"I have said things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

I'm all about that truth. It really will get better. All things will be restored. The pain will end. It really will.

 

The thing about Christianity (when actually done as it was meant to) is that its practice is the antithesis of self-serving.

So the term “Trinity” isn’t even mentioned in the Bible, but even that being said, I don’t have really issues with the concept (though it’s something I plan to personally unpack more in the future; I’m sick of adopting theology). 

Except I take major issues when people use this concept of the “trinity” (which once again is not mentioned in the Bible) to justify their complementarian views.  It is perhaps one of the most foolish, illogical defenses of that world view - that Christ’s submission to God, though they are one, mirrors a woman’s submission to man in marriage though they are one.  Just stop and think on that for a second - how do those two ideals really relate? And where are you really getting that from except your own head in order to justify a particular view of Scripture?

The thing is, Paul speaks a lot on how to exist in a Christ-like manner within pre-existing social systems that in themselves are not necessarily Christ-like.  It’s man’s default setting to assert himself oppressively over someone who is falsely perceived to be lesser or weaker, and patriarchal society is prime example of that.  Likewise, slavery is another example of that.  So when Paul tells a wife to submit to her husband in the way that he tells a slave to submit to his master, these are parallel commands, neither which are actively promoting the systems of patriarchy or slavery but compelling these new believers to act in a certain way within them.

Keep in mind that patriarchy was entirely different thousands of years ago than it is right now in America where marriage was closer to a transaction than a pursuit of mutual romance and more-so, women had absolutely no rights or weight in society.  All of it was tied to their fathers or their husbands.  So what Paul says is actually revolutionary for the time in a sense - he’s telling men not to treat their wives as property and abuse the power that society had given them over women, but to love them.  Likewise, within this inherently oppressive system, Paul encouraging women to act like Christ by being submissive.  What is neglected is that during that time period, husband/wife equality was literally socially, economically, and politically impossible.  So Paul is exhorting women to keep a Christ-like attitude within those constraints; he’s not permanently defining a women’s place in regards to man in accordance to God’s will for all time.

To state otherwise is to then justify slavery.  The juxtaposition of marriage and slavery specifically in the Corinthians passage isn’t coincidental.  Writers employ certain techniques for an emphasis for a reason.

Things like complementarianism (is that even a word? How do I turn this concept into a noun?) turn God into some random, arbitrary, legalistic being.  Stop and think about how women being naturally submissive to men in marriage, church, society, whatever actually contributes to any of the purposes Christ perpetuates in His ministry in regards to what His plan for the world is?  How such a system has anything to do with our continual sanctification into the likeness of God or the removal of all forms of evil?  The worst thing for Christianity is how “because that’s the way God made things” or “because He says so” has become justifiably means of so-called theology and doctrine, as if we’re dealing with an illogical God here.  We’re not. Pay attention to how the narrative of the Bible unfolds and you will see a very clear logic and pattern unfolding there that’s sensical.  You can say that God is mysterious, and we can’t possibly know how He works, and that’s fine.  Really.  But we also have to take into account that the we are told that mystery of God has been clearly revealed to us.

To find egalitarianism to be inherently sinful just because misunderstands the whole concept of sin and insults the actual purpose of God. It misses the point entirely and becomes an unnecessary distraction when we become more concerned with relegating women to a secondary role in society, church and marriage because of a historically cultural piece of advice given by a a man to a specific group of people whilst neglecting the actual pressing matters at hand here.  If Christ is the image of the invisible God, then we soon come to see that God is not concerned with making sure women are correctly submitting to men, but rather getting rid of the injustices that plague the “least of these” in society.

There’s a lot more to unpack here (like the whole idea that women can’t serve as pastors as if God made women to be inherently lesser spiritual beings incapable of getting in touch with the Holy Spirit to the same extent of men -__- once again based on a singular verse taken out of its very specific context whilst neglecting clear mentions in the New Testament of women being in positions of leadership in the early church), but I’ll stop here.

Especially since this is an admittedly sloppy post written on a whim with no citations bred from the overflow of my mind right now so it’s probably not forming the most solid argument, but that wasn’t my intention anyway.

There is a God Beyond Your God

In the Old Testament, God is “revealed” through the lenses of the people representing Him.  

But in the Gospels, God speaks for Himself.  What’s become a notable verse to me, one that I feel like is oft ignored, is how Jesus is described as the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).  The fullness of God is revealed through Jesus (Colossians 2:9(.  If we really, truly want to understand who God is, what His nature is, and what He’s doing in this world, we go to Christ.

And a pretty comprehensive picture of Christ is painted for us in the Gospels, using His own words.  And in the absence of words, His actions speak even clearer.  Jesus, who touched people who no one would touch (Matthew 8:3).  Jesus, who came down hard on those who condemned others (Matthew 23).  Jesus, who healed the ear of a man who was coming to arrest and eventually kill Him (Luke 22:50-51). Jesus, who gave up His status as God to lower Himself to the place of a human so that He could die for these humans (Philippians 2:5-8).

I think the issue still stands where we don’t let God speak for Himself to us, but rather adopt the image of God that’s being presented to us by other people.  And then we either accept this given image - either blindly or maybe a little unsettled by some of the implications - or we reject this image, seeing the ills that has been perpetuated in the name of this so-called “god.”

There’s a reason that I hold on so tightly to God, to Christ, even though I’ve since rejected so so many faucets that I had been taught when I was younger in regards to “traditional Christian faith.”  And that’s because I absolutely cannot shake the fact that I have experienced God.  The word “faith” is something thrown around a lot in regards to Christianity, religion, etc, and I definitely have faith when it comes to a lot of things having to do with my beliefs, but it’s hard for me to attribute that word to my knowledge of God, because with God, it’s not something where I’m crossing my fingers tightly and hoping He’s real.  But I know He’s real.

Obviously a popular Christian cliche is “it’s not religion; it’s a relationship”, and I can’t help but sometimes question the use of that phrase, except I do know it to be true in my own life.  Though I’d consider myself a believer in God since I was 3 or 4 (simply because I’d been going to church since that age and had been told that this was truth, in the way I had been told about Santa Clause), around the age of 17, I began to have this sense that I was being…looked out for.  Something neither physical or tangible, yet real nonetheless that came from outside of me, yet deeply affected the inside of me.

This was in the midst of everything seeming to fall apart, mainly because after 20 years of marriage, my dad was suddenly leaving my mom.  He was sleeping in the downstairs’ guest room and coming home at 2 in the morning.  There were mornings I’d hear my parents screaming at each other, and I’d sit there crying in my bedroom until my mom came up and told me it would be okay if I missed first period to get myself together.

I was so angry during those last few months of my senior year.  In the midst of AP exams and college preparation, life as I knew it was falling apart.  It was the weekend before my first AP exams of the year, in fact, that my dad moved out of our house.  To spare us some pain, my mom and I stayed in a hotel room that weekend, where I skimmed through AP workbooks, trying to focus on something that seemed so trivial in the face of everything else

I can’t blame God for that.  I can’t blame God for man’s selfishness, man’s mistakes and the consequences that result.  We’d cry about a different sort of injustice, after all, if God were to take away the free will that allowed man to make such decisions.  But I know God is working in the midst of that, working to fix not just the pain caused by man, but the heart of the men who cause such pain.

And that’s when I truly met God. Or rather, God truly met me. That feeling…no, knowledge that I couldn’t shake that in the midst of all of that shit, I was being loved, I was being cared for, that someone was working on my behalf.  Most extraordinarily, I wasn’t seeking God in the least bit.  I was brewing in anger towards my dad, indifference towards school with sadness in the midst of these two prevalent states of mind.  

But with my heart buried in angst and my head turned away, God did more than tap on my shoulder to get my attention.  He just went ahead and embraced me anyway.

That was the start of it, and I can go through the years, describing each instance of becoming more and more aware of not just God’s presence, but most importantly and strikingly His love until the point where it stopped being occurrences and has become something I’m permanently and constantly aware of as my life has become more intertwined with Him.  It’s something that’s truly supernatural, something that supersedes even hope or optimism but is just real and true experience that I can’t shake off, that I can’t deny no matter what.  

This isn’t bred from years of church and Christian school, and goodness knows I’ve began to have disdain for that line in the popular children’s church song “Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so”, because yes, the Bible does say as such, but if your conviction of Christ’s love just comes from words in the Bible, then you don’t actually know Him at all.  It wasn’t the Bible that convinced me that God loves me; it was hearing those words from God Himself, then seeing how that love was manifested inside of me and throughout my life.

But then a more recent revelation.  Maybe about a month ago, I wrote out all the qualities I had experienced of God’s love, so that I could learn to love others better and more genuinely.  Patience, diligence, gentleness, grace, peace, comfort, joy, devotion, working constantly on my behalf, truly concerned for my well-being.

Around this time also, I was reading “Red Letter Revolution” by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo, which is about taking the words of Jesus seriously as Christians.  One point they insisted on, reiterated often was what I mentioned before - how the true nature of God is revealed through Jesus, kind of as an explanation as to when people would justify their violent, aggressive, exclusive reactions based on how the Old Testament tends to paint God (for more on that, I’d highly recommend Rob Bell’s tumblr series about the Bible, which intelligently, comprehensively and logically reconciles this image of a “wrathful” God with the image of a loving Christ).

For me, I’ve always been very comfortable with easily seeing God as loving, gentle, etc (despite of how He may be portrayed in the Old Testament) because that is just always how I have experienced God.  And rather than the Bible coloring the way I see God, the way I’ve experienced God has colored the way I read the Bible.  Paired with the way my mind tends to work anyway (skimming over little details in order to embrace the bigger picture - evident in how I evaluate even movies to the way I write stories), it’s always been clear to me that there was a bigger narrative of inclusive, grace-filled love going on in the Bible.

Because that’s how I personally knew God to be. But then I got to thinking - it is so clear, so evident to me that there is this supernatural, loving force who is bigger than me fully intertwined not just in my life, but in all of creation, working towards restoration of this world that has been broken by the hands of selfish, materialism, power-hungry humans at the expense of suffering, oppressed, vulnerable humans.  But then I had to question - how does my personal knowledge of God thus lead to Jesus?  Is that, then where faith comes into play?  I know and believe God, and yes, one of the ways I have heard His voice and influence is through reading the Bible, but I still have to take the Bible’s word for it when I believe that God came to Earth in the form of man (Jesus) in order to remove the darkness of this world so that reconciliation and restoration would then be possible.

But then I realized something. And it’s strange that it really just clicked into place in my head so recently.  But this image of God that I’ve been experiencing personally more and more for the past 7 years - it lines up exactly with how Jesus is portrayed in the New Testament.  

I guess it could be argued that my knowledge and reading of the New Testament has just subconsciously influenced my idea of what I perceive to be the supernatural interacting with me, but I know that’s not the case, considering how God has been revealing His nature to me well before I really started to personally go in-depth into the nuances of the Bible.  It’s just when I stop and think about it, the way I imagine Christ to be as I read through the Gospel accounts lines up exactly with who I’ve experienced God to be through my interactions with Him.

So thus I know God is Christ and Christ is real.  And if the Gospel can so accurately describe Jesus - if these books written thousands of years ago can accurately describe someone I’ve personally experienced outside of their words - then that increases their overall veracity for me.  If they are so right about the character of Christ, then I personally have no problem believing they are right about the resurrection of Christ.

I suppose I just wanted to write why I believe in God, or rather, why I am so certain that God is very very real.  Not as a debate, but just as explanation.  With something so supernatural, so beyond our little human grasps, it’s sometimes hard to create a fool-proof defense of such that people are going to just accept, so that’s not what I aim to do.  I just know that I will never be able to shake God, never be able to turn my back on Him, never be able to doubt that He’s real, because I know He is.

And I know that people have hijacked His name and misrepresented Him so grossly.  And in these cases, I do believe that the argument is valid that people project themselves on the name of “god” and create a god of their own image, for their own benefits, their own security, their own convenience and self-assurance, but then try to deny that that’s what they’re doing, under the guise of submitting to a divine authority.

But I think there’s a God beyond that.  Who isn’t a product of human vulnerability or human selfishness or human definition.  But to find that God is to personally experience that God, not on our own terms or by our own understanding, but His.  To distill God our of perceptions and humanity.  To relinquish our desires to have some semblance of control, to be in power, to be right and just let Him do His thing, you know?

Ultimately, I think the best way to truly know God deeply for all He actually is is to completely deny self.  And I think that’s not really something that even those Christians who claim utmost devotion to God are really doing.  I hold tight to the belief that all these ills, the sufferings, prejudices, etc aren’t at the hands of God, but at the hands of humans who create a god to justify their acts of self-perservation, self-esteemation and self-promotion.

But alas, I know there is a God beyond that

Aiming For Less and Less

I just read this article about a man with “wealth addiction”, describing a culture of people who are desperate to get richer and richer.

And it struck me how ironic it is that I’m essentially seeking out a life that, materially speaking, will leave me with less and less.  I consider at this point Jesus’s as the ultimate life in which I want to pattern my own after, and this was someone who had nothing in the way of money and possessions, but implored people to sell their possessions in order to give.  Jesus represents a personal economy of stripping down until one is bare - and thus that is what I aim to do.

Ridiculous and radical - I could never tell my parents that in a sense, I want to be poor.   No, that’s a terrible way of wording it.  I don’t want to be poor, but I don’t want anyone to be poor.  In all honesty, it’s insulting to those who are quite unwillingly poor to say something like that, but I suppose at my heart, I’m a writer, so I’m going to employ hyperbolic literary devices to really make my point.

Still, I can’t help but draw upon the words of Jesus in Luke 6:20-21:

"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.”

And then Luke 6:24:

"But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.”

But to avoid trivializing the very real and unfortunate plight of the poor, I’ll put more emphasis on the fact that I don’t want to be living in excess. If I ever want to make money, it’s to give it away, but I don’t want to work towards that aim to begin with.  I think there are hundreds of things worth working for, that needs to be worked for, but money isn’t one of them.

And it’s getting scary, almost, when I picture my ideal life. I have this image of Jesus in His one tunic and worn sandals, and I want that (because goodness knows His life was so much more than his meager possessions).  This life with just the barest of necessities with no trace of luxury, with nothing of my own, but because I’m sharing what I have so it can’t be called my own. It becomes everybody’s.  

I can’t help but feel myself rolling down this hill of ideology where I have to continually strip myself of what I have so that others can have what they need, until my hands are empty but other hands at least have something in them (and I’d like to think that my hands will thus end up being refilled - so I can give more, but so I essentially will never actually be without - Matthew 6:25-33).  I want to peel it all away until I’m just left with God and love and community.  I feel my mindset being crafted and formed into one where I want to actively seek having “nothing”, I guess maybe because I’m becoming more and more convinced that my needs will be provided.  Nothing is probably not the way to word it.  I want very little, and I want to understand that that’s enough.

Here’s the thing - the verb “work” is still involved.  I’m not proposing a life for myself where I sit back and don’t do anything, but rather one where I am working my ass off, but towards a different end than society has claimed I need to aim for.  Jesus says to store our treasures in heaven, and that’s precisely what I plan to do.  To work hard for things that have an actual, eternal value to them - mainly boiling down to human souls.  But not falling into this Christian myth that we can just “spiritually medicate” people and have our job done, but rather tending also to their tangible ills. Oh, if I could help dismantle these oppressive institutions causing a growing poverty and rampant dehumanization!  I can’t see where working for money falls into this for I increasingly bear witness to how the root of our society’s problems all begins with money.  Or power.  But two are undeniably, intricately intertwined.

And I’m at the point where I rather stand in solidarity with the disenfranchised, those in poverty, because they hardly have anybody with them.  I want to consider myself a part of the poor, so that my resources rightfully also belong to them.  It should be noted that I don’t believe in this notion of blind giving - dropping money in an online charitable depository every so often and that be that.  When I say “stand in solidarity” and be apart of them, I mean it fully and completely - integrated right into their midst to not just treat the symptoms of their condition, but rather connect with their souls.  Not coming from a place of implied superiority, either - oh, I despise the “privileged savior” concept perpetuated mostly by Christians where we come in as their “shining knight” then retreat back to our sanctuary of luxury.  I won’t give any life to any thought or implication that I’m in any way better than anyone else.

But I truly believe we’re all in this together, so what is mine belongs to all, and we can all share in it (gah, I’m a raging socialist, aren’t I?)  I even hate that I’ve been using these separate pronouns of “I, mine, me” (yes, I know if I rearrange that order, I have a Beatles reference, and a pertinent one at that) and “they, their, them” which propagates this separation, this implicit hierarchy, then really is just should be WE, OURS, US.  The thing about Christ is that He brought Himself low and into the midst of the people He served, and that’s an example I’m primed to follow (Philippians 2:3-8).

If I can stand in this confidence that even though things may be bumpy and rough that God will not abandon me, will not let me starve or go naked or without a roof - at least not for long - then I can be satisfied with that and thus turn my efforts to those who do fall prey to these things.  I just know I don’t want my stuff anymore.  I don’t want luxury, and I don’t want riches.

I want justice.  And if I can get rid of all to give all then go from there, that’s the kind of life I want to lead.  I will sooner make myself “poor” than make myself rich, but then in the midst find a new kind of “rich”, where a new form a society can be created where we are satisfied with enough and share freely so everyone can truly say “we have enough.”  Instead of this world where so many don’t have enough while the rest have too much.

Mom, dad - don’t worry, I’m not quitting my job.  In fact, I’m admittedly actively trying to find a new one.  But I am starting the pursuit of a life where I will end up with less and less, down to the point where I have enough (and I honestly evaluate what “enough” actually is - my needs covered and that’s it) but also where other’s get to say they have enough as well.  I just want to do all I can so we can live in a world where everyone has enough, and we’re satisfied in that because we find worth and value and esteem in other things that have nothing to do with money or material possessions.

I’m not opposed to making money.  This is not an assertion that I will stop earning money or actively avoid earning money (though I refuse to build my life around the aim of earning money, even if it is to eventually give it).  In fact, I think I’d like to earn money rather than certain other people earn it, because I don’t trust they’ll be good stewards of it.  I’m just opposed to keeping money.  John Wesley has a good quote about that, ““Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can.”  (The “save all you can” as another means of giving “all you can”, not as means of keeping for oneself and personal security.)

So my goal is to get my life to a place where my “enough” is as small as it possibly can be while still allowing me to live a productive, healthy life - devoid of any trace of luxury, though - and then start creating a social economy within a community that shares so that all needs are met then pray that that spreads to a greater scale that eventually infiltrates the world as a whole.

I must emphasize that this has to be bred from love.  Personal, genuine love for each individual, their value recognized in their human worth.  Not taking on some social justice issue because it’s right, but rather working on behalf of human beings because we care for and about them.  Because if not, we run the risk of further dehumanizing those in need into a cause while ironically neglecting their humanity.  So ultimately, this is an issue of love.

And I know this is the kind of sacrifice that love really requires.  Yet when manifested properly, it ends up not being much of a sacrifice at all.  A sacrifice of greed, maybe, or of a form of pride, but in turn, we all can gain something greater.  Equality, community - a true society of love.  That’s more appealing to me than any money or any of the things money can buy.  I want that.  You have no idea the fire that ignites in my bones, how desperately I want that to the point that it riles up my emotion so its expressed through tears beginning to gather at the corner of my eyes.

What I admire most about individuals like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr is that they tackled huge social systems that probably initially seemed impossible to dismantle.  Yet they led movements that caught fire and were able to burn down these oppressive institutions.  It shows me that anything is possible, and I see the epidemic of poverty, this tragedy of wealth inequality looming so evidently like a dark cloud over this country and this world, and to think that it could ever change after all these centuries seems idealistic.  No, absolutely absurd, actually.

But then I think - why not aim for it?  It takes steps, it takes a process - nothing changes over night or even over a year (at least nothing like that), but it has to start somewhere.  And I’m on a quest to find that somewhere and go from there.  If I don’t set my aims high, then how does anything ultimately get accomplished?

I guess for me, right now, in the point in life I’m in right now, where literally every dollar I make is going to bills I have to pay, it starts with giving away the things that I can continue living life without.  Like significantly downgrading my closet.  There’s this mantra of sorts repeated in the Bible in different ways that essentially says “if you have two of something, give one to someone who has none.” (1 John 3:17, Luke 3:11) I don’t get why Christians don’t take that one seriously.

I always feel this sense of incompleteness when I write these things out of the ecstatic overflow of my heart like this, as if I am failing to completely capture all that has taken ahold of me, but I should stop somewhere, even though I don’t think this write up does the girth of my ideas any real justice.  But I do want to end this with some John Wesley quotes, who is honestly someone who I’d never thought I’d have much theologically in common with (maybe a bad taste is left on my mouth from my experiences at Wesleyan Christian Academy from grades 2 to 7), but at least as far as it comes to his views on money, he is spot on, and I’m in full agreement with him.

“Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”

“When I have money, I get rid of it quickly, lest it find a way into my heart.”

“If I should die with more than ten pounds, may every man call me a liar and a thief.”

For more about John Wesley’s views and principles on money, here’s a nifty little article: http://pastorpeterko.wordpress.com/tag/john-wesley/

That’s all.  For now, at least.

It’s all right to talk about “long white robes over yonder,” in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here! It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preacher must talk about the new New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’.s “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” Speech

The reverend at the church I checked out on Sunday read this quote, and it’s spot on!

War. HUH. YEAH. What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’!

From second to seventh grade, I attended a conservative Christian private school that was hyper-sensitive and eager to ban anything that threatened their attempts to brainwash us to contradict the values of Christ as they perceived them to be.  Like the book series, Animorphs because the cover imagery of the characters morphing into animals too closely resembled evolution (deduction wasn’t their educational strong suit).  And of course, Harry Potter, despite it being a literary metaphor wrought with pertinent Christian imagery.  

And the peace sign, banned from our clothing, book bags, doodles, whatever.  They encouraged us to politically support a president that threw us into a pointless war (when I was 11, because 6th graders tend to fully grasp the social and economical reasons of why to support a presidential candidate, right?), but unequivocally banned and shamed a symbol that represented peace.

Why? Because the symbol apparently resembled a “broken cross.”  And thus these Christians considered it an attack against Jesus, I guess.

No doubt, this was a result to the poor research skills employed by the same people who think abbreviating Christmas as “X-Mas” is an antiChrist movement (it’s not).  In less than five minutes, I found out that the design of the peace sign a combination of the semaphore signals for the letters “N” and “D,” standing for “nuclear disarmament.”  Not some attempt to desecrate the cross.

It was such a trivial, ridiculous thing.  The administration at my old school (as well as many others who have held this belief) couldn’t get over what the symbol was perceived to look like in order to embrace what the symbol stood for, ironically a message right on par with the cross.  They were more concerned with surface than heart (ironic giving people claiming a vast knowledge of the Gospel…)

Beyond that, I think the merit of the virtue of peace is oft ignored in general, widespread Christian theology. I grew up in a place where most people considered themselves super Christian - yet supported every war this country engaged in. I personally believe that is incredibly incompatible with the Christian faith, no matter how one tries to justify or rationalize it to suit their self-driven desire for justice or revenge.

Comprehensively “loving your enemies” in every little way that’s supposed to mean is of course a hard concept to grasp that seems to go against our natural desires but wouldn’t these same Christians argue that the principles of Christ are meant to be unapologetically counter cultural? We accept going against the grain when it’s easy to manage, when it’s no real lost to us or our pride, but I’m far more impressed by the person who refuses to war or support war with those who go against them (whether it be an antagonist at work or an entire country) than the person who doesn’t cuss or listen to secular music.

I remember how my heart broke about 3 years ago as my Facebook news feed was flooded with celebrations of the death of Osama Bin Laden. It left me so unsettled, especially as these celebrations were coming from Christians. No doubt Bin Laden was a man who did many evil things that causes oppression, injustices and death to many.

Yet as usual, we neglect to turn an eye to the same evils that have become common place in our own soul. The manipulative and oppressive billionaires whose businesses suck more resources than they’re due, at the expense of people who because of systemized injustices can’t even get the opportunities to make a livable wage, for example.  But even middle-class Americans overconsume the world’s resources without a blink of the eye while millions starve. The systems that characterize America are inherently oppressive, against the very freedoms we claim to stand for, but since it’s subtle and since it doesn’t affect those of privilege, those in power (not just government authorities or the grossly wealthy, but anyone who is above the poverty line, really), we aren’t driven to solve these problems. Yet champion a war that kills life across the sea, maybe as a way of making our country feel better for its ills by trying to bomb away the ills of another.

If Christians really believe that Jesus came for ALL people (and a group constantly bickering over the inerrancy of scripture should take note that that’s mentioned quite often - there are no bounds to the love of Christ), then we cannot in good faith condone any sort of violence. The idea that a violent war for can make for peace is a myth. Maybe temporarily a solution seems to be made, but then it just continually perpetuates this seemingly never ending cycle of destructive wars.

We need to find a way to make for genuine, permanent peace. And the pro-life ethic needs to be consistent and comprehensive - esteeming every single human life because all of us have the potential to do terrible things, all of us have hurt others. But we’re all valuable all the same.

I know it seems like in some cases war is the only answer, but I don’t believe that. I think we don’t have enough faith and hope to believe otherwise. More so, I don’t think we put forth enough determination and selfless effort, bred out of love, to find another solution and then extend a new ethic to the world.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God." Matthew 5:9

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place.  For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
Matthew 26:52

"You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, ‘Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."
Matthew 5:38-39 

(There’s a lot of context to that above verse that needs to be understood and applied to truly know what Christ is saying there, but I do want to point out the irony of my 2nd grade teacher at my aforementioned Christian school telling my class how she whole-heartedly believed in the “an eye for an eye” ethic.)

"But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." 
Matthew 5:44

I won’t go to church.

I believe in the Church.  For sure.

It’s churches that I’m having the issue with.

I think the intended manifestation of the Church is hardly ever (if at all) mirrored completely (or even close) by churches.  Let’s compare most congregations to the Book of Acts, and there are too many discrepancies for me to ignore in good faith.

I write this because of a verse I came across again just right now.

I John 2:27

But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

I think going to church on a Sunday just for your weekly dose of a sermon is creating a lazy form of Christianity.  I won’t negate the benefits of having the words of believers supplement our faith, but I think that’s best done within a community, and how many of us regularly commune with our pastors anyway?  A select few - mainly those deeply involved in ministry - do but the rest gaze upon him from afar, bar the occasion “hello!”  Even in churches where appointments can be scheduled to meet with a pastor, it’s still much different than living out life with him.

That being said, I think this creates a sort of undue “pastor worship” that I’ve definitely witnessed in churches - mainly in an incredibly overwhelming way at the last church I was attending.  It tends to be neglected that, yes, the pastor starts with the Bible, but then springs from it with his own interpretation, catered by his own biases and experiences, and sometimes it’s sounds good and sometimes it’s right, but it’s not always correct because he is a flawed human, as we all are.

(I say “he” because in my lifetime, I’ve only regularly attended one church that let a woman preach, and even then that was only on a few occasions.)

But there’s this implication that the pastor is a step up in holiness than all the rest, and that everything he speaks is gold.  Irrefutable, absolute truth gold, and that anyone who disagrees with him or sees matters differently is wrong.  I wouldn’t be saying this if I hadn’t directly encountered it.  Personally, in private conversations, when my views were discredited and shot down because their pastor said differently, so there was an implicit sense of “there’s no way he could be wrong.”  

And even from the pastor himself (though granted not in any personal conversation).  This irony of a pastor admitting openly that he is a sinner who struggles, yet practically announcing his interpretation of Biblical passages as absolutes with no room to argue.  And I understand having convictions, but there has to be room for humility within that.

So the pastor gets set on a pedestal as believers allowed him to dictate their faith without personally wrestling with what he says for themselves, but rather just accepting his take without consulting the same Holy Spirit they have within them that he does and coming to their own conclusions (which may very well be the exact same as the pastor; but it may not).

I don’t think seminary necessary qualifies one person over the other.  There’s benefits, no doubt, but as for receiving unadulterated truth from the Spirit, which God has bestowed equally upon all believers, I don’t think seminary really strengthens our ability to receive and then extend truth whatsoever.  Arguably the most influential theologian of Christianity did not attend seminary, but rather spent three years being taught by the Holy Spirit before he began his ministry (Paul).

We’re implored to work out our own salvation, and of course John specifically says that “no one should teach you”, but I think a lot of Christians just don’t do that.  They take in without any question or their own exploration what their pastor tells them each Sunday, then read over and discuss Bible passages at face value (still influenced by their pastor’s views), but it’s as if most of their faith is being developed for them.  These are generalizations, I realize, but it’s also just what I’ve witnessed. 

I see no need to go to church for distant teachings, and not even pridefully - I just think we’ve been giving a wealth of knowledge and divine revelation between the Holy Spirit within us and the Bible, and we all need to take advantage of that more, because intentionally diving into Scripture as being led by the Spirit paired with simply just spending time with God, ruminating over matters having to do with Him will open up your spirituality and depth of theology so much that it’s crazy.  Maybe certain individuals are gifted with leadership skills, but I don’t think one person has more access to God than the other.  That was the whole point of the Holy Spirit, so that we are now all apart of this holy priesthood.

And I certainly don’t think my faith is to be an individual walk without any input or influence from other people, and I definitely won’t discount the fact that there are people who are more matured, more knowledgeable, but I think there’s a difference in being exhorted and being taught.  I know that we aren’t born into this world knowing everything, so we must be taught some things at some point, but too often that then becomes a crutch that is depended upon for way too long. 

And of course, we have the luxury of being taught by Jesus Himself, anyway.  

(There’s flaws to this I know people can nitpick, but I am admittedly imploring some subtle hyperbole in order to emphasize my point that we aren’t to be dependent on man for our teachings, though I do once again concede that that can be quite useful and helpful, and I don’t think the whole notion of “church” should be centered around that practice or that a pastor should be our main source of divine revelation when we’ve been made able to receive that outside of a mediator.)

So the purpose of The Church is greater than teachings, and I am continually frustrated which how churches lack in it.  There is an undeniable emphasis of “building up the body”, if you will, but a disproportional lack of extending it.  Sure, there is outreach - usually in the form of scheduled events that allow a congregation (but let’s be real - a small fraction of a congregation) to dip into another’s life, but then pull back and return to their own luxurious existence after the time is up.

But what I see in Acts is the early Christians living their lives out with the community around then - day by day.  Constantly.  Not once a month.  Not even weekly.  This servitude, this sacrifice, this sharing of all things - it completely characterizes their lives!

But I think churches allow people to compartmentalize their Christianity.  It’s twice a week - maybe thrice.  But God says we are the body of Christ, not that we visit with the body of Christ a few days out of the week.  So there’s a short- term mission trip or a weekly soup kitchen, mostly coming out of a place of privilege, and that kills me.  That it’s satisfactory to do homeless outreach on the street one night each week, but then return to our apartments with electricity and cupboards full of food - safely away from their midst.  Swooping in as their temporary savior from a comfortable throne hovering above them, but not joining completely into their lives, day by day, in their midst, sharing all completely with them as we give up our lives and lay down our lives so they may have a greater life.

And churches are also so internalized.  I went to about 4 different community groups at my former church, and at first, I was getting a lot out of them.  But that’s the thing…was getting a lot out of them.  We’d discuss the sermon and how it applies to our personal lives, and then maybe entertained one question about how we could live out this-or-that within our communities.  Then prayed over our personal issues and that was that.

And it got to the point where I had no interest in being in essentially self-focused community that every-so-often did an outreach event but largely stayed within itself.  That’s contradictory to everything the Church is described to be in the book of Acts.  I suppose we all do need self-affirmation within our faith, but at what point does it stop being all about our personal “spiritual health” and becomes about others?  Not every so often out of some Christian duty, but from a lifestyle of love?

The injustices and suffering and oppression that plagues this world - heck, drive 15 minutes from where you’re at right now, and it plagues that street - are fucking insane, yet churches are orchestrating weekly meet-ups on how to tend to ourselves.  It’s this half-assed model of community where “doing life together” actually means a weekly Bible study and a built-in social group for weekend events.  I’ve seen it become a clique - sometimes even a clique within a clique.  Even if I ignore the underwhelming emphasis on outreach, the community still looks nothing like the model one exemplified in Acts.  Sometimes there will be decent examples “sharing with one another”, but I still find it underwhelming.

Not to say that we can’t internally be built up - that’s arguably necessary if we’re going to do any good outwardly - but when it stays internalized, then it becomes a problem.  And if we really are following the example of Christ as laid out in the Gospels, as we are exhorted to multiple times in the epistles that follow the Gospels, then we’ll be extending ourselves more than building up ourselves, anyway.  

And people may say I’m asking for too much, given how this model is near impossible to achieve with everybody’s separate lives, but that’s it right there!  The body of Christ was never meant to be so individualized.  In Christ, we were never meant to pursue our own thing, our own desires, our own careers, etc and then fit God and church into it  - “Oh, I want to be an actor, and I’ll glorify God through that once I achieve that.”  We’re supposed to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world - together - and then use our passions, talents, skills towards that. “How can I use my acting talents right now to directly serve the purpose of God?”

But I don’t think we give due thought to what the purpose of God actually is.  Because I feel like those who are acting under the purpose of “so everyone will be a Christian!!” (which then often gets perverted into “so everyone will believe exactly how I believe”) are missing the actual point completely, but that’s another post, actually, that’s a full-fledged book.

I know I’m critical.  And I’ve been wrestling with being graceful in this, and knowing that outward criticism has to be paired with inward introspection and criticism that then leads to an actual change.  

Actually, inward criticism has to trump outward criticism.  Of course I’ll witness things and have certain feelings about them, but rather than pointing fingers and grumbling, I know it just means I need to rather be proactive and live out what I hold to as truth.  I have a list of complaints, sure, but goodness knows I’m no peach myself.

And I know that no matter how frustrated I get with churches or the people within them, I have to remember that no one is perfect, especially not myself, and I have to find it within me to genuinely love all people.  And not just as some word I throw around because I’ve been hearing it in the context of religion for my entire life.  But recognize their worth, appreciating their worth, esteeming their worth and genuinely caring for them, shown in how I treat them (gently, with grace, with humility for starters), even when I’m not agreeing with them.

Still.  I have no urge to go to church.

Rather, I want to be the Church.  Not on my own, but as apart of a body, that corrects the ills and misdirection of many churches (without completely abandoning them or shunning them) and truly comes together to be as we’re supposed to.

That’s what I’m aiming for.  Acts 2, Acts 4 - not a building, but a lifestyle. Neither inwardly focused or compartmentalized, but drenched in the midst of the world, desperately and constantly seeking an end to all the ills that curse humanity.

This is a surprisingly incomplete set of thoughts, given that it was written spontaneously at 1 in the morning, but I don’t know.  Just had to get it out. Goodness knows it’s been ruminating for months.

Love and changing tastes

unkaglen:

Anonymous asked: I’m struggling big time with my sexuality. I haven’t followed through with any of my feelings with another guy for at least a year, but now feelings are arising again and I feel like I’m being tempted left right and centre. Although the Bible doesn’t say much in regards to…

This 1) completely diminishes being gay to a “sex life”, which doesn’t do the spectrum of sexuality any justice. Just like being straight isn’t simply about who someone wants to have sex with.

2) Also, I personally believes it shows a deep ignorance about the issue of sexuality to then diminish it to “a taste” and I don’t think any straight person considers their attraction (which is comprehensive and not just sexual) to a TASTE.

I think this kind of simplification of this issue is essentially dangerous to queer people. They buy into it then become frustrated, then hurt, then betrayed when their “tastes” don’t change.

Don’t get me wrong - the verses in the bible in regards to male-on-male sex are entirely about the sexual act. A sexual act performed in a certain context within the historical context those laws and situations were described (in every case, more likely than not in regards to male prostitution and/or pagan idol worship ceremonies). But the mistake a lot of Christians make is comparing the current context of same-sex relationships to these sex acts, neglecting to realize that with gay people, it’s not about just about sex (that’s just a very small part of it, personally speaking) or taste and to state otherwise is honestly ignorant, misinformed and implies a singular perspective on the subject.

And if one more person compares the fact that I’ve fallen in love (genuine, selfless, compassionate love that I truly wouldn’t be able to extend without Christ in me) with a few women to their struggles with lustful sex… It’s not even remotely in the same category, and it’s honestly insulting.

Ok I need to go back to watching the Golden Globes with my friends instead of impromptu blog posts but I had to respond before I lost my train of thought. And still, this is quite incomplete but it’ll do.

I’m starting to think that with my convictions and increasingly radical ideals that I’m going to be a very frustrating person to date…

"i love you so much and just want to lavish you with gifts but then, like, all the starving children living in poverty…can i just draw you pictures and write you notes and rap to you instead? i’ll even do your dishes and make your bed."

"of course i’ll take you out to dinner, but it has to be a vegan place, because do you know all the harm that the corporate meat industry does, not just to animals but to the environment and most strikingly, to our fellow humans? but the corporate vegetable industry isn’t much better, so how about we just grow our own garden and I’ll make you dinner from the pesticide-free vegetables that I grow…we’re in LA; like, everything’s in season all the time."

"are you sure you want to pay for a wedding ‘cause we can just elope and then use that money to go to Africa and help them build homes for families. in fact, that could be our honeymoon!"

"you want a diamond as a symbol of our engagement? you realize how many people are murdered daily over diamonds? yeah, yeah, conflict-free, but you could house so many homeless people with the price of a conflict-free diamond. but fine, i’ll splurge - let’s just get tattoos of each other’s names around our ring fingers. yes, it’ll hurt but love is pain. and yes it’s permanent, but if we’re getting married, we’re staying married.”

"we could buy a house or we could live in community with believers in the midst of the disenfranchised and impoverished, serving them and doing life with them daily in order to help build up and heal God’s Kingdom as intended, put not out of some sense of privileged duty, but to genuinely partake in a life of love, joining in unity with the beautiful souls who are often cast aside by everyone else.”

"yeah, I understand that you want to go through the motherly process of giving birth, but isn’t it selfish of us to biologically bring a baby into the world to use up more resources when there’s so many orphans that need to be cared for? so how about we adopt, like, 7?"

"life insurance? pension? social security? savings account? but Christ says not to store up treasures on Earth.  And whatever we do to the least of these, we do to Him.  So let’s just give instead of saving."

There’s a woman out there who will be down with all of this, right?…Right?

We are the body of Christ, not in some figurative sense, but we are the flesh and blood of Jesus alive in the world through the Holy Spirit— God’s hands, feet, ears.

Shane Claiborne - “The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical”