A lady I know wrote a letter to the editor commenting on a writer's thoughts on religion. It read...
"Christians believe Jesus, the Son of God, is God, pre-existent. Furthermore, salvation is by faith in Jesus as God, with no further works required. To add to this defeats the purpose of Christ's finished work on the cross. Even many "Christians" fail to grasp this essential truth. The Lord God only accepts those who come to him by faith alone." ... and it goes on.
I am not a Christian then. This lady doesn't understand what "faith" involves. She presents the way of Christ in mysterious, irrational, getting-to-heaven-when-I-die gobbledegook! By contrast a book I have just finished says;
"In the last analysis faith is not a way of speaking or a way of thinking, it is a way of living and can only be adequately articulated in a living praxis..... So that our search, like his search, is primarily a search for orthopraxis (true practice) rather than orthodoxy (true doctrine)..... Faith in Jesus without respect and compassion for people is a lie. To identify with Jesus is to identify with all humanity." (Jesus before Christianity - Albert Nolan)
The "works/faith issue" is NOT where it is at! Now that makes sense and is true to Jesus! The woman's letter is a misrepresentation of Jesus! It distorts his ministry, his message and his compassion! And it makes me angry!
Fuming at Church
I went to the local Church on Sunday. I love the people. The preacher followed the sort of 1940-50's gobbledegook like the woman's letter above, poorly presented. I sat there in a smallish congregation with the preacher looking at me regularly. I try to be supportive of my colleagues in ministry, but all I wanted to do was to scream, "Bullshit!" It was blasphemy! It is a distortion of the Jesus I seek to follow and it makes me really angry! I fumed all afternoon. Then I thought, Jesus got angry at religious leaders who distorted the way of God! Maybe I am right to get angry! But what do I do that is constructive with my anger? If I leave and look elsewhere I leave people I love, and the suburb I live in, to put up with such rubbish! If I stir, question or criticise, I appear to be a negative grumpy guy overstepping my welcome in the local congregation of a different denomination. Angry frustration is what I am feeling!
Fuming at Fox
I watched a film clip of Fox News ranting against a statement that President Obama made at a prayer breakfast. Some fundamentalist self proclaimed bishop was ranting, and he ought to be listened to "because he was an army vet!" What Mr Obama said was factual history. These people conveniently took it out of context and made it sound like he was anti-Jesus, unpatriotic and a heretic. They ranted on with a form of fanatical patriotic Christianity which is not true to Jesus whose compassion reached beyond all the religious, ethnic, and gender barriers of his time. "It is they who are heretics" ... I fumed! But shallow thinking people get sucked in. If you shout loud it must be right.
Fuming equals ... sad.
As a chaplain I work amongst non-christian people. They have rightly discarded the sort of Christianity above. I am among them representing Jesus, but the Jesus they think I represent is the distortion they have seen in the dogmatic bigots. I am deeply saddened.
News the other day pointed out that around half of New Zealanders now do not affiliate with any religion. We are perhaps the most secular nation. Yet the way of Jesus is presented in this distorted, disgusting way.
I also know because of my involvements that there are a lot of stuffed up lives, relationships and people. There is deep sadness and heaps of suffering. One of the women in the local Church had a local teenage grandson commit suicide last week... they are preparing the Church for the funeral. I know that accepting the values and priorities of Jesus has made a big difference for me and brought depth, creativity and constructive purpose. I know these people could do with the same positive influence. Jesus is not gobbledegook ... his way simply makes sense, expressing ideals for life that are deep within all of us.... but religious people distort the way.
I am deeply saddened and angry.