Monday, June 30, 2014

Rock a bye baby.....

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that some corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.

The justices' 5-4 decision is the first time that the high court has ruled that profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law.

What about women who need contraception to assist with hormonal balance and medical complications?  Guess they never considered that.

While many anti-choice Christians celebrate this decision, I question whether these same Christians are celebrating the new, self-imposed responsibility that they've just placed on themselves to care for the unwed pregnant woman?

Some say that abortion rates will increase due to this ruling.  Not so fast.  These same enthusiastic Christians vote and support the Republican platform to completely eliminate family support services.  As cited in this article, "Anti-abortion forces often claim credit for clinic closings, celebrating them as moral victories that double as evidence that their goal of eliminating the practice is working."

So, fellow Christians, are you ready?  Are you prepared to open up your church or home and take care of a young mother and her child?  To help you start planning, here is a church in Ontario, Canada that is doing just that.  St. Mary's Home provides education, counseling, employment skills, life skills training, pre-natal classes, health care and preparation to re-enter the community with added inner resources to young, pregnant woman.

This is a test of your Christianity, self-imposed by you.  Are you going to meet the challenge you've just created for yourself?  Will mega churches use their wealth to create these types of services to the women they are targeting?  Will you obey the Bible you worship where it says in Deuteronomy 10:18 "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing."

We are not holding our breath!

By Janet, CToBM

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Is It Still “Christianity” Without Christ?

Last month, following a shocking bungled execution in Oklahoma, evangelical big-shot Al Mohler wrote an opinion piece for CNN explaining why Christians should support the death penalty.  Leaving aside the substance of Mohler's relatively lengthy explanation of the "Christian" position, it somehow failed to even ONCE mention, quote or acknowledge CHRIST.  As columnist Jonathan Merritt noted, "[i]f you search Mohler's CNN article for the words 'Jesus' or 'Christ', you'll find exactly zero references.  And this approach, in my opinion, is not the best way to do theology.  Christians are to be New Testament followers of Jesus, not members of an ancient Jewish tribe.  As such, our thinking must be grounded in Jesus."

Despite Mohler's obvious exclusion of Christ from his "Christian" essay, Merritt and others nonetheless seemed willing to accept Mohler at his word that he was, in fact, A "Christian."  Maybe this was due to a sense of charity, or a desire to avoid worn-out debates over who is and who isn't deserving of the "Christian" label.  But, in a time when people are leaving the church in record numbers and each day seems to bring new outrages from the religious right, it may no longer be the wisest (or kindest) course to give Mohler's Christ-less brand of theology a free pass.  How can a "Christian" apology for the death penalty -- or a "Christian" position on ANYTHING, for that matter -- be truly "Christian" if it does not begin and end with the teachings of Jesus himself?  Is it still "Christianity" without Christ?  And, if not, does there come a point where we finally stand up and say so?

That quest has implications that seep far beyond the death penalty.  Mohler's brand of Christ-avoidance seems to have become a common feature of the religious right's politicized, culture war rhetoric; a viewpoint that allows many purported "Christians" to either push Jesus completely out of the picture or riddle his teachings with so many loopholes that they might as well not exist at all.  There are few commands in the Gospel, for example, more unambiguous than Jesus' call to care for the poor.  Yet, as with Mohler's arguments for the death penalty, many Christians have conveniently ignored or recast these teachings to produce a "Gospel" that not only permits indifference toward the needy, but seems to encourage outright hostility toward them.  Whether it's on questions of war, religious tolerance, gun control or health care, the actual words and teachings of Jesus seem to be systematically shunted to the sidelines to produce a Gospel of convenience that validates a cultural status quo instead of pushing us beyond it.  And it isn't merely that this version of "Christianity" seems to lack telltale fruits of the Spirit like "grace" and "mercy" - it's that it seems to lack CHRIST himself, the very figure who should be the source of all of these missing qualities.

To be sure, it's not that Christians like Mohler exclude Jesus completely from their odd theology.  It's just that the Jesus they include seems more like an abstract tool for "atonement" than he does an actual teacher and embodiment of God's Word.  As Rachel Held Evans notes:

[W]e have created a culture in which Christians tend to see Jesus as a sort of static mechanism by which salvation is secured rather than the full embodiment of God's will for the world whose life and teachings we are called to emulate and follow.....[W]e tend to think of the Sermon on the Mount and the stories of the gospels as interesting back story to Jesus' march to the cross.....We flatten out the words of God-In-Flesh and give them equal (or often lesser) value to those of the apostle Paul or Old Testament Law.

While this approach allows Christ to remain at least nominally involved in the faith that bears his name, it has the ironic effect of pushing the things he actually said and did into the background.  An exclusive focus on his redemptive sacrifice tends to trump the power and complexity of his redemptive teachings and example.  And when Christ's actual words and actions become mere "back story" for a mystical "atonement," Jesus himself becomes merely a metaphysical cipher to which practically any proposition or ideology can be attached; the same man who was executed by the Roman state even as he forgave his killers is transformed to an ardent proponent of the death penalty; the "Prince of Peace" becomes an advocate for assault rifles; the man who preached ceaselessly about society's duty to serve the poor is invoked as a justification for cutting food stamps and health care.  Instead of a theology that centers around the saving message of Christ, you end up with one that marginalizes it.

It's hard to reconcile this kind of theology with what most of us understand "Christianity" to be.  As Blogger Hrafnkell Haraldsson recently observed, "I suppose we could call them something other than fake Christians, or I suppose you could still make an argument that they're just another of a myriad forms Christianity has taken over the two millennia of its existence.  [But] I call them fake Christians for one simple reason: you can't have Christianity without Christ, and these people have removed Jesus from the equation."  While Haraldsson's conclusion seems harsh, it raises an important question - in a time when more and more people are turned off by a "Christianity" that ignores Christ, is it time to go beyond merely denouncing this trend as bad "Christian" theology and loudly proclaim that it is not, in fact, "Christian" at all?  Should we continue to give folks like Mohler free license to call their theology "Christian," or should we take Haraldsson's radical advice to "cut bait and call them what they are?"

I can understand the reluctance to publicly question the "Christian" bona fides of people like Al Mohler -- after all, they are some of the more prominent voices in the American evangelical establishment.  But, to quote blogger Zack Hunt, "the challenge all of us face along with Mohler is straightforward: if we talk about Jesus all the time, but when we claim we're taking a Christian position Christ is nowhere to be found, then there's nothing actually particularly Christian about our position."

From the death penalty to treatment of the poor to questions of LGBT rights, there is simply too little "Christ" in this kind of theology for it to truly qualify as "Christian."  And while it may appear gracious to pretend that it IS Christian merely because the people involved claim some tenuous connection to Jesus, it may not really help anyone in the long run.

by: Chris - CToBM Admin

Friday, May 30, 2014

If only there were more Christians like you

I don't know about you, but a lot of the times, I tell people of other faiths that, as a Christian, I'm sorry for how my fellow Christians have treated them.  There are many ways that they might react, but one that sticks out is this: "Wow.  If only there were more Christians like you."
I know that they mean it as a complement, but I usually tell them that there are.  I help run a Facebook page with probably over 70,000 Christians, and growing fast, of the like.  The problem is that many of us are not about being Christian.  Sometimes I've been asked why they would be quiet about their faith.  I think the answers are very simple.

One major reason is that we're worried that we might be labeled with Fundamentalists, such as Pat Robertson, Ken Ham, and the Westboro Baptists.  We sometimes worry that we won't be accepted by people if they know that we're Christian.
 
Another reason is that we don't want to feel like we're rubbing it in their faces, or trying to shove our religion down their throats.  Because we don't want to do that, we do just the opposite.
 
I think a major reason could be that, in Matthew 6, Jesus makes comments that one should be quiet about their faith.  Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for being so openly pious about their faith, and comments that when one is open about their faith, it is for their own glory.  However, when one is quiet about their faith, it is truly for God's glory. 
 
The question is this.  Should we be quiet about our faith?  It seems that people of other faiths (or lack thereof) would rather the Christians like us be open about our faith, to show that not all Christians are like the Fundamentalists.  To show that there really are more Christians like us.

Written by Robin, Admin for CToBM

Thursday, March 27, 2014

That Tiny Silver Cross

We are thankful to have Tracy Nelson as part of our community.  This week, she shared with us what wearing a cross means to her and what it doesn't mean.
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That tiny silver cross I wear around my neck most days is not for you.

By wearing it, I'm not advertising that my way is the right way, or even the better way. 

I'm not proclaiming to the world with it that I've cornered the market on morality, or self discipline, or goodness.

It is not a conservative pledge, a political statement, or a declaration of solidarity with right wing crazies who fear and shun that which is unfamiliar. 

It's not a claim to complete understanding of how this world, with its infinite intricacies, was created, or how it will end.

My little silver cross is not a judgement, or a patronizing, smug token of tolerance for beliefs other than my own.

It's not for you. It's for me.

So when I feel it between my fingers, rough and familiar, blunt on the edges after all these years, I am reminded of this: there are mysteries greater than I am, and I happily surrender to the the Great Unknown, and give my troubles over to it.

I feel that little piece of worn out metal and it's a solid reminder that I do not have all the answers, I'm not supposed to. I feel the chain that has a bent loop and the little nick at the top of the cross where it was injured one day and remember that imperfection is part of the beautiful, bigger picture that I cannot see, am not meant to see, from my vantage point.

Don't assume you know me because I wear it.

Don't assume that I'm trying to say something to you with a piece of jewelry that I can't say with my words.

It's meant for my fingers, for my heart. Such a little bit of old silver, but it gives me huge comfort, as all magical talismans are meant to.

Written by: Tracy Nelson

Another article written by Tracy for CToBM: Hello, Thanks, and a Short Essay

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Are We Our Brother's Keeper?

When looking at the actions and discriminatory behavior of Fundamentalist Christians and other such people, there's a question that I sometimes ask myself.  Are we, liberal and progressive Christians, responsible for what they do?  Several liberal and progressive Christians might disagree with my answer to this question.  I'm going to answer this question by asking a question.  In the gospels, when the Pharisees are oppressive and hateful in the name of God and their faith, what does Jesus do?  Does Jesus stand idly by and watch?  Does he go to the people that they're being hateful and bigoted towards and say "not all of them are like me?"  Does he walk away and pretend it isn't happening?  Does he do any of that, or does he stand up against the Pharisees and give comfort to those they've hurt?

This may be hard for some Christians to accept, but it is part of our responsibility to stand up for the oppressed and help those in need.  When most of this oppression is being caused by our fellow Christians, we should definitely take action.  This viewpoint may de-convert just as many people from Christianity as hypocrisy has.  This might be hard to accept or embrace.  However, following Jesus' teachings doesn't simply mean standing idly by while people are being oppressed.  It doesn't mean letting hatred and oppression continue.  It means helping the victims out.  Showing loving acts of kindness.

When mentioning this idea to non-Christians, many have said that we shouldn't feel responsible for the behavior and actions of Fundamentalists.  Some have added that we are much more Christ-like than they are.  However, as kind as their words are, we shouldn't let our faith become as corrupted as it has.

There are so many things we can do.  Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented was created as a way of taking responsibility for the actions of these Christians.  We can openly express our sympathy to the victims of our fellow Christians, as well as speak against these other Christians.  Primarily, articles have been written against them, criticizing them.  However, we can also write letters to some of these Christians, pleading with them to stop the hatred, but it is best to do that in a loving way.  Many of these actions might have little to no effect, but it's a start.

One thing to remember is that we should always do things with a loving heart and compassionate heart, as hard as it can sometimes be.

~Robin (co-administrator for Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Revitalizing Christianity Through Guerilla Efforts

Instead of expecting outspoken, high profile, political Christians to acknowledge and rectify the damaged and run-down state of 21st Century Christianity.  Movements like ours have been finding clever ways to beautify their beliefs through guerrilla efforts. We go beyond just complaining.  We add some much-needed repair for those who are sitting in the rubble.

The above statement was actually taken from this article and altered.  The concept is brilliant.  There's no possible way for us to rebuild Christianity.  We don't want to.  There is beautiful architecture that has been built and offers hope to many.  However, there is also destruction, decay, and damage caused by irresponsible Christianity.  We admit that the current state of Christianity is crumbling and in disarray.

Christians Tired of Being Misrepresented (CToBM), and other groups like us, are doing our best to beautify what is left of Christianity.  The decay and destruction of our faith has been self-inflicted.  We've neglected and ignored the core teachings of Jesus Christ.  As a result, our structure is crumbling.  Some of the damage has been caused by:

  1. The Bible being used as a weapon.
  2. Christians proclaiming their superiority because "they are not perfect, just forgiven".
  3. Shutting out the very people that Jesus included.
  4. Legislating through theology.
  5. Dictating what is or is not sin over someone elses life.
  6. Preachers getting rich off their members.
  7. Blaming natural disasters on groups of people.
  8. Having all the answers.
  9. Being more concerned with "saving people" than listening to people.
  10. Defending Christian celebrities when they say non-Christian things.

Of course, the list goes on and we are confident that you could add your own reason to the list.  CToBM is humbled and grateful when we receive emails and comments from readers thanking us for creating our Facebook Page.

Many of you have lost hope in Christianity, have decided to become atheist instead of continuing to associate with today's Christianity, or want to remain a Christian, but not the kind of Christian you see around you.  So, here we are, repairing the damage - one day at a time - one brick at a time.  It is a slow process.  But, we are not going away.

"The world has watched Christian rhetoric used to preserve our culture and the sanctification of capitalist greed.  We have allowed the Christian religion to become a captive horde of Bible-worshiping, homophobic, fundamentalist, Evangelical bullies who have naive answers for all of life's deepest ills. The true message of Jesus Christ has been hijacked by egocentric arrogance.  This is not what Christianity should be identified with.  Therefore we believe that it is our duty and obligation to provide a safe place for those who disagree with the extreme Fundamentalist Christian; for those who have escaped fundamentalism and are in the process of recovery from it." [excerpt from "ThisWeBelieve"]

Compassion is the central virtue of a life centered in God as known in Jesus.  That is our goal.  Anything outside that is in need of repair.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dear Christian Family, Do You Choose Relationship or Being Right?



The following letter was written by a member of CToBM.  The letter is directed to her Christian family.  She has asked that she and her daughter remain anonymous, for obvious reasons.  We hope that this letter will help someone out there.  Awareness creates Acceptance and Acceptance creates Awareness.
  
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My eldest child identifies as both pansexual and gender-fluid, and some family members have been outspoken in their distaste for this development, even confronting her directly and letting her know they cant call her by the name she has chosen because of their “belief”. (female pronouns are preferred since English doesn’t have gender neutral ones and they/them are plural)

If I remember correctly from my years as a Christian, there are two commandments that come above all others: 

Love God.


Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

If any aspect of your belief system is coming into direct opposition of your ability to do the second one, you are not doing the first. You love God by loving your neighbor, and especially by loving your own family members. What does love mean if not fully accepting, embracing, and affirming people, exactly where they are at in this moment, regardless of if you understand and/or agree?

Do you choose the relationship (love) or being right? What do you gain by choosing the latter? There are many people who share your label of Christian who do not agree that a non-heterosexual orientation or nonconforming gender identity/expression is sinful. In fact, there are many LGBTQ people who are Christian. Have you explored their view point?

The Bible should not be coming into opposition to your ability to fully love. Saying, “Ill treat you kindly but I need you to know I dont agree with who you are,” is not loving. Refusing to use a preferred name is just rude, and youd have no problem with it if it were simply a preferred nickname. Perhaps I should start calling you whatever I like, regardless of your own preferences.

It is my job as a parent to protect my child. I am thrilled that my child felt comfortable to come out to me as bisexual at the tender age of 13, and that over the last two years as her knowledge about herself and labels grew, she now identifies in other ways that feel right for her. I’m thrilled. Why? Because she is learning how to know herself, how to express herself, and how to be fearlessly authentic in a world that desperately needs brave self-expression, as eventually it will lead to acceptance and people championing those who have historically been viewed and treated as less than.

Her response to all this amazes me. I can sense a touch of anger, and more than a touch of hurt, but more than anything, she understands that people get set in their ways, especially in regard to belief systems, and she loves her family regardless. Shes not about to cast anyone off because they believe differently than her, even though shes the one being harmed. That is the true example of love here.

She is strong, but she is still young, and if I need to protect her psyche by keeping her away from judgmental family members, so be it. I want to choose love. I want to choose the relationship over being right, but not at the expense of damaging her, of taking the risk that she may internalize the judgment and shame that you are trying to place on her. I will not accept it. LGBTQ youth are exponentially more likely to contemplate and attempt suicide, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that it is something she never even considers.

Some will see this as unnecessarily confrontational, but trust me, when your mama or papa bear instincts are threatened, you may feel the need to be confrontational too. No one hurts my kid, especially her family. You love and embrace her fully, or accept that you will not have a relationship with her until such time that she chooses to do so, when she has reached adulthood and can make those decisions on her own.

She is strong because her dad and I have built her up to be, because we have raised her in a home where she knows deep down in the center of her being that we love HER, just as she is, unconditionally and forever. We have created an environment where everyone is accepted, where gay, lesbian, bi, trans, and queer are perfectly normal. Her dad and I had a long talk over the phone about this, and while our divorce obviously shows that there were things we didnt agree on, in this we are a completely united front.


Love our kid. Unconditionally. Its not hard. Shes fantastic, and as we have, youll become a better person just by knowing her, listening to her, and connecting with her.

To those who do, thank you. And thank you to those Christians we know who exhibit Christs love towards us without judgment, who choose not to stake their faith on this one issue, and who err on the side of love and of grace.

I may be disappointed, and even a bit angry, but this is coming from a place of love: for my child, for all our family members, and a desire to see everyone simply love each other, just as we each are.

Signed,

An out and proud bisexual woman, loving mom, and former Christian who is choosing to stay anonymous in order to protect my child’s identity and safety

Resources for those seeking to learn and to understand:



Sunday, February 23, 2014

Don't Tell Me I'm Going to Hell!

If and when you find yourself in a situation where you are talking to a dedicated Christian, be prepared to be condemned to hell if you present an idea or a thought outside their scope of understanding.  When I say "dedicated", I mean a person who takes the bible literally.  You know who I'm talking about.  A Fundamentalist Christian.  A Duck Dynasty Christian.  An American Religious Right Christian.  A Pat Robertson Christian.  You know who I'm talking about.

I've been a Christian 30 years and I've been sent to hell many times.  Why?  Because when I state my position on issues that go against Christian absolutes, according to the Bible, I am immediately in the wrong and going to hell.

Don't tell me I'm going to hell because I choose to embrace another human being who is attracted to the same sex or is not heterosexual.

Don't tell me I'm going to hell because I challenge what the "Good Book" says.

Don't tell me I'm going to hell because you can't make a compelling argument for why you believe the things you believe.  If your defense is "The Bible says it, so I believe it, and that is the end", then I feel sorry for you.  You haven't done your homework about the origin and history of the religion you hold so dear.

When you tell another person they are going to hell, you embarrass me.  I'm embarrassed for you.  You sound more like a little child who didn't get their way and now you have to resort to preschool threats in order to feel better about yourself and your long held beliefs.

As one Christian to another, let me tell you a little secret.  Jesus taught that fresh water cannot come from a polluted stream.  He taught that a healthy tree cannot produce bad fruit.  This is precisely what you are when you tell someone they are going to hell.  What comes out of your mouth is rotten, polluted and it stinks.  So please, stop it!

People are looking for the Love of Jesus.  That's all.  It's time that we live up to the title we so proudly place on ourselves, Christian.  Christ Follower.  Christ Like.  You might be surprised that the people you send to hell are actually more Christ like than you realize.

by Janet from CToBM

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Christians! Know Your Groundhog Day!


February 2nd – “Groundhog Day”


Almost everyone in Canada and the United States knows that today is the day we find out how much longer we have to put up with winter.  As amateur historians, we’ve collected facts associated with this day, which may or may not be well known.


Why do we care? Why should you care? As Christians, it’s important to understand and learn why we recognize certain days or events.  If you are a Christian Tired of Being Misrepresented, it’s time we do the necessary work to understand significant days in our lives, not just believe what we are told.  So, we present the following to help you understand “Groundhog Day”. 


Depending on sources, some of the items below are dated as February 1st or 2nd - or - just  February 1st.   For the sake of convenience, we place them all under the date of February 2nd.   We hope you enjoy.

  • Our word “February” derives from the Latin word februa or februum meaning “purification”. According to the ancient Roman calendar, February 15th was the date for a special ritual of purification.
  • Astronomical significance:  This marks the midway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.
  • According to the Gaelic calendar, this is one of the four Cross-Quarter days of the year.

  • For Pagans and Wiccans, this is Imbolc,  a Sabbat Day, a special day signaling a change in seasons,  a “day of power”.  Bonfires may be used.  Imbolc celebrates the first hints of Spring, the renewings of the earth’s fertility, and purification. 

  • Today, many Irish Catholics venerate St. Brigid of Kildare, the “Bride of Ireland”.  We have seen variations of her name such as Bridget, Brighid, and Brigit.  She is a patron saint of Ireland along with Patrick and Columba.

  • Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Episcopalians (perhaps other Christians too), can celebrate “The Presentation of (baby) Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem” and “Mary’s Purification” (Luke 2:22-39) According to ancient Jewish law, a Jewish boy was to be presented in the Temple 40 days after his birth.   At this time, the mother was ritually purified from the birthing process also.

  • From antiquity and still today, February 2nd is known as Candlemas among many Christians.  Imagine ages when there were no light bulbs, no street lights, no flashlights; imagine the importance of candlelight then.  In the past, the candles which would be used throughout the year, for church liturgies were brought forward in church for a formal blessing.  The symbolisms of candlelight are rich, for example: purity, warmth and light- -especially Jesus as the light:  cf. John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness. . .”   John 8:12, “. . .I am the light of the world. . .”   John 12:35, “The light is among you. . .” for a sampling.

  • In 2014, February begins on the same day of the week as March and November, a Saturday.  It ends on the same day of the week as January, a Friday.


Here are a few references if you wish to explore further, which of course can bring you to other sources.

You can Google up these titles:
  • Candlemas
  • Celtic Calendar Cross-Quarter Days Holidays
  • February-Wikipedia
  • Folklore and Traditions Associated with February-Candlemas Day
  • Imbolc
  • Origins of the Twelve Month Calendar, and
  • Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

Books:
  • The Truth About Witchcraft Today, by Scott Cunningham (2012), pp. 113-117; 
  • Lives of the Saints, by, Richard P. McBrien (2001), pp. 94-95.