Arrogance In Christ

Well, it’s May 21, 2011.  Before I get on the phone or turn to the television to see which of the people I know have been teleported away, I thought I’d try and recap some of the conversations I’ve been a part of this week.  I’ve been invited to hear a pastor in Nashville that a good friend thinks highly of, and I’m excited to spend a Sunday with him, first at church, then for a round of golf.  Another old friend from California wanted to turn me on to “Love Wins” and I informed him it’s already in my book queue.    I’m pretty stoked about Rob Bell and Mars Hill, not so much by the premise of his book as by the fact that he seems willing to challenge long-standing religious dogma, but from inside the Church.  If he indeed intends to “crank the knob to the right” I will most definitely pay attention.

Last week or so I wrote a little about a trip I took to see a local pastor, only to be largely disappointed overall.  From the comments section I guess I should have expected the rather canned, bland,  hollow sermon to which I was subjected.   I can’t completely fault the pastor in question, he is, after all, the de facto CEO of a large entity with a 6 million dollar budget.  Staying on safe ground is no doubt what the people buying the tickets expect, and well, they pay the bills.  No, it has really been a disheartening 2 weeks or so, largely due to private conversations I’ve had with Christian friends and acquaintences.

If you enter into a discussion of faith with me, be prepared to hear the following things at some point during our conversation:

I do not worship.  Anyone or anything.  My relationship with God is one of mentor/student, and there is friendship and trust, neither of us requires an elevated status over the other.  Indeed any attempt at it by me would seem (because it would be) insincere.   I do not fear God.  Where there is love, fear cannot exist.  I firmly believe that God wants me to evolve to the point where I am his equal, and my God-like status will certainly not need worship as an affirmation of my greatness.

I don’t have much use for the Old Testament, other than it is a nifty recounting of genealogy and probably reflects the best thinking of that time.  If you employ certain passages to support a position, I’m liable to point you toward a passage that is  in direct contrast, or dismiss your point altogether.  I’m really more of a WWJD type, and his teachings are pretty much timeless. I can’t even imagine a patriarchal, misogynistic or vengeful Christ, can you?  Then let’s move on.

I don’t pray in public.  Every time I’m somewhere and the people in charge insist on this display of piety, I merely sit there and wait, and not that patiently.  Even in church.  (I can understand the desire to do so in church, but at a city council meeting or a ballgame, really?)  I’m uncomfortable doing it, and so I don’t.  I also do not recite the pledge of allegiance, for much the same reason.

I admire people who sacrifice in their lives as part of their faith, even if its simply a day long fast.  (If you gave away all of your earthly possessions, more power to ya)  There is no need to tell me about said sacrifice.  I’ll see evidence of faith in your daily actions, though that clearly isn’t the point, right?

I accept any teaching that feels true to me.  There are parts of Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Catholicism, and even Paganism that I find useful to me as I grow.  Please don’t belittle other beliefs in my presence.  It is evidence that you have refused to embrace some very fundamental aspects of teachings of Christ…acceptance, tolerance, love.  You may well believe that your path is the ONE TRUE WAY, but I will label you a fraud if you believe it is your duty to be some kind of warrior for Christ.  If there is one term I instantly recoil from, it is this:  Spiritual Warfare.  I’m sorry, but there are not demons out there determined to undermine the Lord.

If you insist on on basing your political leanings on your understanding of Christ’s teachings, you may not do so selectively.  If your opposition to abortion is absolute, I respect that, right up until I spot your indifference to the pain and suffering of those who happen to live where we as a country need “to do bidness.”   Indiscriminate bombing is a form of retroactive abortion as far as I’m concerned.  Be as righteous in your aversion to war as you are to Planned Parenthood, and we can continue to talk.  If you cannot see that there is ample evidence in the teachings of Christ that love transcends mere man-made borders, and that we should not set about making anyone “less than” so that we may treat them as such, then there may not be much need to continue interacting, is there?

There is more, of course, but let’s keep it simple.  Don’t be arrogant in Christ.  I celebrate your beliefs, please be so kind as to return the courtesy.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Arrogance In Christ

  1. Wow … it’s like you crawled into my brain, read my thoughts, made them eloquent and posted them on your blog. Thank you!

  2. GREAT post, Mack. I agree with 95% of it. Thank you for such an honest and real message to people of faith.

  3. I found this site via Gingersnaps posting in facebook. (Thanks Ginge!) :)

    I think you have been able to articulate, in a way, that I have not been able to, a very clear, concise and meaningful position, that really bears taking in.
    I too, am in agreement with most (if not all) of what you have written.
    I was especially struck by: “I can’t even imagine a patriarchal, misogynistic or vengeful Christ, can you? “ As that’s been something I’ve chewed upon many times over as many years as I’ve thought on this.

    I also take into account that we, homo sapiens, also tend to be the most contradictory creatures at times. That flaw is one of humanness of which no one can escape.

    Wonderful Post.

    ~ZZ

  4. Diatribes and GreenEyzz, welcome! Of course, its always good to see Ginger in here. It just seems like there is so much at stake, there has to be voices inside the Christian community that challenge the myopia of the Church. We have to get this right, to call out those that use faith as a weapon, either to instill fear in perceived enemies, or in each other!

  5. I first learned about Rob Bell when I did this post on the N.C. pastor who got fired for saying he didn’t believe in hell.

    I’ve never, ever believed in hell. It just has never made sense to me. And there is no hell in the Jewish tradition.

    Anyway, I’ve really been getting into these lectures by Amy-Jill Levine, who is a brilliant, awesome scholar … head of New Testament studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School but also an Orthodox Jew. Her Biblical interpretations are so fascinating because she bases them on scholarly things like, you know, Hebrew translation and cultural traditions. I’d love for folks to listen to them, she’s such an engaging speaker. It’s from The Teaching Company and ridciulously expensive but some of her lectures are available for free on iTunes, I’d Google her name and hunt around on the internet. She’s truly amazing.

    And since you’re in the Nashville area, she does speak around these parts a good bit, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing her speak quite a few times. If you get a chance to hear her, don’t miss it. It really makes you look at the Bible differently. More logically.

  6. I’m pretty sure she officiated my friend’s wedding. Is that the right term? She did the ceremony is what I’m getting at…

  7. Yes “officiated” is the correct term.

  8. Mack:

    I believe in not believing. I got no problem with other people believing anything that does not harm others (if your belief system includes hurting yourself I think the problem will solve itself). I’ve got friends and family who are strong in their faith and manage to not spend their time trying to win me back to the road to redemption.

    I can sit, politely, and listen to people of faith talk about how it sustains them and helps them with difficulty in their lives. I don’t share their convictions but I honor them. I cannot listen to anyone who tells me that my life is wrong–conversations starting from that premise are incredibly short.

  9. Saucy

    Wow….thanks for helping me understand just how I feel, too. I sometimes feel a little guilty for doubting the church and people of ‘faith’. It has even at times made me doubt my own faith, even though deep down I still believe. This articulates exactly how I feel about my faith, and more. Awesome post!

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