Grapes from Briers

Luke 6:44- Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.

Much of what I understand about God I have learned from observing the world around me.  After all, this is the world that God created, and it carries in itself the rhythms of who he is.  I strongly believe that everything testifies about God to us- even my compost pile.  Here’s the thing.  In my yard I have several pots of plants that sprang up from the compost.  It may be a “trash heap”, literally speaking- full of the discarded remnants of yesterday’s dinner and the tops of root vegetables that are inedible… but regardless of that, sometimes a seed volunteers to grow.  Should I judge that seed based off of it’s location?  Pull it out and discard it because it jumped up from the trash?  Or should I applaud it’s spirit and let it grow, and in watching it grow discover who it is?  Six concord grape shoots, two squashes, three tomatoes, one eggplant, some kind of melon that has yet to show fruit…  These plants tell me, by their nature, that they are good.  Just like the weeds in my garden show by their nature that they are bad, despite their better location.

And people are much the same way.  Just because one is found in a church on a Sunday morning doesn’t mean one is good, any more than being in a bar means one is bad.  Judge based off of the product of one’s life.

This morning I am agitated at hearing a lesbian friend called a heretic, despite the multitude of good things I can demonstrate coming from her life.  Regardless of her orientation, she is a woman who seeps love from her very pores, a woman who would show compassion to everyone around her- even those who defame her based off of prejudice and not knowledge of who she truly is.

Much in the same way that an usher on a Sunday morning demonstrates his true nature by seating a black family in the back of the church and well-dressed white folks at the front.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if we are to accept the “Romans One” view of homosexuality- that gay people are gay because they have already rejected God, that they are evil- shouldn’t this be demonstrated by the fruit of their lives?  A man who has fully rejected God and thus carries his orientation as a judgment should not bear good fruit.  And yet…

And yet I find myself sitting here this morning, agitated.  I read Romans today.  I find it irritating that the first chapter is used to accuse, to level judgment, when so much of what follows is about being  freed from the law.

That out of one side of their mouth, people say, “Gay people have already rejected God as is evidenced by their orientation, their life shows the fruit of this judgment” and then clap and sing to the words “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”…

Words fail me.

Don’t mock my brother. (That’s my job!)

Here is something I find interesting:  when a non-Christian mocks any Christian, other Christians (even if they do not share the view being mocked) will take this as an affront to the religion as a whole and they will stoke their righteous fires.  But Christians feel free to mock other Christians without viewing this as an affront to Jesus (so long as they are mocking another Christian who doesn’t share their views).

Examples?  Mainstream Christians joking about the Amish.  Or joking about tree-hugging hippy-dippy Christians that “compost for Christ” har har har.  Or liberal Christians joking about conservative ones.  Or the constant infighting between Republicans and Democrats, who all too often seem to lose all respect for the FAITH of their counterparts just because they don’t share political views. Or any time people joke callously about a particular theology, completely oblivious to the fact that someone in the room with them may still share it.  A good example of this is women who will mock the concept of being submissive to their husband- how hurtful is it for another woman who still holds that belief as sacred to hear herself being categorized as a lobotomized extension of her husband’s will?

How odd is it that if a non-Christian were to say “hey, hippy, are you sure you’re high on God and not the special cookies?” all Christians in the proximity would call to arms, but when a fellow Christian does it, it is iron sharpening iron?

I think it’s the same mentality that allows a big brother to mock his sister, but punch another guy in the face if said guy does the same.

Or, more accurately, situational hypocrisy.

Something to think about.  I think we all do this- not just Christians, but any time there’s a bubble culture it takes on that kind of tone.  A “we can rib our own but you stay OUT” tone.

Humanity is so fascinating.

Can a “Good” Christian embrace gay people?

So recently a post of mine made it to StumbleUpon, which is always an interesting experience.  One of the reviews of said post both assumed I’m a man (which I always find gunny) and said that a REAL Christian wouldn’t show tolerance to gay people because a REAL Christian believes in the Bible.

I have several problems with that statement.  The first is that suddenly Christian seems to be redefined as Person Who Believes As I Do For The Right Reasons.  I think it’s wholly possible for someone to be a Christian and not share my doctrine.  For example, I don’t think my harshest critics aren’t Christian.  In fact, I believe that I am in no place to cast judgment on their faith.  A greater issue, though, is the fact that I feel as if the critics weren’t able to get past their fervent opposition to the idea of homosexuality long enough to fully digest my post.

Why do I say that?

Because I never said being gay was awesome.  I tried to outline the reasons most Christians use to affirm their rejection of gay people whole cloth, and then to point out that those excuses end up being counterproductive, and if they were applied to ALL sins, the pews would be empty.  How is that saying, “really, being gay is a-okay.”  I never even questioned the belief that homosexual behavior was condemned in the Bible.  (Although I did poke at the common interpretation of Romans One, which could raise some serious hackles.)

I feel as if my posts aren’t truly being read.

So, I will once again try to explain my beliefs.  But, instead of using homosexuality as an example, I’ll use something a bit less controversial.  (And all apologies to any gay readers that may find this an unfair comparison:  I know, it really is.)

Imagine a drunk comes to your church.

What do you do?

You may well be afraid that he will tempt other members to drunkeness.  You may worry that your children may think his drinking is “cool.”  You may have many valid worries about what sort of an example he is setting, or if Satan sent him to your church to be disruptive.

But what does God call you to do?  Does he call you to send the guy back out into the streets, only to come back when he no longer drinks?  Isn’t that tantamount to cursing him to a life of sin?  Isn’t the power that he needs to overcome found in God, and thus necessarily needing to be demonstrated through YOU?

Obviously if the man is throwing chairs and puking in the aisles, you don’t want that on Sunday mornings- but if he isn’t openly and belligerently disruptive, isn’t the best move to walk beside him in grace and compassion and pray that God (not you) brings him to a revelation of his weakness?

Or imagine a less obvious sin.  Imagine a husband comes to your church, and over the course of a few months it becomes obvious that he speaks to his wife in a snide and combative way, and it is emotionally abusive to her?  Do you then cast him out and tell him to only come back when he’s ready to overcome his pride and cruelty?

Obviously there comes a time, in any situation where sin is “obvious”, where you tell the sinner that they need to make a commitment to change.  My issue is that I feel that most churches handle this issue badly now- and not just with homosexuality– with ALL sin.  We feel that WE must cast conviction, that WE must pass judgment, that WE know man’s heart.  And guess what?  We don’t.

We need to learn to trust God to do His own job.  If someone is seeking God, and God is seeking them, God will speak to their heart and call them to change.

And for the time being, let’s trust each other.  Show each other love and compassion, understanding and true friendship.  Let’s not allow our house to become divided.

Atheism: God’s gift to Christianity

Every once in a while I peruse atheist sites just to bone up on what’s going on around me.  If people are going to explain to me why I’m an idiot for believing in God, I want to take advantage of that.  (And read that last sentence without an ounce of sarcasm.  I really want to understand- especially when it’s a former Christian making the explanation.)

I am always horrified at the amount of time meant making the philosophical explanation as compared to the amount of time devoted to explaining what major narcissistic assholes Christians are.  There will be long articles about simple concepts such as “if the Bible is true and it’s words are true and as 1 John 4 explains “God is love”, then does it make sense for his worshippers to be such unholy JERKS?”  Often these articles display a fair amount of bitterness, and are generally accompanied by numerous personal stories of being treated like crap by Christians.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I read such diatribes with a fair amount of pain and embarrassment.  Years of listening closely have taught me that many Atheist’s principle argument against Christianity is, well, Christians.  I wish more Christians would look past themselves long enough to read what’s written between the lines.

Atheists aren’t our enemies.

They, and their harsh critique of our religion, are a gift.  While the philosophical critique of our faith is (hopefully) one we’ve all examined and overcome, their sometimes-slightly-venomous critique of our behavior as a people is a necessary one.  They ask questions such as; “If Jesus’ clearest commandment was to love our neighbor, how can Christians justify their political beliefs/offensive evangelism/lack of donations to neighborhood associations”; or “If Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery despite the law than how can Christians justify condemning homosexuals under the law”; or “how can anyone be so self involved as to think that God really cares that they lost their keys or spilled coffee on their shirt?”

I think that all Christians should both hear and prepare themselves to respond to such questions.  And when those questions bring a pill of conviction, we ought to take it.  I think we OUGHT to be ashamed that more Christian groups don’t donate to neighborhood associations.  (Or refuse to donate if said association doesn’t stock Christian evangelism materials.  Or to demand that associations block young womens access to pro-choice groups as a contingency to donation.)  I think there IS a great deal of confusion about how much time in the New Testament is devoted to our freedom from under the law and the fact that we so desperately seek to keep a set of laws to govern our behavior.  I think that there is a GREAT deal of narcissism in Christianity and not enough focus spent on, well, loving our neighbors.

But, most of all, I think that a Christian who is assured of their salvation need not fear hearing the voices from across the aisle.

Atheists aren’t our enemies.

And the more we treat them like it, the more we fill their forums.

Christian Housewife visits Atheist Site.

A few days ago an atheist by the login name of croixian1 left a comment telling me that God was a “magical faerie” and asking me to visit his site.

Anyone who knows me at all would realize that I then had to visit. No one is ever allowed to question my faith and have me not respond in some way. Really. Croixian1’s site offered very little that I found compelling, aside from a post which called the recent overturning of the gay marriage ban in California a “bad day for bigots”. Well, Thank God I’m not a bigot! It was a good day for me.

In the side bar he linked to a bunch of other sites that are supposed to also help me realize why God is Imaginary. Most of them talked about thinks like there being no quantitative proof that prayer works, or talking about the inherent hypocrisy in Christianity and how Christians don’t actually behave as if Christ were real.

Guess what? I agree wholeheartedly with many of their assertions, but I still believe that God is real. My favorite of the sites, simply enough called God is Imaginary had a list of several things to contemplate as “proof” of God’s unreality. I take issue with several of their points. I won’t go through them one by one all in one fell swoop because who has the time… but I will address a few here. Like their “look at your church” point, in which they describe a church that is moving onto 33 acres and building soccer fields and a new building with a “huge” sanctuary and library as “your typical church.” I don’t know what America those guys live in, but in my small town the “typical” church seats about two to three hundred, barely has sufficient parking and doesn’t pay their pastor much. In small towns the country over that is the case. Why a few hundred “mega” churches are accepted as the norm and the standard by which all churches should be judged baffles me. It’s simply not logical.

They also offer the fact that “You ignore Jesus“. I hope they didn’t mean me. They show several verses in which Jesus talked about the fact that we should sell our possessions to feed the poor, not acquire wealth, and serve God not money. All great verses. All teachings that I follow. We live in the first floor of a rental house and live sort of communally with our upstairs neighbors, sharing the work and sharing our things. We drive two vehicles, one a van we bought from my parents very used and the other another used car. We paid cash for both. We don’t have credit cards. We don’t have many possessions at all. We live a lifestyle of sharing and giving and work with our church to take care of our neighborhood homeless. My husband and I follow those teachings. So, people who made God is Imaginary, you lose on that point as well. Are there many Christians who don’t follow those teachings? Yes. Are there many who don’t know Christ? Yes. But this little Christian does.

There also seems to be a focus on the fact that many Christians don’t believe in evolution and thus Christians are irrational. Guess what? I don’t believe in the “Young Earth” teachings. I believe that evolution isn’t necessarily at odds with faith. If to God a second is a thousand years and a thousand years is a minute, then how do we know how long those seven days took? The Bible was written by humans and thus is open to human flaw, as human understanding simply cannot encapsulate the Godly mind. We don’t know how our Earth was created– but believing that it was created is still entirely possible.

I looked at the entry titled “Think about a Christian Housewife” because I am one, and I wondered if they might have anything interesting to say about me. They posed a situation in which a housewife prays for God to help her clean a mustard stain off of her favorite blouse and that prayer was “answered” and then they ask why the same housewife couldn’t just, you know, pray for poverty to be eased or the hungry to be fed.

Kiss my Christian Housewife Ass.

I never, ever, pray over such trivial things as a stain on a blouse. If I did, I’d spend my entire life in prayer as I’ve got two very young, very messy children. And I DO pray for the poor and the hungry. I DO pray for world peace. I pray for a lot of things which the people who penned that site have absolutely no concept of. Do I believe my prayers will be answered? That’s an insanely complex question to address and would take an entire post in itself, if not a series of them.

But one thing I am sure of:

If Christian Hypocrisy is the Atheist’s strongest argument against God, Christianity needs to change.