Tag Archives: christianity

Getting It From Behind in Missionary Position

I have a friend…no, really, it’s a friend. It’s not me.

I wouldn’t have the patience to do what she does, so it’s really not my situation I’m venting about.

Anyway, she runs a small not-for-profit agency that serves as a community center in an impoverished and crime-ridden area. Her board of directors cannot be motivated to do anything that would actually grow the organization (which is seeing much fewer church donations and grant funding, but a lot more utilization of services), nor to respect her abilities (though several board members speak highly of the male head of another community-based organization and praise him for his actions, while rejecting most of the suggestions of my female friend, even though hers are comparable, and she’s managed to run an organization on a shoestring with a sedate board while his board busts their asses to make sure he can actually afford to hire people).

What it always comes back to, every time that she tries to convince them to bring more business people onto the board (people with financial connections who can help bring in funds and other support), or to urge them to plan fundraisers (instead of relying on ever-diminishing grant and foundation funding), or she tries to push for actual staffing (since she’s the only person who’s a paid employee, and underpaid by far, at that)…well…

…well, they pull out their Bibles.

Metaphorically, that is.

She mentions that they need to focus less on bringing more Christians onto the board, and they remind her that the organization was originally founded as a church (which it failed at, given that there are plenty of under-attended churches in the area already, and people are more concerned about daily survival). Doesn’t matter that, as she points out, the YMCA and Salvation Army have a Christian foundation, but reach out well beyond that base.

She mentions that they need to raise funds by having events, and they suggest she reach out to more churches. Never mind that the churches that once supported the organization have reduced their donations year after year as needs have gone up.

She mentions that they need staff to work with the increasing number of people who come to the organization, so that she can focus on administrative duties, and they suggest getting more volunteers. Never mind that volunteers are often unreliable in terms of attendance and many who come to the center are kids, and want to have stable adult figures, not a rotating door mentality. Also, never mind that when she gets volunteers from local colleges that need service learning credits, their semester is almost over by the time she has them adequately trained, which means constant wasting of time on very time-limited resources. They suggest she ask more churches for volunteers. These would be the same churches that haven’t been giving any other support, of course, for years…and they want to send older people who complain about the lack of air conditioning and the plethora of kids and don’t come back. Great idea, huh?

My point is, they always come back to the argument that what this center really needs to be is what it was founded as shortly after the church idea fell apart: to be a Christian mission.

So they want more Bible study and proselytizing, even though what is needed is a safe place for people (the at-risk kids, mostly) to gather and a place for them to get food and possibly connections to other services, like parenting classes, job training, financial education, and the like.

They are so fixated on being a Christian mission program that they have totally lost sight of their Christian mission.

That is to say: Jesus taught about reaching out to the sick and the needy and to letting God shine through our actions.

My friend has a board that is so hell-bent on looking Christian that they’ve completely forgotten that we are largely to spread the Gospel and being beacons to bring people to Christ by acting like Christians. That is, following in the example of Jesus.

They aren’t a mission. Instead, they have a mission. One that had been delivered into their laps and which they ignore to hold to a gameplan that probably never applied and certainly doesn’t anymore.

An entire board of Christians has turned away from a crying need in the community. A calling, really. And why? So that they won’t lose their Christian roots.

How blind is that?

Making the Change

It’s time. Time to bow to the inevitable. It’s been pointed out to me so many ways that faith and reason don’t mix. I’ve been faced with contradictions and challenges in my faith walk.

So I’m hanging it up. Stepping off the path I’ve been walking so long. There’s no proof of God or any higher power, so why keep looking for one?

After all, my moral code doesn’t require a higher power, does it? I can do the right thing without a god watching over my shoulder, much less an invisible one.

My circle of friends will improve. Instead of being surrounded by mindless sheeple, I can cast off those losers and move on to people whose heads are firmly in reality.

I’ll be able to reopen my mind to expand and to grow. No longer anchored by superstitious nonsense, I can stop being held back. Now when I read a book on some social issue or historical situation or intriguing person, I won’t be filtering it through my religion-clouded mind.

I will become a fully actualized human being. I will evolve to the level I was intended to. I will be free…

OK, if the sarcasm is too subtle, and you’ve forgotten that it’s April Fool’s Day, I’m doing none of that. Well, not giving up my spiritual walk, thank you very much. The growth, intellectual ability, and the rest I will pursue, but then again, I’ve always pursued them. Because believing in God and in Jesus has never held me back from any of that.

This wasn’t a post meant to tease my agnostic or atheist readers into thinking they converted me. This wasn’t meant to confused or dismay my readers who believe faith has a place in life. But being April 1, it seemed as good a time, and as good a way, as any to make a point.

The point that faith is not garbage, and it is not some universal “idiot maker.”

I’ve been down this road before in other posts, but there’s a little twist I want to make this time, based on some blowback I got at another blog when I called the blogger on some bullshit. He was making a point about the stupidity of religious folks, in this case those who believe in the Rapture, by using a video of a prank perpetrated on a Christian to make her think the Rapture had happened and she’d been left behind. Problem was that the prank was clearly a fake. Clearly it had been scripted, it was badly acted, and wasn’t a prank at all. This was pretty universally acknowledged by the blogger and the many commenters who were enjoying sticking it to the faithful.

And yet, it was still maintained that making using the video as an example of Christian stupidity, even though it was a scripted/fake situation, was justified.

Moreover, in my criticism of that tactic, and my defense of faith, some interesting comments were being hurled around. Basic themes were:

Religion/faith prevents people from engaging in critical thinking or being progressive socially and politically

Religion/faith are holding back human evolution and progress

Believing that there is no God is a harder but more rewarding path than faith

If you believe in a higher power of any kind, you are not intelligent

Those are the biggies.

Except they aren’t true. Sure, there are people who don’t think and are faithful. But you know how many people don’t really practice their presumed religions in any way…or who don’t believe…and are ALSO idiots? Do you truly think that every person who wants their “life doctrine” fed to them is religious? Really? If so, do you get out much? Not many people call President Obama the antichrist, at least not in comparison to the number who call him a socialist or fascist or jihadist.

I have deeply held faith beliefs, and yet I engage in critical thinking all the time; sometimes about my own faith.

I spent most of my life irreligious, and frankly, it’s far easier to not believe in a God. It’s really freaking easy to go through life not thinking about any higher powers and to behave as if the only consequences to our actions are those we reap on this Earth. As to whether faith or lack of faith is more rewarding, I can’t say. I suspect there is no appreciable difference as long as the person feels fulfilled in their journey. But in many ways, a faith walk is far more challenging (when properly pursued) than a non-faith walk. So don’t tell me I’ve taken the easy way.

And finally, how has religion and faith held us back? I keep hearing from so many atheists about how we won’t move forward until we shed religion.

I keep hearing about how too few Christians are “progressive” yet the moment someone like me comes along shattering that image, and talking about friends who likewise shatter that image, we’re branded as apologists who just work in new fantasies to fill the gaps. We go from being socially irresponsible idiot to mostly harmless idiots.

Scientists can make as many fancy theories of unproved and unobserved things as they want to fill in the gaps. But add an intelligence to something unseen and unprovable, and you’re a mindless automaton.

But you see, as much as these things annoy me, in the way they disregard and marginalize people like me, that isn’t the real point of my rant. Yes, once again, as so often happens in this blog, I’ve done something I almost never do in an article about some pharma business deal or information technology trend: I buried the lead.

Here’s what bothers me and what I don’t understand:

Why must the most intellectual and/or pompous atheists insist on a “scorched earth policy” in which the only good world is one without religion, whether formal and institutionalized or a more personalized spirituality?

I mean, really? These folks claim that religion hampers our progress.

Truly?

How?

Most of our technological and scientific and artistic outpourings have taken place in cultures in which religion was important. Even in these relatively secular days since the late 20th century, we still have an estimated 5 or 6 billion people out of around 7 billion who claim to have some kind of religious or spiritual belief. And yet we have these huge advances in genomics, information technology, energy, conservation, and more. Art continues to be put out, whether purile or thought-provoking, family friendly or aggressively provocative. Social advances continue.

Even with the most egregious example lately of religion and science butting heads, which would be the embryonic stem cell debate, religion stopped nothing. In fact, it hardly even put a dent in stem cell research, even with President George W. Bush backing it. In fact, that debacle, as embarrassing as I may consider it as a progressive Christian, ultimately forced researchers into a much better direction anyway, and one that is more practical long-term: figuring out how to make adult stem cells act more like embryonic ones so that they can be changed into any kind of cell in the body. Huge advances are being made there, and not an embryo in sight.

Where is this fantasy world that so many atheists concoct where they are persecuted and humanity is being held back in some primitive mode?

Because, frankly, science marches on, and so does everything else.

And oh, by the way, how about the large number of scientists who still believe in God? I’ve seen the figure at over 60% as recently as 2005. Just because some of the more notable ones with big book publishing deals like Stephen Hawking don’t believe in God doesn’t make it a universal belief.

Oh, yeah, I saw one guy dismiss that 60%+ figure by citing a survey of “leading scientists,” limiting the pool only to members of the National Academy of Sciences and ignoring the multitude of other scientists out there. (I guess by this guy’s standard, if anyone polls journalists about something, I can’t be included because I didn’t join a professional journalism society. So much for the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and more than 20 years of experience…)

Science includes elements of faith. Faith can include elements of reason. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Moreover, if atheists are waiting for that magical utopia wherein there is no faith in higher powers, they are going to be waiting a long time. And when that time comes, if it ever does, I’m pretty confident we’ll have a world with just as much intolerance, just as much violence and just as much ignorance as we have throughout history so far.

Swords Into Plowshares, Please

I’m not some idealistic peacenik. I realize that sometimes, asses must be kicked for things to get done right in this world. For example, I’m all for sticking around to hunt down Al Queda in Afghanistan and trying to get that nation some stability. Why? Because that’s the source of a lot of the terrorism, both the support (hiding places and training camps) and the bodies to hurl at us. Also, Afghanistan is a hot mess, and partly because of what we did to get the Soviets out (and that came back to bite us on the ass, since the people we armed to fight them are now are enemies).

But Iraq I want us out of. Now. Because we only went there for a grudge match with one guy (Saddam Hussein) and by extension his lackeys, we did it for the oil and the chance for rebuilding contracts, and we lied about the reasons (weapons of mass destruction that never existed and that Saddam wasn’t likely to build since he was more about satisfying his desires than fighting us).

So, I don’t advocate that we strip away tons of military funding. World is dangerous. I get that. But we spend too much time using our military to enforce our will than to truly defend ourselves or punish the right people these days.

So, then I see a couple days ago that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking for a 20-something percent increase in the next federal budget to just over $4 billion to radically revamp food safety in this nation. Now, if you have any knowledge of the state of food safety and monitoring in this country (sadly, I do), you’d realize that’s a very minor request and that it probably will accomplish little.

And yet, the U.S. Department of Defense, at the same time, is asking for $700 billion.

Yeah.

That’s one-hundred and seventy-five damn times as much money.

Isn’t that around 17,500% the amount of money the FDA is asking for?

To wage war.

Rather than protect people here at home from unsafe food. To bolster an agency that is charged with the safety of all drugs and much of the food in this nation (the U.S. Department of Agriculture having some responsibilities there as well.)

Where are our priorities?

And the ones who most fight against FDA funding and for more funding of the military are the Republicans, who so often are the ones touting God and Jesus, too, and telling us we’re a Christian nation.

Got news for you, you hypocritical, shit-heeled bastards: Jesus fed people. He didn’t smack them around. Jesus healed. Jesus preached the importance of peace. Yes, he mentioned that sometimes, we need to take up swords.

Sometimes.

But we always need to be there for people who are hungry, sick and hurting.

I’m going to say this bluntly: There is a higher percentage of Republicans who claim to be Christian who will have spaces waiting for them in hell than there are agnostic Democrats who will be.

Not a much higher percentage, mind you, because the damn Dems seem to forget about their human priorities too, in the midst of greed and power-mongering.

But if you’re going to claim Jesus, start acting more like him.

Coming Together

Just a quick hit tonight…something I should probably do more of to keep things lively around here.

Christian churches should take a cue from Jesus’ example and stop whining about who comes into the church, unless said person is armed or strapped with explosives. We should be welcoming people whether they come in shirts and ties or shorts and flip-flops. Whether they are straight as arrows or gay as the day is long. Regardless of their color. No matter what their politics. Despite the fact that they may have philosophies that run counter to a given church’s preference.

Too often, churches are places where the people who are in charge, and who attend regularly, want to keep a status quo, and make a special club that excludes people who make them feel uncomfortable.

This isn’t about comfort. This is about our souls and our connection to the divine. This is about edification and salvation. It’s not about special rules and exclusionary behaviors. Frankly, I’d like to see more churches in which there was disagreement and discussion, rather than a bland acceptance of some party line.

Jesus didn’t just call on one kind of person to follow him. He didn’t preach to just one kind of group. He ate with anyone who invited him, even if they disagreed with him.

To steal a line from this past Sunday’s sermon at my church…we are supposed to be about unity, not uniformity.

One Person’s Terror… by Miz Pink

I don’t have lust in my heart for Bob Cesca like I do for Jon Stewart but he still can make me a little weak in the knees.

This latest gem is perfect for showing what our real terrorism threat is in the U.S. of A. and it doesn’t seem to be Muslims:

http://www.bobcesca.com/blog-archives/2010/01/erickson_only_m.html

But those on the crazy end of conservatism and religionism will simply say those anti-abortion folks aren’t terrorists but are doing God’s will. Which just goes to show how its all in the perspective and if we don’t understand who the whackos are in our own religions we are never gonna clue in on why whackos in other religions do what they do and feel completely justified.

And how everyone else in that religion cringes as a result and waits for the nasty backlash.

It’s all terrorism folks and we all need to get over such nonsense and stop suger coating it with religion.

People Treated Badly by Miz Pink

I forget how hard it is to be Christian because it’s so easy to be Muslim

– Aasif Mandvi, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”

I’m a little behind in my viewing of Jonny Stewart (and my other honey-bunn…Stevie Colbert) but when I saw the segment in which the quote above took place, it made me laugh. It was in response to Brit Hume complaining about how Christians get crap the minute they spout their view (after he basically siad on air that Tiger Woods should find Jesus and repent and oh by the way Buddhism is a substandard faith.).

Now, I agree with Aasif and Jon at the juxtaposition of Christianity and Muslim faith here but I also disagree.

Ya see, it is true that is ain’t easy being Muslim these days especiallly here in the old U.S. of A. You get profiled and passengers look at you funny if you LOOK Muslim…even if yer just a secular Arab or an African or what have ya. Muslims as a whole get blamed for the evils of a select group and their religion is painted by many conservative frothy mouth types as being inherently violent. So yeah it ain’t easy being muslim.

On the other hand there is some truth to Brit Hume’s complain too. No Chrisitians don’t get persecuted and profiled but people do make big judgements if you ID yourself as Chrisitian or God forbid mention Jesus as anythin but just a cool guy with neato philosophies. If he’s your savior then you must be a kook. I have had peopel entirely revise their opinions of me at work after months upon months of knowing me and shun me because I mentioned in passing that I follow Jesus as my savior. They act like they know my whole personality and motives and secret plans (apparently to convert them) in ways they never to do to someone who IDs as a Jew or a Witch or a Hindi.

No its true that no one is going to strip search me for being Chrisitian in this country but it isn’t as easy being a Christian as a lot of non Christian types would like to believe.

Savior Synchronicity by Miz Pink

Yeah, I love Sting and I especially loved The Police, so I’m listening to “Synchronicity” right now. Maybe I’ll follow with a totally different artist and get the other half of the title covered with “Personal Jesus.”

Anyhoo here’s what this is all about: Has anyone (believers that is) like me considered how oddly perfect the arrival of Jesus was in terms of timing? How many ways that things just add up to say “Hmmmmm maybe there’s something to this Jesus guy?” while also leaving room for serious doubters or people who look just at the surface to say “It’s all made up!”

What do I mean?

Well firstly God operates from that whole faith thang. This has been the situation since he really started things going with Abraham even though it really goes back to Adam and Eve and telling them, “Just trust me.” But with Abe it was when he started making it clear that what he wants is our trust in him. Later this would evolve to having faith in God’s existence in the absence of him always having to pop up and do something dramatic. God doesn’t seem to want to do that and when he has to it usually meant all sorts of problems for the Isrealites, ya know? If God had to step in there tended to be ripples that weren’t always pleasant.

So secondly we have Jesus pop up at a time when historians are just really starting to become a force. Its a legit profession and all and people look to them to tell the story of what’s going on. So there are historians who mention Jesus’ existence. Even one who noted some of the strange environmental things that supposedly happened when Jesus gave up the ghost. It tend to be awfully dishonest intellectually speaking to say Jesus didn’t exist even if you deny his divinity.

This is important. As Deke has noted before several times we take at face value the fact that old documents of historical nature are accurate and good sources even though diligent historians were not as much in supply or in vogue as in Roman times. How many raggedy old historical documents do we hang on to know about the lives and accomplishments of ancient people. People who were around longer back than Jesus. Historical records that aren’t as numerous as the various copies and pieces of the gospel.

And what about that? No printing presses folks and yet so many copies in so many languages of the gospel. Why did people care enough to spread that word?

So thirdly the fact that people close to the time the gospels were written believed and yet no one in the power structure said “Jesus was a fake.” Blasphemer yeah. Sorcerer yeah. But no one said “He didn’t do those things he said he did and we the Jewish leaders of the time tell you he was a charlatan.” There were ample opportunities for people in power to debunk Jesus and no incentive for people to carry on his work and his message. I mean really the apostles? If my main man died when he told me he was the son of God I would run like hell and disavow him. There is no incentive to cash in and no reasons to keep following him. Almost all of them would ahve done what I would: curse the fraudulent bastards name and distance themselves for their survival.

Jesus’ message and legacy carried on because people had to have some sign that he was real. Coming back from the dead would be a good way. So either he did it (came back from dead) or he pulled off the biggest Elvis-style hoax around and vanished into the desert alive and well. Consdiering how good the Romans were at crucifixion and how much of a rabble rouser Jesus was the the Jewish religious leaders and local politicians, I don’t think he snuck off the cross folks.

And so we’re left with a guy who have an indelible mark on the world, his message spreading against all odds in an age without high speed communication or printing presses. And yet at the same time, enough loose ends and ambiguous stuff that naysayers can make a good case too that its all a fairy tale.

To me this speaks of God moving definitively and giving us signs but also staying out of sight enough that we still have free will. We still have choice. And we still have to look around for the truth. Not everyone finds the truth of Jesus. But I believe it is there to see even if we look critically and think deeply.

Fire and Pain

Now how’s that for a provocative headline, eh? Probably going to talk about hell and damnation today, right?

Nah…

I don’t know how many of you are into metallurgy, but when you’re putting ores and additives through the process of making some metal or alloy of metals, as I understand it, you end up with something called dross. It’s kind of like the scum you get on top of the soup you’re cooking, except with metal, it’s a lot more important to scoop that crap off unless you want buildings falling down and cars falling apart.

So to refine metal, to get out its impurities, it has to go through the fire.

Nothing new there. Nor is it new to apply that philosophy to life. The bible talks about putting people through the metaphorical fire to make them into something stronger. It’s a philosophy that also exists outside religion: “No pain, no gain” and “You have to pay your dues” are just two examples.

Generations X and Y have been accused of laziness and complacency at times. It’s true and it isn’t. (I’m an X, by the way…nice to meet you). It’s said that we rely too much on our parents and that we aren’t willing to work responsibly or work hard.

The truth is more that the world changed, and X and Y got faced with entirely new economic dynamics and new rules that don’t always respond to the solutions that suited Baby Boomers and their immediate predecessors.

But in there is also some truth in the criticism, and I see it more the older I get. Members of Generations X and Y can be a bit quick to want recognition and reward, before they’ve proven themselves. They can be fabulously self-centered in ways that are distinct from the often self-absorbed and sometimes self-important Baby Boomers.

But one thing about the Baby Boomers is that they were able in many cases to achieve and build nest eggs and help their progeny get going in life. They may have been less religious and less dogmatic than their parents, but they still often saw value in religion and in seeking God.

I wonder, though, if the increasing way that people are distancing themselves from God, especially in the younger generations, has more to do with the way the world is going and the way we X’s and Y’s see the world. And perhaps less about reason and science making religion irrelevant.

You see, too often, we young-ish folks (if I can still call myself that at 41) want results with minimal work. We want answers and solutions now. We don’t want to wait on God. And so when God doesn’t respond to us immediately, and we look back at history and say, “why does he let this crap happen” we decide that He must not exist. Because if He won’t just give us what we want now, how could He?

Too many of us don’t value the notion that we are works in progress. That our time on this planet is less about getting what we want and more about learning lessons. It’s a lesson that even atheists should take to heart more often. Because particularly for those who don’t believe there is anything beyond this life, there is precious little time to grow up and make something useful out of oneself.

For those who are agnostic, or those who, like me, are in a faith walk with God, it’s time for us to realize that we are put through a fire. We are meant to feel pain. It’s terrible when some people have to live with almost nothing but pain and stress and misery, but we humans aren’t alone in that. We like to think we are, but we’re not.

Whether you want to credit evolution (genetic and social both) or God’s will…or a combination of the two…a pristine, trouble-free world isn’t the kind of world that will push us to become something stronger or smarter or more useful to ourselves and others.

Pain is necessary. Whether we like it or not, we must all pass through the fire, some of us more often than others.

We need to pay our dues. We need to see the value in that and make something good out of it in the end. Or at least as good as we can.

If we don’t, we remain children. We don’t grow. Not in this world, and not in God’s plan.

Christ Before Christianity

There is a disturbingly common misconception among a lot of folks who are quick to say “praise Jesus” or “in Jesus’ name” who think that the Son of God preached for a few years to establish a religion. Too many people who think that what is laid down as church doctrine came from the mouth of Jesus.

Frankly, there are a lot of people hostile to religion who think the same thing, though I’m gratified to find a fair number of atheists and snarky agnostics who can separate their issues with early Christian church leaders from the teachings of the Christ himself.

Jesus did not establish a religion. Jesus preached that people should turn to God and be obedient to Him. That is, obedient to the underlying spirit of His commandments, which revolve around love, and not so much for the nit-picking of the laws and they way they put people in bondage and encouraged folks to double standards.

Jesus preached against anger and hate and intolerance. He often singled out hypocrisy as one of his biggest pet peeves. Ultimately, what Jesus taught was a spiritual awakening and awareness, and not a religion. After all, he already had a religion: Judaism. He was there to fulfill God the Father’s will and not reinvent the wheel. He was actually trying to tweak that wheel so that it spun true and straight, because it was twisted, pitted, kinked, rusted and otherwise pretty messed up by the time he came around.

True, the New Testament is filled with doctrine and rules and guidelines. Those things that formed the “walls” of the early Christian church, to build upon the foundation that was Jesus and his teachings. I totally understand why the apostles and other early church leaders did that. Keeping people on the right track and preventing heresy around Jesus’ message was important. Fragmenting into cults with personal agendas was something that horrified early church leaders, and rightfully so, because that could have undone everything that they were doing to spread Jesus’ teachings and the good news of the resurrection.

That said, even the early church leaders weren’t tying to establish some rigid doctrine in many cases. Perhaps not even most cases. Many of the things in the New Testament were letters to specific churches and regions, to deal with specific issues and problems they faced. Sometimes, we take a lesson that was meant to point out how easy it is to fall away from the path, and turn it into a rule that everyone must follow…OR ELSE!

Jesus believed in rules and in proper behavior. I don’t deny that. And what he taught was important. But some of what he taught was meant to make people think, not simply to compel them to a certain action or set of rules. I mean, does anyone with any sense really think Jesus was advocating that you rip out your eyes if, for example, you just can’t stop ogling the ladies? Come on, now…

Jesus taught with metaphors and symbols through his parables. He sometimes used hyperbole to make a point. He didn’t write down a doctrine and he didn’t create a church, nor did he command a new church to be created. He set his apostles on the path to create a church of ideas and of good lessons and of reverence to God, but Jesus portrayed himself as a servant as much as a teacher, and he didn’t crave to have people bow and scrape before him. He wasn’t trying to set up himself up as an object of worship but as a gatekeeper, guide, brother, teacher and advocate. He is the messiah and the savior, but he didn’t seek to create Christianity.

He strove to create godliness.

A couple Sundays ago, our pastor preached from the gospel of Mark, if I recall right. Or maybe Matthew. I’m too lazy at the moment frankly, to scour things and remind myself which “M” gospel writer it was or which chapter and verse. But it was the story of the apostles who, after having recently failed miserably at healing and casting out of demons, came to discover that someone outside their circle was casting out demons using Jesus’ name.

They were incensed, and went to Jesus to tell him that they had told the man to stop doing that. Jesus chided them for doing so, reminding them that they man was doing good works, and that “those are not against us are for us.”

Does this sound like a man who wants us to follow a specific church, or a specific religious leader? No. Jesus wanted us to serve and love and embrace God.

Yes, this is the man who also said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, and none shall come to the Father but through me.”

But that doesn’t mean he wanted us to embrace a religion called Christianity. It simply means he knew that God was going to put him at the metaphorical gates of Heaven to determine who was ready and willing to enter.

This is why I reject the idea that only those who claim Jesus’ name officially and directly are saved. Because Jesus was happy to hear about someone who didn’t follow him casting out demons and doing healing in his name. Doing  God’s work.

Yes, I believe that truly embracing the spirit of Jesus’ teachings and recognizing him as one’s savior is an express road to salvation. It’s the short cut, though admittedly a short cut that is riddled with bumps and potholes at times. It’s a better and surer path, but not the only one.

Jesus acknowledged that some out there weren’t his followers, but they were still allies and people to be thanked for doing good. Yes, we will answer to God through Jesus. Yes, we need forgiveness for our sins.

But it isn’t just the Christians getting into heaven, my friends.

And there are a whole mess of Christians who are very much against what Jesus taught, and who will find themselves turned away in the end.

All In the Head?

So, I’m having a bit of writer’s block on the novel, so I guess another day or two will pass before the next installment(s), though I think I’ll be picking up steam on that project again soon. In the meantime, I’ll go and get spiritual instead today, since Miz Pink seems to have dropped off the radar again temporarily (I blame the dang kid that insists on being changed and breastfed regularly…two activities that I’m sure make typing pretty near impossible).

So, what I want to talk about is the whole idea of sinful thoughts being as bad as sinful actions. A popular belief among many conservative, Bible-belting-you-over-the-head types.

A belief which, I have to say, is a total load of horsecrap.

Jesus talks about this notion a bit, supposedly, as chronicled in the Gospel of Matthew, and here’s one snippet:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh o­n a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew chapter 5, verses 27 & 28)

Now, by way of an aside, there’s an interesting discussion about what adultery really means, right here, but you can look at that later. It doesn’t have any bearing on my arguments here. Also, before I start making my arguments, I’ll remind those of you who are still confusing me with a theologian that I’m neither a linguist nor biblical scholar, so take my ravings here with an appropriate dosage of salt.

I don’t think that Jesus’ argument was really that thinking about sex outside of marriage, for example, or thinking about killing (which he mentions right before the adultery thing), for instance, are as sinful as actually doing the acts.

First, Jesus talks about the heart, not the mind. That is, we’re talking about true feelings. Intense motions. Intentions. Not mere passing thoughts. Fact is, as humans, it’s pretty much impossible to never look at someone with sexual desire. Flat out impossible. The issue is more this: Did you think about sinful activity with a real fervor and serious consideration about doing it?

If so, there is where your sin may lie.

But more to the point, perhaps, let’s look at the context in which Jesus is speaking. This was the ancient world. People didn’t typically live in cities, and cities of the time were still much smaller affairs than what we have today. Therefore, to look at, say, a woman with serious lust was a problem in part because this is a woman you have access to.

If I look lustfully upon a woman on the commuter train of a major city, chances are I won’t really have a chance to act on my desires. I don’t know where she works. I don’t know where she lives. The most pressing danger of “sinful” fantasies is that you might actually act out the sin. In the ancient world, looking at some dude’s wife with lust meant you might have a very real chance, regardless of which woman in town you chose, of knowing how to find her and giving yourself an opportunity.

So, the mere thinking of a thing isn’t sinful.

Because, let’s face it, if that were the case, good intentions would be enough to save us in the eyes of God. Because if thoughts are as good as actions, then wanting to do something good is just as powerful as actually taking action, right?

Of course not. We are supposed to take positive actions, not simply intend or wish them.

Finally, another nail in the coffin of the notion of sinful thoughts being as bad as sinful actions: Jesus thought sinful things.

Oh, don’t get ready to stone my ass, now. Satan tempted Jesus. Jesus led a sinless life, despite knowing the power and allure of sin. Jesus couldn’t possibly have gone his whole life without considering the possibility and implications and consequences of doing a sinful act. He had to be capable to considering the possibility of sin, or he couldn’t be tempted. He had to know what it felt like to desire things that were wrong, or he couldn’t have understood his human side. Plus, if he was incapable of even considering sin, then what was the big deal about his sinless life? If it was some cakewalk for him, then the whole exercise meant nothing.

Just because you think a thing doesn’t make it so.

Nor does it define your true intentions.