Friday, April 21, 2006


Church check

By The Erudite Redneck

Twice this morning in the blogosphere people have questioned my Christian faith because my ideas don't line right up with *their* concept of what it means to be a Christian.

Both, a brother and a sister I've never met in the Real World, were especially personal and cruel in their attacks. I take their word for it when they say they are Christians, which is why it galls me when someone doubts my own profession of faith.

I'm sure the agnostics and atheists who hang around here some, and who are always, always welcome here, *love* it when Christians tear into one another. My hope is that the infighting is such a blur at times that Christ himself shines through.

But, whatever. That's not really what I intended to talk about it. What I intended to talk about was this:

The meanest arguments and fights I've gotten into online have been with professed Christians who, it turns out, aren't regular churchgoers. That makes me doubt everything they have to say. I'm not saying I don't believe what they say. But it does make me suspicious.

Christians, of whatever stripe, are not meant to be freelancers. We are meant to fellowship one with another.

One of the reasons I started back to church was Katrina -- not the act of nature itself, but the images of the poor on my TV. I had forgotten that the least among us exist not only on paper, not only in political discussions, but on the ground, in the Real World.

I am repenting of that, giving some money, contemplating how I might find other ways to put feet to my faith and help others as I try anew to follow Jesus.

The other reason I started back to church was this:

I kept finding myself getting involved in discussions and arguments regarding faith, politics and public policy. The only way I felt I could do so and be honest about it was to start showing up at the meetings of the faithful and sharing fellowship with other believers.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist church in a small town in Oklahoma. I am on the verge of joining a Congregationalist church now. I do not know the modern Southern Baptist Convention. It is not the SBC of my upbringing. Congregational churches are closer today to the no-creed-but-Christ approach that I grew up with.

What church denomination do you attend? Have you always attended your current denomination? If you don't attend but used to, why do you not? If you are agnostic now, or atheist now, and once believed, what happened?



ER said: "Twice this morning in the blogosphere people have questioned my Christian faith because my ideas don't line right up with *their* concept of what it means to be a Christian."

Been messing on other blogger's turf eh.
Don't be too sad about it. I was actually critizied yesterday for being "retired". My lower jaw hung down so far and for so long that it caught two flies, before I could find words to respond.
Southern Baptist all the way.

Hey, by the way, I got a copy of our church's budget a month or so back. Ten percent of all monies received go to the Cooperative Program (plus special offerings that we have once per quarter). I thought you'd be interested to know that.

Just a piece of unsolicited advice from a brother in Christ (feel free to ignore) - the language you use is generally not language associated with a Christian. You say you want to doubt those whom don't fellowship. I'm here to tell you that most folks in my neck of the woods are going to doubt most of what you have to say if you keep throwing four-letter words around.
ER wants a spiritual "Show and Tell Time." Here is mine:


We, the Disciples of Christ, wishing to be in complete accord and agreement with the doctrine of Christ, set for the following principles, which have been the focus of the Church for more than a century.

General aim of the Church.

Restoration of the New Testament teachings and practices.

Plea of the Church.

No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible; no name but the Divine.

Where the Bible speaks, we speak.

Where the Bible is silent, we are silent.

In essentials unity.

In nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

This is the complete, offical, belief structure of the church where I hold membership.

I started out as a Southern Baptist. Became a Disciple 36 years ago. Even then the SBC was becoming too conservative for me.

Today I would refer to myself as a Christian Knowledge Seeker. Others have called me an Apostate, Backslider, Heathen, Agnostic, Deceiver, and even a servant of the Anti-Christ....

As limited as my church's belief statement is, I only adhere to one out of the three points. No Creed but Christ. I don't adhere to "No book but the Bible" or to "No name but the Devine", because I believe in the old SBC's concept of the "priesthood of the believer" and I believe that God has not ceased his "revelations" just because some churches think that he should have already.

I intially wrote a whole bunch more but decide, you-all didn't need to read it.
Independent Christian Churches. We're the "non-denominational" denomination. ;) Like the disciples of christ above, it came out of the same restoration movement.
I got saved in a Vineyard Church in Palm Springs, Calif. When I moved to Colorado Springs, where I now live, we went to another Vineyard Church -- which a few years ago split away and started its own denomination called "Word and Spirit Churches International."

Here's the section from our Web site that deals with the denomination's values:

Like any fellowship of churches, Word and Spirit Churches have core values that make us unique within the Body of Christ. Like each person whom God has created, we have a DNA that makes us who we are. Our DNA, or genetic code is best defined through our name, “Word and Spirit.” We love God’s Word as the preeminent foundation for all that we teach and believe. We believe that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. We also believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit as we read about in the Bible are alive and functioning today. Thus, we want to strike the fullness and balance of teaching God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Fullness and Blending

Many churches today love and cherish God’s Word, the Bible. They teach God’s Word. But they have little belief in or understanding of the power of the Holy Spirit. Many of these churches do not believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to the Christian today. They read about all of the power of the Spirit in the Bible, but never experience His life-giving power in their daily lives.
There are other churches that believe in the gifts and function of the Holy Spirit. They understand and experience the power of the Holy Spirit. But many of these churches do not teach God’s Word with authority and power. They often can let their experience supercede the foundational teachings of the Bible.

Word and Spirit Churches believe in the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit under the authority and teaching of God’s Word. We believe that the Bible is the sole authority for judging all faith and experiential practice. We believe that the whole counsel of God is found only in teaching through the whole Bible. It is only through teaching God’s Word with openness to the ministry of the Holy Spirit that a church truly transforms the lives of her people.

Building a Lasting Fire

Word and Spirit Churches want to minister in the power of the Holy Spirit, under the authority of God’s Word, and let God grow the church. It is not our responsibility to grow the church. Jesus has already promised that He will build His church, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18)

Many pastors feel that they must grow their churches. They find themselves running here and there searching for the “secret” to getting more people in the door.

They find themselves in a frenzy looking for the next church growth “fad.”

The word “fad” is an acronym “For A Day.” A “fad” is a gimmick that lasts for a short time. Today, it is customary for churches to run after the latest greatest church growth “fad.” It is like shooting off Roman Candles on the Fourth of July. Roman Candles are flashy, spectacular, and short lived. Light the fuse and the fire of the Roman Candle lights the sky with spectacular brilliance. But does this build lasting, high impact churches?

We prefer to build a fire in a fireplace! Rather than the short lived flame of the Roman Candle, one can build a roaring fire in a fireplace with some wood and a match. Do you know that with the right equipment, a wood burning stove place within a fireplace can warm a huge home? I believe that God has given us the logs (of His Word) and the flame (of His Spirit) to build churches that will warm the whole world for Christ. The same match that lights the Roman Candle can light the sticks that create a fire that will last for a lifetime. Both wood (the Bible) and flame (the Spirit) are needed to build a church that will lift up Christ and change the world.

For a fire to warm a home, it must be built within a good fireplace. The fireplace must be properly built with care and expertise. If the fireplace is not built well, all of the heat that was meant for the home evaporates out of the chimney. The fireplace is a metaphor for the values of our churches. Jesus said, “put new wine into new wineskins…” (Matt. 9:17) The fireplace of our churches must be able to hold the fire of the Spirit. We see the fireplace being our values. These core values make up who we are as churches.

The values of Word and Spirit Churches:

• We believe that all authority for faith and practice comes from the Bible. We judge and discern issues according to God’s inerrant Word (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrew 4:12; Isaiah 55:10-11)

• We believe that the best way to equip the saints with the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) is through teaching from God’s Word line by line (Nehemiah 8:8). We believe in expositional teaching of God’s Word simply, practically, and mainly through “c by c and v by v” (chapter by chapter and verse by verse)

• We believe in the centrality of Christ in everything we do. From worship to the teaching of God’s Word, we do not lose focus from Christ and the cross (1 Corinthians 1-2).

• We believe that all believers are called to play a part in fulfilling the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. We believe that the best way to fulfill the Great Commission is through the planting of new churches (Acts)

• We believe in Spirit led and Spirit anointed worship that is celebrative, intimate, and Christocentric

• We believe that the most effective way for changing the world is through reaching whole families for Christ…”oikos evangelism.” We believe in training and equipping families to equip their children into godly leaders for the next generation (Acts 16:31-33; Ephesians 5:18-6:4)

• We believe in equipping the saints in all of the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. We believe that the gifts mentioned in the Bible are sovereignly available to believers today. (Acts; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, etc.)

• We believe in a “grace atmosphere” in all of church life. We believe that people are transformed best through an experience with God’s grace and love for them.

• We believe in raising up leaders for the work of ministry through teaching, modeling, and mentoring. Every person is uniquely gifted and has been place on this earth to contribute to the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ.

• We believe that God has uniquely called men to lead their families and the church well. Thus, we emphasize the role of godly character and leadership in men. We believe that strong male leadership is the key to growing stronger families and churches.

• We believe in a casual relaxed atmosphere that is devoid of religious trappings that can take our eyes off of Jesus.
These are the core values of Word and Spirit churches. It is our conviction that when we walk in the filling and power of the Holy Spirit, under the authority and foundation of God’s Word, God will grow and multiply His church. It is a joy to watch God build His church as we are faithful to His commands.

If you have further questions about the values of Word and Spirit Churches, feel free to contact me or any of my staff at Mountain Springs Church.
It would help you quite a bit to talk only of where you go now and less of your old church. It's in your past so forget it. What galls most people is to be preached to by a "new christian", "new non-smoker", or a "new fill-in-the-blank". It's like after driving a ford for 20 years like all your friends, you switch to chevy and start running down their choice of ride. Please don't take this as a personal attack.
Rem 870 said: "The language you use is generally not language associated with a Christian.....most folks in my neck of the woods are going to doubt most of what you have to say if you keep throwing four-letter words around."

At first I thought of this as petty...But...

Inappropriate language is a matter of social prohibition, it is a cultural trait. It is one of those areas where there are taboo or forbidden words that give offense.
Too often we blend "Christian" prohibitions with "Cultural" correctness.

Christianity itself does not have a prescribe list of words that can not be used. But using words that give offense to one's nieghbor does not reflect well on one's love for one's neighbor. Likewise words that are interpreted as to Blaspheme God would not reflect well on the commandment to love God with all your heart, mind, and body.

Petty maybe not....
While not un-Christian in content, some language may be un-Christian in its effect.

Now in ER's defense, I haven't been aware of his offensive language, but maybe I am hard to offend.
Uh, what Drlobojo said. I take more pains to keep my language clean here than I do in the Real World!

Rem, what're you talkin' about? Besides that, anyone who would judge someone's faith on a social or cultural more like that needs to get off the milk, IMHO.

Anon, nothing in your comment was an attack, so I don't feel attacked.

I am not a *new* Christian, but a renewed one. Most of my ranting is in *defense* of not only my faith as I see it now, but the faith I've always had.

The SBC changed, for the worse, not me, at least until fairly recently when my ideas *did* start to change. But I don't think anything in my itty-bitty bag of doctrinal specificities would be verboten to any Southern Baptist who adheres to the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message.

It's the conservative-inerrantist-literalist-fundamentalists running the convention now that I'm at total odds with.

And it's the confusion of political conservsatism with the Christian faith that appalls me and is driving me hard left -- in revulsion.

Nick, I'll study and ponder on your contribution.

BTW, this is exactly what I'd hoped for.
Oh, and the Cooperative Program used to be the ONLY rock-hard commonality among Southern Baptist churches, back before individual churches got to peeking over into other individual churches' business, and back before individual Southern Baptists started keeping a checklist of what you gotta believe and what you can't believe, and still be a Southern Baptist. No more. And it's a damn shame.
These are among *my* fundamentals. One thing I'd add is that "Christian," by definition, has to mean someone who has encountered God through Christ.

1. Christians love God with heart, soul and mind; 2. Christians try to live life so that they love neighbor as self; 3. Christians have faith in the goodness of God's creation and the goodness of life; 4. Christians live lives filled with joy, because that is the mark of one who loves God, loves neighbor and has faith in the goodness of life; and 5. Christians do not judge other people. Those who follow these fundamentals are Christians.

Everything else is church, not faith -- isn't it?
Like I said, ignore it if you want. I was just giving you a suggestion. If you visited a church and the pastor went to the podium and started dropping f-bombs during a prayer, you'd probably be taken aback. Why should a preacher be held to a higher standard in this regard?

However, it is more than cultural:

Ephesians 4:29 - Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth . . .

Colossians 3:8 - But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, blasphemy, filthy communication . . .

Titus 2:7-8 - In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works . . .Sound speech, that cannot be condemned . . .

James 3:10 - Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethern, these things ought not to be.

There are a couple of other places, too, but I forget the references. More or less, Jesus commands those who follow Him (regardless of what they call themselves) to set themselves apart from the world. Speech is one of the simplest ways to do that.

And even if it were simply cultural, Paul exhorts the believers in 1 Thess. 5:22 to abstain from all appearance of evil.

I guess Dr. Lobojo said it pretty accurately - While not un-Christian in content, some language may be un-Christian in its effect. If through the use of coarse language, I were to turn someone off to the message of Christ, then I would have made a grave mistake.
This is from Dr. Gary Cox's new book. Check it out at

I adhere to the following:

There is a battle raging in the Christian faith. One side is comprised of fundamentalists who believe in precise and unquestionable answers to our religious questions. The other side is made up of those who reject pat answers and who are willing to live with an element of paradox. I adhere to a liberal, progressive Christianity that is both open minded and inclusive. I reject any form of Christianity in which people are convinced they have secured God in a tidy box of their own making.

Fundamentalism is a threat to Christianity not because of the fundamental beliefs themselves, but rather because of the judgment that so often accompanies those beliefs. For example, it is perfectly acceptable to believe Jesus was born of a virgin. It is not acceptable to think a person who disagrees with you on the subject is going to hell.

For all of its libraries of theological books, Christianity is really a fairly simple religion. In fact, the teachings of Jesus can be summarized nicely in four words: Love everybody. Judge nobody. To believe in one’s heart that another person is forever beyond the grace of God because of the way that person practices religion is the ultimate judgment. For that reason, modern fundamentalism is a negative force within the Christian faith.
Faith is the cornerstone.

Among your fundamentals, I see nothing about forgiveness. What gives?

ER, I'm not trying to start a fight. I'm also not trying to judge. You seemed confused as to why your faith would be questioned. You gave an example of why you might question another's faith. I took the opportunity to point out something that might be an impediment to Christian fellowship with other believers (particualy the fundamentalists - they aren't all as liberal as me :) ).
Rem, where have I uttered the F-bomb!!!!! No more than once or twice on this blog!

And "corrupt communication"? I'd say sweet-sounding words of condemnation of others and delicate expressions of pride are mroe to the point of those passages than whether one uses an ocassion; "damn" or "hell" or even s--t!

And surely you know that references to cursing and swearing in Scripture are *not* talking about "foul language." Surely you do.

I tell ya one thing, based on what you';ve said, I'm glad yer in yer neck of the woods and I'm in mine! :-)

It *does* take different strokes. And that's part opf what I'm saying: I am perfectly willing to allow you and y'all to be as literal and as concerned about such things as you want to be, and to accept you into the fellowship of beleivers -- yet, I'm positive any fundamentalist congregation would condemn me out of hand. Why is that?
We're not fighting. We're, um, cussing and discussing. :-)

"Forgiveness" is the most common shorthand way of expressing what I meant when I referred to one having encountered God through Christ. Reconciliation is at the heart of those fundamentals. Reconciliation makes them all possible.
BTW, re: "You seemed confused as to why your faith would be questioned."

I'm not confused. I'm angered. And I think it's the heighth of pride for anyone to doubt another's profession of faith. Period.
And surely you know that references to cursing and swearing in Scripture are *not* talking about "foul language." Surely you do.

Yeah, I know it. I was just adding another example of 'speech' to the mix.

Why is that? I don't know, man. I suspect you're right, though. I just don't know.
I want to correct myself. I believe many of your views would be condemned, but not you. While most fundamental congregations may not be the warmest to you, I doubt they'd literally condemn you. But you are right, we fundametalists aren't as accepting as we should be. Some of us are working on it, though. : )
Short version: I rarely attended a Catholic church as a kid, then in high school my whole family joined the Disciples of Christ, in which church I was baptized.

Was a spotty attendee through college, then while living in Oregon a friend introduced me to a Presbyterian church that was in need of a flute player for their band. Attended/played there for several years but never joined.

In Idaho I attended the Unitarian Universalist's early morning service most weeks, and I eventually "signed the book" there. I'd also go to the Episcopal church for high holy days and the Methodist on Sunday nights monthly for a music/chant-based service (can't remember what it was called).

Now that I'm back in Oklahoma, I'm currently physically churchless. The closest UU congregation is just over an hour's drive away, so it's difficult to attend regularly. My old DoC church is unrecognizeable--they seem to have forgotten that the denomination is creedless. The local Presbys are of a rather conservative denomination.

Despite all the churches I've walked into (a much longer list than above), I've always had a hard time walking into a new congregation for the first time. Once I get my nerve up, I'll check out the Methodists.
Well, I am fixing to test the "openness" of the church I'm attending. I want to jojn -- but the fact is, compared to most of 'em I'M CONSERVATIVE.

I mean, I do, myself, believe that Jesus *was* God incarnate, in some way wee only vaguely understand, and that His death and resurrection IS THE DEAL upon which any of our relationship with God is based -- and that a blood atonement, as barbaric as it might sound to modern, sophisticated ears, IS the whole point from which one then enjoys a relationship with God through faith.

And that's a little more than a lot, if not most, of the folks in the congregation would agree with. I, myself, believe that it *is( a rather elaborate construct for a faith that started out as simple as Jesus saying, "Follow me."

At any rate, I have no doubt, none, that the Holy Spirit is at work in the church and in the lives of people going there, and that grace "hangs in the air" in that sanctuary whenever the requisite "two or three" are gathered.
Kiki, are you close enough to OKC to pop in at Mayflower Congregational Church once in awhile? I think the preaching and the music and the congregation would suit you -- although the absence of smells-and-bells -- :-) -- and the plain New England architecture might take some getting used to!
BTW, I want to point out something:

Uusally when someone tells me I need to "reexamine" my faith, which I do regularly if not constantly, or that I need to reconsider whether I'm "actually" a Christian -- yes, since 1972 -- it's in the heat of a discussion wherein I express incredulity that followers of Jesus are advocating war, control of this nation's secular government or something of that nature, or are insisting that their way is the only way, or somethign else like that.

I *do* regularly challenge people about the things they say in light of their own professions, and I freely admit that it almost always comes from an interpretation best characterized as "liberal" -- but except for, like, maybe twice (once with my BIC Nick and once with my BIC Mark), which I immediately regretted and tried to make right -- I don't think I've ever blogged somebody in the eye and told him I didn't believe him when he or she said he or she was a Christian.

This is not a congregation, (although I *do* know that when two or three of like mind and faith are gathered at this here ER Roadhouse, the Spirit of Christ is here!), so there is never any cause for corporate assessment of an individual's relationship with God, as there (rarely) is in an actual congregation. Here, or on any other blog. And I don't think there is ever any justification for one believer to express doubt about the professed faith of another, ever.
What I hate is people using fricking, fudge, and stuff like that. God knows what you mean when you say "hand me a fricking pencil". I'd just as soon hear the real deal as a fill in word.
Besides, me and lobojo kind of like Frack. Don't we, on Friday night at least.
jo, have you done Dr. Who yet?
Well, etymologically speaking, gosh and golly are derivative of "God," "gosh darn" is the "innocent" version of G-----, and when the Brits use "bloody" as an adjective it is connected to "Blood of Christ" -- all of which makes worry over words mostly meaningless, in my view.

I think there is more "taking of the Lord's name in vain" by people who mindlessly pepper their speech with "praise God" or "bless Jesus" or whatever, than there is an anguished man's heart-felt and desperate "G-----!"
Dr. Who, you betcha. I go all the way back to the old series that played on late night PBS in the `19...70..80s...s (I think). I like the current version, but I understand that they will change out the main actor (Dr. Who changes form and sex frequently) at the end of the season. That's too Fracking bad, this guy is good.
The old show had at least three different Doctors and two different Tartuses.

Cuss words, filthy words, offensive words, are ALL cultural.
What is offensive in America may not be in Nepal, what's OK in the United States may get you killed in Yemmen.
Blaspheme is also some what cultural in content but not in intent. Unless of course you are dealing with Allah or Muhammed and then you are dead whether you intended to do or understand what you've done or not.
For the record, I don't love it when Christians rip into each other. At all. But it reminds me of that ole adage I'm surprised someone hasn't already trotted out: "There's just enough religion in the world to make people hate each other, but not enough to make them love."

See, for me, organized religion is the true original sin, and I'm sure everyone else on the planet who Believes are trying to strive toward good, but are blinded by doctrine.

On paper, I'm an Episcopalian, the laziest branch of Christianity (to my view), and attended by many Scandahoovians like my family.
My Granny, easily the biggest influence on my raisin', was a Baptist, but always held that I should read the Bible because it's a good story.
My fundy next door neighbors sort of forced me to accept their version of Jesus into my heart when I was eight or so...But their obvious hypocrisy and hatred made it hard for me to take anything they said seriously, so...
Fundamentalist Islam:

"Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God -- for the New Millennium"

(the same could be said for fundamentalism of any sort, he muttered under his breath ... which is the whole poinf of Jimmy Carter's new, excellent book, he added ... )
Thanks for contribootin' Rich. I tend to agree with you on the organized religion thing. I think Constantine's deathbed "conversion" did a lot for church bureaucracy. For the simple faith surrounding one Jesus of Nazareth, eh, not so much.
Oh, Nick, re: "We believe that God has uniquely called men to lead their families and the church well. Thus, we emphasize the role of godly character and
leadership in men. We believe that strong male leadership is the key to growing stronger families and churches."

On Maundy Thursday, the pastor of my church started the prayer, "Father of" something and "Mother of Wisdom." I really don't buy the patriarchal thing. The treating women as property thing. Husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church -- I do not believe that means to be a mini "Lord" of a family -- I believe it means to be willing to die for one's family.
Language that Christians don't use? Tell me, where can I buy the Christian dictionary?

Is it all four-letter words that are verboten?

Let's see, "love," that would certainly be a four-letter word. Better watch my mouth.

I can rarely understand the incessant need to criticize, examine, scrutinize, rend clothing, you name it, when it comes to matters of faith and church.

I don't even care if people question my's none of their business and it's my faith, not theirs. They should pay attention to their own and not waste time worrying about someone else's.

I grew up comfortable in my church (and the Church), warts and all. I've never felt a need to go church shopping; nor do I feel that people who show up every Sunday are on a fast track.

I'm not even going to say that I wish people would be tolerant of each other -- because that makes it sound like there is "something" that must be "tolerated."

Shoot, there is a friend of mine who doesn't believe in evolution and, in fact, has creationism posters hanging in his office. I've never even brought the topic up with him. He's a good man, he leads a good life and I am happy that he exists.

His deeds matter most.
Dr. ER is She Who Is My Wife, in whom I am well-pleased. ;-)
But just WAIT til I go to divinity school! Hee hee.
In less charitable terms than RB, I also have to say I don't like watching Christians fight about doctrine and the real-life implications of the same. In some moods it's frightening to see the weak and archaic foundations for the ideals of my fellow citizens. For people like me, the most central moral lesson of the Bible is the story of Abraham and Isaac - if believe God wants you to kill your kid, you should do so and if that's not what He wants, He'll stop you. When I'm more secure - and snobbish - it's like watching a really heated argument about the metaphysics of Harry Potter trivia.

In terms of my religious convictions: I suppose I think the most useful effect of the Christ of the Bible would be a skepticism of the claims to authority of all the spiritual descendents of the Sanhedrin, like Pastor Timothy who appears on this blog from time to time, and the ensuing radical egalitarianism of the Kingdom of God. Tracing the instinctive notions of equality and freedom - and, for that matter, the Enlightenment project as a whole - back to classical Greece would just be deluded humanist self-congratulation. And, you know, people being such instinctive suck-ups even to the debased notion of authority that is celebrity, they really can't hear that message in too many ways.

In keeping with that, I loathe the kind of fellowship that defines Christianity for ER, and prefer the tortured individuality and solitude (often despite themselves) of Christians like Tolstoy, Kierkegaard, and Thomas Merton, when he was still keeping that Trappist vow of silence. "When two or more are gathered in My name", it smells like a barn to me.

Perhaps needless to say, I was raised Roman Catholic.
Three, I mean.
Outstanding post by Dr ER.

Great post by Rich Bachelor, who speaks for cazillions turned off by the church when he says "But their obvious hypocrisy and hatred made it hard for me to take anything they said seriously, so..."

Why can't more Christians grasp this reality?

What the church has and must offer is GRACE, GRACE, GRACE! Not doctrine,doctrine, doctrine.
Oh, I wouldn't say that fellowship *defines* Christianity. I was a loner for years. But for me to honestly engage in discussions of faith and public policy, with other churched people, I thought it best to start attending again.

Other than that, I like what you had to say about radical egalitarianism and suspicion of religious authority in general, TStock. In other words, "Amen and amen." :-)
(And here, TStock, who likes to stir it up as well as the next guy, will be horrified that I largely agree with him).

I pretty trace notions of equality and freedom -- the dignity of man, if you will -- back to the Christian Humanists who actually midwifed (to borrow a term) the Enlightened arm of the Reformation.

Christian Humanists.

Christian Humanists.

Christian Humanists.
Eeek! Agreement! Run away!

Oh, but to answer your initial question about what happened: Embarrassingly enough, it may have been either Bertrand Russell or Ayn Rand, but since it happened at 12, the intellectual component is excusable. For that matter, at that age it might have been simply cognitive dissonance between the sin of intention and getting to second base. Something had to give.
I'd agree with you 100 percent, ER, on the "men love your wives" exhortation. Nothing in my church's statement about that indicates women are "property" -- that's your interpretation. We are to love our wives as Christ loves the church -- to lay our lives down for them." Would you deny, even in doing that, that Christ was/is the "leader" of the church?

We're not a "submit, woman!" congregation in the slightest -- if you knew Mrs. Toper you'd know that couldn't be further from the way our marriage plays out. We do, however, recognize God's order of things and his exhortation to both sexes to love (men) and respect (women). And "leadership," especially as modeled by Jesus, is not about domination and sublimation.
Just sounding off...

Baptist as a teenager, Baptist as an adult... as if that really matters. I'm not sure what I am now, denominationally. Right now, I'm simply a believer looking for a church home.

Thanx for the invite
Nicky, I just don't think that that's God's order of things. I think it's generations of societies' order of things.

Whatever works for y'all is fine with me. Just don't go trying to impose it on the rest of Christianity! Or thinking less of those of us who reject that interpretation of God's ideas about men and women.

She speaks to us all in Her own way! ;-) ;-)
Thankls for accepting it, ELash.
You know, Dr. ER, you have never directed anything towards me that wasn't condescending and/or snide. Just what is it that I have done to offend you?
ER, yes, I have been to Mayflower on rare occation--it's close to a two hour drive one way, but my adorable niece and her parents live up thataways, so if I'm going to spend the afternoon with them, it's not a big deal to just go up early.

And I absolutely love the architecture of the place! Lived in West Virginia for a while as a kid, and somehow that version of church building defines for me what a church "should" look like, despite the fact that I hardly set foot in one while living there. Go figure.
Now, Rem, I don't think she directed a comment to you, um, directly, at all. What she *did* do was roll her eyes at the idea that the use of four-letter words should in any way be any thing by which anyone's faith should be assessed. Beyond that, she's as offended at fundamnntalism as I am. I'm sure if she'd meant to call ya out, she'da called ya out.

She just walked up and added, "I'd sure like to get my hands on that Christian dictionay; that's what I want."

Me, too, actually. :-)

No personal offense intended, from either of us, dude.
Wow! Now *this* is, historically speaking, a BAPTIST chu8rch!
TS said: "For people like me, the most central moral lesson of the Bible is the story of Abraham and Isaac - if believe God wants you to kill your kid, you should do so and if that's not what He wants, He'll stop you."

Sorry TS, can't abide that sentiment...If (you) believe God wants you to kill your kid, you should do so...will get you the death penalty in most states or the looney bin for ever, at best.

If I had to kill my child, or even let my child die, to prove my love or loyality to my God because he requested it, then I might as well be a Pagan Cananite and at least get the pleasures that come from the Temple prostitutes as well.
Can't follow a spirit that would lead me that way. Besides, the "old testament laws", written after Abraham, forbid such an act.
Test the Spirits.

Dr.ER you must be a magnanamous soul not to need to "tolerate" anyone. I find that I need to "tolerate" people and their religious beliefs quite frequently lest I be a bigger snob and bore than I already am.

As for The Church.... isn't one of your favorit movies The Mission? Well that is how The Church behaves. Then as now, the same.
I mean, hell, they elected the "Grand Inquisitor" to be "The Pope."

And as I read through the stuff on this post I am begining to find it a somewhat timid love fest. Why shouldn't Christians argue and test one another. I have heard some really outrageous shit come down from "Christian" pulpits over the years. I mean look at the Christianity professed by our beloved leader the President. It resembles the Crusades of the 13th century more than anything Jeusus advocated. Should we not call his hand on that false reading of the Word? Should we not call his hand on his sacrifice of our own people to a doctrine invented in the 1830s by a nut case. Speak of testing the Spirits!

Say, have any of you ever gone fishing with a handgrenade?
Not a love fest. All I aimed to do was keep it from devolving into a shouting match, and for the most part we did manage to keep it from becoming that. Shouting is fine. Just wanted a break from it today. :-)
Are you suggesting that I should be reasonable? :(
I wish I was stupid enough to judge people the way they judge me. I'd just start a list of people whose "Jesus" is so far from the original I honestly believe the devil has blinded them to the grace that is free to all who will believe and simply take it up. But it's not the devil. It's themselves -- their prideful, judgemental, "America-first" because "America = God = heaven" BS selves.

Sorry. I let myself get dragged into another den of vipers just now. I. Will. Never. Learn.
You won't fall into a den of vipers if you stop playing at the edge of their pit.
So now my blog is a Den of Vipers?

Go ask Mark what he knows about Dens of Vipers, ER...

I've been bitten a time or two over here myself...
I don't know, Tug. You tell me.
What I mean is, yours isn't the only pit full of right-wing ideologues with commenters who attack me in the name of a made-up warlike Christ -- for quoting Jesus!

So, I don't know. Maybe your place is a den of vipers -- but if it is, it's certainly not the only one.

If the snakeskin fits ...

It *is* rattlesnake huntin' time in southwest Oklhoma ...

So, Tug, answer the questions posed in this post. Come on. It's come to Jesus timeL

"What church denomination do you attend? Have you always attended your current denomination? If you don't attend but used to, why do you not? If you are agnostic now, or atheist now, and once believed, what happened?"
drlobojo, I don't have to "tolerate" becuase I pretty much think that letting people "be" when it comes to religious freedom isn't just a WWJD action, it's also a humane thing to do.

Now, the word "tolerate" DOES mean something to me in terms of how people behave toward one another outside of a religious discussion. And that's mostly a function of tolerating mean people on a daily basis to ensure I have a paycheck coming.

And REM, I have no clue what you're talking about!
I am and always have been a Southern Baptist.

I do not at this time regularly attend a specific Church, because I realized some time back that Legalism was killing my faith.

On orders from the Lord, I seperated myself from Church for a while in order to more closely know God.

He and I have become very close since I stopped listening to what everyone else was telling me that He said, and began listening to Him exclusively.

When He tells me to return to Church, I will be there every Sunday.

Until then, nothing that anybody else says will cause me to go.

I am not an Agnostic, nor an Atheist, but I probably would have been one or the other by now, had I continued to attend Church.

I am a strong, devoted and unashamed Christian, in contact with God on a daily basis.
OK, Tug.

I appreciate that -- not that you *owe* me anything. But one of the things I'd hoped to do with this post was create a nonhostile environment where all the regulars here could just splain where he and she are coming from.

I wish the hint of hostility that came out above hadn't -- and I wish the outright hostility that emerged at yer place hadn't.

What amazes me is this: The very IDEA that I "use" Jesus to further my political ideas. Gah-ahhh.

Please stop that. Its untrue. If it comes across that way well, I'll try to be clearer. But it is exactly the other way around!

Another thing that amazes me is the idea that Jesus said nothing about politics, therefore it's invalid in some way to consider His example and words when considering politics.

What Jesus said and the example He lived apply to *everything* -- including how all of us should get along on this planet, what we as Christian Americans do with the resources that God and 400 years of pillaging have given us, and how we get along with others on this planet. And that includes our vote.

If your discernment leads you to the conclusion that Jesus would have you hold the positions you hold, dude, I won't argue with that, but I can't help but exclaim dismay at times. It's OK. Look at the arguments the disciples got into!

One thing you and I can agree on is this: "He and I have become very close since I stopped listening to what everyone else was telling me that He said, and began listening to Him exclusively."

To me that includes the message of the Gospel as found in the Bible, the various traditions of various churches, and "spiritual discernment," which I think is just a fancy way of saying "my conscience."

The fact is, my conscience -- the source of which is Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God -- causes me to reject parts of some church traditions, and even parts of the Bible.

It's true. My conscience will not allow me, for example, to accept a patriarchal world view just because "it's in the Bible," any more than it will allow me to accept slavery because "it's in the Bible."

My conscience will not allow me to conclude that because Jesus did not explicity talk about "politics" as we know it that the things that he *did* say -- "Love your neightbor as yourself" -- should not be translated *into* politics.

Anyway, *that's how I "pick and choose" what to *believe* and what not to *believe* in the Bible! The fact is *beoieve* it all. And I believe that some of it is hogwash.

I use the head God let me born with -- and the heart God let me be born *again* with!

Worshiping the Bible is idolatry. For one to accept it without using one's mind is an insult to God's holy creation and my part in it. Accepting it without one's heart, or without one's conscience, is, well, cruel -- and that certainly is *not* of God.

Oops. I'm prattling. Gotta go get Dr. ER at the Wal-Marts.

Peace, Tug.
And Peace to you, my friend.

One of the reasons that I love arguing with you is that you and I ask the hard questions of each other, and we demand answers.

We cause each other to state the reasons why we believe what we believe, and we had better make it good.

I think that much of the bible is open to personal interpretation, for a purpose. God intended for us to figure it out, and he uses the same string of words to say different things to different people, as suits His purpose, and as suits our individual needs at the moment.

It is not my place to tell you that you are wrong, nor is it yours to tell me. The best that we can both do is to pray for the genuine leadership of the Holy Spirit in all that we do, and if either of us believes that the other is wrong, to pray that the Lord will convict us of sin, whosever it is.

(That doesn't mean that we shouldn't point it out when one of us is full of beans, though...)

I know in my heart that God Himself is watching these confrontations between us, and I hope the He is proud of both of us.
Definitely seems Harry Potter trivia this morning - a bright omen for my mood this rest of the day! Thanks!
Rich said:

"My fundy next door neighbors sort of forced me to accept their version of Jesus into my heart when I was eight or so...But their obvious hypocrisy and hatred made it hard for me to take anything they said seriously, so..."

Well, Rich, I'm no fundy, but as a Christian for most of my life, I have to plead guilty to that one. We who call ourselves Christians --me no exception -- do a terrible job of representing the person we claim to follow.

Rich, I pray that we'll quit getting in the way of God's unconditional love for you.

Tug, I can appreciate if you're saying you believe the Lord no longer wants you to attend a SPECIFIC church. But I hope you will test the idea that God would order you away from church altogether. I humbly invite you to confirm your conviction with scripture and religious leaders of your choice.

Christianity is a uniquely communal experience, and you are missed, my friend. How can you participate in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper if you are not gathering with like-minded believers?

It is through church that I have developed a bond with with several other brothers who all pray for each other and support one another during difficult times. They are there for me. And I for them. And, man, as you know, those difficult times just keep coming!

Oh, and to answer ER's query:

I grew up Southern Baptist --and am the only one to ever leave the fold in my family :-).

I spent years away from any church, convinced that God could not accept me -- too bad a sinner -- and I felt a lot of judgment from my Baptist kin!

For about 15 years, I have been an active member of a Presbyterian Church (USA), where I eventually came face to face with a different God than I had previously understood: One who always loves us, invites us to joy instead of condemnation, always forgives -- and calls on us to do the same with each other. .....Peace!
"....*love* it when Christians tear into one another."

that may be the case for some, but not for me.

i don't have hang-ups with christians, or any people of faith. it's proselytizers and hypocrites i abhor. jesus did, too.

NOBODY is in any position to tell you or anyone else who is a good christian and who is not. if a relationship with god is, as so many claim, a personal one, then each must answer only himself (and god, if you must), and to no other.

as for the language, "if thine own eye offend the...." i've seen the word "fuck" use with profound affection, and the phrase "god bless you" expressed with venomous malevolence.

the same holds true in the secular world: it's what's in your heart....

"....venomous malevolence."


heh. try to say the two words five times as fast as you can....

No Christian Dictionary on line or in print that would give you want you wanted. But there is a Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce that might be of interest. It is free on line at Project Gutenberg:
I come from (at least) three generations of Disciples of Christ, like Dr. Lobojo. Pretty much emphasizing New Testament love over Old Testament judgement. I once took an online test of beliefs, and it said I should be a Quaker, but I don;t know any Quakers, or anything about that church.
I found it! Here is the quiz on your beliefs.
So I took the test. Suprised actually at the result. The 74% Neo-Pagan was interesting however.

1. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (91%)
3. Unitarian Universalism (88%)
4. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (79%)
5. Bahá'í Faith (76%)
6. Neo-Pagan (74%)
7. New Age (70%)
8. Mahayana Buddhism (68%)
9. New Thought (65%)
10. Orthodox Quaker (64%)
Tug's results:

(I know you were all waiting with baited breath, whatever that means...)

Yes No

Yes No

Yes No

1. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (100%) (Surprize)
2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (87%) (BIG surprize)
3. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (87%)
4. Eastern Orthodox (81%)
5. Roman Catholic (81%)
6. Jehovah's Witness (79%)
7. Orthodox Quaker (77%)
8. Bahá'í Faith (76%)
9. Seventh Day Adventist (72%)
10. Orthodox Judaism (71%)
11. Islam (63%)
12. Sikhism (58%)
13. Liberal Quakers (57%)
14. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (52%)
15. Reform Judaism (46%)
16. Unitarian Universalism (38%)
17. Hinduism (34%)
18. New Thought (28%)
19. Mahayana Buddhism (24%)
20. Theravada Buddhism (24%)
21. Jainism (24%)
22. Neo-Pagan (20%) (?)
23. Nontheist (17%)
24. Scientology (17%)
25. New Age (15%)
26. Taoism (11%) (What's Taoism?)
27. Secular Humanism (9%)
Please forgive the Yes No Yes No stuff in that last comment.

That was an editing error, caused by laziness and inattention to detail, and I do not wish it to take away from the impact and relevance of my comment.

I am aware that I am capable of higher quality than that, and I vow to do better in the future.

I apologize profusely for any confusion stemming from my mistake.

Thank you for your understanding.
I don't doubt your profession of faith, ER, but I believe you have drifted far from the fundamantal truths of God's Word.

I was born a Southern Baptist, the son of an ordained Baptist minister. I remain a Southern Baptist.

I did get away from regular church attendance because of sin in my life. I committed adultery, and the guilt was so intense, I literally was afraid of being in a church. The last church I visited while under this tremendous burden of guilt, was such a humbling experience for me, that I left that church in tears, and didn't darken the door of another church for 2 years.

Recently, I experienced the other side of the coin, when a woman that I loved and hoped to someday marry, not only cheated on me, but dumped me when she slipped up and I inadverdantly found her out.

That experience drove me back to church and onto my knees as well.

In between those times, I saw Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion" which provoked in me total repentence and a renewed fervor for Christ, and I started a blog, wherein I sometimes espouse my Christian beliefs, which nearly always starts a knock down drag-out fight reminiscent of the great 15 round bouts of Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier. Yet, each such blogpost further affirms my faith that my fundamentalist beliefs are the correct ones.

The Independent Baptist church I have been attending in the last few weeks (regularly) is a bit too fundamentalist for my taste, but I don't doubt their sincerity. I am unhappy with their Sunday School curriculum as They don't seem to encourage discussion. I have tried 2 different classes and both were a lecture type class. An usher that has taken a personal interest in making sure that I am satisfied with my church going experience, has assured me that the next class I attend is a discussion group. I hope he's right. If not, I may seek out another church. Other than that, I like the church.

I hope I was able to shed some light on your subject, at least as far as my personal experience goes.
"....I believe you have drifted far from the fundamantal truths of God's Word."

well, if mark belives so, then it must be true....

You are an asshole, Kevron.
well, if mark belives so, then it must be true....
One thing about the result of the Belief-O-Matic quiz is how close all of the "Christain" beliefs and some "Psuedo or Sect-Christian" beliefs are. Yet we are much more likely to condemn a fellow Christian for his or her beliefs than we are, say, an Hindu or Taoist.

The more I study the Crusades and that wonderful 13th Century the more it seems as though we have be doing that for a long time.

Mark said: "I believe you have drifted far from the fundamantal truths of God's Word."

I would edit his re-Marks ever so slightly, much like the early Christian scibes did with the"word" and say:
ER, I believe you have drifted far from the fundamentalist truths of God's Word. Good for you Dude.
Scriptuo contiua, the way eary koini Greek was written. theyusednopunctuationnoseperationofwordsandnocapitallettersthustheresultwasveryhardtoreadandunderstandandoftencausegreatconsternationintranslatingthemenaingofthetext

Take for example the phrase:

Should that be read, God is now here? Or should it be read, God is nowhere?
Oh wow, your blog site edit program did not like that paragraph in Scriptuo Continiua. It chopped it off early on in the paragraph. An excellent example of improbable editing.
Improbable editing. Since years ago it probably seemed improbable that I would be an editor, does that make now an improbable editor.

Thanks for participating, Mark. Obviously, I think you're wrong, totally, in your assessment. But hey, if that causes you to pray for me, I am all for it.

Drlobojo, Amen. The only place I want to see fundamentalism is in the Periodic Table.

KEVron's swipe, I don't think, didn't reach the threshold of assholery, only barely touched the extraterritorial jurisdiction of smartassery.

Tug, the word is bated and it means one is holding one's breath in fear or excitement or something. Short for "abated." (Not being a smartypants! You asked!) :-)

And Tug, I *do* detect the hint of a little latent Taoism in you, but really only in the being "attuned to the flow of change" part. Sometimes. When yer not wantin' to change the world. :-)
"KEVron's swipe, I don't think, didn't reach the threshold of assholery, only barely touched the extraterritorial jurisdiction of smartassery."

It is the accumulation of such comments over a period of time that proves assholery. He is as much an asshole as anyone I've ever seen.

I do not ban him at my place because of some offensive comments. I ban him because when you give him a chance to act civil, he exploits and abuses the privilege. Everytime. He does not know how to be nice.

And he thinks he is funny. He is not. He is psychotic.
Mark, you need to quit holding grudges. You harbor every slight like it was a pet. Resentment will eat you up like a cancer.

As far as I'm concerned, KEvron jabbed at you, and you let all that bile you carry around for him leak onto this otherwise civil discussion. He was playing, and you retaliated out of proportion to the supposed offense.

He pushed one of your numerous, ultrasensitive buttons, and you showed your ass. (This is a behavior I know well, having exhibited it myself).

Now, cease fire. No mas.

Red alert.
Whoa! Approaching 80 comments. People must really want to talk about church.

Sorry to be so late to the conversation. I, like you ER, grew up Southern Baptist. I currently attend a nominally Baptist church, but we were kicked out of the SBC a long time ago. We’re more in the Anabaptist tradition, I’d say. Or maybe the Weirdo-freaky-hippie tradition, depending upon whom you ask.

[if you're interested:]

Which is fine with me. Like you, I don’t care much for what the SBC has become.

Rem said:

“I'm here to tell you that most folks in my neck of the woods are going to doubt most of what you have to say if you keep throwing four-letter words around.”

That’d be an example of the type of extrabiblical tradition shit that makes me glad to not be a SoBapt.
Ah Profanity:
I once worked with a nice Southern Baptist lady that said to me one day, “I really would like to understand what it was like to be in Vietnam. Is there any books or movies that would give me a good sense of that? So I recommended the book “The Things They Carried”. In that the movie “Platoon” was at that time showing in the theaters, I suggest she go see it and then rent a tape of “Apocalypse Now.” Then she should stir them all up in her mind and she might get a sense of what it was like.
A few weeks latter I ask her how her quest for the Vietnam experience was coming. She lit into a monologue about how she and her husband had walked out of “Platoon” less than ten minutes after it had started. That gratuitous profanity and taking Jesus’s name in vain was totally un-needed and took away from the movie. As far as I know she never got to the other two things I recommended. In Nam, the words f..k, and f..king, were used as punctuation, signs of agreement, and as noun and verb modifiers constantly. There was even a lizard that live in my tent that said f..kyou all night. It was know as the F..kyou lizard.
When it came to profanity, “Platoon” was a woos of a movie compared to the actual thing. It was worse in her eyes that we talked filth than that we killed people.
That kind of crap makes me nuts.

In Texas, right out of college, I wrote a story one Sunday night about a hobo who got killed on the tracks in the wee hours that monring, not a stone's throw from the mission. I quoted some of the guys at the mission, including one dude who was grieving:

"Goddamn. He was my buddy. He was my goddamn road dog!" he said.

I quoted him, minus the presence of mind to even use hyphens, on deadline, with a light Sunday night desk, so it got in the paper.

The next few days, I got 36 letters to the editor -- I kid you not -- from the good Christians of said city, and the jerkwad opinion page editor ran them all on the op-ed page, filling it up, the following Saturday.

I got one single letter from a lil ol' Christian lady -- as opposed to all those people who attacked me -- who actually wrote about the tragedy of the murder, and the grief of this man I'd quoted, who had almost nothing in the first place, and then had lost his friend. I should have hyphened his quote or paraphraised him, perhaps.

But I got two words for people who care more for the words people use than for the people themselves:

F--- 'em.
"....when you give him a chance to act civil, he exploits and abuses the privilege. Everytime."

links, please. otherwise, you're just a lying asshole.

oh, and you ban me because you're a coward who's unable to substantiate the bullshit you fling. period.

KEvron, I think the fact that you are not banned here -- and that I've not even *thought* about banning you (as if I would ban anyone) -- answers the question.


"Red alert," in the ER Roadhouse, BTW, means all subsequent posts on the point to which the red alert has been given will be deleted. (Yelow alert is a warning. I bypassed yellow because of the nature of this post).

can do.

Few things spark such controvery, conversation and downright gettin' riled up than religion.

I grew up Southern Baptist and am now doing everything in my power to never step foot in another SBChurch again. I'm very burned by then, have been repeatedly. Maybe it's me, but I'm thinking I'm not the only one a little put out. I hear it all too often.

I'd like to find a nice Bapticostal church. Heehee
Hey, Diva. I've called myself a Bapticostalpalean fr years. Jesus is Lord, not the dang church; I like to shout when I'm happy; and me and George Dickel are friends.

Jokes aside: If yer neck's not *too* red, Mayflower Congregational in OKC lets me in -- which means they'll let anybody in, like Jesus Hisself meant it to be. (Um, they're not shouters, tho.)
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