to what he saw (and was taught) in prison…basically someone went out of their way for my friend. I am happy for him and if you knew him you would be too. But where was the church in his time of need? He told me straight out they visited the prisons he was in but they came up indecisive and gave nothing (unless he needed a bible or prayer).

In the end we shrugged off our responsibility for what we teach. We teach a God that loves everyone and forgives everyone. We have a parable that mentions visiting the prisons (obviously to help in any way we can). We know the ‘Good Samaritan’ parable. We teach love God and love our neighbor as the 2 great commandments. Great ideals but some are so vague that we do nothing instead of something for others (ex: love your neighbor? How? Visit a prison? To give out a tract or a bible?). Where the hell is ‘us’ in those teachings? Spout them all you want but if you can’t live by what you believe or tell others, believe this…don’t say jack-sh*t, if only to save your breath.

That’s the big problem I see right now, where are ‘we’ in those scriptures? What is our role? How should we behave one to another? How can we take responsiblity for what we do and what we teach? I like the fact God loves me and forgives me, I find that such a ‘lofty’ idea. But if that can’t translate into the ‘real world’ with the people in our communities, then why teach it? What’s the use of knowing a God loves/forgives me if I can’t be loved/forgiven by others? It’s utterly useless. All I am asking is we need to check ourselves, are we being responsible in dealing with problems and in what we tell others? If so, we need to re-examine our focus and start looking at spiritualty as more horizontal and less vertical. Guess I just want some (a) structure and (b) honesty, and (c) reality.

What Exactly Do I Believe?

What do I believe? I have been giving this some thought over the past several months and after hearing points of views from various strands of the faith…I have decided to come clean on it. Sad to say, I am not supporting either conservative or extreme left-wing lines. I am somewhere in the middle.

I believe Jesus’ basis for His teachings were laid out in the beatitudes. All of His teachings flow from that stradasphere. It’s seems to lay down an index on the rest of the things taught by Him. I don’t find places where Jesus goes against those 9 points in the gospels. I find tonnes of places where that index seems to be re-itterated again and again. Top that off, the teachings in the sermon on the mount seem to lay down every ethics afterwards and is ended with the parable about the foundation of these teachings (the rock and the sand). So in Matthew 5 through 7 you get an index, followed by some core teachings, and an ending. The rest of the teachings of Christ flow from these ideals (framed by the beatitudes) and end with saying ‘these teachings are a paradigm’.

I give full support to the gospel writer’s and the early community for saving these writings. I believe they do not contradict one another but preserve the teachings of Christ quite uniformly. I am not saying they are ‘without errors’ (these are humans we speak of) but that the message does not change book to book. The letters I place on a secondary level since they are just that, letters. They are written to certain communities and people about issues of the day. They are good for teachings but if they run contrary to the teachings of Christ then I have to choose Jesus’ words as a priority. I am not sure if they run contrary but if they do then we have to claim Jesus first and the letters for what they are. Simple, I know.

The OT is the history of Israel and the story of how God worked through them in times past. We can go from Adam, to Abe-Isaas-Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the Exodus, the Kings, the Judges, King David, the Prophets, etc. It’s all quite well an explanation of the times and how God saved a community but that all changed with Jesus. Now all people of all communities are accepted into the same line as the OT through Jesus. Jesus was the fulfillement of messianic prophecy (Matt 5:17-20) and to boot the ‘Son of God’. This is backed up by the claims within the gospels . If he was not the Messiah (or the ‘son of God’) I may see a need to become a Jewish proselyte, as it is, that’s not what the disciples claim about Jesus. Even Jesus claims people from all over will sit at the table of ‘Abe-Isaac-Jacob’ and see’s a need for all people’s to join this lineage, which is absolutely accepting through Himself. So the OT is grand with great teachings but as the disciples used it so do I, to prove Jesus was who He said He was, and on that I the gospels even rest.

I do not agree scritpural integrity can be kept by slicing up scripture to make an ideology, this is ludacris. If you take a scritpure from anywhere then it comes from within a context and that has to be respected. So if I take one scripture from Matthew, another from Revelations, and yet another from Hebrews this does not make a cohesive argument or maintain scriptural integrity. It is disrespectful to the original writers and can result in pure BS. If you wanna quote a passage from one book then do so but don’t string together a bunch of scriptures from all over the bible and say the bible was ‘meant to say this’. It doesn’t work and more often than not ‘misquotes’ these writers. So if you interpret a passage in Hebrews it should line up with the idea in the rest of Hebrews (nothing more).

I base all my beliefs on Jesus’ teachings, to say the least. If Jesus teaches to love one another and love God and those are the only 2 commandments at all you can be assured I agree. If Jesus teaches about the prodigal son and accepting that person who ‘left’ back into the family, you can bet I agree. If Jesus reams on the Pharisee’s for their strict interpretation of the OT and how they enacted law on the people around them, then challenges their basis…yes I will agree. I will not only agree I will develop such a fervant love for the ideals as to follow them and not betray their sincerity. I don’t see a single thing in Jesus’ teachings that are to the detriment of humanity but only for the support of humanity. Anyone teaching that Jesus supports any ideal that destroys human betterment has (a) read the gospels in a warped doctrinal light, or (b) never took the time to actually read those gospels for themselves.

Lastly, the idea of salvation is based in the ideals you live by. Jesus died & resurrected for all and everyone is free to follow or live contrary to His teachings. The disciples make it clear that you can choose to ‘believe’ or ‘not believe’ these teachings. By believe I actually mean live them out, not just lip-service to the faith. It is not ‘salvation by action’ but ‘salvation will not go without the action’. That is to say, as Christ acted in such manner to take Him to the cross for humanity then so should we act for those around us (in this we show we actually grasp the grace and love of God for everyone and WWJD). I term this ‘total salvation’ for lack of a better term. It means everything Jesus taught led Him to that cross, and that was based in love. So, God is love but so should we be.

I know most people will dis-agree with some of the premise I lay down but it is quite sound. Have I figured it out, no. Do I care? No. Who will ever have all the answers to life questions and dilemma’s but I know what I can do. The Beatitudes. They say 9 simple things: care for the poor, mourn (have compassion), have a meek attitude (opposite of pride), thirst for truth/answers in tough situations, show mercy, strive for pure-ness in things I do (not for the building of ego), become a peace-maker, and act in righteousness (doing the right thing) in face of non-acceptance. Those ideals took Jesus to the cross and demonstrated a full love for people, who although were altogether deemed undeserving of it, still got it. Now what do you have to give?