Church

And while I’m away
I’m leaving the fiancée in charge
Have you met her?
Yes
She’s the one
Who behaves like a whore
Has been unfaithful
On numerous occasions
Been violent
Lusted after fame
And fortune
But what can I do?
I love her endlessly
She’s my bride
And even
If she’s messed
With your own heart
And head
You should love her
And live with her too
Because
Apart from second hand words
She’s all you’ve got
Of me

“I don’t believe Noah existed?” Anya, age 6

I have found that reading the blogs of American progressive Christians can be more fun, more challenging and more enriching than most sermons I have heard in church. What can be just as eye-opening can be the comments, as conservative evangelicals seem to like to hang around and throw in their opinions too.

It struck me that the differences of opinion between people often lies in their interpretation of the bible; more specifically which parts of it should be taken literally as absolute truth and which parts were applicable only for the people at the time. My daughter just couldn’t imagine the whole world flooding, so I chipped in with, “Well how come the lions in the ask didn’t eat everyone?” David fought lions so they were indigenous to the area.

I then went on to explain that even if the story didn’t happen it was about how God loves us and wants a relationship with us, the thread through the whole bible…

So did Noah build an ark with his nameless wife? I have my doubts. I now tend to view much of the early part of Genesis as a poetic parable, not literal history.

Moving forward, some Christians get very upset about the breaking of some of the laws that the Jews were expected to follow, but conveniently forget about others. The early church worked out that at least a couple of laws were no longer applicable: the law of circumcision ànd the laws governing kosher food. It’s not recorded whether the church repealed the law on wearing clothes made from mixed materials or planting different type of seed in one field…

Jesus perhaps picked only one law from Leviticus – Love the Lord your God with your mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself. The prolific Paul of Tarsus made lots of recommendations to early churches and their leaders – drink wine if you have weak stomach, don’t let women talk in church or wear fancy jewellery, be kind, cast out people who make trouble, look after your slaves, pray a lot, amongst other things.

So how do you decide what should be taken literally. How do you decide what should be taken contextually? Who do you rely on to help you work out the context? Are the differences between Christians, and the groups they belong to, down to what we pick and choose to believe applies to us?

With thanks to Kimberly Knight
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kimberlyknight/

Was Jesus a fundamentalist?

This is a response to a friend’s blog found here:

I think this is a really interesting topic and one I’ve been thinking about a fair bit since hearing McLaren speak on his latest tour of the UK and reading his latest book, which addresses the issue of pluralism vs fundamentalism.

For a long time I have thought that one of the characteristics of the Christian faith *should* be to be non-judgemental, being aware of the plank in our own eye and all that. As you point out, as soon as you believe that you have exclusive ownership of the truth you elevate yourself above the “other” and becoming judgemental is practically unavoidable, in my opinion. Couple that with a tribal, imperial attitude that the “other” should be feared and our identity is strengthened by hostility to those different to us (McLaren’s observation) and there is little hope, perhaps.

What McLaren asks early on is whether a strong faith identity always has to be associated with hostility to the other and whether acceptance of others has to lead to a watering down of beliefs? He argues that these 2 sit on a spectrum that we move up and down. His hope is that there can be a paradigm shift towards something completely different:

A strong faith identity that is benevolent to the other.

A benevolence that is rooted in a strong faith identity in Jesus (not the church or denomination) because Jesus was benevolent to the “other”.

Was Jesus a fundamentalist?

This from an online dictionary:
1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
2.
a. often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.
b. Adherence to the theology of this movement.

What do you think?

Tonight I am helping with the Soup Run

Tonight I am helping out with the Birmingham Soup Run. Faith groups around the city are organised in a rota to provide meals and hot drinks to the homeless in the city centre at 8pm every night of the week.

Our group does the 4th Friday of every month. We meet up to make crates of sandwiches, flasks of soup and tea and catch up with one another before piling into a couple of cars and giving out free food on the pavement, opposite a multi-story car park.

In some way, I feel it gives me a bit more authenticity or integrity to talk and write about community and social justice. Perhaps I am doing “my bit” for the poor and downtrodden, but I don’t feel a sense of triumph at the end of the night, or feel like patting myself on the back…

I just feel sad. Really sad. The brief exchanges I have with our friends who receive the food make me realise how human, how broken, how real these people are. For a short time, I get a glimpse and a whiff of their lives and it makes me feel that a few hours once a month is not what a first Century rabbi had in mind when he spoke about separating the sheep from the goats and giving away my shirt and coat to those who need them.

Far from feeling happy that I might have done a good thing by taking part in the soup run, I feel frustrated that I am constrained by the norms of society and my own fear from getting involved in the lives of these broken people. I don’t want to pay of my conscience with a couple of hours of good deeds, but desire a heart that is big enough to care for them all dearly.

They are all someone’s brother, father, grandfather, daughter. All I can do is silently pray for them, knowing and secretly hoping that I won’t be called to be the answer to my own prayers.