Who doesn’t love a good dose of authoritarianism? We’ve seen Trump’s desire to rule without boundaries. We’ve seen it in Jerry Falwell Jr. and other Christian leaders exercise it. No one seems to like the idea of authoritarianism, but Christians continue to accept and embrace it in the local church. The church was never meant to be an exclusive club ruled by an iron fist and a Bible. It was also never meant to be run by tyrants called pastors, yet it happens every day from a majority of clergy in America. Do we have to stand for this? No. Let’s talk about how this happens and how to move past these little men that are drunk on imaginary power. It’s not the way the church was meant to be run or practiced.
Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.
Upsidedown world? Bizarro world? Topsy turvy? Down the rabbit hole? All these don’t quite encapsulate the level of crazy that we find ourselves living in. Now, I could deal with the regular crazy, but they keep bringing Jesus into the mix. And in my snarky notebook, that’s a big no-no. Let’s talk about how the Rodney Howard-Browne’s, Jim Bakker’s and Steven Bannon’s and try to control the Christian narrative and mission. It’s nuts. It’s sick. It’s got nothing to do with Jesus. It’s a big orgy of crazy. We need to be awake and aware of this insanity and speak out against it. If Christianity is all about politics at the moment, we need to be vigilant to return it to its roots. We must be the ones who are the prophets and priests that return Christianity to its roots. Are you willing to stand up and say this is a line we won’t cross? Are you willing to say no more? For too long, the industrial American Christian complex has wielded its power over this rich and deep faith tradition. It’s time to end the Christian crazy.
Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture, and spirituality in the face of a changing world.
What happens when we talk about Scripture? Our words lay a path that points our feet in a certain direction. Or perhaps, our feet are pointed in the direction laid for us by the words of others. Often, these words follow a trajectory around our centers of gravity, which are points of reference in our immediate context. We tell ourselves stories that flow around these cultural centers, following the path of least resistance. More specifically, we pick and choose those points of reference that correspond to the ways that we understand ourselves in our context. These notions are not revolutionary: that we each read scripture with a lens shaped by our own perspectives and the influence of our tribes.
If we accept this presumption, how might we understand Jesus’ words here? Some have interpreted Jesus’ teaching (or rather, the subsequent Christian tradition) as delaying justice for existing suffering into a transcendent Kingdom. Similarly, some have understood such a subversion as weaker people creating a moral system so that they can exert power over stronger people. Some read this passage as an imperative that the followers of Jesus be meek, whether in possession or in desire. Each of these readings aids in constructing Christian identity, either from the outside as critique, or from the inside as a participant. Is it possible to read this scripture as an imperative to abandon our quest to further construct identity? Is this a case of losing our lives in order to find them?
The Kingdom of God belongs to the meek, as Jesus denotes possession in his statement. Thus, if one does not belong to “the meek”, then one does not possess the Kingdom of God. Jesus also uses a present verb to describe this possession. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the meek, for yours will be the Kingdom of God.” Unless something has changed since Jesus spoke these words, the meek currently possess the Kingdom of God. Jesus capitalizes this statement of possession by emphasizing that the meek are blessed.
I take away several points of emphasis from Jesus’ statement here, and each point leads me further from a quest to construct some sense of identity. In fact, this statement challenges that quest in its essence. First, if I am not meek, then the Kingdom does not belong to me. Now, as mentioned above, this notion has lead people to reconstruct their identities as “meek” in the past. However, I read this to mean that if I am not meek, then I am sojourning in someone else’s territory when I step foot into the Kingdom of God. I have become the foreigner, the stranger, and the wanderer. Neither bible study, nor donation, nor volunteering, nor virtue purchase a plot of land in this Kingdom.
Subsequently, the ones who possess the Kingdom are blessed. Channeling the ancients, blessed refers to a life of divine favor, or a life to be sought after. If we want to envision “our best life”, then, at least in part, we should expect to be meek. I remember listening to a pastor talk about spending time with a local businessman who had become a multi-billionaire because he wanted to learn from someone who “obviously” had the wisdom and blessing of God. Clearly, this is not what Jesus envisioned. Meek refers to someone who is bent over, cowering, low to the ground, impoverished, and destitute. In other words, the meek are those who have been put on the opposite of a pedestal; they have been put into the pit. Laying low, the meek are often imperceptible in our field of vision. We pass by the meek every day, either averting our eyes so that we can avoid inconveniencing our routine self-affirmations, or simply gazing through the meek, as they are unworthy of our attention. The meek are a difficult group to pose for our standard, as they are invisible to our eyes.
So, if I am not meek, then what am I? Jesus’ teaching makes me become a question to myself. Rather than declaring myself blessed, I ask for mercy, because I am not the blessed. Rather than asking to be sought out or listened to, I would rather seek out and listen to those who are nearly impossible to see. I need to see rather than be seen. In an age of pictures, opinions, rationales, posts, likes, subcultures, logos, brands, bylines, and buzzwords, Jesus’ words here tear down rather than construct. I am not. Or maybe, I need to learn from those who don’t quite have an “I am”, or whose “I am” sits like Lazarus being licked by the dogs. Rather than build a temple to myself, should I not search under every stone to find the meek, the blessed, sitting just outside the gate? These are the ones who possess the Kingdom, and these are the ones that are our blessed.
Polymath, zenarchist and all around monkey wrencher. My passions include reading the fine print, making lists, and the Bourse du Travail. I always learn from the mistakes of others who take my advice. Currently pursuing a PhD in the architecture of pits and wells.
A rundown of Thanksgiving with a twist as we spend time delving into the things we’re not thankful for. Too often do we turn sappy sentimental during these holidays, but we’ll have none of that. Join us for a snarky take on Thanksgiving along with a discussion on the 12-step program to surviving the post-election blues.Join us this week as we skewer through life, culture and spirituality with our special Thanksgiving co-host, my daughter, Aida.
A rundown of how the church in the west is dying. Is it simply that culture is changing and moving away from organized religion or should the church change? Come with us as we delve into the ways the Christian church should return to its roots. Christianity transformed from a movement into an institution as a direct impact of culture and history. With the institution dying, is there hope in transforming it back to its roots as a social and spiritual movement? Join us to hear what that could look like as we skewer through life, culture and spirituality.
If you want to make something like cookies or pancakes, there are always essential ingredients that you’ll find common between most recipes. Eggs, flour, and oil are among those that you’ll find over and again. When it comes to believing in something greater… I assume we’d get a wild spectrum of answers of the essential elements depending on your religious upbringing or current indoctrination.
I stumbled upon this piece of paper (pictured above) a few weeks ago on the floor at church. I can only assume it’s from a child, but I found it absolutely fascinating, beautiful… and genuine.
There were three key ingredients at play here: honesty, faith and Doubt all mixed together. I believe that these ingredients are absolutely essential for one’s spiritual journey.
I was raised Southern Baptist and in that vein of Christianity, “knowing” was always paramount… but not in the spiritual sense. It was more about intellectualism. You have to know all the right facts and those facts would bring you closer to God. Doubt had no place because the belief was all about possessing information much like you do when preparing for a test. You study hard and hopefully get a good grade.
But in faith there are no grades, right? The Southern Baptists would agree with that statement in theory, but in practice, that’s another story. When it comes to grading, one quick way to lose points is being too honest and/or doubting. Let me exactly qualify what I mean by grading. There’s no overt scale at play, but there is a significant amount of judgment happening by the other church members and clergy. You’re judged on what you say, how you look, what you do and what you think. You need to look and act like the rest of the herd in order to be accepted. It’s more of a social construct than a religious practice. Over my career, I’ve worked for a spectrum of Christian brands: Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist and non-denominational. These rules apply to all of them.
Now, let’s return to the picture. I think there’s a reason that Jesus mentioned the faith of a child in Matthew 18, and he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Children are filled with wonder, but they are also filled with questions. Incessant questions. As a father, I’ve experienced this wide-eyed curiosity firsthand. Initially, it annoyed me. They saw me as the answering machine. Over time, it changed. I’ve learned to love their questions. Actually, their questions have changed and stretched me.
To proceed in this conversation, let us add a few clarifying definitions to this conversation. I’ll inject some varied voices into this as they may help to define these terms.
Honesty by Ayn Rand
“As the refusal to fake reality, honesty consists in a deliberate, principled renunciation of any evasion, distortion, misrepresentation, or artifice. In essence, honesty means not pretending.”
Faith by Pete Rollins
“The word “faith” is a much-misunderstood term. In contemporary discourse, it often means the act of believing in something that lacks empirical evidence, something that one affirms through intuition, the interpretation of a particular personal experience or the interpretation of a publicly observable phenomenon. However the term, in its more theological sense, has much more in common with a particular way of living.”
Doubt by Lesley Hazleton
“Consider that doubt… is the heart of the matter. Abolish all doubt, and what’s left is not faith, but absolute, heartless conviction. You’re certain that you possess the Truth — inevitably offered with an implied uppercase T — and this certainty quickly devolves into dogmatism and righteousness, by which I mean a demonstrative, overweening pride in being so very right, in short, the arrogance of fundamentalism.”
To cultivate any healthy, spiritual community, we have to realize that doubt and honesty are just as essential as faith. If you eliminate one, the rest fall by the wayside. To embrace this idea takes courage and risk, which is why it rarely happens. Belief in anything always brings with it risk and the unknown. Think about love, for instance, there is no guarantee. But the reason we risk things for love is that the rewards, the upside, is worth it. When you love others and take on faith that they love you… it takes courage.
When it comes to the church, risk left through the back door long ago. Then soon after that, courage joined up with it in the parking lot. Christianity without risk and courage isn’t a movement anymore… it becomes an institution. Jesus didn’t come to set up institutions, they were one of the reasons he railed against the establishment. Institutions survive by keeping themselves afloat. Their existence becomes all about themselves and people become secondary. Now, again they may argue that fact in theory, but their practice says otherwise.
Why does this matter? Well, it’s everything. If the foundation from which you operate is fundamentally flawed, then the outcome won’t be what you want. With each passing year, the institution looks and acts less and less like the one who started the movement. The question to ask here is, does the church today look like Jesus?
But all is not lost. It doesn’t take much to right the ship and I’d wager to say that embracing a mixture of honesty, faith, and doubt is the key.
The first step is allowing doubt to breathe. It’s essential in this journey forward. Antionette du Liger de la Garde Deshoulieres once said, “seeking to know is only too often learning to doubt.” The fear is that doubt leads to more doubt, but in truth, if you pair doubt with belief and honesty, beautiful things can happen. Sure it’s a risk, but nothing great is ever accomplished without risk. It also takes courage that God is at work in the lives of others which is one of the basic beliefs of Christianity.
Looking back at that picture I found, I want there to be a place where that child can grow on their spiritual journey while expressing their doubts and questions in a safe environment. For the church to look more like Jesus, we must realize that belief needs to have a mixture of honesty, faith and doubt cultivated with one another in a loving community. That’s how we transition from an institution back to a movement. It’s how we return the beauty and mystery to Christianity.
A rundown on the topic of social justice, movement, and how to make change. Join us as we continue our conversation from the previous week about how faith should inform advocacy. Is there hope that faith can inform action in a way that doesn’t get muddled within politics and power grabbing? We think so.
Come along for the ride as we skewer through life, culture and spirituality. Tune in to find out more.
A rundown of the topic of moral relativism – the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint. The recent Barna group on Millenials has Christians freaking out about the future of the faith. Is there hope in the changing landscape of faith in America culture? We think so.
Join us as we skewer through life, culture and spirituality. Tune in to find out more.
A rundown of whether or not Christians should take oaths. What does Jesus say about oaths and how should we contextualize His call in our own lives. Join us as we wade through the the act of taking oaths. I swear it’s worth your time. Tune in to find out.
A rundown of why science and religion don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Much like Batman verses Superman, these titians are often pitted against each other but shouldn’t be. Join us as we pick apart the supposed divide between science and religion. Are we right on or completely wrong? Tune in to find out.