Tag Archives: christianity

Believer B(ee)

 Christianity IS crazy. It’s full of cracks and crackpots. It’s enthusiastic and absurd. It’s preoccupied and impractical. All of this and more is true, from certain objective points of view. This should be acknowledged up front by Christians debating those outside the faith. The core tenants of the Christian faith are, on their own, ridiculous. For example:

1. God created a son, which is actually Him and the Holy Spirit, who has to die and be born again to absolve all men (and women) of their sin (i.e. selfishness, greed, pride). Why should He have to die at all?

2. People have to believe Jesus was resurrected – a perfectly difficult thing to believe for anyone who has never seen anyone come back to life – to gain their own lives after death. Can’t God just be nice and give them heaven without the fuss?

3. God calls on Christians to, above all else, love other flawed people and Himself – a jealous God who seems, at times, far from righteous or all-powerful. Is God selfish and egotistical?

How did Noah get all those animals on the ark? Am I supposed to believe the world is only 6,000 years old? Is God a bigot? And on and on it goes; the facts on which the faith rests appear most suspicious and flimsy to the non-believer.

YouTube’s “Theoretical Bullshit” does the best job I’ve seen of pointing out objective dilemmas that too many Christians are blind to in “God’s Checklist.” 

But facts in isolation can be deceiving. If someone is reading the Bible to find fault, to judge its moral authority and proscriptions, they’ll have a mountain of evidence to back them. It’s a collection of stories from different authors; demonstrating incongruity is not hard. That doesn’t mean believers are wrong to pray, to take shelter from life’s storms in the church. Context is key. And so is perspective.  

The Bible is one moral narrative after another. It’s Aesop’s Fables, but centered on God. And Israel. Written by a lot of Aesops. A long time ago.  

Over the course of the Bible, a larger narrative takes shape. A story of redemption. Of forgiveness. Of sacrifice. Time and time again, God calls on His free-willed children to be selfless, to care more for others, to value their gifts, to rein in their darker natures and be more like Him. And He is Love. I know, it’s crazy.

And, of course, imperfect people wrote the books of the Bible. Even if you are a Christian who believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God, surely you can acknowledge that the vessels of the Word themselves were flawed.

So, it’s only natural that caring, thoughtful, fair-minded people might dismiss it as a relic. There really are plenty of reasons to do so. And Christians would be wise to acknowledge as much.

A younger me would likely be disappointed that I count myself as a Christian today. For the reasons I mention above and more, I thought Christianity was a crutch. Followers, often well intentioned, are taught the faith in a ritual setting. People like rituals. They also like believing the end of life isn’t really the end. Christianity soothes the problems of an evolving and emotional mind; it provides a measure of control; it brings meaning to an otherwise random existence.  

Logical atheists might say we evolved slowly from simpler forms of life to more complex after the Big Bang. They might say religions are a product of evolution to mitigate fear or incentivize working for the collective good. And I’m not here to tell them they’re wrong. Honestly, that all makes sense. 

Life certainly evolves. Morality itself evolves across the Bible. And fighting evolution is not only a losing proposition, it’s rude. If you would argue against logic in favor of Christianity, you’re only serving to stunt it. This, I think, is pushing people in need of love, and answers, away.

The real question I feel many atheists and agnostics want to ask is, “Why do you believe?” It seems so illogical. So they point out the inconsistencies, hoping to get an answer they learn to expect isn’t coming because defensive posturing kicks in. Ironically, I think it’s a question most Christians would love to answer.

Why do I believe?

I was saved around the age of 12. A pair of college students from a nearby evangelical school approached me and a friend at the mall. They talked to us about Jesus, and I was horrified. My friend made fun of them. What I didn’t realize at the time was they had planted a seed of fear in me. ‘If I don’t believe, I’m going to hell…’ So, after a few days of thinking about it, I asked Jesus into my heart one night before bed. I woke up the next day and felt great. I went through something of a honeymoon period as a new believer.

During this period, I remember a specific, heartfelt prayer request. Hell wasn’t my only fear. I also have always been terrified of bees and wasps. With my newfound faith muscles, I asked God to please protect me from stings until I was 40. I imagined by 40, I would be hardened by life enough to handle a bee sting. Such is a child’s way of thinking. 

While the “honeymoon” didn’t last and I questioned everything well into adulthood, my silly little covenant with God did. At the age of 41, last summer, and with my wife battling with her health, I got stung by a bee for the first time cleaning out our car. 

I can feel the pullback. Those two things don’t necessarily correlate, right? Objectively, yes. But in the context of my full life, they do. I thanked God right away and welled up with tears. … And there’s more to this I can’t unpack quickly. The big picture is: God is working with me. He’s personally involved. I can’t fully explain it, so I don’t expect you to understand. I follow Jesus because of the story of the Good Samaritan; I follow Him because of Mark Chapter 6; I follow because women found the cave-stone removed and people saw him risen and Paul and Peter were martyred in Rome; I believe because if God sent the world a lamb of peace, it figures threatened people in power would kill him; I believe because my grandmas went to heaven; and I’m a Christian because I was stung by a bee last year.  

Hello, my name is Brian. I don’t have all the answers, and I don’t need them. I’m crazy. It’s nice to meet you.


 

On love, New American Fox Bible

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not boastful in non-election years. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others unless they were captured; it is not self-seeking; it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of conservative wrongs, and it supports strong border security. It does not delight in evil but rejoices in a fair-and-balanced truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres traditional American values. Love never fails because failure is for losers. God is good to those who work hard. If you have failed, maybe you didn’t work hard enough. Or believe hard enough. Stop blaming the system.

But love your enemies. Do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back unless they are Muslims or liberals. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Unless they don’t believe…

But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, gets what’s coming to them. Rush to action. Do not appear weak. 20150727-133903-49143155.jpg

The Cherry Farm

I can see the money tables turning.
I can see the soft son of God
Broken open on the cross,
Smiling, writhing, then serene.
I can see the cave light up,
The threshold stone pushed back,
The followers’ celebration, bewilderment.
But Abraham standing over his son?
Noah and his arc?
Job with sores, in mourning?
Is a rule book carved in stone
Broken in pieces like bread, hurled at adulterers?
Maybe the leaves are falling
Away from the flower.
Maybe the fields are ripe.
And the fruit is an unyielding
Devotion. An undeserved grace.
Call me a bad Christian.
An unbeliever. It fits.
But I hold a cheesy hope.
My sappy dream is to be a Samaritan,
Wise enough to extend
a hand of help to a beaten man
On a beggar’s road.
It’s a trumpet call at harvest time.
I think I’ll settle in a quiet corner, picking cherries from their stems.

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An open letter to Christian soldiers

Do you know what keeps me interested in Christianity despite my objections to large swaths of text in the Bible? The idea that what is most important to God and Jesus is service and compassion. Time after time, Jesus, the exalted King, lays down his position of privilege to serve others. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus turned to the example of a nonreligious person who served another in need when asked by an expert in the law how he’d get a chance to go to heaven. In my life, I’ve been blessed by the generosity of Christians more times than I can count. I’ve seen that devotion to others by people of faith, and it is always humbling. But as someone who has long been confused about his own faith, I’ve seen a disturbing trend in the Christian culture: the bold emergence of the defensive, rule-loving, money-loving, war-loving Christian. In my country, God-fearing Christians often speak openly against homosexuals in monogamous relationships, against taxes used to serve the poor and in favor of war against their rule-worshipping, money-hungry, war-mongering enemies. Then, they blame the youth for turning away. What sets Christianity apart, or should, is the service and compassion of Christ. The big man, washing our dirty feet, and laying down his life on the disgusting Roman cross. Even godless atheists, same-sex couples and stubborn religious types could be compelled by such a love. Assuming, they had a chance to see it.