Questioning the Saints

*Disclaimer — This post is directed towards Christians, but I welcome anyone to read and comment. Just understand that it is directed towards individuals who align themselves with Christianity. If you’re not a Christian you may still find it interesting.*

I try not to gripe too much about things I can not change, but I was recently asked a question about my beliefs and religion from a well meaning Christian. I tried to answer as politely as I could, but the question actually aggravated me and raised a question that I believe is formed from my unique social environments when I was much younger.

The gentleman asked me not to publish his comments, but directed the question to me. He was respectful, so I am not upset with him and understand his question. Maybe the answer to his questions or maybe I should say comments can be answered better with this question and response.

Does it make me less of a Christian because I have very little issue with being friendly or friends with Atheists, Jews, Buddhist, Catholics and Muslims? Perhaps it’s just my own understanding of the life of Jesus Christ written in the Holy Bible, but I just don’t see why I should not associate, dislike or look down on anyone because of their belief system. I can respect you for what you belief and not agree with it. Who says I don’t understand what you believe, but based off of my own experiences still choose to the lifestyle of a Christian.

If I strive to live this lifestyle shouldn’t I abide by its principles? The first is to love. Not a disingenuous love, or a romantic love, but sincere respect for a person. Disassociating yourself with those who may not agree with you on issues of religion or spirituality allows me to question those who claim to be Christian, not Christ.

Maybe I can understand their problems with Christianity with I can look within the Christian church itself and see division. We’re still mentally enslaved by man-made traditions, doctrines and religion-less practices. I’ve quoted the words of Dr. King many times that 11 o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America, perhaps the world. We continue to allow the pulpit politicians and patriotic pastors to poison our praise with the doctrines of exclusion.

Never have we seen such unity among Christians of diverse backgrounds than that in California’s Proposition 8. It was like the day of Pentecost in a sense. What in Hell has gotten into you? Do you realize what you’re doing? You don’t have to be gay or lesbian to see what’s at work here.

A Christian Coalition banning together to prohibit gay marriage in a state, but we can never find a Christian Coalition against racial and religious bigotry. Allow me to remix a quote some may recognize that helps me understand this. Discrimination anywhere is a threat to civility and unity everywhere. Yes, I understand exactly what the Bible says about the subject of homosexuality, but what does it say about love, judging, condemnation and discrimination?

I question Christians, not Christianity or Christ.

I may not subscribe to a particular lifestyle, but I can subscribe to loving the life regardless of how they choose to live it. I can not make you believe what I believe, nor do I expect you to think I will believe what you believe if different. I just said this a few days ago, we’re all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. You may not believe in the same God that I or other do, but it’s when you can see the image of God in others it is not difficult at all being friendly or friends with them.

I don’t remember the exact quote at the moment, but didn’t Frederick Douglass say, “Be quiet and listen”? I think that’s one of the biggest problems with many Christians today, “Talking Loud, but Ain’t Saying Nothing”. (OK I know that’s James Brown, but you get my point.)

So you will continue to see me defend someone that may not believe what I believe. That doesn’t make them immoral, nor does it make me any less of a Christian to find areas of agreement in our individual beliefs.

When or if someone questions your beliefs don’t instantly get defensive if they are not intentionally being disrespectful. It’s a question, try to answer it. If you don’t know the answer, research and find out for yourself. Show yourself approved and stop falling for the same old devilish traps.

There’s nothing wrong with me being friends with whomever, or even having lunch or dinner with someone who is not a Christian. Didn’t Jesus associate with the tax collector, the prostitute, the thief? I can recall 12 other dudes whose past was questionable too that hung out with him too, they turned out alright.

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8 thoughts on “Questioning the Saints

  1. Hi,

    You raised several issues.

    1. It is ok to be courteous and kind to unbelievers, but the bible also says not to associate so much that you can become influenced by their thinking, or give them messages of approval for false doctrines. It says to yoke ourselves NOT with unbelievers, because light has no place with darkness. So this requires some discernment and good judgment, as to when too much association might lead to compromising one’s beliefs and behavior.

    Jesus only associated with sinners, in order to bring salvation and the truth of God’s Word to them. He never let them think it was OK to believe falsely. When you associate with sinners, do you do this as well? Or do you do this to let them know that their faith is no different from yours, or that there is nothing wrong with what they believe?

    Association with the wrong intent may send the wrong message. If you truly care about people, you will care about what will happen to them (in eternity) because of their wrong thinking, and will be open to offer the gospel to them. If you are ashamed of the gospel, then you need to examine why you feel this way, that you have to send messages of approval of false doctrine to unbelievers. Are you trying to reassure them that their faith is true, and you are compromising yourself? Compromise is an admission of some error in your belief system.

    2. It was appropriate to ban together against homosexuality being taken to another level that threatens the values of God, which happens to protect everyone from true evil. It is not an act of condemnation to stand up for godly values. The other alternative is to let evil take over, and then suffer for it. If we allow evil, then we will be held responsible for the evil, as much as those who do the evil. Gays have no trouble condemning Christians, by the way. We may love the person, but we do not have to love the evil behavior, and give it a place of honor in society.

    Many people have confused proper judgment of circumstances with some sort of discrimination. Believers are allowed to judge, if the judgment is righteous in character. We are not allowed to judge, if we are guilty of the same thing (hypocrisy, unrighteous judgment). People need to put scripture in proper context.

    While it might have been true back in the 1960s, I do not see this racism in the modern church (2009). I have seen people mix well for decades now. There are some that want to keep the tensions alive for political reasons, but this is in black churches, not white ones.

    3. I do not see why you would defend someone’s beliefs who does not believe as a Christian. Is this your way of saying your beliefs as a Christian are wrong? Either Christianity is true, or it isn’t.

    Martin Luther King did not compromise. He died for what he believed in. That is something to think about. He would never tell a Muslim it is ok to be Muslim, or a gay that it is ok to be gay. He would tell them lovingly that they were sinners, and needed Jesus and his salvation. If they hated him for this, he would love them back, but he would not give in to them.

    marianne
    http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/

    1. Thank you Marianne for your comments.

      I appreciate your comments, but believe you do not understand what I’m saying. Perhaps I am assuming that everyone reading it will understand where I’m coming from or get a sense of where I’m coming from. Although I get a sense of anger in your comments directed towards me my response to them are not in anger.

      I think once you have taken time to really understand what I’m trying to express you may reconsider some statements. Although I disagree with a few things you’ve said when it comes to race relations and racism as being one sided I will always see to find our common ground.

      I’m glad that you mentioned Dr. King, because he’s someone that I continue to read, listen, watch and learn about on a weekly basis. Dr. King did not compromise when it came to the opposition against Bayard Rustin. He found common ground. He did speak against evil behavior even when it came from within the church itself. I am not speaking against Christianity or Christ, but those like myself who proclaim to be a Christian, but still finds ways to discriminate against someone.

      Now I disagree with a point you made towards the end of your second comment. Racism and Political Expediency is not just a condition of the Black Church. When you say that “there are some that want to keep the tensions alive for political reasons, but this is in black churches, not white ones. ” signals that you are not apart of the Black church. That’s absolutely naive for anyone to believe. I have written on this blog of cases of those who keep tensions alive for political reasons that are not apart of the black church. I have personally witness it while visiting churches with majority white congregations. To say that racist and racism only resides in the Black church and specifically point out it is not present in White churches is interesting. If you can still distinguish a church with color of the congregations, “Black Churches” and “White Churches” it signals that much has not changed, because segregation is still there. It is when you can think of church without color, but can walk into any church and see colors is where we must get to. I think you should reconsider that statement.

      Being friendly to someone who doesn’t agree with your religious beliefs does not compromise your beliefs and only sends the message that you’re willing to listen, respect them. I’m very confident in my relationship with God and believe that one of the many issues that continues to prohibits Christians is their opposition to speak to people not like themselves. Compromise is not an admission of some error in your belief system. It’s an admission of the strength of your beliefs because it signals that I can still love someone that I may disagree with. I can respect someone who accuses me of things without taking time to understand the message in my questioning.

      Now you ask me am I trying to reassure them of their faith is true. I say nothing about their beliefs being true or not. How can you influence anyone who disagrees with you if you’re unwilling to listen to them and understand them. As someone who has spent time with people who are not Black like me, Christian like me, married like me, Democrat like me and American like me I have had gained wonderful friendships and the opportunity to look at the world through their eyes. This has broaden my understanding of what people who believes as I do may need to reconsider their approach.

      Just maybe in return for my willingness to listen, accept and respect others that may not agree with me, in fact love them for who they are and how we interact with each other is more persuasive than any sermon, opposition, coalition and assumption that either one of us may have about the other.

      The problem is that many Christians, and let me emphasis that I am a Christian and come from a family of Christian ministers who introduced me to Christianity while allowing me the freedom of thought to respectfully challenge it so that I may gain a greater understanding of it. Many people assume that because I question something or someone that I’m coming against it or I am weak in my belief of it. Perhaps it is because of my own experiences and opportunities to think openly and freely and always question authority with love and respect that lends me to make this post and reply.

      Marianne, I do appreciate your comments although I believe you may not understand where I’m coming from. There are statements I absolutely disagree with you on. Perhaps over time you will get a better sense of the message in my questioning. Until then, I sincerely wish you the best and will visit your blog as often as possible.

      I invite you to search my blog to learn more about me and to find common ground.

      Tim

  2. hi,

    you raise several issues.

    1. It is ok to be courteous and kind to unbelievers, but the bible also says not to associate so much that you can become influenced by their thinking, or give them messages of approval for false doctrines. It says to yoke ourselves NOT with unbelievers, because light has no place with darkness. So this requires some discernment and good judgment, as to when too much association might lead to compromising one’s beliefs and behavior.

    Jesus only associated with sinners, in order to bring salvation and the truth of God’s Word to them. He never let them think it was OK to believe falsely. When you associate with sinners, do you do this as well? Or do you do this to let them know that their faith is no different from yours, or that there is nothing wrong with what they believe?

    Association with the wrong intent may send the wrong message. If you truly care about people, you will care about what will happen to them (in eternity) because of their wrong thinking, and will be open to offer the gospel to them. If you are ashamed of the gospel, then you need to examine why you feel this way, that you have to send messages of approval of false doctrine to unbelievers. Are you trying to reassure them that their faith is true, and you are compromising yourself? Compromise is an admission of some error in your belief system.

    2. It was appropriate to ban together against homosexuality being taken to another level that threatens the values of God, which happens to protect everyone from true evil. It is not an act of condemnation to stand up for godly values. The other alternative is to let evil take over, and then suffer for it. If we allow evil, then we will be held responsible for the evil, as much as those who do the evil. Gays have no trouble condemning Christians, by the way. We may love the person, but we do not have to love the evil behavior, and give it a place of honor in society.

    Many people have confused proper judgment of circumstances with some sort of discrimination. Believers are allowed to judge, if the judgment is righteous in character. We are not allowed to judge, if we are guilty of the same thing (hypocrisy, unrighteous judgment). People need to put scripture in proper context.

    While it might have been true back in the 1960s, I do not see this racism in the modern church (2009). I have seen people mix well for decades now. There are some that want to keep the tensions alive for political reasons, but this is in black churches, not white ones.

    3. I do not see why you would defend someone’s beliefs who does not believe as a Christian. Is this your way of saying your beliefs as a Christian are wrong? Either Christianity is true, or it isn’t.

    Martin Luther King did not compromise. He died for what he believed in. That is something to think about. He would never tell a Muslim it is ok to be Muslim, or a gay that it is ok to be gay. He would tell them lovingly that they were sinners, and needed Jesus and his salvation. If they hated him for this, he would love them back, but he would not give in to them.

    marianne
    http://heavenawaits.wordpress.com/

  3. Hi Tim,

    Yes, I am white. No, I am not angry. I do get tired of getting accused of being prejudiced or advantaged just because I am white. I have never mistreated anyone, or discriminated against anyone for any reason. I was just stating my experience. I have been in white churches all my life (58 years) and the ones I have been in never said anything bad about black people. Then I am watching TV, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright gets going, and accuses us of all sorts of things. There are others like him that I have heard. He got that crazy stuff from somewhere – internet maybe? The internet is not a reliable source of information.

    I was 14 years old when the civil rights act was passed. I was never part of the earlier history when things were wrong. The generation alive now embraces civil rights, and supports it, so it is very discouraging when someone automatically assumes the civil rights situation is still “bad.” I have always been part of a racially mixed environment.

    I am not opposed to being friendly with people. That is the only way you can establish positive grounds for later discussion, if faith does come up as an issue. I was trying to distinguish this approach from one that endorses homosexuality as ok, in order to be “friendly.” There are many Christians that do this. One that comes to mind is Tammy Faye Bakker, now deceased. She was right in loving the gays as people, but she went too far in making them feel assured that there was no reason to repent – that God loved them “just the way they were.” That is not biblical, since all men need to admit they are sinners, repent, and stop sinning.

    Now, gays think the rest of us have to have the same attitude, and if we dare to disagree with them, and say that homosexuality is a sin, we are automatically accused of hate speech, discrimination, hypocrisy, and other awful things. They are “victims” of homophobia. This is not true. But because of Christians who go too far, and extend the message that “god loves them just he way they are,” which is heresy, the rest of us get battered with verbal abuse. Jesus taught that we are all sinners, and need to repent, but gays think they are exempt now, because they were told they were born that way, and that God does not require them to change. This is a mess.

    I do find that if I spend enough time with unbelievers, they will eventually assume I agree with everything they say. I have been in a very hostile, liberal environment for 30 years – the university system. Most are atheists. The Christians, if present at all, who get along best, are the ones who remain secret about their beliefs, and stand by while wrong things happen. They do not stand up for what is right. I have heard plenty of hate speech, and it was all about Christians being evil, and stupid. Working in this environment was very difficult. In this case, I saw no reason to “be friendly” more than was necessary to get the job done and go home. I was always friendly. These people outranked me, so it was obvious I had to be polite to keep my job. But they did not return the courtesy. Not every environment was this bad, but the atmosphere supports godless behavior. It is seen as the intellectual way to be.

    I also do believe in being professional at all times at work. In this way, I have managed to get along with most people. As long as people just stick to work and what is required, all goes well. But at the same time, if others raise moral values as issues, such as dishonesty present, indecent speech / behavior, abortion, lying, etc, I will speak up for what is right, and then take the insults that come back. I am not permissive as to things that are wrong. I am not looking for trouble. I just find myself in those situations, and have to make a decision.

    So, I concede that if all you are doing is being friendly without compromising values, then that is more clear to me. Trying to find common ground is challenging when there isn’t much of it. I see little common ground between myself and gays. Maybe, in the case of Muslims, I can see that they believe in one god, which is not the same as mine, although they insist it is. If they really believe Allah is the same god as the Old Testament Yahweh, then they would not require others to convert. I understand their appreciation of Jesus, but they want to demote him to “just a man,” and just a minor prophet, less in honor than Mohammed. Somewhere in all this confusion, I have to explain to them the bible truth, that Mohammed will not get them to heaven, and that I respect their beliefs, but that is not what Jesus taught. If I sit and just nod my head, then I have submitted to Allah, and denied Christ. Being faithful to Christ sometimes can be the narrow way, and the lonely road.

    Best wishes to you. Maybe, you understand me better too now.

    marianne

    1. Marianne,

      Perhaps I missed the part where I accused you of being privileged. The point is that discrimination anywhere in any form by anyone is a threat to freedom and equality everywhere for everyone. That’s a remix of MLK, but it remains true in this situation.

      I normally will not argue a point through multiple replies. I do invite you to visit other posts to gain a better sense of who I am. We all can find our common ground with one another if we open our clinched fists to shake the other persons hand. A perceived enemy one day can be an enduring friend the next day if they just open their hearts and minds to gain a greater understanding of each other.

      The methods of identifying people by excluding yourself is not the way to help create a more unified and loving society. When we all can see that its not them, they or those people that are the problem, but how we, you and I see one another only then we can resolve our issues and bring about change.

      I don’t think of you as a bad person because we have different understandings on this subject and I hope you do not think that of me. We are bound by our social environment, experiences, education, culture and interaction. The challenge we all face is trying to see beyond ourselves.

      I know that everyone will not see the world as openly as I do and may come against me for that openness. What I have learned is to not instantly get upset with them, but try to understand where they’re coming from and learning what is reality to them. Only then we can begin to discover our common ground and walk together towards greater understanding and respect of each other.

      I’m a 30 something Black guy who’s not ashamed of who I am or my history. I can’t expect everyone to feel what I feel or see the world through my experiences. I expect respect, but everyone will not be as welcoming as me. Some will misinterpret my openness towards others as a softening of my own beliefs. It’s just a principle of respect I tend to have for others. I know that the world is not centered around me. It would be cool if it was, but that would get boring real quick.

      Once again I say that I appreciate the time taken to read and comment. Communication is the first step, so I thank you and enjoyed our conversation. Don’t forget about me, because I want to know what you think on other things other than this.

      Enjoy.
      Tim

  4. Tim, a long time ago I realized when people are extremely rigid in their way of thinking, they become incapable of understanding anything beyond their own beliefs. To have a conversation with a rigid, religious person is like speaking two different languages – with neither capable of hearing anything. I no longer waste my time with people who can’t see beyond the rhetoric that protects their mean and ignorant ways.

    As you’ve noted, the attitudes of many Christians and other religious zealots is similar to Marianne’s. To tell you the truth, if heaven is full of people like that, hell may be the actual paradise. Somebody lied so the best real estate didn’t get taken by the meanest people. *grins at joke*

    As for Marianne – a long time ago I would have wished that she endure the ugliness and loss of liberty/ pursuit of happiness that she doesn’t mind doling out to the homosexuals as she calls us. All done in God’s name of course. A part of me wants her to take the pain and judgement she dishes out and receive every bit of it back into her own life. But, that is the part of me that I wo’nt embrace. Instead, I hope Marianne actually learns how destructive she is against humans that have a sexual orientation different than her own and she makes amends. Yes, she does need to make amends if she wants that gay person at the gates to let her into heaven. *another joke*

    As I’ve stated before to you Tim, Christians similar to Marianne ruin the goodness that you would hope to find in Christianity. (my opinion) Many Christians stopped being caring, decent people a long time ago – or maybe they never were. As long as they say their actions are ‘in the name of God’ they can get away with the most heinous crimes against the children of the Creator of us all. *not a joke* Look at the wars fought in God’s name. Look at teenagers being beheaded for being gay in some countries, look at Marianne banding with others to deny gay adults the right to lead loving and healthy lives with a same sex partner. How she fights to take away legal, civil, hospital, and other rights to gay people – and claim its for God against evil.

    In many places, religion has become the place that evil lurks, contaminating the good in people as it spreads. Thank goodness for the strong Christians that speak against wrong doing in their midst.

    Tim, you’re a good man. Don’t give yourself a heart attack trying to convince people to listen to something that they cannot comprehend. If you keep this up you might get frustrated, and I’ll have to be the one to remind you that there are other good Christians in the world – and for you not give up. Wouldn’t that be something? 🙂

  5. Simply, who did Jesus ever, ever reject other than those who practiced deciet, cruelty, or apathy? Did he reject people of other faiths? Exactly the opposite. Did he ever reject anyone due to appearance? Did he even condemn the Roman non-believers who carried out his execution?

    Would Jesus approve of racism, sexism, classism, or any of our modern malady?

    The answer is clear and easily verified.

    You’re a class act, Tim. That’s why you were polite and respectful of the “well meaning Christian” who asked you this question. I would not have been.
    If I read this correctly, and he was suggesting that you aren’t a “true Christian” unless you adopt a cult mentality, I might have slapped him up for blasphemy.
    This would be the exact, EXACT kind of person who rejected Jesus during his ministry. A sort of modern day Pharisee. Jesus was derided, scorned and persecuted because he would not join the Cult.
    He would not conform and deny the truth he knew in his blessed heart was true. That all mankind is created equal and therefor, all deserving of mercy and respect.

    The mission is to bring others closer to Jesus, not push them away. You’re doing the right thing. The person who asked of you is a spiritual failure.
    Perhaps you can help them see the truth.

    If I missed the mark on this, I apologize. That’s just the way I read it and I did just finish burning a doobie the size of my neighbor’s dog.
    ;-]_~

    P, L & R

  6. ….and another thing.

    I believe it was Longfellow who once said something to the effect of “the best kind of sermon is one that is seen and not heard. For that which tends to escape the ear the eye will often catch”.

    When you open you mind, heart and arms to a Muslim, Shinto, Atheist etc, they form a better opinion of you, Christianity and subsequently, a better opinion of Jesus.
    I think anyone with an IQ beyond single digits would understand that one is more likely to accept Jesus if His followers accept them first.
    Nobody runs smiling through a flower-laden meadow to embrace hatred, bigotry and rejection.

    I have always said that the only reason there are so many non-believers is Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Rick Warren…….

    With representation like that, Jesus is lucky to have what few followers He has.

    Example is everything. Yours is good.

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