Why I’m not a Christian.

I’m not a Christian because

of what I believe about gay marriage, what I believe about predestination and election, whether I believe in evolution, whether I think Adam and Eve actually lived, I hate most worship music, what I believe about the end of the world, I said a Sinners prayer, I believe or don’t believe in an eternal pit of fire when you die, whether I identify as a Evangelical or not, what denomination I belong to, the average number of times I witness to someone a week, I smoke, I drink, I read the ESV, I go to 20 Christian conferences a year, I can’t stop looking at porn, I have a degree in theology, I think Rob Bell brings God to life for me, I think he’s a false teacher or I know the Christian lingo.

I’m a Christian because I believe that Jesus is up to something on Earth right now, today in the midst of all the beauty and ugliness. At work to bring Peace and Grace and love and fullness of life to everyone.

And I want you and I to be a part of that together.

I’m a Christian because of this, not that.

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Removing support for World Vision: WWJD

As the news filtered through my twitter feed last night that World Vision, a Christian charity organization had decided to allow the hiring of gay people, my heart sunk. My heart sunk because it soon became clear from some of the tweets I read that there were many who lamented the decision but mostly because there were others who were considering the removal of support, financially and otherwise to World Vision.

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Why the DUP are today’s Pharisee’s.

The recent banning of the Reduced Shakespeare Play of the Abridged version of the Bible is more than just about censorship. It is more than just about a political party exerting control over the arts and much more to do with fear.

The fear of some Fundamental Evangelical Christians that their rights as Christians are being torn apart. The fear of their version of Christianity being slowly eroded which would leave them in a position of vulnerability. The fear that Christianity will come tumbling down because of a play.

There is no danger of that happening though, even if the play had gone ahead. Thousands of years of Christianity with a history not altogether honorable or righteous has still not caused it to end or for God to die.

It’s a fear that is not really justified but will probably still remain.

This weeks actions of some Fundamental Christians in the DUP has shown that Northern Ireland has now got it’s own version of the Pharisees that Jesus lived among, right on its very doorstep. Just like the Pharisees the DUP acts on fear and as we all know acting out of fear can cause a great deal of damage and pain.

There are several ways in which the DUP are the new Pharisees.

When Jesus arrived on the scene the Pharisees had a nice system of religion going and when Jesus came and spread a message almost contradicting everything they stood for they became fearful that He would bring down their whole system that had worked for thousands of years. In similar fashion when someone comes along, in this case a play about the Bible that seems to poke fun at your ideas of religion then you are going to want to protect your religion and stop those views being expressed.

There is a fear that runs through the DUP and much Protestantism in NI that still views Sinn Fein as the enemy. Like the Pharisees having to deal with the Roman Empire, The DUP live in constant fear that Sinn Fein will eventually take over. This fear permeates into everything else in their lives including religion or at least their version of religion.

Religion has been used ever since day one to control and exert on pressure on people to fall in line.

However, Jesus didn’t come to set up a new political party or system. In fact he came to quash fear and to bring freedom from worry. From the fear of being overridden by our enemies. The DUP seem to overlook this important aspect of Jesus’ mission and in doing so are more like their enemies (or at least how they used to be) than they think. The power that Jesus came to install in his followers was one where commonly understood weaknesses such as grace, vulnerability and compassion were the real strengths. The fear that ran through the Pharisees is the same fear that runs through fundamentalism today.

But fundamentalism also fears difference. A play that speaks truth in a way that is foreign to the DUP’s version of Christianity brings fear. A fear of the unknown. For the Pharisees unless everyone fit neatly into their idea of religion and God then they were wrong. The same is true for the DUP counsellors involved in the objection to the play.

It is this idea of faith and Christianity that is damaging because to the DUP unless you disagree with same sex marriage, believe in a literal 6 days creation account, believe in a real physical Hell or feel the need to protect everyone from a harmless and inoffensive play, then you are not a real Christian.

You are on the outside and everything outside is deemed a threat. Legalism takes the place of Grace.

But real faith is much bigger than that and the Church is a beautiful blend and make up of every type of people. Rather than seeing this as a threat as the DUP does it is actually the church’s strength. Which is more appealing? A God that needs you to fit into tight theological square holes which is impossible if you are a circle or a God that is prepared to let everyone in? Everyone despite their past, present or future.

It’s as a friend remarked to me, it’s not so much that anyone who disagrees with fundamentalistic ideas has a little view of God but rather they view a little God. A God that is so insecure that He needs us to stand up for him. A God that is so out of control that if other opinions are entertained then the world will fall apart.

But I have a bigger view of God. A view that includes everyone regardless of anything. I am a fundamentalist when it comes to believing that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God including sexuality or even belief in God. I am a fundamentalist when it comes to believing that great strength is shown in dying to ourselves and serving others; others often who don’t agree or think like us. I am a fundamentalist when it comes to understanding Jesus death and resurrection as a new way of seeing the world, where weakness is the new strength.

A new world where when Jesus was about to be led away to be crucified; instead of applauding one of his disciples for attacking one of his captors, actually rebuked him and brought healing to His enemy.

This is the strength that fundamentalists either don’t see or ignore. One where even Jesus Himself knew that he didn’t need to defend Himself.

For too long in Northern Ireland, the archaic views of the DUP have been allowed to dictate this view of Christianity and to let the fear that has controlled the country for so long flourish. For too long church leaders have failed to counter these ideas of God that are neither loving or gracious? Where were the church leaders this week to speak up for the play? To dispel the idea that Christianity is about fear.

Or are we all controlled by fear one way or the other?

 

Fear (Fearing the right thing)

Fear consumes so many of us. It kills all the things that we could do that are good. And we want to defeat fear and we want to push through it. But we don’t know how. Most of the time we give up. We end it right there. We stop practicing and we try something else.

But guess what?

Sooner or later fear will kill that too.

If we let it.

The alternative is to not let fear win and stop it dead in it’s tracks. But how?

The answer is simple.

Stop worrying what people will think.

Let’s face it we’re not really frightened of singing a solo in front of a concert hall full of people. We love music. We’re not really afraid of getting up and speaking to a room full of eyes looking back at you expectantly. We love expressing ideas and sharing them. We’re not really afraid of riding a rollercoaster. It’s going to be fun and we know it.

What we are really afraid of is the end. The reaction. We are afraid of people not liking what we wrote or said or played.

Like all artists we are afraid of dying.

Our fear is misdirected. It shouldn’t be in the act of the thing we are excited about. The fear is of the judgement afterwards.

“He was too long.” “She sang off key a little”. “I disagree completely with what she wrote”. “He doesn’t know what he is talking about”. “I could do better than that”.

That’s what we’re really afraid of. Sure some things no matter how much we feel we were made to do them are scary sometimes. That’s natural.

It’s just that the reactions above aren’t real. They aren’t what people are saying. They are what we think people are saying.

You can’t control what everyone thinks. All you can do is pursue your gifts, your passions and those things that persuade you to get up in the morning.

Fear won’t always disappear. We need it to keep growing. This isn’t a contradiction though. It’s a rally cry to realize that fear doesn’t have the hold over us that we think it does because in the end we can’t worry about or control what people will think because people will think what they like.

The real question is, are others opinions a good enough reason to give up?

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Wishing the Rapture Would Have Raptured the Rapture.

Why Jim Wallis is right (and wrong) and why gay is the new love wins

I had expected it to be at least a while before us Christians started causing controversy again, after the Rob Bell/ Love Wins debate took over our lives in March. But now that we have become bored with that it seems we have now found someone else to vilify.

In this case it is Sojourners founder Jim Wallis, who has created a storm by refusing to include an advertisement on their website from Believe Out Loud, encouraging Churches to be open to Gay and Lesbian people.

This has caused quite a stir to many who don’t understand how an organisation like Sojourners can not include an ad that promotes inclusiveness in Church, while the board of Sojourners are afraid it will distract from other issues in which they are focused on.

But who is right?

And who is wrong?

Or are both sides equally right and wrong?

From the point of view of Sojourners they are probably in their right to refuse to show the ad. Sojourners has never really been about these types of issues. These discussions aren’t ones I would have expected to find on their website and so I’m not really sure why some people are so upset. Would it be odd if a charity promoting the safety and care of animals refused to show the advert? Not really. So should Sojourners be any different?

Saying that, would it have really hurt them to show the advert? Even if this issue isn’t one that they directly are working on, it is hard to not see how it would fit in, in a general sense with the organisations ethos. Despite what people may think, Jim Wallis can be conservative on certain issues and in the past he has shown this to be the case regarding Gay and Lesbian discussions in the Church.  So we shouldn’t be that surprised that they made their decision. But this isn’t really a discussion about whether it is right or wrong to be gay. It is about whether people who are, should we made to feel welcome and loved in the Church.

I think it was a mistake however not to show the advert. I think the advert was very moving and I wish that more Church leaders would act like the Pastor at the end of the ad. Sadly I don’t think this is generally true of reality. I think no matter what you believe about being homosexual, God’s love is for everyone. This is the message I feel the ad was promoting and it is one that Christians everywhere should exhibit.

Which also as it happens includes the ones criticising Jim Wallis. Some of the comments have been very negative and harsh and when Christians who support a campaign that is trying to encourage inclusiveness and then fail to offer the same to someone whom they disagree with, it’s kind of hypocritical.

But then again this has always been our problem. Our problem is having civil discussion with each other. A discussion where we can strongly disagree with someone but not end up hating them.

It would be a shame if some of Sojourners detractors would stop supporting the great work that they are doing just because of their stance on one issue.

Just as it is for Sojourners not to show an ad that is refreshing and showing a sign of Church that we should all be aiming for.

So what is the solution? What has been your experience with this issue in your Church? Do you think we are afraid of something deeper? What are your thoughts on opening church to everyone?