Category: How the modern church is failing


You can give without loving, but not love without giving.

Christians should be wildly generous because God has been radically generous with us by giving himself freely.  When I did not deserve it God loved me.  When I was not only apathetic but out right hostile, God came to this world to show His love to me.

Who does that?

Or the even bigger question is why.  Why did God choose to give himself to us?  Why would he choose to love us?  I’ve heard some speak of God loving his creation because he made us.  That doesn’t sem to satisfy me, does it you?  Never the less He does, which then leads me to consider how then should I live my life?
As much as on one level I tend to be selfish and self centered I have to ask myself how can I not be generous with others.  Since God loved me how can I not love others?  After all they go hand in hand, being generous and loving people.
But being generous isn’t just about money.  What about time or talent?  I don’t know about you, but I get just as much if not more out of investing my time and energy in other people.
Now that’s all well and good when it comes to people I like or at least tolerate.  It’s easy to be involved with people who are like me, or people I like.  But what about people I don’t?  It’s easy enough to say love your enemies, even easy enough to say “yes I love those that persecute me.”  But what about actually being generous with yourself towards those people?

God’s love is radical, His generosity is incomprehensible so I must be generous, not just with other Christians but with

those that are hostile.  After all His love was radical, so I need to be as well.

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Or is it?

“As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” John Adams Treaty of Tripoli signed at Tripoli on November 4, 1796
“We have no government armed in power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion……Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  John Adams. Address to the officers of the Massachusetts Militia 1798
“Far from being rivals or enemies, religion and law are twin sisters friends and mutual assistants.”  James Wilson, U. S.  Supreme Court Justice, and signer of the US Constitution
“The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws…….  All the miseries & evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”  Noah Webster.
And from what is generally regarded as the least religious of all the founders “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.  As nations become corrupt & vicious, they have more need of masters”. Benjamin Franklin April 17,1787

So which is it?

Are we or are we not a Christian nation?  It would seem to me that our founders did not see America as a Christian nation in that there would be no official religion like England, setting up a system that would prohibit any sect or denomination from forcing its beliefs onto the citizen.  We, America, would not be a theocracy.  But also it was a nation that was for Christian ethics and could only succeed if the leaders held Christian values and let those values inform their decisions regarding the governance of the nation.

Have we gotten off track?

I don’t see how anyone could think other wise.  We allow the wholesale murder of a defenseless group.  The government steals from its citizens on a daily basis, taking the fruits of their labor to give to those who have not produced,( for an alternative view on how best to care and provide for the poor see the Acton Institute) .  Not only failing to protect the weak, but taking advantage of them and using, these the weakest, as an excuse for much of it.  And treating different people differently the very definition of discrimination all in the in the name of justice.

Would the founders recognize the government we have?

Worse still does God see us as a nation that seeks justice and loves mercy?

Right now there is a flurry of debate regarding what makes a marriage.  One man one woman, two consenting adults, something else?  And I am not here to define one way or the other, although if you have read anything else on this blog you should have a pretty good idea where I stand, but we can get into that later.

Here is my question.  Marriage was created by God with a defined application.  But the church willfully and deliberately gave up its authority on who and what determines what a marriage is or is not.  Was it because it was easier to let someone else define what marriage is rather than church leadership be primary?  Or was it too hard to hold people to a standard that at times may not be easy?  Where was the church leadership taking the moral high ground holding husbands responsible to take care of their kids, even when they walked away from their commitments to their wives?

Christian ethics dictate we take responsibility.

I would suggest that if the church had done the heavy lifting way back when, the govt. would never have gotten their foot in the door.  Instead far too many leaders abdicated authority by shirking responsibility.
Far too concerned with their personal privilege and antagonistic about taking the responsibility, we(yes we) focus on our rights, our authority, to concerned with our little bailiwick we spend to much time on the wrong things.
If we really want to have the authority we need to start taking responsibility without worrying about offending people.  A perfect example is to look no further the Christopher Hitchens rant in “God is not great” about the Catholic Church’s position regarding divorce during the drafting of the  Irish constitution.  The Catholic Church was pushing to eliminate the option of divorce, to which Mr. Hitchins responded that the church was going to force a woman married to an abusive, alcoholic, adulterer to a life of pain, and abuse with no chance of escape. My question is where was the church saying that isn’t the point, our position is that we want to educate everyone even thinking about getting married to take responsibility to know who and what the person your thinking about marrying is all about.  If they had really wanted to get serious about the sanctity of marriage they would have pushed for marriage to only be available thru the church not the government.
Marriage is an institution, a structure set up by God for man, not by government for citizens.  Instead we have moved marriage from being a covenant established by God to a contract defined by the government.  It is not just marriage, but also the care of orphans, widows, the poor, that you and I have failed in our responsibility.  Did we start the collapse?  No but we can take back responsibility.
When the early church at Rome was feeding 1500 hungry on a daily basis it was the Government that was embarrassed and began to emulate the Church.  I suggest that the Church needs to return to that dynamic.  We have abdicated our authority by not taking responsibility.  We need to start taking responsibility.  Responsibility first for our poor, widows, orphans, marriages.  We can only lead from the front.  We have already been given authority from the one who established and created all of this.  Now is the time to start taking responsibility.
Just one resource for ideas of where the church needs to take back responsibility, this is a place to start.
Where else has the Church, Christians abdicated authority?  Where do we need to start taking responsibility to make society better?

Love your enemies.

Turn the other cheek
Bless those that curse you
Feed and nourish your enemies. – Romans 12: 17-21

Who does that?

Christianity calls for an extreme and radical lifestyle.  A way of life that is vastly different from the main stream.  God comands us to not just be a little different from everyone else.  I am not just asked, it’s not some suggestion, but a command.  Directed to be so different from everyone else that there can be no mistake as to who’s I am.
It does not say don’t hate, dont be mean to, it isnt even be nice to your enemies, it is LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.

It is supposed to be extreme.

Right now and for the past several years there has been a lot of talk about extremism in religion especially in regards to Christianity.  Now I am no expert on Christianity.  But here is what I do know.  The failings of the Christian church in society and culture is not because of people who call themselves Christian acting or being too Christian.  It’s not because we are taking the teachings of Christ too seriously, or working too hard to be like Christ.
In fact the way I see it is just the opposite.  The world, society, even the church is suffering from a lack of extreme Christianity.  Before you start the hate mail or trolling in the comments section.  Notice I did not say extreme Peter-anity, going and cutting off someone’s ear thinking God needs you to physically defend him.  I said extreme Christianity.  Real live dyed in the wool Jesus Freak Radical.

Loving people more than I humanly can.  To stop looking at people in the same way.  Instead to see people we meet as C. S. Lewis described them.  “You have never met a mere mortal.  Everyone you have ever met is either an eternal horror, or an everlasting glory.”

If I looked at everyone from that prospective, and refused to be anything less than an extreme, radical Christian.  I wonder how my little neck of the woods would change?
What about your neighborhood?  Your church, your city?  Does it need a healthy dose of extreme Christian hood?

 

On multiple fronts people professing to be Christians are being mocked and belittled.  From the media such as CBS, CNN, the times- NY and LA to blogs, podcasts, radio and more, people who claim a faith in God are being scrutinized, belittledand marginalized.  That it’s happening no one can deny.  The question is should it?

Of course.

 Look all around you.  Pedophile priests, thieving preachers, gambling nuns, the list could go on for page after page.  Yet I see friends getting defensive, blasting back at the critics, and doing everything but what we should.

The next time you see a neighbor stealing the morning paper, or a co-worker who goes to your church cursing up a storm will you say nothing?  Maybe you’ll fudge a few of the numbers on your taxes, just a little.  Or will you step up and say something? 

Until you change, nothing else will.

Until you get out of your “plate” theology you’re going to be mocked, and you will deserve it.  It’s time to start calling things as they are instead of how we wish they were.  Are you going to speak up and say that a pastor having an affair with a member of his church deserves to be thrown out of leadership?  Is that tough? Is it even tough enough?  We’re so worried about offending someone with what we say; maybe it’s time to be willing to offend people by expecting more from them.  But don’t kid yourself you will get push back.

People will yell at you and tell you Christianity is all about the love.  But what’s more loving, to let someone continue eating themselves into obesity followed by diabetes, a stroke and then death, or to say your fat and if you don’t change what you’re doing your going to die way before your time?  Is it more loving to ignore your friend’s binge drinking and driving, or to tell it like it is?  So why are you so afraid to tell someone playing Christian that they are in the wrong, going the wrong way, and about to pay the consequences?

No one is immune.

Now before going and thinking I’m getting all self-righteous.  Let me be clear, I’ve been there done that.  I got so wrapped up in my own wants/desires that I lost the one person that really mattered.  I did not treat her as God wanted me to, and what’s worse how God was telling me to treat her.   What I wouldn’t give to have had someone call me on the carpet for being a selfish SOB.  Maybe I would have snapped out of it and done the right thing, instead I’m without my better half, and the love of my life. 

Enough of the excuses.

Until we live what we say we believe, we’re going to get mocked, ridiculed and despised.  And what’s more, you and I will deserve it.

Is it too easy to get married?

So yesterday I’m reading “God is not great” by Chris Hitchens when I get to his assertion that the support of the Catholic churches ban on divorce in the Irish constitution was a move to maintain the church’s power in Ireland and that “an Irish woman married to a wife beating incestuous drunk should never expect anything better.”  Now I can’t speak for what the motivation of the Catholic Church is, but the quote misses the point.

Why is this woman marrying a wife beating lush to begin with?  Is it because she didn’t bother to pay attention to how he acted when they were dating.  Perhaps she falls into the “everything will be different once he….” Marries, has kids, gets a better job, whatever.    Did she grasp at what seemed like an escape from a desperate home life with no money, a man that will “save” her?  Who knows what the reason; the question is why are we working harder to help people abdicate responsibility for their own lives?

Getting married is easier than driving a car.

Here in California to drive a car requires months of class room and student driver time behind the wheel, than a written and a driving test.  But that’s not all, once you have a license to legally drive in the state you must also prove financial responsibility either thru insurance or proof of funds available in case you have an accident.

Want to get married?  Blood test and sign a document and pay the fee.  That’s it, that’s all- no classes necessary, no showing you’re capable of making a marriage work, no proof of financial responsibility. 

Are you kidding me?

Why are we not pushing people to make better decisions instead of working harder to eliminate the consequences? Mr. Hitchens can rant about the big bad Catholic Church “forcing” people to stay in bad even horrible marriages but ignores that religion does, and those that don’t should, expect families to stay together but that’s already half way thru the process.  Instead let’s go back to the beginning.

Long before the possibility of marriage comes into the picture Christianity lays out a very detailed list of requirements before even considering marriage.  From the admonishment not to marry someone that does not believe the same things, to how husbands and wives are to treat each other, detailed guidelines are laid out.

So why isn’t the church, and parents doing their job?  A handful of classes at the local sanctuary are not enough.  Church leaders need to be putting a hard line on the requirements.  Financial, moral, and emotional stability should be minimal requirements.  Christians should be pushing for tougher requirements to getting married.  But we don’t because it’s love.  We see no problem with 1,000 page documents spelling out what a bank must do (yes we are talking about people’s financial well being), but isn’t the toll on the individual, the family and the community much higher when marriages fail versus Bear Stearns?

We should be less worried about making getting out of a marriage easier, and focus on making getting into a Marriage harder.