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Showing posts from May, 2020

Christian perfectionism and “Be perfect.”

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Matthew 5.48.God doesn’t want us to sin. You knew that already. We’re meant to be good, to do the good works the Father spelled out for us, plus anything else which comes to mind.The scriptures constantly warn people against sin. It alienated the first humans from the LORD, which is why he had to boot ’em from paradise lest they live forever in their sin. It obligated the LORD to inform Moses and the Hebrews what he expected of them. It’s why the prophets warned Israel time and again: There are consequences for all this evil. It’s why Jesus died: Sinful humans killed him, and he let ’em because he knew his innocent death could plaster over humanity’s sins and restore our relationships with God.So we’re told by parents and pastors: Stop sinning! Start acting like God’s children, instead of devils who sin like they’re trying to piss him off. Be better. Be perfect, if possible—and it is possible, ’cause the Holy Spirit can make it so.In preaching against sin, Christians will trot out thi…

Compassion.

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The ancients didn’t believe we feel emotions with, and in, our hearts. That’d be the medievals.The ancients believed thought, logic, and wisdom emanated from the heart. Emotion came from the intestines. Despite the medievals reassigning it to the heart, the idea still managed to trickle down to our culture: People have a “gut reaction” or “visceral reaction” to various things, which means they’re reacting without thinking. It’s pure irrational emotion. And some of ’em have learned to trust their guts, ’cause they said bye-bye to logic long ago. But enough about them.Some gut reactions are good ones. Even fruitful ones. When we truly love others—love our fellow Christians, love our neighbors, love our enemies—when we see them suffering we’re gonna feel empathy towards them. We’re gonna take pity. We're gonna have compassion.You know, like Jesus does when he sees the needy. Here’s some examples from Matthew.Matthew 9.36 KWLSeeing the crowds, Jesus felt for them, because they were be…

Having clergy pray for you.

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One of my previous pastors was invited to a birthday party. So was I. So we’re all hanging out, chatting about something irrelevant; probably weather. And the lady of the house came out of the kitchen to tell everyone lunch was ready. So… “Pastor?”Yep. It might be her house, her daughter who was celebrating the birthday, her lunch which she had put together. But Pastor, even though he was a guest, was expected to ask God’s blessings over the food.Which he did, ’cause he knows how it works. It comes with the job.It’s one of the things clergy regularly experience. Bishops, pastors, chaplains, friars, nuns, ministers of every sort: People expect them to lead prayer. They don’t even ask; they just take it as a given. “Pastor?” That’s your cue to pray.I once had a pastor who grew tired of this, so he tried something which he thought was kinda clever: He turned to one of the other people in the room. Sometimes an elder in the church whom he knew could pray; sometimes one of the newbies or t…

Tribulation, great tribulation, and not-so-great tribulation.

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TRIBULATIONtri.bu.la.tionnoun. Great suffering.2. The cause of great suffering.3. An End Times period of suffering around the time of Jesus’s second coming.[Tribulational tri.bu.la.tion.aladjective.]Tribulation is an old-timey word which, to many people and Evangelicals in particular, has to do with the End Times. Hence writers find it useful: You wanna talk about suffering, but wanna make it sound like really awful suffering, as bad as suffering can be? You call it tribulation.Thing is, when “tribulation” comes up in the King James Version, it means any and every kind of suffering. Not just the worst-case-ever kind of suffering. I mean it is used to describe that, Mt 24.21 but it’s used for all the other kinds. ’Cause suffering is part of the world we live in.John 16.33 KJVThese things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.Life is suffering. But Jesus has conquered the world.So w…

Warnings when persecution comes. (Unless you’re American.)

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Mark 13.9, Matthew 24.9-13, Luke 21.12-19.In his Olivet Discourse, Jesus told his students about what’d happen before as predicted, the Romans destroyed the temple in the great tribulation. Many fearful Christians insist Jesus wasn’t speaking of the next 40 years, but our future; the events of the End Times. That’s largely because they don’t know first-century history, nor their bibles, and only believe other fearful Christians. If you aren’t as paranoid, peaceless, and agitated as they, they feel you’re too stupid to listen to. The End Times has gotta be all about fear, not hope—and they explain away the fruitlessness of fear by claiming it’s really “the fear of God” they’re about. Yeah right.Today’s passage tends to trigger ’em more than most, because here Jesus speaks about the active persecution of Christians. Which, at that time, was coming soon. Really soon; possibly before the year was out.Jesus gave this discourse during Holy Week, and he’d be killed at the end of that week. I…

Millennium: When Jesus rules the world.

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MILLENNIUMmə'lɛ.ni.əmnoun. Thousand years.2. One of the thousand-year periods after Christ’s birth: The first millennium, the third millennium, etc.3. Where one thousand-year period ends and another begins.4. [theology] Christ Jesus’s reign on earth, represented in an apocalypse as a thousand-year age.[Millennial mɪ'lɛ.ni.əladjective.]Whenever Christians talk about being “premillennial” or “amillenial,” no we’re not criticizing millennials, the kids born after the year 2000. We’re talking End Times theories. (We’ll use other terms to criticize millennials.)The idea comes from Revelation. In one of its visions of Jesus’s second coming (oh, you didn’t know there are multiple visions of the second coming in Revelation? Y’oughta read it sometime), Jesus returns, brings us Christians back from the dead, throws Satan into the abyss for 10 centuries, and rules the world. At the end of that time, Satan gets out, starts a fight, Jesus ends it, judges the world, and ends the world—to be…

A religion that’s a little of this, a little of that.

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ECLECTICə'klɛk.tɪkadjective. Belongs to no recognized school of thought or organized religion. Selects such doctrines and beliefs as they wish, from various religions and schools.[Eclecticism i'klek.ti.siz.əmnoun.]One of the more popular platitudes you’ll hear among conservative Evangelicals is “I don’t have a religion; I have a relationship.” By which they don’t actually mean they’re irreligious… although many are. For the most part they do to to church, read their bibles, pray, and try to be good. What they mean is they reject dead religion—namely rituals which mean nothing to them. My point is they do so have a religion; there are plenty of things they do which reveal they devoted themselves to Jesus. Any pagan can see it—and they should, ’cause if there are no such signs, any “relationship” we claim to have is gonna suck, if it’s even there at all.In comparison, your average pagan insists they truly have no religion. They don’t pray regularly, if at all. They read no holy …

Praying like “St. Francis” did.

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You know how when you’re praying in a group, and the prayer leader says something really profound which you wholly agree with, and you can definitely say amen to that?Rote prayers are the very same way. It’s someone else’s prayer, but you’re agreeing with the prayer… and some of ’em just nail it. It’s precisely what you wanna tell God. So go ahead and borrow their words. They don’t mind. God doesn’t either.One of the more popular rote prayers floating around out there is “the peace prayer of St. Francis.” Which, let’s be honest, was never actually written by Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone of Assisi (1181-1226), the Catholic layman-evangelist who founded the Franciscan order. True, those of us who know about Francis’s life can certainly imagine him saying stuff like this, but just like a whole lot of popular internet quotes, ’twasn’t him. The Italians call this la preghiera semplice/“the simple prayer.” I don’t find it all that simple, but it’s still a good one to pray.I prefer trans…