Archive for the Totally Judging Category

Cynical and disillusioned

Sheila Gregoire of to Love, Honor, & Vacuum did a series on her blog this week about problems she saw with the popular Christian marriage book “Love & Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I commented on the 3rd post because she said I’ve been thinking for a while – that Jesus often isn’t the center of our teaching. I started a comment and then realized I was about to typed out a big rant, and decided that the potential length called for my own blog post.

There are a couple of posts I should probably finish first, but I’ll start with this and let the other 2 be explanations after the fact instead of a build up to.

So here’s Sheila’s posts:
A Review of Love and Respect: How the Book Gets Sex Horribly Wrong
Love and Respect: Why Unconditional Respect Can’t Work
The Ultimate Flaw in the Book Love and Respect: Jesus Isn’t at the Center
Our Podcast: The Love and Respect Earthquake, Tidying Up, and More!
Your Stories of Women and Marriages Damaged from Love and Respect

Here’s my comment on the 3rd:

The church I quit last year did a sermon series on this book back around January 2015 (my guess based on when I added and updated Love & Respect in my Goodreads). I didn’t see a problem at the time. But this time last year I started to see what was consistently missing from most (if not all) of the formulaic sermon series (plural) that I was started to really listen to. The Holy Spirit.

I was about to type out a whole rant, but I’m going to save that for my own blog when I have more time.

The “Love & Respect” series was from November-December, 2014. That was during my first year of sobriety, and while I was “coming to,” I was still entrenched in patriarchal indoctrination. And I was still kind of desperate to save my failing marriage. So I didn’t see anything off at the time. That came later most glaringly with the InCite Conference of 2017 with fired pastor Perry Noble who was billed as a headliner of the conference shortly after his stint in rehab for alcohol abuse.

An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. 1 Timothy 3:2-3

Noble had no business being on that stage. Around that same time I noticed several megachurch pastors around the country using the phrase, “The Best is Yet to Come” just as ours had done in connection with a fundraising campaign.

By this time, I had a little bit of sobriety, I was working through some issues, and I was questioning everything. One of my twitter friends was talking about Robert Morris’ book “The Blessed Life” and Morris saying Jesus was “God’s tithe.” That reminded me that he said that garbage when he spoke at our church in 2014 for a sermon series based on that book. I found it odd when I heard him say it, but I was in early sobriety, and barely able to discern yet. Now? God didn’t “tithe” himself. Jesus is God. And even if we divide out the Trinity, Jesus is 1/3 not 1/10. But still, how can God tithe himself and who is he tithing to? HE IS GOD! I haven’t yet been able to get through that book. I have it, and started it because the pastor sent a signed copy when I started giving money only he addressed it to my daughter not catching that it was MY name on the check and apparently assuming that “Jamie” = “James” and as husband he was the spiritual leader. He was not. But I digress.

I had to step down from serving once I went back to school because I couldn’t put in sufficient practice time. If I was just singing, I could, but not playing guitar, and there were loads of vocalists by that time. Also, at this point, I was only attending when I was scheduled on the worship team. I was still listening to all the sermons via podcast, but then a sermon series happened that got all over me. The pastor made the statement, “Jesus was a carpenter. He was a man’s man!” This wasn’t the only hypermasculine statement, but it was the one that pissed me off. I am a carpenter. I don’t do it for a living, and rarely have time to do it as a hobby (for now), but I’ve been building and fixing things that fall under the carpentry umbrella since my very early 20s. You don’t need a penis to be a carpenter! Does this also mean that men who aren’t carpenters are less manly? That’s just ludicrous. He even made a statement about men who’ve been “wussified” and I was like, “That’s the ‘clean’ version of Mark Driscoll a few years ago talking about how men have been ‘pussified’!” That whole series could have been a Driscoll series, and may have been one of his recycled. And Driscoll is another disgraced pastor who has no business on a stage or behind a pulpit.

It was a couple of months after this that there was a guest preacher who gave a standalone sermon to tell parents what they need to do to guarantee their children will follow God. That’s the sermon when it hit me that there was no mention of the Holy Spirit at all, and only a passing mention of Jesus. It was all about doing a set of things “right” so that your kids will turn out all right. But you can do everything “right” and kids will still have a mind and will of their own. Without the Holy Spirit to guide your relationship with them, and without the Holy Spirit guiding them, there is just behavior modification to be accepted by your tribe. The odds are certainly better if you raise them up, but motives matter, and if it’s to make y’all look good and not for them to actually love Jesus and obey Jesus in order to love others, it’s just empty works. There are no absolute guarantees because “Christian formulas” are NOT Jesus.

I stopped listening to the sermon podcasts during that summer’s “Hot & Heavy” series. A story was told, that I have heard told before that I don’t believe actually happened. It’s the reason for following the “Billy Graham rule” because a female congregant tried to seduce him to go to a hotel room she had reserved right across the street from where they were eating as they had met for counseling. I am just as skeptical of that story as I am of Billy Graham’s claim of finding a naked woman in his hotel room. Maybe one of those stories is true. Maybe they both are. But even if so, isolated incidents do not indicate a pattern of women to fall on their backs with their legs up in the air for pastors. It goes right along with patriarchal and complementarian men blaming women for men’s lusts and fantasies while portraying themselves as hapless victims. It makes women enemies just by their very existence. And this is not of Christ no matter how big of a platform they get.

This turned into the long rant that I figured it would. I wrote about magic formulas 3 years ago. I guess once your eyes get opened, you just can’t unsee it. Sheila is right. If obedience to Jesus is not our primary desire in every aspect of our lives, all else will become idolatry and we will chase after and follow anyone who makes us feel better or promises us a comfortable life rather than following Jesus.

Joy Beher and hearing God speak

I have not heard directly what Joy Beher said. I don’t watch The View, nor do I follow it because I don’t care. I don’t watch any talk shows nor do I listen to talk radio. They don’t entertain me. If what I keep reading about on Facebook is true, Joy Beher is wrong in her assessment that Mike Pence hearing God is mental illness. But I’m not about to go on a rant against Joy Beher in defense of Mike Pence.

While I think she is wrong, and not solely because of my belief in God and having heard from him myself, but because I have a little bit of knowledge about mental illness, I refuse to call for The View to be canceled because I’m offended that she is wrong. She has every right to say that. She is entitled to believe it and to say it. I will wholeheartedly support that right because I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. That includes the 1st amendment that her opinions are fully protected under. Just as I will support the right to speak of the opinions of the outraged Christians who are too thin skinned to handle criticism of the world. But to them, as a follower of the risen Jesus the Messiah, I ask you this:

What do you think you signed up for when you decided to follow Jesus?

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” John 15:18-20

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:7

How are you going to stand firm in the face of true persecution when you can’t handle being offended? Is Jesus not enough? How do you expect to lead a nonbeliever to Jesus when you can’t quietly go about doing the works that you were called to do according to Ephesians 2:8-10?

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. James 3:13-16

For far too many generations we have been indoctrinated into a false christianity. We have been taught to look at the sin of the world around us and fear the consequences of the sins of the other without ever being taught to look at ourselves and whether or not we are following Jesus or following the world. This led us to following “bold Christian leaders” who stand against the world to save us from destruction, which was always to keep us “safe and comfortable.” And so we turned to political leaders to save us. But putting our faith in the world system (even a “good” one) instead of putting our faith in our only true hope which is in Jesus Christ is antichrist. Jesus says in Revelation, “I am making all things new.” This is the fruit of the Gospel. Not that we will be saved by the world’s system, but that only Jesus saves. Not that the world provides the “safety” and “security” to follow “religious conscious,” but that Jesus provides us the faith to follow Him against the wisdom of this world.

“I have told you this things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Following Jesus is NEVER about fighting for our rights or security or safety or comfort. It has always been and always will be about loving God with everything we are, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It’s not a fight against people, it’s a fight against the demonic whose mission has always been to turn us against God. And we are to accept being outsiders to the world with joy.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14

Anyone claiming that God is saying something different than that, isn’t hearing the voice of God as revealed in Jesus.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Galatians 1:8-9

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air (Elvish translation). Much that once was is lost; for none now live who remember it. It began with the forging of the great rings: three were given to the Elves, immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings. Seven to the Dwarf Lords; great miners and craftsman of the mountain halls. And nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of men, who above all else desire power. For within these rings was bound the strength and will to govern each race. But they were all of them deceived, for another ring was made: in the land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom, the dark lord Sauron forged, in secret, a master ring to control all others. And into this ring he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life.

One Ring to Rule them All.”

Culture wars and agendas #NaBloPoMo

I was going to start this off by saying that I think fighting culture wars are a colossal waste for Christians. But I sat long enough to come up with some cultures that are worth the time and effort to fight against, such as racism, rape culture, patriarchy, fascism, and the like. You know, cultures whose primary aim is to control and harm others. I am wholeheartedly for fighting for justice for the oppressed and the marginalized. There’s a few commandments throughout the Bible to do just that.

So really, what I find the colossal waste is the agenda wars. These so-called “agendas” are touted all the time by the right. I’m using the right rather than the left because I was part of the right wing for so many years. I not only heard the rhetoric, I spoke it. I was all in with it, and looking back, it’s because I never really thought the ideas all the way through. After all, you don’t have to think it all the way through when you are in an echo chamber and your adversaries are largely abstract epithets.

I wish I could say that one day my eyes opened and I could see the propaganda for what it is, and it is propaganda, but it was a gradual awakening that took a few years. I also cannot take any credit for the change in thinking. Additionally, I still have a long way to go, because I go from 0 to 88 mph when I get outraged. Like Matt Walsh tweets popping up in my feed TWICE today. To be honest, I mostly agreed with one of them (which is rare!), but his smug tone eclipsed his moral stand.

Anyway, I was listening to a sermon the other day, and I could not finish because of the presentation. The use of a particular culture’s “agenda” killed the message, and not in a good way. Harping on a secular/any type of sexual/atheistic/liberal/conservative agenda in a way the presents it as a threat turns the members of the target group into an enemy, first by stoking fear, then by demonizing which dehumanizes an entire group. It caricaturizes people making them objects to be fought against rather than fought for. While this method of preaching gets a lot of amens, I’m sitting there wondering, where is Jesus in this? How would He have us engage these groups? How do these menacing portraits of others equip us to reach them with the Gospel, literally, the Good News of Jesus Christ? If we are presenting these people as abstract entities with agendas that threaten our comfortable way of life, how are we going to “Go, therefore, and teach all nations?”

Yes, we are to be counter-cultural, but we aren’t counter-cultural when we just want to preserve our way of life and/or we fear God’s wrath. That makes us just as worldly as the rest of the world. Instead, if we are going to truly follow Christ, if we are indeed his disciples, we will be counter-cultural because of our love and kindness to our fellow man – even those who hate us and want to kill us. Because we serve a risen King who has already won the battle. Satan isn’t just at work in the world, he is at work in the church as well. Jesus warned about tares among the wheat. He warned us about laying up treasure on earth rather than treasure in heaven. “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Sexual abuse is not a joke

I kept sitting and looking at my screen wondering how I was going to start this. There is just no good way to start a post that’s going to expose a family skeleton. But I cannot sit silently by while otherwise good people excuse and normalize Donald Trump’s lewd and crass statements, which weren’t surprising to me given the totality of his reprehensible character which he has displayed since early in the primaries. It is a testimony to the condition of his heart, and not a good testimony.

And for the record, my rejection of Trump is NOT an endorsement of Hillary.

Shortly after I turned 15, my dad was caught engaging in beastiality. He would go to our church on Saturdays and clean the building, and as if it wasn’t bad enough what he did, it happened on church grounds. I heard the original phone call. I heard the plea not to tell anyone. But the membership of our church was told, and that was the end of Daddy’s membership there, and also his service as a deacon. This prompted a hasty move which would have me transfer to a new school and thereby give me some protection from any trickle-down effects of that news reaching the ears of other kids.

No one outside of my parents ever spoke of that incident around me, so I have no idea who outside of that church and the reporter of the incident knew about it. I’m not entirely sure who in the family knows besides those who also went to church there. To be honest, I could have largely convinced myself that nothing ever happened had my dad not brought it up from time to time. He never truly acknowledged the deviancy of his behavior, but never failed to paint himself as the victim.

Nearly 5 years later, he was arrested for rape of two 12-year-old boys. I was 19. This was not an incident that was covered up. His arrest was announced on the local radio station’s news. It was reported on the front page of the local newspaper. I still remember like it was yesterday when my best friend called me because she had heard about it from someone who heard it on the radio. She could not believe it, and was ready to set the record straight. I had to tell her, “Yes, the report is true.” Meanwhile, my mom was beside me saying “No, it’s not true.” I was confirming that Daddy really had been arrested for rape. She was denying rape had occurred.

But I would later read his written statement. Written by his own hand, he gave his account, and he was guilty. Yet he maintained for years and years that what he did wasn’t wrong. My mom stood beside him and supported him. A friend of theirs came to offer support and called those boys “just trash.”

Daddy plead guilty to avoid what would have been an ugly trial. The judge gave him the minimum sentence, but that was still 7 years. It would be another year after sentencing before there was a bed available in one of the state penitentiaries. He went to prison shortly after I turned 21, and served 5 years before being granted parole.

To give a little more perspective to this, the beastiality event occurred when he was 61 years old. The rape incident shortly before his 66th birthday. He was by no means a young man. We were Landmark Missionary Baptists – a sect that considered (and probably still does, to an extent) Southern Baptists too liberal.

I listened to him as time went on from the arrest, conviction, and incarceration make himself out to be the victim. He claimed he was “set up” because he was speaking out about the drugs in our neighborhood. By “speaking out” I mean talking loudly. He never assumed full responsibility for his actions, and absolutely never repented. Once I had children, especially a son, I had to watch him like a hawk because I knew he could not be trusted not to molest him.

Because I read the statement and listened to him make himself the victim instead of the perpetrator.

I have looked back at his behavior in the years leading up to the rape, and I can see the predatory signs in retrospect. The grooming. I have often wondered how many more victims there are. I carried guilt and shame that I was unable to stop him. Unable to protect those boys. Unable to protect any of them. I didn’t know how to recognize the signs beforehand. But to be honest, at that age, particularly given the fear I had of my dad’s wrath, I was powerless. Because I had been beaten and berated into submission my whole life. “Honor thy father…” And with the skewed view of sex I was raised with, it is no wonder that I have always been able to sexualize anything.

dirtymind

Aside from being collateral damage from my dad’s sexual deviancy and abuse, I have been the recipient of unwanted and unwelcome lewd comments, touching, kissing, and propositions. As a married woman, I have had married men who not only knew I was married but also knew I knew were married try to pursue sex with me. I remember hearing a group of guys I was stationed with talking about Faith Hill. “She has legs all the way up to her ass!” I knew what that meant. And I also knew that as a tall, slim woman with long legs, that I also had “legs all the way up to my ass.”

“Locker room talk” is demeaning, degrading, and disrespectful. It shows at best a seared conscience and at worst a lack of conscience to treat another human being in this manner. It is not simply a “potty mouth.” I have a potty mouth (which I learned primarily at home growing up), and there is a big difference between dropping the s-bomb, d-bomb, or even f-bomb as an expletive and bragging about or fantasizing aloud about forcing yourself onto another person. Sexual abuse is not a joke. Sexual abuse is evil. To dismiss it as less than that is to condone and enable evil – no matter which wing you identify with.

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. Luke 6:45 NASB

The Conservative Christian’s Prosperity Gospel

As Christians who believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, why then, as many times as God tells his people, “Fear not,” do we spend so much time worrying and hand-wringing over things we cannot control?

I often think that the calls by some pastors for a national repentance and revival are borne out of fear of losing American entitlement more than concern for the individuals in our nation. I am not saying they don’t care about people, but that they care more for our prosperous way of life. They fear suffering as much as their congregations do, and rather than repeating God’s word to “Fear not,” they stoke fear.

Jesus didn’t die on the cross for the United States of America.

There is a reason that the United States is not mentioned in the Bible.

We ain’t all that.

We have been undeservedly blessed with prosperity. Undeserved because we were not founded on Judeo-Christian values as touted by 20th century revisionists. We are no more sinful as a nation now than we were when our country was founded.

We were founded on the principle that only white men of European ancestry had value. Women had no vote. Male African slaves were worth 3/5 that of a white man. The indigenous people living in North America had no value, and were systematically rounded up, forced to relocate, and often slaughtered so that there is now just a small remnant of a few tribes left.

And we have the gall to think we are entitled to our way of life.

We have spent our prosperity on our own comfort, and above all we do not want to be uncomfortable. Discomfort is too much like suffering, and lord knows we do not deserve to suffer. We are to be healthy and blessed. It’s the sinners who are to suffer: the addicts, the alcoholics, the fornicators, the homosexuals, the abortionists, the feminists, the atheists, and certainly without doubt the Muslims. Not us. We made a decision to follow Christ and now God owes us health, wealth, prosperity, and security because we are not like those people.

We have followed a false American god for too long. We as Christians need to repent every bit as much as sinners. But not for our prosperity. No. So that we can once again be salt and light in the world and do good to others. Feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and take care of widows and orphans. We are saints because Jesus declared us to be saints. Not because we were or are good enough to be a saint. We did not and do not deserve the grace we have been given. And rather than worrying and stewing about ISIS and Democrats/Republicans, we should give to others out of the abundance we have been given.

Because that is what the Savior we call Lord told us to do.

Without fear.

Without worry.

Without judgement.

With love.

Because He first loved us.

If what you are preaching and proclaiming sounds is indistinguishable from the messages proclaimed in a political debate or rally, you are not being salt and light in the world. Our hope does not rest in a political solution. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and Him alone. Not in “old fashioned,” “traditional,” or “conservative” Christianity. Not in “progressive” or “modern” Christianity. Not in the President of the United States, the Republican party, the Democrat Party, Congress, or the Supreme court. Not in laws or guns or gun control or a Confederate battle flag.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:18-21 ESV)

In the mud

JeepMud-WM

When I was in Kindergarten, I remember one day standing on the sidewalk, and it had been raining. Someone ran up to me right in front of me kind of in my face, and it surprised me so much that I stumbled back, and fell off the sidewalk onto my butt right in a puddle. I got significantly wet enough that a change of clothes was required.

When I got home wearing different clothes and carrying the ones I had worn to school in a bag, my dad questioned me as to what happened. I told him, and then proceeded to get a dressing down for falling down.

Naturally I fell into that puddle on purpose.

Because I was berated for falling, I began to develop a fear of accidents. That fear was reinforced over and over again throughout my childhood because I had a lot of accidents. You know, like kids do. The constant fear, however, led to a compulsive need to control my environment in order to prevent accidents and extraordinary efforts to cover up any that happened in spite of all of my careful prevention.

A life lived in constant fear is not a life lived well.

A life lived trying to anticipate what ifs is a life devoid of peace.

Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:5-6 ESV)

As a child, I lived in constant fear that was reinforced by an emotionally and mentally unsafe environment. I was always on guard because I never knew when an attack was coming nor what might precipitate one. Thus I became unwittingly and unwillingly addicted to excitement and therefore sought out ways to feed that need my body had for adrenaline.

Fear-based perpetual outrage.

Our news media makes huge profits off our need to feed our fear and anger. Social media provides us the means to instantly share and thereby stoke the anger and fears of our hundreds of friends and followers. We square off into our various tribes demonizing and dehumanizing whoever doesn’t agree with us. Because, after all, we are the enlightened ones and are therefore better than them. So we seek out more like us, and more information to back up our beliefs.

We are obsessed with being right instead of desiring to be at peace with and/or understand our neighbors.

We have convinced ourselves that we must be in absolute control of the world around us so that we can feel safe.

All the while the media profits from turning left and right against one another – brother against brother, sister against sister. So divided are we that we are losing cohesion and ultimately destroying the security we crave.

And while we are trying to control our surroundings to keep from falling in the mud, we fail to realize we are flailing around in the puddle that we fell in a long time ago.

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How did you learn respect

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I’ve always bucked against authority, but not necessarily for the sake of being a rebel. I’ve been repeatedly labeled an instigator, and I do not (because I cannot) deny it. I’ve even been called a honey badger. Honey badger don’t care. She does what she wants! Of course, she often gets “stung” by the cobra and then has to take a nap.

As much as I bucked against and resent(ed) my strict, legalistic religious upbringing, it kept me out of so much trouble I could have gotten in given all the vices I flirted with. I absolutely do not recommend legalism to combat vice because if it really worked, I might not have flirted.

Because I was under such strict authority, I developed an unhealthy fear of authority figures. Compliance was almost always out of fear rather than respect, at least initially. As I got older I learned to distinguish between dictatorial authority and leader/teacher/mentor authority, but I had a big learning curve.

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I’ve been seeing a lot of posts on Facebook that state they learned respect by getting good ass whippings as a kid. I know they are just resharing a meme, and I can’t speak for anyone else’s raising. But I know for a fact that I did not learn respect of any kind from any whipping I got as a kid. I learned from those whippings to fear punishment when I do wrong from those giving me the whipping, and nothing more.

I want to note, I am not anti-corporate punishment. I can’t say it’s never necessary, and I also cannot say that it was always given to me inappropriately. It was the berating from my dad that accompanied the whippings that did the greatest damage. Therefore, any spanking/paddling from anyone else was taken in the same manner – as punishment for not being smart enough to be good enough.

Therein lies a big problem when we try to project a meme as a cure-all when we don’t know any backstory. For all the discipline and instruction to respect elders and authority, I still carried around an unhealthy and disrespectful view of authority just waiting to spew out. A1C Nemec still gave a 2Lt the stink eye and a snotty answer over the way he asked her who gave the all clear after a simulated attack. SSgt Nemec was still openly and belligerently disrespectful to a Chief Petty Officer on multiple occasions.

Respect that is borne out of fear of punishment is not respect. It is self-preservation, and doesn’t place value on other people. Healthy respect places high value on another person regardless of that person’s position of authority.

We actually learn respect by watching others model what respect looks like. A quick glance through political posts on Facebook gives a clue as to where today’s children get their lack of respect from. “Democrats/Liberals are idiots!” “Republicans/Conservatives are stupid!” We disparage those with whom we disagree politically/ideologically/religiously and wonder why our kids are disrespectful.

I listened to my dad exalt himself above everyone my whole life and picked it right up and ran with it. It was my normal. I think this is the kind of attitude that fuels the perpetual outrage that manifests itself on Facebook through self-righteous political/religious posts demonizing, devaluing, and ultimately dehumanizing whatever group/culture/ideology/class/ethnicity/religion we disagree with. After all, we believe we have figured out what’s wrong with the world. “If only people would just listen to me…”

Most events are not clear-cut with a black-and-white clear cause and effect. People who hold different beliefs or belong to a different culture than you are not beneath you with nothing to teach you. We are all struggling with junk. When we have to tear someone else down in order to show our superiority, we are actually showing the ugliness of our own attitudes and beliefs. And that in no way exalts us above others except in our own minds.

It’s that lack of respect for other human beings that is what is wrong with our society today. And as long as we continue to perpetrate, the worse our society is going to get because where there is no respect, there is certainly no love.

So think about how you really learned respect and whether or nor you really show it.

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But for the grace of God…

Dear fellow Christian,

You’re scared. I understand. Not being in control is very scary. And that is why you are afraid. You forget that God is in control. That He is sovereign over all. You grew up singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “Onward Christian Soldiers” and believe deep down that you deserve to enjoy the privilege of being an American. You are going to eat, drink, and be merry and no sinner is going to screw that up for you. You have been taught your whole life that the United States is a Christian nation highly favored by God unlike any other nation before it. You believe we are the modern day Israel.

The United States of America has never been the “My people who are called by My name.” That was only Israel. As I saw it in a blog comment not too long ago, “IS – RA – EL.” It is a covenantal name. God made no covenant with any other nation before or since, and that includes the U.S.
If you think that the current moral state in the U.S. is the worst this nation has ever been, clearly you don’t know the full history of our nation or you are just choosing to overlook it. You think homosexuality is the worst sin to take place here? If so, I have a fraction for you: 3/5.

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” – From Article 1 Section 2 of the United States Constitution.

That remained in effect until the 14th Amendment passed by congress in 1866 and ratified in 1868. This stands in contrast to a particular line from the Declaration of Independence –

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

– which only applied if you were white. African slaves and indigenous Americans (American Indians, not European colonists) were not endowed with these rights. Human trafficking is not a Christian value. Breaking every single treaty ever made with the indigenous peoples, driving them from their lands, and slaughtering them is not a Christian value. Institutional racism, still to this day observable in many lily-white churches every Sunday, is not a Christian value.

We have played the Christian card to our benefit for centuries without suffering the suffering promised us by Jesus. We have lived a safe and prosperous existence which is neither promised nor deserved. Jesus told us to pick up our cross and follow him, not sit down and kick our feet up while expanding our waistlines.

If you are not willing to give up or lose everything – EVERY SINGLE THING – in this life then you are not really following Christ.

Are you so concerned with your personal comfort and your entitlement to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that you lack compassion for others who are created in God’s image just as you are?

Do you think you are better than Jesus who laid aside his divinity to live and suffer as a poor man and die for you when you hated him?

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

There are many many people in this country who need to know the love of Christ and they aren’t getting it because they are treated as the enemy. And we as Christians pat ourselves on the back for telling them their place. Then we piss and moan and play the victim when they fight back. We have forgotten that but for the Grace of God, there go we. The Cross is offensive enough. There is no reason to heap on extra offensiveness just to stroke our own egos and make ourselves believe that we are any better. We aren’t. We never will be on our own. And we certainly can’t berate and bully other people into our image. God doesn’t do that. He gave up his Son to atone for our sins as well as theirs.

God doesn’t save and protect countries for the comfort of people. He saves and protects people for His glory. And not good people because before a holy God, there are no good people.

Luke 7:36-50 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[a] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Full of grace

I don’t have many readers left from the old days when I did a lot of political blogging. (And drunk blogging.) My writing was staunchly conservative and I was convince all liberals were idiots. While I have not ceased being conservative, I no longer think all liberals are idiots. Actually, I think there are no more liberal idiots than there are conservative idiots. The idiots are among the far left and the far right with most people more toward the middle and just leaning liberal or conservative. See how easily I threw the idiot card? That’s the number one reason I don’t blog about politics. It just pisses me off and stresses me out, and it’s too easy to make sweeping generalizations in a nasty way. It’s also why I don’t listen to talk radio. Not political nor religious. Because in both cases the underlying result is to fire up the base, and get them angry enough to fight the people on the other side. Not to win them over to one side, but to force them to agree with that side, and demonize them if they don’t agree. Win at all costs.

Problem is, each side just digs in their heels more or more convinced that they are right and the other side is stupid/evil/lazy/greedy/jerks. The schism widens, the rhetoric ramps up, and the media (news, entertainment, religious) exploits it all further distorting and escalating the real issue driving the schisms even wider and the people angrier at each other until hate abounds albeit while many haters deny that they hate. But their words tell a different story. And this is why I don’t spend so much time on Facebook anymore.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29, ESV)

I think that we Americans are sort of hard-wired to fight for our rights (to paaaaartay! – Had to. Squirrel!). But I think that somewhere along the line as American Christians we blurred the line (if not completely removed it) between our United States citizenship and our citizenship in heaven. So many of us have been taught (whether explicitly or implicitly) that the United States is the new Israel ordained by God as a favored Christian nation. As such, we have elevated our nation’s leaders beyond their clearly laid out constitutional mandate as leading our nation to be spiritual leaders of our nation also contrary to what is laid out in our constitution. We demand our leaders to proclaim they are Christian before we will vote for them, and then we cry and rage when they don’t live up to what is really an unconstitutional standard. It is absolutely not a constitutional requirement for our elected officials to be Christians. It is also not a constitutional requirement of US citizenship to be Christian. Therefore it stands to reason that we are going to have leaders who are not Christians serving an electorate who either aren’t Christians or aren’t conservative Christians or are nominal/cultural Christians. Most importantly, not any of our elected officials are perfect (Christian or not) and every single earthly government makes a crummy god.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17, ESV)

Nero was emperor when Peter wrote that. No one in our government is an emperor nor does our government as a whole entity equate with being an emperor. Is our government corrupt? Absolutely, and so are we who elect our officials to office to serve us. So pray for them. Yes, be informed of their character. Yes, vote your conscience. Pray for your elected officials the same way you would pray for your best friend or family member. Don’t demonize them because they don’t do things the way you think you would if you were in their shoes. Don’t demonize the people who vote differently than you do. Don’t demonize unbelievers because they don’t follow the American Christian moral code. Pray for everyone who doesn’t think or believe the way you do not so they will become a clone of you but that if they don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to the Truth. Not what you think is true, but what is really and truly capital T Truth. Quit just throwing salt.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6 ESV

Rather than include the Beastie Boys, here’s how Pastor Benji preached this concept. Hopefully I didn’t lift too much of his material. ;)

Separation of Church and Hate – Part 1 from newhope church on Vimeo.

Being counter-cultural

This may end up being a continuation of yesterday’s post though not in any specific manner. By that I mean I am not publicly elaborating on the incident. Or well, at least not until James and Lee talk to a couple of other folks and get to the bottom of what led up to Saturday’s incident. And to set the stage for where I am coming from on all this, let me give you some info on my background for those who don’t know. I grew up in very conservative Missionary Baptist churches who considered Southern Baptist too liberal, but not so strict as Independent Fundamental Baptists. My dad was a deacon, and both of my parents were very active in the local church with my dad generally also being active in the local association. Essentially, I fall under the category of “preacher’s kid.” I often say I’ve been a Baptist 12 years longer than I’ve been a believer even though I no longer belong to a Baptist church.

I walked away from the church when I was 19, and it took nearly 20 years for me to return. When I came back, everything changed. I wanted to read my bible. I wanted to study it. I wanted to pray, and have learned through the reading and studying and my less than eloquent prayer that praying isn’t about asking for what I want that I think will make me happy. I was the prodigal son for those 20 years away. But I was also still in the mindset I had grown up in which amounted to the prodigal’s older brother. And I fed that with talk radio and reading certain pastors and Christian writers. But I just couldn’t keep it down. It kept me hungry all the time because somehow I knew I wasn’t really growing, and was instead stressing on things that weren’t mine to stress on. This is also why I don’t blog about politics anymore. I was feeling too militant.

Now with that out of the way, maybe I can remember what I was going to write about. ;) Using “counter-cultural” is usually used by Christians to other Christians to live differently than the world because we should not look and/or sound like non-believers. We are to be salt and light among the world to point to world to Jesus. And so we have our own culture, but if we aren’t careful we make our own culture a little-g god of its own. We forget that our holiness comes from the finished work of Jesus Christ alone and start acting like we are able to behave good enough to be worthy of grace. Once we do that, then we ourselves become the judge and determine who is worthy to belong among us by imposing a “conservative” set of rules that are meant to show 1) that we ourselves are spiritually mature and 2) to impose a faux spiritual maturity on spiritual babies who will either learn how to pretend or will eventually go away because they are made to feel so uncomfortable by being unable to live up to those who have deemed themselves spiritually mature enough to be the judge.

This is how many churches end up bearing more of a resemblance to a country club than a gathering of followers of Jesus. Instead of reaching out and embracing the lost, we end up reaching out to fill our pews with people who either already look and act like us or who are willing to pretend in order to fit into the church culture. Instead of making disciples, we are making cliques. Then when someone dares to buck against the church culture we unbiblically run them off (often in secret or known only among our little gossip cliques), or when someone gets fed up and leaves on their own (whether because of the gossip and backbiting/slander or not), they are shunned and treated as enemies. And then we wonder why our churches are in decline and/or outright dying and why we aren’t growing. It really isn’t rocket science.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23, ESV)

There is quite a contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Country-clubbing your church isn’t fruit of the Spirit. Constantly telling the single mother that she is living in sin and then gossiping about her is not a fruit of the Spirit. Having an angry outburst at a former member who has been picking up food for your food bank every other Wednesday for the last 5 years even AFTER leaving your church because he dared to pick up a bag of food for his son is not displaying the fruit of the Spirit. This is why we need people in the church being counter culture to the church culture so that the church can be salt and light instead of just another one of the world’s exclusive clubs that treats the Word of God as merely a rulebook.