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Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

When I was in Dollywood in June, my sister and I heard the Kingdom Heirs. In between hard-selling their new album they actually sang some good songs.

I downloaded my favourite song of theirs from iTunes, and I have to say if you ever need a pick me up or just a smile, I suggest you listen to The Rock’s Between The Hard Place And You.

But there in the middle of your darkest night
You see God moving; everything’s alright
Because the Rock’s between the Hard Place and you.

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But I will if I have to.

David Oatney on Saturday

We are fortunate to have a growing blogging community in Tennessee that is becoming more and more influential. Note that the most influential among them tend to be those who act on the convictions about which they proudly write in ways both great and small for people to see-and to know they mean business.

My challenge to all of our East Tennessee political bloggers would be to find a little time to act in the community on the things you write about. Not only does it make your blogging work more rewarding, it also really feels good to know that you are acting on what you believe and not merely running your computer.

Me, Last Thursday.

. Because it is my hard and fast rule that I will not give a resumé of my charitable deeds. Doing so means that the charity aspect of it all stops and the whited sepulchre kicks in.

Frankly, I think I’ve got The Big J on my side on this one:

(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
2
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites 2 do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
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But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
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so that your almsgiving may be secret.

That’s from The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 6. As thrown down by that one guy who also said “judge not lest ye be judged.”

(Hat Tip: Aunt B.)

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I guess we’re having this conversation again. As a conservative libertarian who swims in a sea of liberals, I’m used to being thought ‘wrong’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘misguided’. Goes with the territory, I suppose.

On the 4th of July I had a conversation with a 9-year old who seemed to understand the concept of libertarianism and charity better than most of the people I’ve encountered lately. Unlike Mack, young Declan* (not his real name, remember…) got the general idea I was trying to put across. So maybe I haven’t explained myself well enough to be understood out here in the blogosphere. Maybe it’s a conversation that needs to happen face to face. Regardless of the limitations of the medium, I’ll try.

I am not greedy. I do not despise the poor and downtrodden.

Like Thomas Jefferson I believe wholeheartedly in the separation between Church and State. Like Jesus I believe in “rendering unto Caeser what is Caeser’s and unto God what is God’s.”

What this means to me is that I do not believe it is the job of the State or ANY institution, be it a church or faith-based charity to look after the poor and downtrodden. I believe such things are our responsibilities as human beings. Individual human beings.

I have nothing against charities–secular or faith-based–if that’s how a group of individuals decides to make their charity most effective. If you want to give the money you’ve earned to Catholic Charities or the United Way or Mennonite Disaster Relief, that’s your business. But I don’t believe the Government should take your money by force and redistribute it the way they see fit. That’s my opinion on taxes, entitlement programs, and federal funding of faith-based charities.

There’s a common misconception floating out there in the ether to which several liberals seem to be latching on. That’s the concept that conservatism is anti-community and pro-greed. I don’t quite know where these memes generated, but I’ve been seeing them a lot lately. I feel as though I’m not getting the original memoranda upon which they were printed.

And here’s where it gets tricky. Because it is my hard and fast rule that I will not give a resumé of my charitable deeds. Doing so means that the charity aspect of it all stops and the whited sepulchre kicks in. I could go looking for the myriad studies about who gives more to charity–conservatives or liberals–but I’m not playing that game. It’s all judgmental and sanctimonious and advances that hideous “us v. them” mentality.

Conservatism is not about keeping our money for ourselves, but deciding for ourselves the best uses of our money in benefit to the world.

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***Angry Vent Ahead. Read With Caution***

I’m a Christian. I’ve been one since I was four years old. Being a Christian isn’t easy, because not only do you have to be a human being in the hard world, you are also supposed to live holy. Set apart. It’s a process and a struggle. I wouldn’t have it any other way, of course, because I love God above all else. I’m very plain about that.

That’s why this Pure Life Revolution stuff is really bugging me today. I’ll be honest. I hadn’t heard about it until yesterday, when it came to my attention as I blogged for Nashville Is Talking. At the time it didn’t sound like any big deal. I’m used to churchish things where groups of us get together to pray for this or that. I think of these deals as mostly exercises for us to have fellowship with some of the other billion people on the planet who believe in Jesus Christ. They’re kind of like family reunions with Rich Mullins songs instead of potato salad.

But here’s what gets me about this Pure Life Revolution. It seems to be founded by a guy who lives here in Nashville called Matthew Stark. If you read his Bio, there’s great detail in there about how he spent many years as a drug-running thug with all kinds of addictions and rap sheets and whathaveyou. He apparently took a break from his heathen ways to get a TV Production degree from Oral Roberts University. Funnily enough, his heatheny ways continued as he persisted in cussin’ and drinkin’ and druggin’ and runnin’ round with wimmin until he found Jesus amen.

Now, I’ll just ignore how much of this bio sounds like A Million Little Pieces (For Jesus) [Come off it, dude. Seriously. The MAFIA??!? Just. Please.] and go right into what is bugging me enough to bang out a blog post on a holiday.

Mr. Stark claims that

The Church must have her voice back, and Matthew is purposed in seeing this happen.

See. This is where we have a problem. I AM THE CHURCH. So is my husband. So are my parents, siblings and the millions of believers who worship alongside us in pews and chairs. The Church is in prison in China. The Church is John Carney on his mission trip. The Church is Erin H. working for the Peace Corps in South America. (Forgive me, guys, I’ll add links in later. I’m writing fervidly.) The Church is a bunch of people who are trying hard to make a difference. Who are not capitalising off tantilising tales of temptation in order to have a ministry that has a fully-designed website with a “click here to donate” button. The Church is several hundred million people getting out of bed one day at a time, taking up their crosses daily and loving others as Jesus commanded. It isn’t perfect, but it is a living, breathing organism.

I know that the dramatic testimonies have always been the stuff of revival meetings. I know that The Baptism of Jesse Taylor style of personal redemption where Satan loses “a good right arm” are stirring in their drama. They make better stories for bored church attendees than the dull “I was saved at VBS when I was six, went to Christian School and became a pastor. But I did drink a beer this one time….”

But you know what gripes me? When dudes like Stark who (may or may not have actually) run with the mob, drink, and have sex with hookers get all saved at the last minute and then come back to the Church to tell us how we all need to be better Christians. Christians like them–on bright shiny fire for Jesus.

Give me a break. While you were out prodigal son-ing it up and down the free countryside some of us have been hopelessly devoted to this cause and labouring away in a world without drugs and porn. Look, I’m glad you’re back in the fold and all, but don’t come in a nippin’ at the other sheep. We’re ALL here under the eye of the shepherd, thanks. And He ain’t you.

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I talked about this a wee bit at NiT, but that blog isn’t “Christian” and this one “is”. So I’m going to address another part of Sam Davidson’s rant against home ec courses at Seminary here.

Sam says:

Like a lot of moves made by Southwestern since the arrival of Paige Patterson, this one is absurd. The seminary has the freedom to offer such coursework, but if they think such offerings will save Christianity or society, their theology is completely misplaced. And so, again, we have a Christian educational institution misplacing priorities in an attempt to fix the problem of misplaced priorities. People are still hungry, poverty is a still an epidemic, disease is still killing countless Africans, and injustice prevails in much of our world.

I hear this type of talk from a lot of Christians, especially those who are extremely idealistic. I admire their zeal for Fixing The World, but I think it disturbing when that zeal tramples over the choices and callings of other Christians. A while back there seemed to be this thrust toward Missions work. The culture of much of the Christian church seemed to say that those with a Vocation To Christian Service–ie. Missionaries, Ministers, Teachers in Christian Schools–were of a better, more sanctified, class of Holy. (I think some of this comes from a warping of our reading of the word “holy”. It DOES mean “set apart”, but that apartness need not necessarily apply to your line of work. One can be a holy banker, a holy cook, a holy shoe salesman. One can even be a holy attorney or college professor.)

A bit of exposure to that line of snobbery in my childhood as raised my guard permanently, so I do NOT react well when I hear other people say “how is THAT going to end world hunger?” or any other dismissive, judgemental evaluation of another’s calling. We cannot know the entirety of another person’s life, nor is it our business to know his or her calling from God. How we can then say that another’s actions are less worthy of the kingdom than ours escapes me.

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So here we are having conversations–good conversations–about Christianity, Mysticism, the saving grace of the Blood of Christ and other little faith items.

Then God has to go and provide a little test case.

Jerry Falwell’s train made it’s final stop today. Some people are sad, some are happy.

I didn’t like Jerry Falwell. I think he had a lot of wrongheaded ideas that caused a lot of people deep and lasting pain.

But Jesus died for Falwell as painfully and sorrowfully as he died for every other person on this planet. You don’t have to believe in Jesus. But I do and Falwell did, too. And here’s where I believe that I must let God be God and let God’s redeeming love take care of Falwell. Jesus asked us to love our neighbour. Falwell was my neighbour, and I love him on Jesus’ command.

Jerry Falwell is now in the land where there is no sorrow nor death, neither crying nor pain. He is made new.

I’d love for the legacy of hate he ignited to die with him, and that includes all the expression of those who ‘hate him back’. Your anger and bitterness is justified. But if you let love transcend that you will have a truer earthly peace than Falwell most probably ever knew.

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Jeffrey started this conversation over at his blog, not knowing that he’d strike at least three of my nerves simultaneously. How can I ignore any conversation that deals with

  1. The heresy of the “health and wealth”/”name it and claim it” false teachers
  2. The death of mysticism in the Christian Church
  3. The complete misunderstanding of the nature and practice of Wicca and paganism

do you have any insight as to where the idea that if we “all pray together”, “pray enough times”, etc, about something that those things somehow have an affect on whether God honors that prayer or not?

Ohh boy. Don’t get me started on a tirade that will go into why I think Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” is a hideous malformation of Christianity [1] or why so many Christians mistake God for a cosmic vending machine that just occasionally eats your change.

The modern church has managed to be both far more pagan and far less spiritual than it should be. In our rush to sanitise the Church from being sullied by any actual religious experience we’ve turned it into a cultural ghetto.

Our relationship with God is intended to be just that. A relationship. Paul talks of Jesus being our High Priest. Those aren’t just words. Jesus’ death created a mystic bridge whereby we humans can engage directly in a communication with the Divine; hence some of Satan’s anger with us. He strove to be like God and failed. We, ironically, have a closer communication with God than Satan ever could.

Unfortunately in our rush to strip all mysticism out of the Church, we’ve also stripped most of the power out of our relationship with God. We’ve turned God from a mystical communicant into a sort of sugar-daddy.

Prayer always gives us answers, but mostly by opening our minds to that bridge of communication with the divine. We aren’t to be praying toward humanly-directed outcomes. “Ask and it shall be given” is often misunderstood to mean that if you ask hard enough, long enough or loud enough for a car or a pony or a baby or a new job you will get those things–and if you don’t get them, well, you just didn’t do your best askin’!!!

That’s wrong. Very wrong. The act of asking is an act of engaging God. In talking WITH God (as opposed to yelling AT God) you achieve an understanding about what He wants for you. You may not get the car or the pony or the baby or the new job, but you will see how your life is a better one for you than what you thought you wanted.

Many of the “health and wealth” teachers of this present false age have seized upon this heresy. As a devout Christian with chronic illness I’m convinced by God that one of the very purposes of my illness is to act in testament against the false teachings of those who would say that you are only sick because you didn’t pray hard enough. Or that you are only poor because you didn’t ask God for money.

Our prayers are not about acheiving OUR desired outcome. They are about remaining in constant communication with God. God then gives us the eyes with which we can see Divine Wisdom play out in our earthly circumstance.

[1] Why I Hate This Present Darkness:

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There will be strong language and strong thoughts ahead, so only jump into this if you’re so inclined. (more…)

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Ron Paul, Penn Jillette and I are all “Terrorists” according to the State of Alabama.

The Alabama Department of Homeland Security has recently constructed a website that defines Domestic Terrorists as those who oppose a strong federal government.

Funny, but I thought Domestic Terrorists were people who blew up stuff. I thought Libertarians were just people who wanted to be left alone.

Thanks, Casey, for letting me know.

UPDATE:

Apparently I am also a Godless heathen. Not to mention a big fan of rapists.

Libertarianism breaks down in the eyes of conservatives when the question is presented as to who has the greater right, the habitual rapist’s right to rape or the victim’s right to be free from rape? … Libertarianism doesn’t find much purpose with religion, as liberty and desire trump restraint and social conscience.

All in all not the best day for libertarians. I think perhaps we need to clarify our message.

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This is going to be a long one. And I’ve discovered the “More” tool, so I’m overusing it.

On this eve of the possible execution of Phillip Workman, I need to go on record with a FAQ about how and why I am for the death penalty, even though I believe in the sanctity of life. It’s a seemingly odd position, and I don’t want to give the impression of not having arrived at it logically. So for all of you who’ve scratched your heads over this seemingly bizarre dichotomy among the conservatives you share air with, here’s my attempt at an answer.

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