The Old is in the New

We don’t want the Christian tradition to become an antique shop just preserving old things. We want to build on old things and allow them to be useful in different ages, vocabularies, and cultures. We want our faith to be ever new, so that it can speak to souls alive and in need right now! – Richard Rohr

During the holiday season, we can see the old ways of tradition booming forth within each culture context. In most Western societies, the Christmas tradition rings loudest with its songs, lights, decorations and food. Not to take way the amazing traditions of Hanukkah, Kwanza, Winter Solstice, Yule, etc. What I am doing here is simply pointing out a renewed since of presence within the Christmas tradition. It’s easy to see the beauty within the holiday of Christmas and forget how much it has evolved since it’s beginnings.

In many instances, the Christmas holiday borrows from other ancient traditions to capture the currents cultures needs and desires. For example, the lights on the Christmas tree. Early Christians adopted this custom from early Celtics due to its symbolism of keeping “the evil spirits at bay”[2.]. Christians repurposed this custom into a symbol of resurrection to the “tree of paradise”. Both customs bring with it a truth of protection and new beginnings. Thus, the reason early Christians adopted the custom.

Also, even with the issues the Santa Clause brings (consumerism, greed, etc.), he did stem from a real Christian figure in Saint Nicholas as well as the folklore character known as Woden. Both figures brought gifts to the ones in need (which is a great symbol of what God does for her creation). I think the actual historic figure in this (Saint Nicholas) should be the one we tell our kids about. Here is what the real deal good old Saint Nicholas was about:

He used his entire inheritance to help the poor, sick, and children in need. He gave in secret, expecting nothing in return. Nicholas saved young women from slavery, protected sailors, spared innocents from execution, provided grain in a famine, and rescued a kidnaped boy. [3.]

All of this really points to numerous amounts of diverse traditions from ancient times that are still bringing about new ways of life in this holiday season. See, when we discover that the old ways were new once in time, we discover that the old ways always can become the new ways if we allow them to be renewed. I think we get to caught up in the tug between old vs. new that it ends up always being this dualistic battle instead of being a beautiful complementation.

We must let go of the idea that we must have this ageism divide between the old and new. To become unified (John 17:23) we will have to be more open to both sides of the old and new paradigm. Of course, when we see a tradition that brings harm to and individual or group, we have to cease the practice of that particular tradition and let it go. This can be hard for both sides. There will always be a time where regardless of how new or old a practice is, death and resurrection is going to be needed for a new type of design.

Jesus brings this same type of idea up when he said: “Every disciple of the kingdom is like a householder who draws out from his storage room, things both old and new”. —Matthew 13:52. It’s when we come to the reality of the responsibilities of someone who is for the abundant life of all (not just some who have the same type of beliefs), regardless if it holds to the old or new ways. This is no easy feat. Fear has to die and love has to reign. It’ll be difficult but I believe it’s something that needs to be done if we ever want a world that brings life instead of death…

Oh, my ways are strange ways and new ways and old ways, And deep ways and steep ways and high ways and low, I’m at home and at ease on a track that I know not, And restless and lost on a road that I know.- Henry Lawson

Bust-up…It’s Prophetic!

“A priest once quoted to me the Roman saying that a religion is dead when the priests laugh at each other across the altar. I always laugh at the altar, be it Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, because real religion is the transformation of anxiety into laughter.”- Alan Watts

When exploring the comedic landscape, be it stand-up or just laughing with buddies, what we discover is total-unsaturated freedom. I mean, come on! You know you cannot deny when a good joke hits your soul, you become overpowered with joy and bliss. The endorphins hit an all-time high, and you bask in the comfort of hilariousness. When swimming in the Christian tradition, I think “busting-up” is a vital prophetic practice to have if we ever want to see restorative justice and mercy flow through our current social landscape.

How do we experience this through the Christian tradition? Well, unfortunately we don’t see to many preachers at the pulpit preaching “go out and watch some comedy”, but this does not mean that from the broad scope of things, the Christ-trajectory hasn’t journeyed out to this particular new endeavor. Yes, I get it. When we see how uncomfortable someone’s sense of humors can make us feel, its hard not to react in disdained. I find it interesting that a sermon kind of has the same kind of effect on us. Comedian Pete Homes says it best:

“The skill set of pastor and comedian are incredibly similar. You want to affect people. You’re good at reading rooms. You’re persuasive, and you’re likable.” [1]

Now, I am not saying that we are just to be entertained in our seats while watching the “pastor” make us laugh. That is not the point. The point, I think, is we might have to find ourselves in uncomfortable spaces to be able to stretch us to encounter different perspectives. We are seeing some truth spoken to power being projected out of the stand-up scene, which if we listen closely and take some pointers, it might just help us over here in the Christian world.

The prophetic is used not to just expose the injustices, but also to bring about liberation. We must see that when we laugh, it is a way for us to heal towards a better way of living for ourselves and the community we relate to. Likewise, as the medical research shows:

“There is growing evidence that laughter as a physical activity can additionally produce small but quantifiable positive physiological benefits.” [2].

The physiological also plays a huge part in the spiritual. When we step into the realm of expressed humor, we find ourselves in a place of peace. It is peacemaking that brings us into the “reign of God”. There is hope for this Jesus tradition and it is finding our sense of humor! Yes, the current divide and injustices that is currently happening within our current American culture is ramped.

It’s easy to get to serious with ourselves with all the bullshit running amok! Believe me, I am guilty of it! Please understand, we are not to ignore the racism that is happening within the police force across the county, school shootings, the Trump impeachment scandal, etc. The list can go on and on.

But we must admit, when things to get a little out of hand, the only medicine is to laugh that shit off! Like good old Sarah reminds us in her time of utter disbelief in the insanity: “So, Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Gen 18:12) Pleasure? In all this mess? Is it possible? Don’t know (like always) but I do trust in the gift of laughter. From this ancient tradition, its time to let go of the long faces and step into the vibrant space of comedy…

“When I opened my eyes and saw the real world, I began to laugh and I haven’t stopped since.” – Soren Kierkegaard

Future Tripping Faith

“It’s difficult to avoid all the crisis talk that fills the airwaves: climate change, debt, food deserts, clean water, masses of discarded plastic filling the oceans, populism nationalism, racism, shootings, stabbings, the list goes on and on. And apparently it is not just the poor and the middle-class who are feeling the pressures and concerns of all this, we all seem to have lost sight of the future.”- Barry Taylor

 

Within the Christian tradition, the future has always been geared towards a more doom and gloom outlook. This is due to several factors: church doctrine, theological perspectives, biblical hermeneutics, and cultural influences. This isn’t just a religious position, from the Western eyes, an apocalyptic future has always been in our scopes. We love the hopeless end times so much that we have become contagious to any other possible future outcomes. Screw a compassionate eschatology, we want that blood, guts and fire!

Here is the thing, when it comes to the future, I think we all would agree that we want it to be a bright and hopeful existence for our kids. Yes, religion has played a huge part in the pessimistic future position that a lot of us hold. The Abrahamic faiths have not helped! When we view God as an executioner, riding the dark horse coming in the clouds to seek and destroy, who would want to trust in a faith like that?! With that being said, I do believe that we have numerous issues in the world today and in our day to day lives. This world is fucked up in so many ways! How are we supposed to react and position ourselves?

I don’t know for sure, but I think having a compassionate and enduring view of the future puts us on a more beautiful trajectory. It does takes steps and action to get this type of faith moving. Recently, I just finished a course with LA Hatchery called: Spiritual Entrepreneurship. Through this course, we discussed, critiqued, questioned, and proposed innovated ideas that would propel us into a brighter faith of the future. One of the course instructors, innovated theologian Barry Taylor, described a great perspective in retrospect of the future with using the Mt. of Transfiguration:

“In the story of the Transfiguration, Jesus’ closest friends witness an amazing encounter and want to build a monument on the site and make it a place of pilgrimage and retreat. In some sense they seem to want an escape from the hardships of life and to bask in the light of this revelatory moment. But Jesus has other ideas. He leads them back down the mountain, back to the world, to ordinary existence where life is dominated by uncertainty and anxiety. He calls them to live in the dust of an uncertain world and to bring a different future to it.”[1.]

Boom! That is what I think we must do! We are going to experience all the uncertainties, anxieties, and doubt when it comes to the future. No way around that. I don’t think it’s so much about happy endings but instead, its more about collaborative beginnings. It’s all about the process. We need to start being creative in how we react to our current world situations, collectively and individually. We cannot let fear of letting go of old traditions that are no longer viable in bringing a brighter future to existence (Mark 7:8).

News flash: from all the data from social researchers, when it comes to religion and its participants- its not working! The nones and dones are piling up! It’s time to use a little of that death & resurrection that Jesus spoke about and put it into practice. If we want to see any type of productive future of this faith for our kids, I think we better hop on this approach pronto…

“When tradition is thought to state the way things really are, it becomes the director and judge of our lives; we are, in effect, imprisoned by it. On the other hand, tradition can be understood as a pointer to that which is beyond tradition: the sacred. Then it functions not as a prison but as a lens.” – Marcus Borg

Rat Race…Selah!

“We criticize anyone who tries to break away from the rat race, because the idea that there is a way out scares us more than dying in the state we’re in” – Cic Mellace

How is everybody’s work week going? Loving it, or what? Are you feeling like what you do within your work week is really providing the best for you and others around you? I will be perfectly honest: I don’t. And, I am not alone. Majority of Americans-and the rest of the globe- are feeling the same type of attitude when it comes to the work week. Here are some statistics regarding Americans attitude towards their work and as well as the health effects due to these work weeks:

‘In 2013, Forbes magazine reported on the poll, saying “work is more often a source of frustration than fulfillment for nearly 90% of the world’s workers.” The number of global employees described by Gallup as “emotionally disconnected from their workplaces” is only slightly better this year (85%) than four years ago (87%). The rate is slightly better in some countries — like the United States, where only 70 percent of people hate their jobs — and worse in others.” [1.]

And…

“According to 2004 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 15 million Americans work full time on evening shift, night shift, rotating shifts, or other employer arranged irregular schedules. According to U.S. National Health Interview data from 2010, almost 19% of working adults work 48 hour or more per week and over 7% worked 60 hours or more. Both shift work and long work hours have been associated with health and safety risks.” [2.]

Look, I am extremely grateful for what my privilege has brought me and what hard work has done as well (they both play a part). I also understand there are many people who are desperately needing a job but are unable to. It’s an issue and I empathize. The systemic problem of class wars, racism, discrimination-all stems from the reality of how we are lacking communing as a community. But here is the thing: Is this current work-climate really a healthy way to live? Doesn’t look to be according to the stats and personal experience. I am currently clocking in a 50+ hour work week and I am feeling the affects emotionally and physically. I know, I know suck it up right? Or like Paul (or a follower of Paul) would say: “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.” Yeah, we get it Paul, but life isn’t always that black and white (you asshole 😉).

We can look at all the factors that play a role in why, in our current economic state of affairs globally, we all are feeling trapped and unsatisfied. Western civilization has over emphasized the competitive spirit into a form of slavery. If we do not work those hours, we probably would lose our jobs and not get paid. Hyper Capitalism is not helping anybody here, people! We are stuck in the consumerism rat race and we need to take steps to break free. Yeah, a little idealistic, sure. But, all ideas stem from some type of truth that needs to be lived out or else the captives remain captives.

What’s the solution? Well, I don’t know for sure–but I do know that just doing small tiny itty-bitty steps do help tremendously in breaking free of this unhealthy rate race. It can be writing blogs (like yours truly), it can be serving others in a way that doesn’t benefit the machine but truly brings life to the one its serving. Be creative! Please don’t think I am selling fame and fortune here. It’s not about that at all. Also, working hard and living into the reality of truly believing in your work is a great thing! I am not trying to go all quasi-socialist on you (though it has its benefits).

In essence, it’s about living out a life of experimentation and creativity not of stagnant habits. Don’t get me wrong, I understand we must put the grub on those platters! All I am trying to point out is if we keep on going at the pace we are going, our bellies might be full, but everything else is going to be lacking in substance. We cannot be diluted by the propaganda of the Empire (Institutional control, aka Babylon). We are not pawns! We are all Kings and Queens (Rev. 1:6) participating with the Christ-King to bring about a life of meaning, not a mundane existence. Let us step into the unknown and really see where this life of meaning can lead us…

“The only walls that exist are those you have placed in your mind. And whatever obstacles you conceive, exist only because you have forgotten what you have already achieved.”― Suzy Kassem

Camaraderie

“That’s the thing about friendship, it’s a lot rarer than love because there’s nothing in it for anybody.”[1.]

It’s hard to imagine not experiencing the amazing journey of friendship. We all can become a little oblivious when it comes to the incredible gift of relationship truly is. Let’s not forget, many individuals don’t even get to experience genuine friendship throughout their lives. As study shows, more and more people are not developing meaningful friendships and thus, not able to create healthy communities that are able to thrive. [2.]

From the American Christian context, we can see this type of loneliness is also causing an abandonment of healthy church experiences. People become isolated due to the abundant number of rules and regulations pressed upon congregates. When it becomes more of an exclusive club instead of an inclusive party, things can get desolate pretty fast.

Here are some examples of how church communities create loneliness and isolation:

  • People don’t feel safe enough to connect (LGBTQ people for example)
  • Churches make groups with walls and the walls need to come down
  • People with unseen illnesses cannot always attend church services, which makes it hard to connect with others
  • People who have less feel like they are the only ones
  • Some people are not extroverts. But they still need connection. [3.]

These are just few on the many issues that the church at large is producing when it comes to isolation and loneliness. What gives? What can we do to counter this onslaught? Well, many have left these churches and have found freedom and friendship outside the religious walls. Out of these groups, you still have Christ participants and others not so much. I get it. When people have been burned by the religious institution, what we call church, it’s hard to come back to some type of faith.

The nones and dones are finding healthy friendships and that’s awesome. But, some are not. On top of that, some are still wanting that communal community to embrace. I think for those disenfranchised, the Body of Christ (i.e., a loving community) can still play a role in bringing about healthy friendships that in turn create healthy communities. It really boils down to effort and time. Let’s look at this verse from the Christian scriptures:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

A lot of directions we can go with this. Like did Jesus really consider his disciples slaves (more accurate translation of servant)? Or, did he truly make known everything about God to them? But the direction I want to go with this is the whole context of this verse is showing that the thing that lasts is LOVE (no greater than by laying down one’s life for a friend). Yes, love is always the default message throughout Jesus’ teachings: “This is my command, love one another as I have loved you”.

To become a people of true friendships, we must come to the realization that love is the only action to bring us into this reality. Duh, right? Yes, love is getting the final word nowadays and that’s good! But, agape love is different then a love that is a two-way street transaction. It is unconditional. People have a hard time grasping that, I know I do. It’s no easy task! It’s fucken hard! The question is: do we want to take it to a systemic level? Hard to say. But isolated loneliness is a very difficult place to find oneself in and to claw out of.

There are many avenues and connections that need to be accomplished to combat this issue. From Jesus’ perspective, friendship is the place he seems to trust in to find the reality of the call: Earth as it is in Heaven. We cannot see the New Creation come into full reality unless we heed to this call of authentic camaraderie…

“Friendship is unnecessary like Philosophy, like Art it is has no survival value rather it is one of those things that give value to survival”- C.S. Lewis

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Participation or Obedience?

 “We are part of something more than we are observing something. How does that feel to you? From the perspective of participation, we can recognize that most of religious and church history has been largely preoccupied with religious ideas about which we could be wrong or right. When it is all about ideas, we do not have to be part of “it”; we just need to talk correctly about “it.” We can avoid actually living out our beliefs and walking our talk.”– Richard Rohr

When it comes to the history of Christendom, it was mostly about obedience then participation. We see this through the various traditions. This concept of obedience ends up being more of “having the correct” beliefs rather than living out a loving way of life. When we get to caught up in the ideas of faith, we wind up being consumers rather than doers.

When we come to experiential trust, we can recognize that it’s really about connecting with others through relationships. It’s making oneself encounter the whole of being rather than worrying about if you have the doctrine of the atonement right (which it all boils down to a theory rather than an experience). See, when we get to caught up in “who has it right” we create an us vs. them paradigm which only causes division.

We have to come to the table of reconciliation and be always for coming together unified despite our differences. Yes, there is a way to participate that involves some type of decision to “obey”-which a better term would be taking action. Unfortunately, from many people’s stories and experiences with obedience, it was more of a blind allegiance rather than a divine connection. It is a dangerous thing when one loses himself to the higher powers of authority. This will lead to unhealthy abuse as one study showed regarding blind authoritative control:

“Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe — typically under the influence of those in authority — that what they are doing is right.”-Science Daily

When we come to a place of authoritative obedience, we become oblivious to the harmful effects to ourselves and others. This is not what having faith is all about! Faith is having the courage to step into the unknown and experience the process of bringing about love that heals and liberates. God is not interested in obedience as much as entering in a relational space that endows growth and connection. Yes, we make the decision to trust and follow God, but if we do not believe that the center of all being is already connected to us, we will never fully allow this relationship to God and Her creation blossom and take hold of our reality. If its just obedience to an idea and not to a reality, we will not see the transformation bloom in ourselves and our surroundings.

Coming to a place of desiring the divine connection is a difficult journey. Its not all skittles and rainbows, that is for damn sure! It does take a great amount of patience and letting go of egotistical habits. Jesus wasn’t lying when he said, “to find life you must lose your life”. It is action that really drives a reaction. If we just sit on the sidelines of statements of beliefs, we will never truly experience the divine transformation that breaks us free. If we don’t take seriously the Orthopraxy of this whole Jesus movement, we are not going to survive. Its time we become participants of the God who is love and let go of the idea of blind obedience if we ever want to see dynamic change…

“New and stirring things are belittled because if they are not belittled the humiliating question arises ‘Why then are you not taking part in them?”
H.G. Wells

The Cult of Culture

“The moral standards by which Israel’s first ancestor were expected to act seem to come not so much by God’s unique command, but by expectations of the surrounding cultures” – Pete Enns

We are all products of our environment. Our cultures play a huge role in how we as a collective, strive to improve and develop ourselves into a reality of wellbeing and enjoyment. The Latin root word cultura: “till the soil, tend, grow” is the same root as Cultivate and Cult. Which I find fascinating when we when look at how cults work in our religious settings. I see it more expansive then just the religious sphere. Culture is the true cult when it comes to how we as a society interact, develop, and grow.

One of the definitions of cult states: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious”. I think this is the most used definition when it comes to religious people accusing other religious people for “not doing it right”. Within Christendom, there is an everlasting list of religious groups that are accused of being cults: LDS, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist’s are the main targets. Yes, these groups have their problems, but I think as research shows, majority of the churches we see throughout Western Civilization are showing unhealthy practices which is leading to a exodus from the religious institutions. Alas, the great cult list continues.

With that being said, for all those religious/spiritual practitioners out there, what do we do with the other definition of cult: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work”. From the Christian perspective, isn’t this what we do with Jesus? Aren’t we in the end, a cult? I mean this is how we got our name in the first place, right? We were following The Way (what followers of Jesus called it) of Jesus and when other groups saw this, the cult name we were given was “Christian”. So, is this word/idea of cult the end-all of good and healthy religious practices?

Don’t think the religious/spiritual are the only group guilty of being cult-like. From Patriots and their civil duty to a person and idea, to the Scientist and her devotion to the work of the scientific method–all humans in one way or another practice cult-like behaviors to bring about “wellbeing and enjoyment” to their social structures. See, culture is always influencing how we as humans view the world. What culture is best? I don’t think that’s the question we should be asking ourselves.

We should realize that culture will always be part of the human experience. All of us will have our cult-like ways in how we move through this life. But the thing that still moves me to still participate in the way of Jesus is the realization that culture doesn’t always produce healthy, peaceful and loving outcomes. Injustices still are running amok throughout the world of cultures. The poor are still poor, the hungry are still hungry and the rich are still getting richer.

The violent cultures of Empire & Religion are still manipulating how all this social process works. These structures only want one thing: controlling power. This model will not bring justice, mercy, peace and love. What do we do as a society to change this culture? Well, tough to say. But I do believe Jesus showed us a way to develop a new process within our cultures: It is the powerless who act out of love in order to change the cult of culture (Mark 10:42). Let us be lovers who seek peacemaking; not haters who seek warmongering…

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.”- Barbara Brown Taylor

Knowing Souls

“So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
No, you don’t know how it feels to be me”. – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Do we really know “how it feels” to be in someone else’s shoes? Can we really comprehend the magnitude of other people’s experiences? Hard to say, really.  I know for myself; it is not easy trying to empathize and relate to others experiences and dispositions. We all attempt and often fail miserably. Often, our motives are what really play a huge part in how we engage with others and their issues. Coming from the Christian perspective, I think we are on the failing end of making a positive difference in others who are different then us.

It has become a competition in winning the souls of others, instead of building authentic relationships. Numerous of factors come into play of why this is. Not to get to long winded on this blog post, but the biggest driving force is the concept of hell. The Christian tradition has morphed into a factory of “get people of hell in the afterlife” instead of letting people experience “heaven on earth in the here and now”. Fear, greed, and the us vs. them motif is the foundation of this unfortunate state of affairs we are currently experiencing.  When you make a belief system of fear and hate into a thriving institution, the effects are direly devastating.

But, I don’t think all is lost (yes, very optimistic of me I know).  There always has been another spark and remnant that comes out of the evil empire that brings about hopeful change. I would like to quote this verse from the Christian scriptures that brings to light these two contending ideas of winning souls vs. entering in genuine relationships:

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. [1.]

The premise I take here (from the many different interpretations and commentary I have found with this scripture verse, and guess what? That’s ok!), Paul was trying to bring about blessings to those he made contact with for the sake of the gospel. It states: “I have become all things to all people…in order to save some”. It has the “winning souls” rhetoric here and to the first centaury readers that could have been more of a way of getting to a better way of being to escape the oncoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D (just a little side note hehe). But, I think how Paul finished up this passage is showing the real intention of “becoming all things to all people” (the true relationship builder): SO THAT I MAY SHARE IN ITS BLESSINGS! This right here is the point of entering in relationships with others.  This is what the Gospel of Christ should bring to ALL PEOPLE.

It’s about truly knowing people.  When Jesus says: “To know God and His Son”, this knowing is ginosko and this literally means “a felt knowing”, as in RELATIONAL! No matter who it is–black, white, gay, straight–experiencing the blessings of peace which produces love is what it’s all about. It is going out there and becoming friends with others (I know we can’t do this with everyone, but I think we can fucking do a better job than what we are doing now)! This is what brings us out of the hell we sometimes find ourselves in throughout this life. The Kin-dom reality is about the here and now.  We will never develop and evolve (aka salvation) as a species until we realize that its real relationships that will get us there…

‘Self-sufficiency makes God experience impossible! That’s why Jesus showed up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one, a defenseless baby lying in the place where animals eat. Talk about utter relationship! Naked vulnerability means I’m going to let you influence me; I’m going to allow you to change me. The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead. We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. To choose to stand outside of this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin. We call the Flow love. We really were made for love, and outside of it we die very quickly.” [2.]

Gospel Illusions

With the recent rise of progressive “Christianity” in the last few years, it’s no surprise that one of the prevailing themes is social justice. Many denominations have been caught up in the movement forever. But social justice is not the gospel, and saying that it is, is heresy. [1.]

How about that quote? Makes you feel all good and warm inside, right (NOT)? So many things to discuss with the current slam-campaign against the current social justice” Gospel issue. What gives? Why are we seeing such a jolt of warnings and statements against this idea? Look, from the perspective of the Christian tradition, the Gospel has been on the hot seat ever since Jesus presented it–all the way to Paul and Peter/James (Gentile converts vs The Jerusalem Church) and the debates of what all this good news really looks like for the participants of the faith. The same old tale of us vs. them.

We have seen the Gospel in the West, for example, being more of a system of beliefs then a way of how one lives out their life. This stems from numerous factors (both the “religious and secular”)–from the reformation and it’s revolt against the corrupted hierarchy, to the enlightenment and it’s doorway to free thinking. This opened up a whole new way of how we look at the good news of what Jesus came to proclaim. It’s no longer something just a few “religious” people get to enjoy or other “secular” individuals get to reject. We are discovering (and rediscovering) that it was always news that set the captives free (I think any human would agree that we all feel trapped at times)!

The Gospel should always be seen as a way to bridge the gap between the outcast and the conformed, the poor and rich, the black and white, the gay and straight, the man and woman, the transsexual and the heterosexual, the child and adult (Gal. 3:28-get the picture?). We cannot be bamboozled by this notion that the Gospel is just one tight net idea that once examined and believed, no other type of suggestions or behaviors can stem from it. The Gospel is a plethora of creative and innovative ways of being in the time and place we are given.

It’s not just a set of beliefs (atonement theories) to believe in, nor is it one certain type of action within ones culture (social justice). The Gospel involves those ideas and actions, for sure! But, its really just simply good news; which everyone needs nowadays. The purpose of news, which is good, is to propel oneself and his/her social environment to beneficial new heights that have not yet been reached. It’s a reality where all are unified but still diversified. It’s a group effort along with the individuals surge. It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that (a little D Mob for you hehe).

No matter what illusions we were given with this Gospel message of Jesus, one thing is for sure: It’s good, it’s here and it can be a reality that we all can experience. We don’t have to bring the accusatory spirit when one is deciding to put this beautiful gospel into action. Let social justice be part of this beautiful gospel. Let certain beliefs that come out of this gospel be for those individuals or denominations to have (let their actions speak). Let’s all just relax and mind our own business when it comes to telling and experiencing this Gospel of the Kingdom! LOVE and be peacemakers, for fuck-sakes! (Matthew 5:9)…

The gospel of Jesus is not a rational concept to be explained in a theory of salvation, but a story about God’s presence in Jesus’ solidarity with the oppressed, which led to his death on the cross. What is redemptive is the faith that God snatches victory out of defeat, life out of death, and hope out of despair. – James H. Cone

The Heresy Agenda

Jesus’ focus was on “hypocrisy” more than “heresy,” and it might just be an indication of how far we’ve strayed for us to give so much attention to “heresy” and not enough to “hypocrisy.”[1.]

It seems from both sides of the Christian partisan isle, the heretic agenda is still prevalent within Christendom. When we proclaim the charge of heresy-which in the context of the Greek in the Christian scriptures, literally means: division-it’s hard to really find a unified common ground with each opposing group. The point of all religion, especially the Christian traditions in my opinion, is to be unified in love (Col. 3:14). Yes, we are all seeking to do what we all think is right when it comes to the Christian faith. Both sides of the left/right Christian divide are pushing the “we’re right you’re wrong” cause, which ends up creating the heretic agenda. Is this the only route we can take when “others” come up with ideas/practices that do not align with ours?

As history shows, the heretic agenda has only brought division, death and destruction. Is this part of being a participant with Jesus? I mean honestly, how the fuck did we ever think burning someone at the stake was Christ-like?! You can click here to view the list of individuals who were executed/tortured due to the heresy charge of the “Christian” church. With regards to today’s cultural context, we have taken the execution/torture part out of the equation (yay) but the destructiveness of the heresy agenda is still at play.

I would like to take a couple examples from both sides of the Christian faith that are throwing out the heresy card and see how much it differs from what Jesus did 2,000 plus years ago. I believe there is a difference, and we are definitely not practicing the path that produces unified love through these heresy accusations. These examples of heresy accusations from individuals are in no way trying to bring about judgement on them. It is merely a way of showing the hypocrisy of it all. We are all guilty of hypocrisy throughout are way of functioning in life. We all need some unveiling at times to expose our false assumptions of moral superiority (take the log out of our own eye, ring a bell?).

Let’s go ahead and take the first example from the progressive side.  John Pavlovitz is an author/pastor/blogger who really goes after the current political climate of conservative Christians with their support of Trump and his administration.  Look, he has a lot of really good and important things to say in regard to this subject. I agree with a lot of it! The thing that I have issue with and what I believe to be hindering the repentance (change of mind in order to change your path) of these groups is his charge of heresy.  Take this for example:

So, apparently the issue of nationalism is “against the orthodox belief of Christendom and/or an opinion that is contrary to what is accepted”? In essence, what Mr. Pavlovitz is proposing is that he abides in the pure orthodoxy of the Christian faith and these Bible Belt Christians do not. According to his blog, these Christians are practicing “nasty heresy that is straight-up of the devil”! Man, that’s a hefty accusation. Is it true?

Now, let’s peep out the conservative side of the isle. Currently, the Catholic Church is dealing with a heresy charge on Pope Francis himself (how ironic, don’t you think?):

Prominent clergymen and scholars including Fr. Aidan Nichols, one of the best-known theologians in the English-speaking world, have issued an open letter accusing Pope Francis of committing heresy. They ask the bishops of the Catholic Church, to whom the open letter is addressed, to “take the steps necessary to deal with the grave situation” of a pope committing this crime.[3.]

What did the Pope do to deserve this “infamous” title? Well, according to his accusers: “Pope Francis’ embrace of positions contrary to the faith and his dubious support of prelates who in their lives have shown themselves to have a clear disrespect for the Church’s faith and morals.”[4.] How broad and narrow minded can you get here? Why are we so terrified of people with differing views? Yes, there are more details to this claim, but it just boils down to different practices and associations. Again, do we divide, or do we look to embody our differences in unity?

Look, I get the horrible effects of nationalism within the culture of Christianity. I also get the importance to care for our community and to protect them from the harmful effects of bringing about unhealthy practices. Any type of fundamentalism that pops up from either side is only a stumbling block to the unity of the faith. But, in the end, the heresy agenda does not produce the fruit of love (Gal 5:22-23). Let us say goodbye to this unhealthy agenda and embrace the unity of Christ: I in them and you in me

“Ye shalt locate false teachers from online evidence or in person whilst they preacheth and drive public campaigns against them. Making sure everyone knows just how shocking they are, thou shalt pick at the teaching of others and bring to light their heretic ways. Attack their theology in any way it does not align with thine own personal theology. Ye are free to call them names, label them and destroy their ministries. This is pleasing to me.”Said God, never.