Tag Archives: jesus

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.


 

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Jesus, Kanye, and the subtle force of gravity

I understand why one might hate Kanye West. 

His ego is obnoxiously large. He has compared himself to Jesus and Mohammad Ali. He has said his greatest regret is that he can’t see himself perform live. And there was the whole Taylor Swift VMA fiasco. Ugh. I’m embarrassed to admit I like him. 

Kanye mug posed on the face of white, painted Jesus.

But I like him.
From “Power,” to “Stronger,” to “Can’t tell me Nothing,” I could call out a dozen fantastic songs off the top of my head. Have you listened to “Good Morning?” Have you given “Homecoming” a spin? “Heard ’em say,” is one of my all time favorites. 
I’m not interested in seeing him live. My opinion: the voice is terrible. This is no Freddie Mercury

He is an artist, though. A true beast in the studio. Check “Mercy,” “All of the Lights,” or “Love Lockdown.” He has 55 entries on the Billboard Top 100

I might not like his arrogance, but in my mind, he’s one of the great artists of our time. I may not like the guy, but he deserves credit for the body of music he’s produced. He just sounds good. A lot. 

I feel the same about Jesus. 

Don’t misunderstand, Jesus is no pompous ass. Yeah, the son of God claim is bold (Kanye-esque?), but the resurrection trick, street cred with prostitutes and followers who died horrible deaths to further his legend and grace, still compel me to spin Gospel records. “Turn the other cheek.” Heard of that? It’s good stuff. Call me a sucker. 

Have you read the “Sermon on the Mount?” Seen Matthew’s “Lillies of the Field?” Heard the story of the “Good Samaitan?” John 4:8 is one of my all-time favs. 

I know it seems I’m playing fast and loose with the sacrifice of the lamb of God. And Jesus. Let me explain: the music of the Bible has always spoken to me, but like Mr. West, the well from which the hits spring is contaminated. 

The Bible is chock full of errors. It’s embarrassing, really. If you’re not familiar with the long list of contradictions in the Bible, here’s a collection, and a few questions to ponder: Is God good to all or just a few? Is Jesus God? Who bears the sins of the father? The Bible contradicts itself on these questions and more depending on where you look. 

And then there’s all the horrible junk in the Old Testament. From bizarro death penalties, to slavemaster’s rules, to testing Abraham by telling him to kill his son, the picture the Good Book paints of God ain’t pretty from where I sit. And I forgot to mention the impossible stuff such as Moses’ age and Noah’s special water ride. 

All as embarrassing as a Kanye West headline. To me. 

I get why someone wouldn’t believe. Why would God kill his son? Why would the fate of my eternal soul rest on whether I believe an unbelievable story and/or worship a cruel father-God? I can’t argue with you, unbeliever. You win. 

Albert Einstein knew the universe was an orderly place. His theory of relativity continues to give mankind a glimpse into the beauty and reliability of the forces that hold and shape our world. And we know our universe is expanding: the Big Bang Theory isn’t just a TV show. What if God was the Singularity, and life was born from His sacrifice? What if he’s not the parental type per se, but is a gentle force like gravity, ever propelling seeds to flower and stars to burst open. Looking to the night sky, I feel humble, grateful.

Sometimes when I’m at church listening to a Kanye record, I feel connected to the real G in the sky. I know the flaws of the package that carries the message, and this message, all too well. 

Ah, but the hits. I keep coming back for more. There is something to this beat.