Ask a Christian, Part III

Man and God - The Sistine Chapel by Michaelangelo

I’ve been taking all matters God with a really great group of guys online lately, and it got me in the mood to discuss and, hopefully, explain a few more questions and misconceptions I’ve gotten and been seeing about the faith. And so here we are with the third edition of Ask A Christian.

Hopefully you find this interesting, and even if you still think the faith wacky, well, at least you’ll be better informed.

Let me say first that a lot of these focus on the Bible, which is a difficult book for anyone, devout or otherwise. It’s a collection of several books written by people centuries apart, so misunderstandings about among the faithful and the not. So keep this in mind as we delve into some of these.

“Why do you feel guilt about everything and impose unearned guilt on everyone? That’s sadistic and cruel!”

Well then, it’s a good thing that this isn’t what we believe. Everyone isn’t “guilty.”

See, Christians, at least the Orthodox denomination, don’t believe in “original guilt.” Original sin–the disobedience to God and the fall of man–happened. Christ then redeemed mankind.

The distinction is that man’s nature is fallen. All of us live with the consequences of the fall of man, sure–old age, sickness, death, the darker sides of human nature in all of its manifestations– we are not guilty.

“You always cry ‘out of context!’ when confronted with verses you don’t like. What a disingenuous cop-out!”

Then stop flinging verses at us that you don’t understand yourselves.

This is a multi-layered issue, and could be a post itself. I’ll try to provide a condensed version:

  1. The Bible isn’t a book. It’s a library. It is a collection of different books written at different times by different people for different reasons. There is Gospel, prophecy, history, myth, poetry, wisdom, letters…so context is required for everything. Which leads into point 2.
  2. Not all Christians believe “sola scriptura,” the idea held by many Protestant denominations that the Bible is perfect and a closed book and that all we need to know, and in order to interpret it, is in there. Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, among other, denominations reject this. Even the Bible doesn’t indicate that scripture alone is the final word, which seems to invalidate the idea of sola scriptura, but I digress. I know I’ve opened a can of worms here, but like I said, this is condensed. So there is also tradition and practice, including that by the Apostles themselves. You know, those people who followed Jesus himself.
  3. The Bible, all of it, needs to be read many ways: literally, figuratively, scripturally, and so on. I’ve already written about how not all churches take the creation story literally, and 12th century Jewish scholar Moses Maimonides explained in his Guide for the Perplexed that everyone knew, for example, that the Book of Job is a metaphor. So it’s far more layered than naysayers like to admit.

When those who are trying to disprove Christianity toss random verses around, they’re engaging in sola scriptura-type interpretation without knowing what they’re citing actually means. It’s like tossing out the middle of a random sentence without knowing the rest of the words surrounding it, or what the excerpt actually is trying to convey.

And if you’re upset that there seems to be “an answer for everything,” that’s what thousands of years of serious study and tradition will do. Or it could be that the book is true… Continue reading “Ask a Christian, Part III”

Confusion is the Enemy

Nobody likes being told what to do. But we can shrug most of it off.

“I like your hair better short.”

“Maybe not the red tie?”

“You should do your lawn like this.”

“Your breath stinks, man! Chew some gum or something!”

No big deal.

But when it comes to questions of morality or right or wrong? Things that we maybe should be willing to listen to outside input about?

“You know, maybe sleeping with fifteen girls a week, sans protection, isn’t the best idea.”

“Fraud is wrong. Knock it off or I’m turning you in.”

“Crack is wack, yo.”

We go nuclear!

Why?

The mere mention of anything touching these dimensions can make even the most self-proclaimed, brave, “I-never-get-offended” free-speech proponent go bonkers and try to shut you up.

Why? Continue reading “Confusion is the Enemy”

Ask a Christian 

hand of god

Well, you’ve done it Internet. You’ve broken me.

Just when I think there are no more ways people can get Christianity wrong, I see stuff that doesn’t even make me upset; it just leaves me scratching my head and wondering how anyone living in the United States or Europe could be so wrong about the underpinnings of the last 2,000 years of our civilizations.

The point you

And then I remember that the United States and Europe are far different than they were even 50 years ago.

So as a part of my mission is to clear up misconceptions and change perceptions, I’ve decided to set up my booth, so to speak, and talk about some of these things people think they know about Christianity, but have way, way wrong.

I’m not trying to convert anybody (but if you want to visit a Greek Orthodox Church to see what it’s all about, that’s great!) but I would just like to change contemporary American’s perceptions about what it is us Christians do and believe.

–From “How We Do: On Missions and their Statements

This is not done in anger, but as a relatively quick way to clarify some Christian beliefs. And I am not trying to convert anybody, just attempting to do a bit of level-setting so we’re not all talking past each other when we discuss Christianity.

Mind you, I’m approaching this from the perspective of my church, the Greek Orthodox Church, so your mileage may vary.

Before we begin, I have to point out that these are actual questions I have gotten and actual things I have seen on-line and elsewhere. I’ll only go over a few in this post, mainly focusing on the Bible itself, because if I don’t control myself I could go on about this stuff for days . . .

“You think God wrote the Bible, so you can’t disagree with it even when it’s wrong because Christians are all superstitious (and dumb).”

No Christian believes that God Himself wrote the Bible. If anyone’s been taught that God literally sat down, uncapped his pen, and scribbled down a few notes, than they seriously need to find a new teacher. Continue reading “Ask a Christian “

Can’t Shake It

I would love to not pay attention. 

And yet, I feel compelled to do more than while away my time as the world goes on around me. 

So I try to put what’s happening together, to paint a coherent picture, and I usually don’t like the results. And so I worry. 

I worry about how we use history as a how-to guide and not a cautionary tale. No matter the lessons the record provides, we seem to return, like a dog to its vomit, to the worst of what humanity has to offer. 

I worry about what kind of world I’ve brought my son into, what kind of inheritance he and his progeny will have–though I will be dead, I still worry about them. 

I worry about eternity

And I worry if there is any hope for us in the here and now. Continue reading “Can’t Shake It”

Being a Church Man

Being a man. Much of it involves standing up for yourself, for your friends and family, and the weak. And a lot of times, “standing up” means fighting back, physically or with words. 

And then there’s being a Christian. Love your enemies and pray for them, even as they revile you. Be meek, because the meek shall inherit the Earth. Turn the other cheek. 

These are in conflict, right?Yet there’s something strange brewing in the realm of Christendom. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

You see, something I’ve noticed, thanks to the Internet, is that there are a lot of young, passionate Christians–far more than I remember growing up. And these Christians fight back.

When the culture punches them, they punch back. Hard.

There is even some armed resistance in regions of the world where Christianity is being stamped out by evil religious fanatics who claim to worship the same God. There’s not enough, but at least it’s there.

I applaud this and am energized by it.

Here in America, things haven’t yet come to blows (though the so-called Antifa thugs are starting to change this).

In a culture hellbent on denigrating your beliefs, sitting idly by gets you nowhere.

And this is important, because culture is far more important than politics in and of themselves.

So three cheers for Christians who actually defend themselves. Using the weapons of Scripture and snark in equal measure, logic and reason coupled with fearlessness and effective rhetoric, we refuse to go quietly into that dark night of decline. In fact, the goal seems to be to increase the numbers of the faithful, and bolster the strength of our various churches.

You see, the prevailing culture has successfully turned Christians into John Lithgow’s character from Footloose (1984). 

I’ve never seen the movie (there’s only so much Kevin Bacon I can take), but I know the stereotype all too well. In Footloose, Lithgow plays the villain, Reverend Shaw Moore, a fiery Christian preacher who hates dancing and bans dancing and music in his community.

Now, it doesn’t matter that Reverend Moore has powerful personal reasons for hating dancing and music, and later has a change of heart when he realizes that dancing and music are not the problems he thinks they are. Christianity in movies gets associated with hating fun. You see this in so many films, TV shows, and books. 

The Jesus freak is always puritanical, bigoted, and violent. And nine times out of ten, a complete and utter hypocrite, who is usually stupid for good measure. 

Why? Because Christ, of course.

I see a lot of this edifice eroding in the face of Christians who prove that you can be a churchgoer and bite back. Have a sense of humor. A sense of mischief, even. 

This is all well and good . . . but is it really Christ-like?

In other words, is fighting back contrary to Christian teachings?

Is being a masculine man incompatible with being a church man? Continue reading “Being a Church Man”

Other People

It’s always about “other people,” isn’t it?

When we judge, we act like we alone are uniquely above any criticism. Everyone else is the problem. We’re the solution. 

We all do it, even those of us who try to be aware of it

Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Words to life by right? 

Yes. But this isn’t a command to never judge–take a look at the next part:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

–Matthew 7:1-2

In other words, be very careful what you say to others. And don’t be a hypocrite. 

Of course, evil should be judged harshly. Or things that can lead to evil. But don’t be so self-righteous to think yourself immune from this, or bristle when you get the same treatment from others. 

To many, evil is subject to interpretation. I tend to stick with immutable principles like those given by God, but your mileage may vary. 

So that’s evil. But what about stuff you disagree with? Or that you just find silly or annoying?

What about other people’s habits and mannerisms that just irk you?

“They do this, they do that, they just piss me off!”

But maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s you.

If what other people do doesn’t affect you, or isn’t evil or doesn’t lead to evil, who cares?

In other words, pick your battles. Make them worthy of your time, energy, and judgment. 

As with most good things, though, this is easier said than done. 

I fall into this all the time. Social media makes it easy. 

Mockery is fun. Ridicule is a coping mechanism. Complaining lets off steam. 

But I wonder: What do people say about me and people like me?

Probably stuff I would object to as untrue

Exactly what other people say. 

Someone has to be right though, don’t they? Something has to be true and the other false. 

Usually. 

I know we’re a divided nation, and that’s fine. There needs to be a contrast between different ideas and their consequences. 

This is why my maxim is to attack ideas and not people. Continue reading “Other People”

Merry Christmas Everyone

Merry Christmas everyone. Enjoy the day with your family and friends and enjoy God’s blessings. It’s a time of hope and renewal, a bookend to the resurrection. 

And for those who are secular, atheist, or non-Christian, have a wonderful few days off and enjoy the spirit of the holidays. 

All my American friends: This is still a great country. Don’t get bitter. 

To my international friends: All the best from over here in Hamburger Land. Whatever your traditions, enjoy them. 

No politics. No bitterness. No snark. 

Sincerety. 

Joy. 

The flat-out corny earnest niceness of it all

Even if only for one day. 

Merry Christmas.

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