Archive for category Evangelism
At that time Jesus and his disciples entered a prosperous land. Hearing of his arrival, many of the people came to hear him speak. Thousands gathered around him.
” I bring you good news. God loves you, all of you. You have no need to fear or worry. Eternal life is yours. Peace and happiness are at hand. “
The crowd began to murmur. They didn’t understand what he was saying.
“How is this possible? How do we get this eternal life you speak of ?” they asked.
Smiling, Jesus spread his arms wide. “Just follow me. I am living this life right now. I have come to share with you the Way of eternal life and how to be in tune with God. You may hear all kinds of people on television pitching their self-help programs, but there is good reason there are so many of them. They don’t work. Not for long. But follow me and I can assure you of eternal life.
” OK, so what’s the catch? How much does this cost? What kind of sacrifices do I have to make?” a man asked.
“There is no catch” said Jesus. “This life is free. No fees. No purchase necessary. No sacrifice.”
“Alright”, another shouted. “Tell us. What is this secret?”
“Simple” said Jesus. “Love each other as much as you love yourself and love God with all your heart. The only way to love God is to love others.”
“How do we do that?” someone asked
“Always put the needs of others before your own” Jesus said. ” Visit the sick and imprisoned. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Take in the homeless. And -very importantly – forgive everyone, especially your enemies.”
“That’s crazy!” someone shouted. “We don’t live in some sort of dream world. We have families to take care of – we can’t just bring bums and vagrants into our homes!”
“I have to worry about my kid’s college tuition!” another shouted “I can’t buy clothes for a bunch of slackers. Let ‘em get jobs and buy their own.”
A woman stood up, shaking her fist. “What kind of fuzzy-wuzzy crap is this? Love your enemies?! I guess you expect us to love all those elitist god-haters that want to destroy this great nation? You just want us to open our arms to foreign heathens as they pour into our country, taking our jobs, speaking their own languages, praying to the wrong gods and plotting violent revolution? You’re just a sissy wing-nut that hates his own country!”
The angry crowd turned their backs and began to leave, grumbling and shaking their heads. Nervously, Jesus glanced around. Looking up, he smiled and suddenly jumped on a nearby boulder, waving his arms frantically.
“Wait! Wait!” he cried. “There is another way! A better way! Come back. Give me another chance.”
Most ignored him but some turned back. “This better be good”, they said. They sat down on the grass and waited.
Jesus sat down in the middle of them. ” OK, the other stuff was good, but that was only half the story. This is the real deal. You see, there are these two places called Heaven and Hell….
The Bible is a collection of diverse ancient Hebrew writings by many authors who never intended their works to be collected between the bindings of a book. It is full of spiritual stories, poems, myths, biographies and various historical accounts. It may or may not include recorded attempts at predicting the future. Wisdom and beauty abound within its pages and the reading of this book has helped millions of people, in many spiritual ways, to encounter God. By this definition alone, it is a sacred book. But as St. Paul once said, the scriptures are useful for instructing a person in the ways of God, implying that they are only some of the tools at our disposal and not the sole repository of spiritual wisdom.
The common thread that runs through this assortment of writings is how a particular group of people interacted with their God over a very long time, in ways that were both moral and immoral. Inspired by a sense of wonder, the authors attempted to understand God’s nature, God’s will and how, why and if God works in their lives, often depicting God as speaking and acting within the natural world.
The second, smaller part of the Bible concerns Jesus of Nazareth, his life, crucifixion and resurrection. It also includes his teachings and the teachings of some of his disciples. These teachings have undoubtedly inspired generations of people to live lives of peace, mercy and love while at the same time championing justice. At the same time, different interpretations have helped others to rationalize behavior not so commendable.
The Bible had no release date, there was no publishing date. At some point, around 1700-1800 years ago, powerful religious men decided what Jewish scriptures would be included in what we call the Canon and the Apocrypha. Everything else (probably more than what was included) was discarded or destroyed, though some of these manuscripts survive today. Throughout its history the Bible has been translated in different ways and there have been a few cases where it has been altered to serve a religious agenda, but these were rare occurrences. There has always been a very active, and often heated, debate over what many portions of the Bible actually mean.
The Bible may, or may not, be relevant to us today. The stories and poems and letters within have been used as a guide for morality, compassion and self sacrifice. They have also been used to justify genocide, torture, slavery, misogyny, bigotry and war. If God has spoken through the Bible then some have certainly heard the voice of Satan as well.
Although a great work of historical literature and sacred to millions, it has no magical qualities or powers. It needs to be interpreted contextually, framed within the time and circumstances of the people who populate it, lest whatever lessons it might contain remain hidden. It is undeniably a very, very important book. It is certainly a great book, one of the world’s greatest. But it is not the GOOD book any more than it is a bad book. In the end, with all that it has to offer, it is still…just…a…book.
Posted by Christian Beyer in Bible, biblical literalism, Christianity, Emerging Church, Evangelism, Faith, Fundamentalism, God, Gospel, Heresy, Heterodoxy, History, Jesus, Orthodoxy, Religion, Religious Right, Religious Tolerance, salvation, Spirituality, Substitutionary Atonement, Theology, tolerance on January 28, 2011
Over on the Wall Street Journal blog, one of the members has (hopefully) started a thread by asking this question:
How do Christians define Christians? What makes you or not a Christian?
I often come across the argument that “said person is not a real Christian”, many tend to use this argument to exclude particulars who happen to shame the religion calling themselves part of it, or act in the name of it.
I think it would be interesting to see, how does every one define it, is it simply believing in a higher authority?. Is it taking every literal word of the bible?. Is it following the “reasonable” aspects of the bible?
Now, so far, only one person has given an answer, and it is one that I suspect the majority of American Christians would agree with:
A Christian is somebody who believes that Christ died on the Cross and shed his blood as the ultimate atonement(replacement for the blood sacrifice of the Old Testament law) for the sins of mankind. They believe that Christ is who He said He is. ie, The Son of God, and therefore God Himself. The concept of the Trinity applies here. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Christ was the product of the immaculate conception. Christ was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy. Isaiah 53:3-7 is an example, among others of the prophesy.
The first chapter of John in the New testament, gives a good representation of what Christians believe about Christ.
To be saved (ie a Christian), is nothing more then the realization that man is born into sin, and the acceptance and acknowledgment of the free gift of eternal life(made possible because of Christ sacrifice on the Cross), that is offered to mankind, should they(exhibit their “free will”) except it. It is nothing more then Gods grace being demonstrated through mans faith.
If all of the above needs to be believed in order to be a Christian, then I guess I am not one. Of course, for many reasons I think the above definition, although perhaps “orthodox”, is incorrect.
Over on Ric Booth’s blog there is an interesting conversation taking place about a new organization that John Shore is spear-heading called ThruWAy Christians, particularly their controversial acceptance of gays and lesbians. The stated goal of ThruWAy Christians is to provide moderate Christians with a new forum. As it says on their website: “If you find conservative Christianity too oppressive and exclusionary, and progressive Christianity too theologically tenuous, you’re probably a ThruWay Christian.” Which means that, though I agree with much of the content of their founding document, my theology is much too “tenuous” (something which I am sure the Conservative Christians could accuse the ThruWay people).
Surprisingly, I don’t believe my theology is any weaker than theirs or any one else. It’s different to be sure. Maybe not as orthodox as they would like. And like Christianity, it is evolving. But that doesn’t mean that it is “flimsy, insubstantial or lacking in strength”. This is a charge that the orthodox have always levied at those who had the audacity to question theological authority.
The good folks over at ThruWAy Christian are not really challenging conservative Christian theological authority, though. They are only challenging the conservative interpretations of certain scriptures that they believe lead to intolerant and mean spirited attitudes and behavior. But I would suggest that the overarching theology that both the moderates and the conservatives still hold in common ( much of which has been condensed by the commenter from the WSJ blog and jives with the first line of ThruWay’s creed ) is actually what drives this intolerance. And has for centuries.
I ‘ve found that it is nearly impossible for Christian moderates to engage Fundamentalists in any meaningful dialog that might result in a change of perception on the part of either, so I’ve given up on it myself. If this is the goal of the folks at ThruWAy, well then, have at it. But if they would be open-minded enough to engage some Christians whose convictions are not quite as solid, substantial or strong as theirs then perhaps they might find that ‘progressive’ is not such a bad word after all.
A group called ‘Stop Christianization of America’ is promoting ads on major city public transportation that urge people to leave the Christian faith. The anti-Christian campaign is sparking thought about the religion’s place in American society.
Several groups are engaging in something of a religious ad war over the merits and misconceptions of Christianity, a religion that remains a mystery to many Americans.
Ads by a group calling itself Stop the Christianization of America, which aims to provide refuge for former Christians, read: “Hell on your mind? Is your family or community threatening others? Leaving Christianiy? Got questions? Get answers!”
Those ads, appearing on dozens of buses in the San Francisco Bay Area, Miami, and New York, are a response to ones from an interfaith group that say, “The way of life of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Islam. Got questions? Get answers.”
In New York, the Christian Ecumenical Community sponsored this campaign: ” Christians for Peace. Love for All – Hatred for None.”
The ads are part of a larger conversation over Christianity’s image, which Christian organizations say has been hurt by extremists both at home and abroad. But many conservative groups say that concern about the spread of Christianity isn’t alarmist, pointing to evidence of preachers and televangelists in this country inciting militancy and a growing number of American Christians being arrested for hate crimes and sexual deviancy.
A self-described “anti-crusader,” Mustafa el Amin is the conservative blogger and executive director of “Stop the Christianization of America” who conceived of the “Leaving Christianity” ad campaign. His campaign was inspired by the hate filled and violence provoking actions of the Westboro Baptist church and the Southern Street Preachers Association.
Mr. Amin described his campaign as “a defense of religious freedom,” in an e-mail response to questions. The goal, he says, is mainly “to help ex-Christians who are in trouble” and also “to raise awareness of the threat that apostates live under even in the West.”
But some religious rights organizations contend that the real intent is to incite fear about a faith that, according to recent studies, remains misunderstood. A 2009 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 38 percent believe Christianity is more likely to encourage violence than other religions.
But… that’s not how it really went down. For the rest of (and the real) story go to the Christian Science Monitor.
Over the Memorial Day weekend my daughter, Dot, and I took a last-minute road trip to visit some friends in Nashville. We left B’more Thursday morning and got back Sunday afternoon. Around 1300 miles, all told.
To help pass the time we invented a new travel game that I think can only be played down South: God vs. Larry Flynt. I would count the billboards with in-your-face evangelical messages and she would count the number of advertisements for lewd and prurient past-times. “JESUS SAVES!” and “HELL IS A REAL PLACE!” vs “ADULT BOOKS!” and “NOW IN – THE FLESHLIGHT!!”. Once we hit Tennessee there were at least one or two per mile. Kentucky was almost as bad good. It was close, but Dot won. And it was pretty funny, if maybe a tad depressing if you thought about it, which we didn’t.
But it got me to thinking later on: what was it about the Southern demographic that encouraged the erection construction of all this annoying signage? Is one in response to the other? A lot of the big G.O.D. signs were pretty close to the big S.E.X. signs. But I figure that the Bible Belt existed long before the advent of the Rural Porn Belt. (Or did it? Sex in the country: Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Daisy Dukes? ) So maybe the “Adult” signs are in response to all those obnoxious condescending Fire ‘n’ Brimstone (with lime? salt?) signs: “Stop hollern t’us like kids, dangit! I kin do what Ah wanna!” Which might mean that overly overt evangelism isn’t getting the desired result.
Or, considering all the scandalous clergy stories we’ve heard about for years forever, perhaps they’re just two sides of the same coin. Maybe Religious Fundamentalism and Sexual Licentiousness are passionately engaged in making the moral beast with two backs. The attraction of opposites, that maybe are not quite so opposite after all – just using different tools to scratch the same itch. Like Victorian prudes and those quaint black and white postcards of mustachioed men in straw boaters doing the nasty with plump ladies wearing bonnets and garter belts. Just that, in this case, it’s not going on behind closed doors anymore, but out in the great wide open
Times sure have changed, ain’t they?
In response to the Pentagon dis-inviting him to its National Day of Prayer event, Franklin Graham had this to say:
Graham also said the Pentagon decision was an ominous sign for the future of religious freedom in America.
“I think no question … religious freedom is under attack,” he said. “There has been an erosion now for many years, but we have seen it really accelerate in the last 10 years.
“This political correctness that has crept in, that if we stand for what we believe in, all the sudden we are not tolerant. They almost make it look like we are participating in hate speech, when we say that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and there’s no way to God except through Christ and Christ alone. They are interpreting that now as being hostile and hate speech.”
No, Franklin, that’s not exactly the case. It probably has more to do with some of your earlier comments, like this one:
“We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.”
Since there could be as many as 10,000 Muslims serving our country in the U.S. armed services, I think the Pentagon is fully justified and commend it for honoring all soldiers, not just Christians.
Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot – an imam or rabbi invited to speak at the Pentagon after saying that Christian soldiers, sailors and Marines belong to a ‘evil and wicked religion’. What would you think of that, Franklin?
Someone who is on Frank’s side in this hunt is Pat Robertson, who recalled a discussion he had with Billy Graham about his son’s remarks:
“You know,” Robertson told viewers, “I met with his father some time ago and commented on the fact that I agreed with Franklin. And Billy said, ‘Well look, I’m an evangelist. I don’t want to get anybody upset, and attack anybody.’
I guess Billy Graham just doesn’t have the religious conviction that his son has. Which just goes to show you how too much conviction, religious or otherwise, can be a bad thing.
Wow! I just now listened to Brit Hume’s advice to Tiger Woods, that he convert to Christianity because it’s his best bet for redemption. I guess that’s because of all the practice Christians have had at this, what with the Catholic priest scandals, Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggert et al. To suggest that Buddhism has failed Woods here, in light of Christian history, is outrageous.