Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Am Not Your Christian

For years I have struggled to vocalize the frustration of a common pattern among those who hear that I follow Jesus and His teachings. Many critics of my beliefs are either skeptics by birth or are former church-goers who had a falling-out with their spiritual community. It's with these second types of critics that I'm mostly concerned with, although several that fall into the first category have made an equally irritating claim that is similar which I will point out in a moment. As a follower of Jesus, it is true that I share similar beliefs with many people who make the claim to be "Christians", but at this juncture in the joint spiritual experience of seeking out the ethereal communion with God through His Son; it must be stipulated that there is massive amounts of division amongst the human-formed groups of individuals caused by disagreements over the ideas about various details which were either not hammered out in the Bible or were considered ambiguous by many and thus in turn interpreted in multiple ways. Centuries ago these disagreements were worth killing over, but now that bloodshed is out of style for most of these Christian groups, the more favorable debate-and-reject style of proverbial murder has become the contemporary mode of operation. Yes, there are some but few and far between who seek to reach across the void to other theological camps and pursue a common goal, but on the whole most groups stick to themselves and continue to bolster their own egos with their sense of superior ideology.

Basically, I'm conceding that while Christians preach a good message about unity in Christ and entering into the fold of Church, a universal physical and temporal-transcending entity made up of individuals who believe in a common creed; there is in fact much division which was created by people and to this day perpetuated by people. It is important to make this concession before going further because many will retort to my next claim with, "But aren't you all believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you not all one body of Christ?"

Critics of my faith claim to have adequate knowledge and understanding of my faith by pointing to their background in one denomination or another while adding anecdotal stories about some horrific childhood experience that signified the death of their hope in anything the Church had to offer them. This very claim is so aggravating to me because it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the corruption which runs rampant throughout the Christ-following community. The corruption I speak of is the gross mis-use of our intellect to separate and subjugate believers into one doctrine or another while excluding other doctrines or even considering allowing an inter-doctrinal community to exist. It is true that some denominations are capable of working for a short period of time with other denominations to share in the purpose of further fulfilling the Great Commission. The assumption by my critics is thus that I am just like their idea of Christians which they know from their childhood. Worse yet, they add to that all they've learned from the media about Christianity and assume that I'm some ultra-conservative Bible-thumping young man who votes Republican on every election that comes up.

"Haha, wait... So you're saying that you're not?"

That is indeed what I am saying. In fact, most people who were to judge me by first appearances would either say that I am a hippy or a hipster. I don't wear collared shirts, I have long hair, and I am more likely to be found on the street corner listening to the story of a homeless man than to be found sitting in a Bible study. While I have been raised in a fundamentalist church with conservative parents and taught a very rigid doctrine of theology (I've even taken my first two years of ministry training), I have gone on to do what evangelicals refer to as, "taking ownership of my faith". This process is when an individual who was raised in church decides to investigate their faith further and make a decision based on their own beliefs as opposed to simply choking down everything they've been taught their entire life. Many critics don't even know this is a process of each individual's spiritual journey in the Christian community, but that may be in part due to the fact that this taking ownership of one's faith-process is different in each denomination.

Others who have never really taken the journey of a Christ-follower may have done something else that gave them the [false] idea that they're knowledgeable and understanding of the complexities of my faith because they visited several different church buildings and had numerous discussions with members of different congregations. This is admirable, but it is foolish of said critics to think that they're diverse portfolio of conversations makes them an expert on MY faith. Have you put the pieces together yet? My faith is mine. There are many people who believe in very similar things as I do, but no one else believes exactly, detail for detail, as I do. When I respond to claims about Christianity in general, I try to separate my personal faith and commonly held beliefs by those whom I closely align myself with. I do this because my personal faith is useless to others who are seeking theological or philosophical answers regarding Christ.

In conclusion, I point out this Scripture which encapsulates the principle of taking ownership of one's own faith: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." - Philippians 2:12 (KJV).

For Jah,

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Promiscuous Purity

I never once thought that I would be writing this entry, an entry that is a complete slap in the face to all I once thought about sexual purity. I think back to my days in youth group and all the talks the young men would have, and I know without a doubt that my youth pastor and her husband had every good intention in teaching me what they did about purity. I know that most people who have had a part in shaping what I previously held true about purity had good intentions when they said what they said about purity. The fact is, I desire something more authentic than placations for the religiously-minded do-gooders and something more free than the bondage of Victorian-like chastity. I am in no way condoning fornication as the modern evangelical Christian understands it.

Folks, most of you who read this come from very conservative upbringings. Most of you have always known there was a proper context for sex, sexuality, and any affection shown towards the opposite gender with romantic connotations. The problem that I see in the approach most of us have been raised to take is the lie that our actions or inactions can prevent us from sin. I have struggled for years to reconcile how God-fearing men and women with such high moral fiber and integrity could fall prey to their lustful desires in the heat of the moment. Surely, this fire can be kept from starting ablaze? Surely, the Scripture is true when it says, "but God is faithful, who will not tempt you above what ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13)? Why then do so many fall? Because we, in of our own selves are so weak and double-minded that we are incapable of maintaining the standards of purity we set for ourselves. Secondly, because we unrealistically expect ourselves not to have the desire for intimacy until we get married, as if God suddenly switches on our intimacy and we are then imbued with such overwhelming passions. That is simply not how it works. We then are confronted with urges and impulses which we cannot reconcile with our knowledge of sexuality and purity. The only recourse a person with such an education has is to label these urges and impulses as sinful desires. Folks, at the risk of being accused of misinterpreting Scripture I remind you of Peter's visions of the animals which God told him to kill and eat. Peter resisted and called them unclean, which God promptly rebuked Peter for and said, "Do not call anything I have made unclean."

Brothers and sisters, I implore you to seek something more authentic than the old ways of purity. God did not create the mess that plagues our lives. We're the ones who take the mess and spread it around like stray dogs digging through the trash. The problem is that this mess is way too big for us to clean up ourselves, we cannot even contain it ourselves, but rather we need the redeeming blood of Christ to rectify and sanctify our souls. Oh, friends, do you not understand as I do that nothing we do of our own accord can break us from the ways of sin? Sex and sexuality is the not the problem! We are! We embrace sin like a dog returns to its vomit. If you burn yourself on the stove, do you blame the stove? Our only hope is to seek Christ whole-heartedly and look not to the left or the right; pressing on towards the prize with the tenacity of someone with nothing to lose, because we have everything to gain.

If it is not clear what this means, then please feel free to comment and inquire and I will do my best to elaborate on it further.

With love,

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A New Dawn Approaches

It seems like a long ways away now, but I know it will creep up on me sooner than later. In a couple months I will be turning 21 years of age. If you're curious why that would be a big deal, it's a big deal because unlike my more conservative comrades I have no problem with alcohol. The problem is that I see, both at work and with friends, what alcohol does to people and I wonder if I even want to risk being like that. I hate drunks so much that I refuse to recognize them as human beings. They are sub-human degenerates. Let me make this clear: there is nothing cute, funny, or great about being drunk. Followers of the Way should know that drinking to excess is a reprehensible action. God does not condemn alcohol, but there is a clear distinction between acceptable and unacceptable use of it.

Followers of Jesus, don't be deceived! You may see people who are drunk and think they're having a lot of fun, you may even enjoy the kind of personality someone embraces when they're drunk, but it is one massive misrepresentation. Every sin is pleasurable for a season, but understand that the greatest deception is that we think sin is going to burn us like touching a hot stove. Remember that a frog will jump out of boiling water, but if you put it in room temperature water and slowly turn the heat up incrementally the frog will sit in the water and be boiled to death. We are like that frog, some sin that we do causes us to recognize what it is and run from it, but the sin that Satan lures us with is the stuff that boils us slowly. Brothers and sisters, understand that I'm not trying to judge anyone, as I consider myself the chief among unworthy of the Lord's grace, but not only have we been severed from our heritage of death and adopted into the Family of God; we have been given a new lifestyle and a new purpose for our lives. We cannot fulfill that purpose if our minds are in a fog of substances.

I have never had a problem with alcohol, despite my parents' stern messages of the evils of alcohol. My parents don't enjoy alcohol and that's to their benefit. For me, I have tried and enjoyed a small assortment of alcoholic beverages which I have no qualms about drinking. Thing is, I question what the impact will be if I begin drinking when I become of age. Will other followers of the Way discover it and begin to drink without consideration for the limitations? I feel as though I have already misled some of my friends into thinking that because I do not have issues with alcohol itself that I also have little to no problem with drunkenness. I don't know why it is so hard for so many to understand the difference between having a few drinks and getting drunk or why getting drunk is never okay under our New Identity. I accept that people who are not accustomed to drinking can accidentally drink too much and become drunk, but accidental drunkenness does not make it okay. We don't have to gather the town and stone the person to death, but we shouldn't relish the thought of them having drunk to excess.

There are so many questions and so few answers, but if I must I will simply not drink. That is the easiest and simplest way to avoid all the trouble that arises from exercising this small freedom we have been afforded because of Christ.

Thoughts? Feel free to comment here.