Extreme Christ

Religion

Jesus earring

So there’s this tattooed, progressive, vulgar woman making the lefty church rounds spouting her particular message about Jesus Christ in her own distinct way. Minister Nadia Bolz-Weber’s delivery seems to speak to today’s generation of disillusioned youth seeking some kind of spiritual catharsis from an unconventional source.

Her style is really nothing new. But lately she’s been drawing a new audience — regular folk. Turns out that you don’t have to be some violence-desensitized, angst-ridden twenty-something in order to be turned off by traditional, organized religion. It’s a rising trend that shows no sign of slowing. The most rapidly growing religious identity in the U.S.? Athiesm, agnosticism or unafilliated.

People have problems with religion, at least the traditional model be it Catholics, Protestants or Evangelicals. They’re just not filling the pews anymore. Some feel the exodus has to do with the political involvement with conservatives in government. Others blame secularization. Personally I feel there is a bit of hypocrisy in how people act compared to what they profess to believe. I also think  too many people use their religion to justify divisiveness, violence and outright avarice.

In the past maybe young people felt obligated to stick with religion despite their reservations but I don’t think that guilt is working anymore.

Movements from unconventional ministers like Bolz-Weber are growing and in different manifestations. Many of these non-denominational churches are centered on a dynamic personality, like Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer. Others are based on a theme like Cowboy Church. I once went to a service crafted entirely for bikers. People are capitalizing on those seeking God in a nontraditional setting.

It bothers a lot of people. Even Pope Francis, the loose-talking Jesuit recently named pontiff, is facing backlash from traditional Catholics irate that he’s doing such cavalier things like not judging gays and granting interviews to athiest journalists.

I’m a faltering Catholic, a heavily liturgical denomination. The mere presence of a guitar at a Protestant service rubs me the wrong way because the only version of Amazing Grace I’ve ever heard was accompanied by an organ. Sadly, contemporary is just not my cup of tea. I can see why some are repulsed by Francis, Bolz-Weber and Biker Church.

Yet, so what? To me all of those who have been devoutly religious their entire lives should be happy that the prodigal children have found another path to the same destination. Even if they don’t like the way the message is presented, they should at least rejoice that the lost are found.

Some of the deniers are more afraid that the newcomers are changing the message. Legitimate fear, maybe, but I think that fear is usually based on the notion that unless someone’s worshiping the way they worship, then they’re not true believers. Ironically, this is the large part of the reason why people get sour on God in the first place — worshipers look at those who believe different and condemn them for being different. This irks me particularly with Christians because Jesus preached the exact opposite. There’s a certain instance in the Bible when His disciples walked up to Him complaining that there was a man performing miracles in Jesus’ name. He rebuked their intolerance.
“Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

-Mark 9:40

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Someone to Hate

Philosophy, Politics

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Blacks. Communists. Jews. Catholics. Liberals. Muslims. Mexicans. The Post Office. Queers. Republicans. Terrorists. The DMV line.

It seems that we always have to have someone, some race, some religion, SOMETHING to hate. I am 33 years old and I still, as of yet, don’t understand the emotion. No matter what’s going in this world, we have this undying urge to point some entity out and hate it.

It doesn’t matter what this thing has really done to us. It doesn’t matter why we must focus on it. We know only that we have to zero in on something with a searing eye and make sure that it knows we don’t like it.

Today the Supreme Court heard arguments about gay marriage and why it should be a constitutional right. A decision is expected in June. There’s a sense that the court might throw out the case on procedural grounds rather than actually address the issue.

There are those who point to the Bible or the Koran or some religious-based study on kids adopted by gays, to say that homosexuals cannot get married. Somehow, they believe, that two men marrying each other will affect all of us and will rip the social fabric that keeps society together. Maybe they think it will help the terrorists.

If society stays bundled together only because gays can’t marry, then there’s something completely wrong with society.

I often find those who cling to tradition and religion to oppose something, are also the type of people who think that if something is icky, it’s wrong. You’ll notice a lot of things that people find gross end up being deviant behavior.

It takes a long time for that deviant perception to wear off and for society to accept what’s different. It took 300 years for African-Americans to go from slaves to being able to eat at the same lunch counter as whites. It took more than 100 years for women to be able to vote.

With 80 percent of people younger than 30 approving of gay marriage, it’s only a matter of time before homosexuals will be able to take to the altar.

But it’s the motivation behind the opposition that bothers me so much. If we really believe in this all-loving God, whether he’s Yaweh or Allah, how loving can He condemn two people for loving each other? I don’t think it matters what St. Paul said or what’s written in the Koran. A book is holy only because people make it holy. And it is people who wrote those books.

Any all-loving God would look down on a loving couple and smile. He’d rejoice that two people found each other and would want to dedicate their lives to each other.

More importantly, how could this all-loving God be happy with followers who are constantly looking for someone to deny? If we really believe in a God who’s all about love and tolerance and forgiveness, then I think He would be looking for, and cherishing, those who also are loving, forgiving and tolerant.

I don’t believe that God wants us to constantly find differences and decry them. God does not want us to hate.

But we do.