Not My Christianity

It was 2005 and I was at my first official church face to face interview. We were gathered around a future parishioner’s dining room table and they asked me the questions they had come up with. Among some of the standards, they asked me this:

What is the biggest theological issue facing the church today?

This was one I had been waiting for, it was the height of gay ordination issues, and I knew where I was and I was unapologetic about it. I also knew that this was *all* the church was talking about and they wanted to know if it’s *all* I was going to talk about.

I talked about Matthew 25- to clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the sick and imprisoned. I saw their heads nod and their tension release, and so I added, “and we HAVE to find a way to reclaim Christianity from the radical right and not be afraid to evangelize progressive Christianity.”

Some strongly agreed, others thought the first part of my answer was “nice” enough to forgive what I just said.

I grew up with spurts of Catholicism and Methodism but my formative years were spent in the Southern Baptist church and I knew exactly how dangerous white evangelicals could be.

Over a dozen years have passed since I made that comment and last week, I knew we had failed, so far. Since becoming a Presbyterian in 1998, I’ve been working to spread the good news of progressive Christianity but it has not been enough.

 

For years Progressive Christians fought for gay rights, women’s ordination, women’s health and anti-racism. But as a whole we have not done enough. It is time for us to get out of our bubbles and stand up.

So fast forward to Sunday morning. I wasn’t preaching due to Stewardship Celebration Sunday, my role was to give the Call to Stewardship. I had mixed feelings about not preaching, but I now realize I wasn’t in a state to. I was pissed, I’m still pissed.

When I awoke this morning, I had nothing but sorry and anger, then the spirit moved and got to church and wrote this call:

He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.” -Luke 21:1-4

If we take the story of the widow’s mite on face value we are supposed to empty our bank accounts into the church’s account. (I mean, if that’s what God is calling you to do, who am I to stop you!)

But our world does not work that way, and I’m not sure Jesus’ did either.

“All she had to live on” is a phrase that has haunted me since the beginning of my ministry. What does it mean and how does it work?

Stewardship is about more than money. We talk about time and talents, but we need a new kind of stewardship in our world today.

A kind of stewardship that actually follows the teachings of Christ and the will of God. Not the false gods of prosperity we have created, but the God of love and justice, mercy and compassion.

We are called to give this world, “all we have to live on” because Christ taught us that people are more important than property, the prophets called for justice comes rolling down like a stream and we have polluted that stream with false idols and prioritizing ourselves over others and creation.

Today, here, now, is a call to discipleship. Will we be willing to put “all we have to live on” into what we believe? We will be willing to reject false teaching? Will we begin to truly understand that Christ has no hands but ours?

Are we willing to devote our lives to God and reject sin? Are we willing to stand up and claim our Christianity in the marketplaces? Are we willing to stand up to others who claim the same God and say, “I am a Christian, and God is a God of love, not hate.”

Now is not the time for random acts of kindness, but a wearing of the banner for the world to see.

All I have to live on is this: I am a Christian who condemns violence, who condemns hatred, who believes in peaceable living for all, who sees that it is my responsibility to care for the widows, the orphans, and the refugee.

Even Christ made a mistake, seeing the Syrophoenician woman and her daughter and less human than he, with her different color skin and her weaker gender, they were compared to the likeness of dogs, by Christ. That’s how strong the influence of power can be, the world convincing us that I and mine are better than you.

Give it up, Christ says, give it all up, just as this woman did. Take her example and literally, publicly, put in your two sense and surrender the thing that makes you powerful in this world.

Will you? Can you? Devote your whole self to God and serve Christ and the world with all you have?

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I share this with you because progressive Christianity cannot be indifferent to our faith any longer. We are so afraid of offending others that we have forgotten who we are.

If you want to answer this call then here’s what needs to happen. You have to stand up to injustice wherever you see it. You have to get involved politically. You have to find ways to give your privilege and power away and make room for others, YES.

But wait, there’s more. 

You have to know and study your Bible. You can’t be afraid of words like “Jesus”, “sin” and “judgement”. You need to be able to speak passionately about God, Christ, and faith and how your faith aligns with your politics.

Jesus never shied away from politics. Evangelicals don’t see them as two different things and neither should you.

You need to quote scripture like the rest of them, and in context.  You need to know your opponent’s arguments and be able to come back with why Jesus would NEVER have responded that way, be specific with examples. Be smart.

And why do all this? Because this is NOT a Christian Nation, but Christian nationalist have taken it over, and it’s past time to take it back.

#notmychristian

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I dedicate this post to my grandfather, who stopped attending church in the 1960’s because it got too “political” during the Civil Right’s Movement. I have learned through my ministry that it is impossible to keep politics out of the pulpit, it is possible to not bully from the pulpit, but if I preach scripture, I preach politics. 

I Tell the Truth

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For years I struggled between truth and lie. I lived in a real life “two truths and a lie” game about how I was feeling, about who my family was, about who I was and what I thought. My thoughts and feelings were not my own, they were translations of what I thought people wanted them to be.

At school I pretended to be a good student and have friends. At home I pretended to not have too many needs and avoided eye contact (which lead to engagement). I played alone a lot, I sought refuge with neighbors who took me in to help them with their toddlers. As a teenager I went to friend’s houses and spent as little time at home as possible.

When I finally awoke to the idea that I had independent thoughts, ideas and feelings (besides what others around me had) I didn’t know how to handle myself.  Couple the emotional intelligence of a six year old with a personality that always did speak before she thought and there were many years of disaster, or word vomit as I like to call it.

For about 5 years I had no idea how to keep these newfound thoughts and opinions to myself, they would simply spew out of my mouth. Many times they were “funny, cause it’s true” but a lot of the times they were just hurtful. I didn’t mean to be hurtful but I felt entitled to my opinions and felt it was my right to share them.

I was wrong. And I am reminded of this dark period of my life, this thoughtless disregard for others, the word vomit period every time Donald Trump opens his mouth.

“I tell the truth.” he says.

I said the same thing. Only I would say, “I’m sorry you don’t like what I just said but it’s true.”

Just because it’s what I think doesn’t make it true, it makes it my opinion.

Truth is in accordance with fact or reality. Not “your reality” (like reality tv…) but actual reality, actual circumstances. Opinion is a view or judgement we make, not necessarily based in fact or reality. See the difference?

 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. –Ephesians 4:11-16

When Richard Nixon declared “I am not a crook”, it was his opinion, definitely not based in reality. It was, in fact, illegal. Bill Clinton rewrote personal history when he stood up and declared that he “never had sex with that woman” or at least convinced himself of that enough to sound convincing. Friends, when we allow lies to get so twisted in our heads they become truth we are lost, we need help.

We are all allowed opinions and in all honesty, truth is even a relative thing. If there are two people in a situation, there will not be two sides, there will be three. Person A’s experience, Person B’s experience and what really happened.

Speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean people won’t get hurt, but it means combining reality and fact with the emotional intelligence that you are dealing with someone with feelings and that has a different reality than you. Whatever you have to say is valid, and it may hurt, but the way you deliver it doesn’t have to be “for their own good” like an abusive father.

I hurt a lot of people, I said a lot of mean things, and the biggest pain for me in all of this, was that the reality was I was the one crying out in pain. My voice had been masked so much that words would just spew out without ever considering the consequences. 

I don’t want to get into a political debate, but I am terrified, terrified that a man like “The Donald” who spews vomit into the world and calls it truth has gotten this far in our electorate. Donald, it is not truth when it’s what you think, it’s opinion.

Speak the truth in love. And please, keep your “truth” opinions off the world stage.