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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Slavery, Bacon, Gays and Jesus

Philosophy, Religion

chain

One of the things that has always bothered me about the Bible is the flexibility of the social codes. So many Christians are willing to tout the infallibility of the text and yet claim some of the more unsavory aspects are no longer applicable.

Jesus didn’t have a problem with slavery. (More often than not, the Bible referred to them as “servants” but really, they were slaves.) He never condemned it. He never advocated that a person’s life is their own. In fact, he actually healed a man’s dying servant. He was willing to save the slave’s life but not give them freedom. The Bible is riddled with rules that delineate the relationship between master and slave.

There were many times during the days of American slavery where owners would use the Bible as justification for their owning slaves.

But today, we have a moral repulsion to slavery. It’s even an established right in America that you can’t be owned by anyone.

Then there’s divorce. Jesus was pretty clear on this one.

“Now I say this to you: anyone who divorces his wife — I am not speaking of an illicit marriage — and marries another, is guilty of adultery.'” (Matthew 19:9)

Sooooo, either there are a sea of adulterers out there (half of all marriages) or we’re not having a whole lot of proper marriages.

I’m willing to bet that a lot of divorced Christians don’t consider themselves adulterers. I can’t stop myself form typing out that Evangelicals have the highest divorce rate among Christians.

Many times I hear the arguments from fellow Christians that Jesus preached during a different time in history, when slavery was allowed and divorce was frowned upon. They say that the times have changed since He walked the Earth.

This applies to the entire Bible of course. Polygamy, slavery, stonings— they were legal, encouraged even. Divorce, eating pork, women serving food while on their periods—they were forbidden. Yet so many Christians want to use the Bible to justify their positions to castigate homosexuality, hate Muslims, legislate morality among others.

Homosexuality is a personal favorite. Just like eating pork and divorce, it is condemned in the Bible. Why is it that views on divorce, premarital sex and ham have relaxed but not on being gay?

Bottom line: if values change from one era to another, then we can’t cherry pick elements out of the Bible that we want to apply and others that we don’t. Buffet-style morality based on the Bible isn’t based on the Bible at all.

When you do that, you’re selections aren’t Bible-based— they’re really the mores that WE want to see enforced. If you really believe in God or Jesus Christ, then you would already know that people don’t have the authority to play Solomon with the Good Book.

Let’s just admit that Christians are using the Bible and its text as a front for their own personal fears and hatred of things they don’t like. When they say that the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, they’re really saying that THEY personally think homosexuality is wrong and that they have the authority to deem it so.

Well, we are not God or Jesus.

But we are divorcees, gays, bacon lovers, sinners and most importantly, free.