"Are we witnessing the death of Christianity in America?" Has it become its own "evil empire?"
My answer to this question would be both "yes" and "no." That the Jedi warriors of its faith must now arise to contend for the faith of Christ first given His church through His disciples and Apostles of the New Testament.
In its dark empire form, the cruciform faith of Jesus followers will not be tolerated. The first kind of faith leads out with self-righteous Christian biblicism while the second kind of faith seeks Jesus-identification through sacrificial servanthood and crucifixion.
From a historic viewpoint, Christianity's dark empire form will win out politically even as it dies to itself spiritually. This has been true throughout the Christian ages of Western civilization even as the people of God refusing the "mark of the beast" may expect push back in various forms of "biblical" denunciations who wish to strive for humanity's solidarity and not its division.
The Jesus way is unity.
The way of sin is disunity and division.
If you chose to misunderstand and misrepresent your neighbour than you have chosen the way of darkness and death.
God's way is one of salvation, restraint, tolerance, uncertainty, and doubt of one's beliefs in life.
To imagine any other future is to legislate individual freedoms and liberties for an imagined freedom under the political banners of fear and protectionism that is bondage and death.
December 8, 2015
To Serve and Not To Enforce
A day or two ago I published an article on The Call of Jesus and the Spirit to the Church to Repent and Reform in which I expanded my thoughts through the Tale of Two Scriptures, the Tale of Two Churches, of Christian Messaging, and a Gospel that is both Old and New. If you have not read this article than I would suggest you do.
Basically it speaks to the NONES and the DONES of the Christian faith and why they have a serious conflict with Christian beliefs and its resultant practices. That orthodoxy without orthopraxy is dead. That faith without works is a lie. That the true church of Jesus Christ not only follows but serves. And radically so.
This has been explained in numerous ways over the years using emerging/emergent Christianity as an example, or by describing a postmodern post-Christian faith as a lead-out for Millennial generations blossoming globally around the world. But in whatever way it has been described it has been highly critical of the conservative American church in its dogmatic doctrines, religious folklores, and un-Jesus-like self-serving practices of judgment and condemnation to all other beliefs unlike itself.
We are basically witnessing a religious war come to the shores of America
where it once tolerated various expressions of faith but now wishes to
reverse its Constitutional commitments. - r.e. slater, 12.7.15
American Christianity is being split in two. One part of it wishes to follow a hard line conservative view of Christian biblicism (sic, actions based upon a literal reading of the bible including its violence and exclusion from its lands of "God's enemies") while the other side wishes to follow the Jesus-way of the bible freed from the political rancor and rhetoric of American exceptionalism, manifest destiny, fear, and protectionism.
Recent examples of these Americanized Christian policies would be the gross discrimination, oppression, and genocide of native American Indian cultures, religious and black slavery (which includes white slavery in early colonial America known as indentured service to pay off debts), and "defensive-industrial" war upon non-Christian religious groups being waged against the Muslim cultures of the Middle East.
The Odd Partnership of Church and State
Another way to view this split in Christianity is its view of "the separation of church and state." The first kind of Christianity wishes to integrate both into a religious church/state in order to enforce its interpretation of the bible (a kind of religious fascism or police state, if you will). The other kind of view is that of our earliest Constitutional forebearers who foresaw the wisdom in keeping each institution of church and state separate-and-apart from one another so as to allow maximal constitutional freedoms to individual rights. Rights that would grant freedom of worship and religious expression of community according to one's prerogatives rather than according to its enforcement by law.
This latter form of religious liberties would also describe Christianity's more progressive face seeking to align itself with early America's Constitutional liberties built upon the "liberal" freedoms of life, liberty, and justice. To deny these liberalities would be to move away from it along a path of exclusionary freedoms, rights, and justice.
Though today's religious/conservative right would disagree with this view, history bears them out as being the least tolerant form of faith, or kind of government (as referent, recall religious European inquisitions of dominant groups presaging their religious views over less powerful religious and secular minorities).
This was why Christian minorities fled overseas from more powerful Catholic or Protestant forms of Continental government. They fled seeking freedom of religion and expression of their non-standardized forms of Christian faith.
Ironically, those "non-standardized expressions" have today become their own standardized mores demanding public allegiance. And thus, we have come full circle from politically oppressed to political oppressor in America.
Biblicism is a False Choice
The bottom line is that today's more popular forms of biblicism have confused a Jesus faith with an admixture of enforced societal outcome. Hence, do you surreptitiously chose "the bible" over "Jesus" or "Jesus' over "the bible"? A false choice if ever there was one! But for these groups, to chose "the bible" is to remain convinced of the rightness of your Christian views of the bible. But for progressive Christians, to chose "Jesus" is to be less sure of your dogmas but more sure of your commitment to love, serve, and reach out to all people and not to just some people whom you prefer over others. In other words, a liberal Christianity is concerned with the just rule of government and not its unjust rule or application.
Therefore, to be a progressive Christian is to take the best of Christian legacies and to expand them outwardly to include and accept formerly banished people groups such as minorities of color or poverty, women, the gay community, world religions, and disbelievers such as atheists and agnostics. A politically conservative Christian faith pushes back against this enlarging effort by demanding a specific doctrinal viewpoint as a prerequisite to God's love. That is, to be fully loved by God you have to be or do something in order for God's love to come to you. However, a Jesus-based faith will embrace all people without exception in a renewal of solidarity to humanity without losing the center of its faith and author, Jesus. More plainly, God fully loves you know now as you are, without the need for you to do anything more to receive His love and forgiveness. This kind of a Christian faith is more robust, more confidant in God, and more willing to admit uncertainty or doubt about its dogmas. It leads out with:
- God's love vs. God's judgment
- God's presence with us vs. His distance from us
- God's earthly rule vs. His heavenly rule
- God's mercy vs. His pitiless indifference
- God's compassion vs. His holy ire
This does not discount the need for repentance from sin and confession of Jesus as God's way of salvation into fellowship not only with Himself, but with ourselves, and each other, and even this broken planet with live upon. But it also enlarges the idea of God as more bountiful, more good, more present in our lives. Lives which need a Spirit-revolution of breakage and re-make from the sins and oppressions and injustices we have brought upon ourselves and to others around us. Jesus' kingdom then is a kingdom of love, service, peace and understanding.
A Jesus Kingdom of Love, Service, Peace and Understanding
A radical Christianity will move a progressive Christianity even further left
to a completely level field spiritually, epistemologically, existentially, and even
hermeneutically where all religious and societal barriers are physically removed
in the cruciform presence of God's person, will, experience, and mission.
- r.e. slater, 12.7.15
Jesus' kingdom is a picture then of a divine kingdom that is trans-national, trans-geographical, trans-cultural. It embraces all people and not some people. It unites all genders, all races, all ethnicities by removing all societal barriers to this encumbrance. It honors the God who made humanity and granted humanity to be in His holy likeness and image. A Triune fellowship (or partnership) wishing to expand its fellowship to all mankind. A mankind mangled by sin, and without empowerment, without the binding engine of Jesus' Cross to make the supreme sacrifice of solidarity between God and man.
Thus my concern, along with many others who are expressing this same concern, that American Christianity must die to itself in order to find God's resurrected power of fellowship with one another. In summary, religious police states are never good for minorities and the politically oppressed. Its expression of power always yields to the more powerful over the rights of the least powerful. Motivators such as fear and protectionism are replete with historical examples. This is not the way of Jesus. It is the way of sinful man, whether he be a Christian man or pagan.
December 7, 2015
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|Jerry Farwell Jr, President of Liberty University | Image screenshot courtesy CNN via YouTube|
ARE WE FINALLY WITNESSING THE DEATH OF CHRISTIANITY IN AMERICA?
by Zack Hunt
December 7th, 2015
Several months ago a Pew Research study sparked what almost seem like shouts of glee from those who were eager to declare the impending death of Christianity in America.
According to the report, Millennials are leaving the Church in droves and, the theory went, if the next generation isn’t there to fill the pews, the future of the Church in America is bleak.
Which makes sense.
Not surprisingly, many Church leaders were quick to denounce such ominous conclusions as nothing but Chicken Little nonsense or at worst, they argued, the report more or less revealed an important separating of the wheat (real Christians) from the chaff (nominal Christians).
The future of the Church, we were told, is safe and secure.
To a certain extent I did and still do agree with those who cautioned that the death of the Church is not quite as near as the Pew Study might lead us to believe. Although I think some of the deflection amounted to No True Scotsman arguments, declining numbers don’t necessarily equate to death. Though, they should certainly cause the Church to pause and ask some serious questions about itself and its future.
After the initial shock wore off, I couldn’t help but think back on that debate when I heard about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s words to the students of Liberty University at the close of a recent chapel service. After revealing he was carrying a gun in his back pocket, Falwell declared, “I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them.”
Falwell then encouraged his students to get their own concealed carry permit (via a free school-sponsored course) so that together they could “teach [those Muslims] a lesson if they ever show up here.”
His words were met with rapturous support by the student body.
As I sat in stunned silence, my inner Star Wars nerd couldn’t help but channel the words of Padmé Amidala:
So this is how Christianity dies…with thunderous applause.
For a while now, declining Church attendance, the rise of the nones, and an increasingly secular society have all seemed like the biggest threats to the future of Christianity in America.
But that is not where the existential danger comes from.
The future of Christianity in this country isn’t threatened by shifting demographics.
The Christian faith in America is on life support because far too many of us have simply stopped living like Jesus.
Christianity is facing an existential crisis in America not because our pews aren’t quite as packed as they used to be, but because — through an embrace of violence, hatred towards Muslims, callous rejection of refugees, demonization of the LGBT community, and a whole host of starkly anti-Christian actions — we’ve allowed the gospel of Jesus to be supplanted with sanctified and extreme right wing politics.
It’s no secret that American Christianity has been hijacked by the political right since at least the days of the Moral Majority. But in recent months and years we’ve witnessed a full-frontal assault on the particular and peculiar values that define the Christian life.
- The way of Jesus is a way of peace and a sometimes unfathomable commitment to nonviolence, but American preachers can now carry an instrument of death into a space dedicated to the proclamation of life and be met with boisterous applause.
- The way of Jesus is one of radical inclusion where new paths are blazed to welcome in those shunned by dogma and religious authority, but the identity of Christianity in America has become all but synonymous with the list of those who aren’t truly welcomed within our doors.
- The way of Jesus demands we care for the sick as if we were caring for Christ himself, but we’ve gone out of our way to try to deny healthcare to anyone we’ve decided hasn’t earned it.
- The way of Jesus finds good even in those of other faiths, but we’ve made hating and ostracizing Muslims one of our top priorities.
- The way of Jesus places caring for the stranger at the center of salvation itself, but in our fear we’ve closed our hearts and our borders to immigrants and refugees in need, leaving them to drown in the open sea, wither in the desert, and fall victim to unspeakable evil in their homeland.
There are manifold explanations for how we got here, but at its root, authentic Christianity is being eradicated in America because the way of Jesus has been replaced by a list of ideas which, once agreed to, apparently "liberate us" from actually living like Jesus.
We say we believe in the Bible and God and that Jesus rose from the dead, but once we claim our certificate of orthodoxy we seem to think we’ve been freed from the obligations of grace, from the cost of discipleship, from the way of Jesus that is defined not simply by the ideas in our head but the actions of our lives.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead. — James 2:14-26
The way of Jesus is not simply a sales pitch meant to convince us to agree to a list of doctrines in order to avoid hell.
It’s a call to a particular and peculiar way of life.
We can believe all the “right” things, but orthodoxy does not emancipate us from orthopraxy. Rather, it demands we live out the radical, revolutionary, and world changing faith we’ve embraced.
Sadly, we live in a strange place and time where it seems that publicly assenting to the right dogma is some sort of sanctified Get Out Of Living Like Jesus Card™. This is why Jerry Falwell Jr. can carry a gun into sacred space and call for the death of his enemies even though Jesus unequivocally declared “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also,” and “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Despite the glaring incongruity, Falwell’s students can applaud and his admirers defend his pseudo-righteous call to “self-defense” because because he’s already confessed his assent to the core list of right ideas. Anything he says or does beyond that is of marginal consequence — even if it directly contracts the life and teaching of Jesus.
This is the sad, cheap state of Christianity in America.
It’s Christianity without discipleship, Christianity without the cross, Christianity without Jesus Christ living and incarnate.
It no longer matters if we actually live like Jesus, so long as we agree that Christian dogma is true.
Thankfully, Christianity will almost certainly never completely die off in America (and is no doubt thriving in unexpected and isolated pockets of our country), but Christianity as a particular and peculiar way of life directly reflective of Jesus of Nazareth sure seems to be on life support.
And unless more Christians are willing to speak out and denounce the demonic theology being proclaimed in the name of Jesus, we might as well go ahead and pull the plug.
Because regardless of shifting demographics, without authentic discipleship, the future of Christianity in America looks hopeless.
An Open Letter to Jerry Falwell Jr.,
Students, and Faculty of Liberty University
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|"Weaving Peace," by Michele Miller-Hansen: "Thoughts about nature and humanity and the|
delicate balance of our world" - https://www.artprize.org/michele-millerhan…/2014/weave-peace.
"Authentic Christianity is the loving, peaceful, just, and generous way of life embodied in Jesus.
It is characterized more by self-giving than self-defense, by pre-emptive peacemaking rather
than pre-emptive violence." - Deborah Arca
An Open Letter to Jerry Falwell Jr.,
Students, and Faculty of Liberty University
by Deborah Arca
December 9, 2015
Dear Mr. Falwell,
In the tradition of your father, you made some reckless and inflammatory statements to your students the other day.
Just as I appreciate it when peace-loving Muslims, Hindus and others repudiate hostile and reckless statements made by prominent members of their religions, I feel impelled by conscience to repudiate your words as not being representative of authentic Christianity as I, and thousands like me, understand it.
For us, authentic Christianity is the loving, peaceful, just and generous way of life embodied in Jesus. It is characterized more by self-giving than self-defense, by pre-emptive peacemaking rather than pre-emptive violence.
Your message faithfully represents a longstanding (and ugly) stream of American culture and politics. This tradition goes back to those who argued against the equal human rights and dignity of the Native Peoples and African-American slaves, often abusing the Bible to justify white supremacy under its various guises.
It was also manifest in the Protestant prejudice against Catholic immigrants, in centuries of morally repugnant anti-Semitism, and in the unethical treatment of the Japanese during World War II. During the McCarthy era, it launched witch hunts using “red” and “Communist” as its epithets.
In this ugly American tradition, your father used antipathy towards gay people to rally his base, and now, you are doing the same with Muslims. You are being deeply faithful to a tradition that is deeply unfaithful to the life and teaching of Jesus… not to mention the broader American ideal that upholds the dignity and equality of all people, whatever their religion.
My friend Shane Claiborne speaks for many of us when he says, “It’s hard to imagine Jesus enrolling for the concealed weapons class at Liberty University. And it is even harder imagining Jesus approving of the words of Mr. Falwell as he openly threatens Muslims.”
I don’t doubt that your conscious intentions were simply to protect your students from a terrorist attack. But it’s the unintended consequences of your words that concern me most. I doubt many, if any, violent Islamist Fundamentalist extremists woke up one day and decided to become hateful, cowardly, immoral murderers. Instead, they were led down that path by degrees, and those who radicalized them convinced them that they were becoming purer, more faithful, and more orthodox believers in the process.
Your reckless words can easily render your students vulnerable to more extremist influences (perhaps including some who are running for president), and the result could be catastrophic. You could spiritually form a generation of people who think of themselves as “Champions for Christ” but who actually become a mirror image of the violent religious warriors you fear and reject, different in degree, perhaps, but not in kind.
According to a Washington Post story, you later said that when you referred to “those Muslims,” you were referring not to Muslims in general but to Islamic terrorists. OK. But I hope you realize that your audience in that convocation applauded, not your intent as later explained, but your actual unqualified words. And you approved of their approval. That is scary. That is ugly. That is wrong.
How would you feel if you saw the president, faculty, and students in a radicalized Muslim university somewhere applauding and laughing about killing Christians and “teaching them a lesson?” Do you see how you are helping your students become the mirror image of such a scene? And do you see, apart from any issue of moral conscience, the way that those reckless words could be used by ISIS and other such groups to stir up their apocalyptic us-versus-them fervor? The Bible we both revere has a lot to say about the danger of unwise words… how much more important in an age of Youtube.
Can you imagine how much more beautiful it would have been if you told the students that you were going to offer free classes in nonviolent conflict transformation — the kind that is taught not far from you at another Christian university that has a very different understanding of Christian character and discipleship?
Perhaps you owe it to your students to invite some Muslims to campus to explain to you, your faculty, and your students the damage done by your words. Maybe it would be a good time to invite some Christians who are risking their lives as peacemakers to come to your campus as well.
I hope your words will inspire millions of us to respond, not with the applause and laughter displayed by your students and faculty, but with unequivocal repudiation — and a commitment to embody a different kind of Christianity than the one you purveyed in your recent comments.
Just as there are many ways to be Muslim, some more and some less peaceful, there are many ways to be Christian. May more of us seek and find those more peaceful ways.
In a positive response to your negative words, I hope that this week, millions of Christians and other Americans will speak in neighborly kindness to their Muslim neighbors (along with their Sikh and Hindu neighbors, who at Oak Creek and elsewhere have suffered so much harm from Islamophobic violence). I hope they will repudiate the flippancy of your comments about taking human life, and instead, I hope they will speak of solidarity, mutual respect, and hospitality across religious lines.
And I pray that someday, students and faculty at Liberty University will look back on your comments, and their applause and laughter, with deep regret and a deep commitment to live more in the way of Jesus.
|International Peace Day in NYC | September 21, 2015|