Lot’s wife looked back

the light shines in the darkness
but the darkness has not
understood it you prostitute
the word of the lord came to me
hate what is evil
cling to what is good
burn down your houses
and inflict punishment
i will bring upon you
the blood vengeance of my wrath
and jealous anger and
with the measure you use it
will be measured to you
no one looked on you with pity or
had compassion now you are
the body of Christ
better a poor man whose walk is
blameless than a fool
whose lips are perverse
if we claim we have not sinned
we make him out to be a liar and
his word has no place in our lives
have her burned to death because
you know that the testing of your faith
develops perseverance
a false witness will not go unpunished thus
by their fruit you will recognize them
i will take vengeance on my adversaries and
repay those who hate me
if your right eye causes you to sin
gouge it out but Lot’s wife looked back and
she became a pillar of salt


I took the verses You-Know-Who sent me and the verses I highlighted in my Bible during that time and mashed them up into a poem because who wouldn’t do that?

For more fun with creepy Bible verses, you can read MSt3King My Death Threats.

Listen Up

I used to be a good listener. I’ve sat on a hard bench, listening to a girl recount not just one of her lives, but two. And even though I knew she couldn’t really have been Bloody Mary in a previous life (especially since she’d gotten the details of Queen Mary’s life confused with Elizabeth Báthory), I kept my damn mouth shut and just let her talk.

James 11920

At some point, I turned into a terrible listener. I might take in the words and all, but sometimes I’ll dismiss them without a fair shot because I already know the right answer.

Maybe we get like that when we don’t feel heard. You’d think that when we don’t feel heard we’d have some empathy and listen harder since we know what it feels like to be dismissed. But, nah. We just tend to scream even louder, don’t we?

James 122

Sometimes I talk about being a crappy pacifist. Straight up, y’all. My name is Kristy and I’m a super crappy pacifist.

Oh, I’m not running around getting into drunken bar fights (anymore). But just avoiding violence—which is honestly pretty easy to do—isn’t enough.

Matthew 59

Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the people who run away from fights” or “Blessed are you when you lay the verbal smackdown on someone instead of socking them in the jaw.”

We’re blessed when we make peace. Not enjoy any peace that may already exist. Make peace.

How do we begin to make peace?

We fucking listen.

Everyone believes they have a damn good reason for doing what they do. I’ve done some crazy shit, but I always had a reason for it.

When we see someone doing or saying the “wrong” thing, instead of saying, “Hey, listen up. Let me tell you all the reasons why you’re dumb and wrong,” we should say, “Hey, I want to understand how you got there. Can you tell me why you think that?”

Maybe that person does have a damn good reason and we’ve just never considered it before. Maybe we’ve been so sheltered from certain experiences that we can’t come to the correct answer because we need firsthand experience to fully understand the implications of those decisions.

James 1:26-27

Being correct doesn’t always give us the right to jump in. Christians should be slow to speak and quick to listen. Slow to give answers and quick to listen to the questions. Slow to impose our ways and quick to listen to others explain why they do what they do.

When we talk to others, are we being patient? Kind?

Are we being proud?

Are we making peace or feeding our ego?

Are we more concerned with being right than with being loving? Are we more worried about proving a point than we are about being the doer James mentioned? Are we so wrapped up in wasting energy on arguments and debates that we’ve defiled our religion and ignored the needs of vulnerable people?

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Sometimes it’s OK to let people say wrong things. It’s OK if someone’s not quite there yet. It’s OK to realize we don’t know all there is to know. It’s OK to listen to ideas we disagree with or don’t like (even ideas that bring on Hulk-like rage).

But it’s never OK to be unloving.

The God Who Suffers

Credit: Holly Hayes

Credit: Holly Hayes

In other posts, I’ve talked about the years I spent outside of religion. My 18th year wasn’t exactly a good year for me, and it shook me so hard it took over ten years for my soul to stop sloshing around long enough to pick up any little fragments of faith left behind.

I wouldn’t say I was ever an atheist. Not really. I always believed—or at least, hoped—there was something greater than humanity out there. The question for me was, is that something the God of the Bible? And, if it is, does that God deserve my faith in him?

Maybe that’s a funny way of thinking about a deity that could squash me like a roach, but I was pretty ticked off about how my life had veered off course.

When I was 15, my youth group went to a Youth With a Mission retreat. At the end of the event, we all gathered together in an auditorium to sing. They projected different video clips up on a large screen up front as we sang, mostly of teenage missionaries, laughing and playing with local children.

I looked away from the screen for a minute and when I looked back up, Jesus was being beaten. I think it was a clip from a play. The focus was on Jesus’ face as he was whipped.

In the middle of all the singing teenagers, hands raised up, singing as loudly as they could, I sat down with my head in my hands. I couldn’t look at the video. Obviously, I knew the difference between reality and acting. But, still, I couldn’t stand to watch it.

Drilled into my head was one sentence I’d heard over and over: “Jesus died for you.”

Jesus had been whipped, just like the man in the video. He’d been tortured and killed. I’d read the gospels. I knew the stories. But, it’d seemed distant. Like when your parents tell you about something you did as a child. You don’t remember actually doing it, but you remember the story they told you about it.

Seeing the video made it feel real to me. I suppose that was the whole point.

So, I sat there, getting bumped now and then by the kids on either side of me (who were now swaying) and felt this weight of guilt settle on me. “It’s my fault he was beaten and killed.”

That’s how I understood Jesus’ death for the next few years. That I, and all of humanity, was the cause of this senseless suffering. And we should be ashamed of ourselves.

Then, I turned 18 and everything in my life fell apart. People I loved turned their backs on me. God didn’t answer my prayers. I was sacrificed on the altar of false piety.

At first, I tried to reach out to other people and share what had happened. But you try finding another teenager who was run out of their church because someone wanted to kill them. It’s pretty hard to find someone who can relate to that. My story made people uncomfortable. When you make people uncomfortable, they don’t want to be around you.

I stopped telling my story.

I stopped going to church.

I stopped believing that God (if God was God) cared about me. He obviously wasn’t bothered by what had happened. And how could an omnipotent being have any compassion for one human, anyway? The God I knew commanded armies to conquer the Promised Land. He wiped out firstborns. He created the universe. He’d even sacrificed his own son. What was I to any God that might be out there? I was nothing.

A few years ago, I bought a Bible. I didn’t buy it because I’d had some religious epiphany and was ready to re-commit myself to Christianity. I bought it because I was irritated at some fundamentalist Christians I’d run across online. I needed a reference so I could more easily lob Bible verses at them to show them how wrong, wrong, wrong they were (even according to the very book they idolized.)

I’d read the gospels before, as a teenager. But, I decided a refresher was a good idea, so I’d have an easier time flipping to the parable I needed to counter the ridiculous stuff these people were saying. I was most familiar with Matthew (as I’d read it several times when I was younger), so I decided to start with John first.

Honestly, in the past, I’d only skimmed through the book of John. I’d read the other three gospels, and really, they all had the same information, right? (Something, something, youths…) This time, when I read John 1, I actually paid attention.

Now, I’d always heard about this thing called the Trinity. There was God, then Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I never was clear on what exactly the Holy Spirit was (except that it supposedly made my friends at the Assembly of God church speak in tongues), so I pretty much just ignored that since I wasn’t charismatic. And Jesus was the Son of God, so you know, I totally thought I understood that part. I thought it was a sort of hierarchy thing, with God at the top and Jesus and the Holy Spirit right under him.

But John 1 says it’s not a hierarchy at all. Jesus is God. No, I still didn’t have some sort of earth-shaking religious conversion at that point. I sort of went, “Ohhhh, so that’s what everyone’s talking about,” and then went off and checked Facebook.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5;14

After that, I decided to temporarily abandon John and read Mark and Matthew again.

Reading the gospels with the knowledge that this Jesus fellow was God himself was an entirely different experience from reading them when I was a child and thought I was just reading about the Amazing Adventures of God’s Son.

And when I got to the crucifixion, I didn’t have that overwhelming sense of guilt I’d felt at 15. I guess I was a little in awe, actually. Because how had I missed all of this before?

I thought of God as some distant thing that couldn’t possibly understand humans.

But this was a story about God becoming a human.

I thought that God couldn’t understand human pain, so how could he have compassion for us?

But this was a story about God suffering human pain.

The crucifixion story isn’t a story about how we’re all terrible people and should feel guilty about what Jesus endured. The crucifixion story is about God loving us all so much that he became one of us and experienced suffering and torture as one of us.

I’d thought God was the last person who’d understand my pain.

But God might be the only person who can really understand my pain.

When I was a kid, I’d thought Jesus’ suffering was senseless. God could have saved us any way he wanted to, so why allow his son to be tortured and killed?

But it wasn’t senseless at all.

God knows what it’s like to be abandoned by the people you love. God knows what it’s like to be falsely accused. God knows what it’s like to be humiliated and shamed. God knows what it’s like to suffer.

I know some people think I wandered back to Christianity because it brings me comfort.

It doesn’t.

I’m not here because I believe that if I have enough faith God will wave his giant hand and make life easy for me. That’s never going to happen. I know it’s never going to be easy for me.

I’m not here because I believe that if I just hold on for a while I’ll be rewarded in the afterlife and, I don’t know, chill on a cloud or something. (That’s not what the afterlife is, by the way. I mean, come on. How boring would that be?)

When people ask me why I’m a Christian, I don’t have a quick answer for them. There’s no one single reason. There are too many reasons to touch on all of them in this post, and I think apologetic arguments are usually a waste of time. (Though,  anyone who thinks I blindly believe in all of this just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t know me very well.)

What I will say is where my belief started.

I don’t start with a belief in God and wind my way down to following Jesus.

I start at Jesus and everything I believe flows out of that.

I start with Jesus, the God who suffered. The God who understands us. Who understands me. Who understands you.

I grew up hearing comments about Catholic crucifixes. Things like, “Jesus is alive. He’s not on the cross anymore.” The people around me saw crucifixes as gory and unnecessary.

But I need the crucifix. Yes, Jesus is alive, but it’s Jesus on the cross who understands me most. It’s Jesus on the cross who suffers alongside us, as one of us.

You Invited Me In

‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” – Matthew 25:35-40

When I was 18, I had to leave my home to escape a life-threatening situation. Someone opened up their home and allowed me to stay there for almost a year while my family and I got back on our feet.

Should he have turned his back on me because there were other homeless people in his area?

Should I have been forced to remain in the same town as the person who wanted to kill me because other people needed help too?

I keep seeing people talk about homeless veterans today, comparing their need to the needs of the refugees escaping Syria. How can we think about helping these refugees when we have homeless veterans in our own country to worry about?

I’ll be honest. It’s upsetting to me.

I know what it’s like to be forced to leave the people and the place you love and call home. I know what it’s like to have to humble yourself and ask for help because you can’t help yourself out of the situation.

Do you know what that’s like?

Were there other homeless people that needed help at the same time I needed help? Yes.

And we all deserved to be treated with love and compassion. We all deserved to be treated with dignity.

Helping me didn’t mean nobody could help anyone else.

Helping refugees doesn’t mean we can’t also help homeless veterans.

We have a lot of luxuries in this country. If you think you don’t have any of those luxuries, take a minute and really think about that. Do you have a smartphone plan? Do you have cable? Do you eat out? Do you take vacation trips? Most of us do.

If you’re honestly concerned about helping homeless veterans, that’s wonderful. Cut out some of your luxury spending, and donate the money to veterans. I think that’s a noble thing to do. It’s certainly more effective than talking about helping veterans.

Just remember there is no either/or here. We don’t have to help the refugees at the expense of homeless people in our country. We have plenty of resources here. We can help everyone. We just have to stop being so greedy. It’s really not that complicated.

A Tale of Two Bibles

bible2

Note: The Bible quotes featured in this post were highlighted or underlined by me sometime between late May 1999 and Spring 2000.

Throughout high school, I had one of those Teen Study Bibles. It was stuffed full of highlighted passages, notes, a small prayer journal, and old church bulletins. When I was 24, I was sorting through some boxes I had stored and came across it. I pulled out the bulletins and flipped through the prayer journal. I read a section toward the back I’d written about not taking Communion because I had a beef with my old youth leader. I found other passages where I thanked God for the Godly example of some of the people in my church. Absolutely disgusted with my own naivety and under the influence of a resurgence of painful memories, I took it all—prayer journal, Bible, and bulletins—chucked them into a black trash bag, then turned to my husband and said, “I’m probably going to hell for that.”

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…

James 1:19 (NIV)

 

So, I don’t have the Bible I used in high school. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named stole the Bible I was given in junior high, so that one’s gone as well. However, I do still have the Bible my church gave me when I graduated high school.

On May 23, 1999 I was handed a pink Women’s Devotional Bible that had my name embossed on the front. I used it throughout that summer and fall, which was the same time period I was being stalked and threatened. I also used it for a few months after I left Arkansas.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

James 1:2-3 (NIV)

 

I bought a new Study Bible and stopped using the pink Bible sometime in 2000. But, I kept it around. Mostly, I’ve kept it out of spite. That’s a ridiculous thing to type, but it’s true. I felt like getting rid of that last link to my old church would be like admitting defeat. Keeping it around was like saying, “All right, y’all. I may not physically be there any more, but I’m haunting the crap out of you.” Again, it’s ridiculous. I know it’s ridiculous. But, that’s where I was stuck for a long time.

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 7:15-19 (NIV)

 

I saw it sitting on the bookshelf a couple of nights ago and wondered if I’d ever made any notes in it. I couldn’t remember if I had or not. I flipped to Matthew and saw that I had highlighted some passages back then. They were some of the passages I’d read in church that Sunday morning after the first break-in. I flipped back to the front and went through that old Bible page by page to see what I’d marked.

There wasn’t much marked and it was… well, it was eerie. I have some journal entries I wrote after everything that happened, but nothing from the months when I was living right in the middle of it. When I found that old Teen Study Bible 10 years ago, I saw the girl I’d been before it all happened. Reading those passages last night, I got a glimpse of the woman this time in my life was starting to shape and I saw faith and hope.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5 (NIV)

 

Honestly, it startled me. Because time does funny things to our memories, doesn’t it? I often think of this one traumatic event as The Thing That Killed My Faith. But, I know there were several micro-traumas that happened after I left Arkansas. Alone, none of them were as big of a deal as being threatened with murder and abandoned by my church. But, over time they sure did add up. The whole stalking thing took me to the edge, but that alone didn’t push me over.

I wonder if I would have been OK if I’d decided to take the rest of the year off instead of jumping into a Christian college right away. Or if I hadn’t still been so willing to trust people (which I “remedied” by late 2000). I wonder if I would have been OK if I had received a couple of empathetic responses instead of flippant remarks or silence in those early months when I wasn’t so hush-hush about the whole thing.

I don’t know. I could play what-if games for the next 15 years and still not know.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:9-10 (NIV)

 

When I look back at the summer and fall of 1999, all I see is a legacy of fear and hurt and anger. All I see is a girl who was terrified and too weak to do anything but run away. But, maybe it’s more complicated than that. Maybe faith, hope, and love were there in the midst of it. Maybe that’s my legacy too. Maybe I just forgot.

There’s Something About Matthew

The Calling of Saint Matthew by Andrey Mironov, 2010 (Creative Commons License)

The Calling of Saint Matthew by Andrey Mironov, 2010 (Creative Commons License)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Matthew, though it took me a while to figure out why. He wasn’t the “rock”. He wasn’t the “beloved disciple”. He isn’t even mentioned all that much… not even in the gospel that carries his name.

Part of me likes him because he was a tax collector and my professional background is in accounting. (Bean counters have to stick together.)

But, what I really love is the one time we see him active in the Bible—when he’s called.

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

Matthew 9:9

There is so much going on in these two sentences.

First of all, Matthew is just sitting around being a tax collector when Jesus shows up. This was not a reputable profession. At that time, the Jewish people were subject to Roman rule. The tax collectors were Jews who worked for the Roman government. They often overcharged people and pocketed the difference. Basically, they had sold their people out for a profit.

Jesus walks by and he’s all, “Hey! Come with me!”

The story here is what Jesus didn’t say. He didn’t say, “Look, Matthew, I can tell that you have some potential. You could be a great apostle someday. But, first you really need to clean up your act. How about you go get a respectful job and stop hanging out with sinners. After you prove yourself worthy, we’ll see about you becoming one of my disciples.”

No. He called Matthew right where he was. And Matthew went.

That right there. That takes some serious faith. You know that you’re a sinner. You know that you’re in a profession that steals from your people. You know that other people are going to question your worthiness. Heck, you even question your worthiness. But, you go anyway.

It’s not too hard to leave behind a righteous lifestyle to adopt a slightly more righteous lifestyle. But, to leave your profession and turn your entire life on its head the moment Jesus says “follow me” is extraordinary.

How often do many of us think we need to clean up our act before we can follow Jesus? How many of us get all of this entirely backwards and think that we need to be perfect, sinless, faith-filled automatons before coming into the presence of God? We don’t have to become transformed before we get to God; We are transformed by God.

Matthew didn’t continue collecting taxes. He left that behind. But, I think it’s important that he wasn’t required to change his ways beforehand, but rather he left that life behind in the process of following Jesus.

I’ve Got a Bible…Now What? Day 22

Read Romans 12

NIV Translation

ESV Translation

Genre: Epistle (Letter). This is a letter Paul wrote to the early Christians in Rome.

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

Romans 12:17 (ESV)

What is important about this passage?

In this short section, Paul touches on several expectations. Christians should offer themselves as “a living sacrifice”. They should also be humble and utilize whatever gifts they have been given. Paul also explains what sincere love looks like and echoes Jesus’ words to love our enemies.

I’ve Got a Bible…Now What? Reading Plan Main Page

I’ve Got a Bible…Now What? Introduction

What is the Bible?

The Bible isn’t one book. It’s a collection of books, written over a period of thousands of years, by multiple authors, to various audiences. One of the most important things to understand is that the Bible contains different literary genres.

Once you’re ready to study the Bible a little deeper, a great resource is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.

How to Look up Scripture

The Bible is divided into “Testaments”, books, chapters, and verses.

Example: John 3:16

First, flip to the book of John in the New Testament.

Next, look for chapter 3. The chapters are usually large, bold numbers at the start of a paragraph.

Skim through chapter 3 until you find verse 16. The verse numbers are small and printed within the text.

Translations

For each day, I’ve provided links to two Bible translations, NIV and ESV, because I’m most familiar with those translations. For someone who is new to the Bible, I recommend the NIV translation. It’s easier to read than some of the other translations. While I enjoy the KJV’s beautiful language, I do not recommend using it if you aren’t already familiar with what a scripture passage says. It’s easy to misunderstand what you’re reading with the KJV’s archaic language.

Structure of the Reading Plan

I have broken the reading plan into several short readings over a 30-day period. You can follow the plan one day at a time or read straight through it.

Under each scripture reference, the genre is listed along with an explanation of any terms that someone new to the Bible likely wouldn’t know. I also give a brief biography of people who are mentioned in that passage if it would be helpful.

I chose these readings specifically because I feel they are the most important scriptures for someone who is new to the Bible. At the end of each section, I explain why that passage is important.

I’ve Got a Bible…Now What? Reading Plan Main Page

Am I Even a Christian?

I’m a pacifist feminist who doesn’t believe the Bible is inerrant. Does that disqualify me from being a Christian?

For a long time I assumed it did. I spent most of my early religious life running around with fundamentalists. God created the world in 6 days… Noah sailed an ark… yadda yadda yadda. It was the only way of “doing Christianity” I was aware of. Oh, I’d heard about these other so-called “Christians” out there who twisted scripture to suit their needs. But, I didn’t belong with those guys. I had something called Intellectual Honesty (cue trumpet fanfare).

I didn’t believe that every Bible story was historically and/or scientifically accurate. I obviously wasn’t a real Christian. So, where did that leave me? My main Christian litmus test rested in Genesis, not the gospel accounts… which is pretty strange since I was questioning the whole CHRISTian thing, not the whole “am I an ancient Israelite” thing. Anyway, I didn’t want to force myself to believe in things like Young Earth Creationism. So, I went around being all nominally agnostic-ish. I did that for over a decade.

The whole thing always got under my skin, though. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God so much as I didn’t believe in the Bible. At least, I didn’t believe in a specific way of interpreting the Bible. But, when you’ve been taught that this is the only possible way of interpreting the Bible without running into all sorts of theological pitfalls, you tend to take an “all or nothing” approach to the Bible. It’s faith built on a house of cards (or, uh, sand).

biblical-illiteracyCredit: David Hayward

After more than ten years worth of reading pro and anti Christian arguments, re-reading large chunks of the Bible, and several exposures to non-fundamentalist Christians who gasp weren’t outraged at my evolution accepting ways (some of them were even “traditionalist” non-fundamentalist Christians — I swear such a thing exists), I took another look at this whole Christianity thing.

I’m not going to get into why I believe what I believe here (other posts for other days). I want to focus on whether or not my beliefs are actually Christian beliefs or not.

First, I have to define “Christian”. That’s a little easier said than done. Some Christian crowds have a very narrow definition (i.e. Just us, not you). So, I’m going to ignore those guys for now because they’re in the minority (and since when does the minority view get to define terms for everyone else?)

How do I define Christianity?

The broadest definition would be someone who adheres to the historical Christian creeds. I’m most familiar with the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds, but the Nicene creed is a little longer, so I’ll stick with that.

The Nicene Creed

I believe in one God,the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.

He suffered and was buried.

And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy universal and apostolic Church I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

Amen.

…and?

Uh, yeah. I totally agree with all of that. How do I get around the whole “maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible” thing? It’s really not hard. Nothing in the creed says he made the Earth in 6 days. Nothing in the creed says “evolution totally didn’t happen”.

Score: 0 points – While I’m not above giving myself points for meeting my own definition, I’ll let this one pass.

* I used the “universal” version instead of “catholic” to avoid confusion with the Roman Catholic church.

Does an atheist philosopher think I’m a Christian?

In The Case Against Christianity, Michael Martin looks to the ecumenical creeds. These include the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds. He considers these to be the fundamental statements of Christian belief. Anyone who believes in a theistic God, Jesus lived during the time of Pilate, Jesus is God, a person is saved through faith in Jesus, and sees Jesus as the model of ethical behavior they are at least (what he refers to as) a “Basic” Christian.

Building upon that definition, he defines an “Orthodox” Christian as someone who holds to “Basic” Christian beliefs as well as a belief in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the second coming.

Score: 1 point – Well, hot damn. The atheist says I’m not just a Christian; I’m an orthodox Christian. (I think I should get an extra point for chilling with the orthodox Christians, but whatever, we’ll stick with 1).

Does Merriam-Webster think I’m a Christian?

Score: 1 point – Well, that was an easy one. (Probably just all those liberals who run the dictionary website watering down the gospel, as those pesky liberals are known to do…)

Do the Roman Catholics think I’m a Christian?

According to Catholic Answers, “validly baptized Protestants are regarded as true Christian brothers and sisters who are in imperfect relationship with the Church.” Basically, a valid baptism is Trinitarian and the person who is getting baptized as well as the person who is doing the baptizing need to have the “proper intention” (no accidental baptisms, please).

pool party baptism

Don’t trust Catholic Answers? This is the part where I raise my first and shout, “To the Vatican!” like I’m going to hop in a jet or something equally cool, but I really just quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.”322 Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.” (838)

Score: 1 point – I was baptized at 16 by a pastor in the Trinitarian formula. It wasn’t an accident (though he did hold me under water for a suspiciously long time). I’ve got the Catholics on my side. (Anyone intimidated by that? No? Dang.)

Do other Christians think I’m a Christian?

While many denominations would disagree with me on various doctrinal points, most would affirm me as a Christian (since I believe in Jesus and try to follow him and all). The only people who have questioned my Christianity have been fundamentalists…(and several atheists). The main reason fundamentalists have said I’m not a Christian is because I don’t believe in what they call inerrancy. I don’t believe that everything in the Bible is necessarily historically and/or scientifically accurate. (No, that doesn’t trip up my belief in Jesus.)

Anecdotally, I know Christians from many different denominations who accept me as a Christian. But, I could just be making stuff up (since that’s what all so-called “Christians” do to justify their lifestyle choices, amiright?) Instead, I went to the Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey to get some estimates and took a look at the “literal interpretation of scripture” question. That’s the one that always gets me called “not a Christian, ummmm, I’m gonna tell God on you!”

59% of Evangelicals believe scripture is the “Word of God, literally true word for word”.

It’s possible that 59% of Evangelicals (around 22% of the total Christians surveyed) would say I’m not a Christian. Mainline Protestants and Catholics made up 62% of the survey population and most of them would likely say that I’m a Christian (a Christian they disagree with about a lot of things, but still a Christian). Why would I define my Christianity by whether or not a minority would accept me as a fellow Christian?

Score: 0.62 points – A point for each percentage of American Christians who probably don’t want to run me out of town (at least not for Bible-related reasons).

Does the Bible think I’m a Christian?

Ohhhh, risky going to the book I claim isn’t inerrant, eh?

What exactly were the requirements for a Christian convert in the New Testament?

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’

Acts 2:37-38

I notice that Jesus never said, “Take up your cross and the doctrine of inerrancy and follow me”.

Repent. Get baptized. BOOM! Christian.

Score: 1,000 – Because Bible. (Stick that in your Sola Scriptura and smoke it.)

What about that whole feminist pacifist thing?

There are whole denominations full of pacifist Christians. Mennonites exist. I’m pretty sure nobody will kick me out of the Christian club for being a pacifist. (Though, if they do start kicking me, I can’t kick back.)

As far as the feminist question goes, I can’t imagine coming out of reading the gospels with the idea that women shouldn’t have equal rights and opportunities. If I just blew your mind (I’m sad if that’s true), go read Jesus Feminist.

Score: 2 points – One for the pacifists and one for the feminists.

So, am I a Christian?

Total Score: 1,005.62

I say I’m a Christian.

The historical creeds say I’m a Christian.

An atheist says I’m an orthodox Christian.

The Roman Catholics say I’m a Christian.

The majority of other Christians say I’m a Christian.

The Bible says I’m a Christian.

I take the Bible so seriously (though not always literally) and follow the teachings of Jesus so strictly that I’m a pacifist feminist. (Who’s “picking and choosing” again?)

Yeah. I’m a real Christian.

Free Advent Devotional App from Fig Tree

from her voice

I’m pretty excited about this one. Last month, Rev. Melissa Fain from Fig Tree Christian asked if I’d like to help write for a devotional Advent app. It took me a whole 30 seconds to be all, “Umm….YES!” (Seriously. 30 seconds. I have the message log.)

It’s written by 9 women and includes 26 short devotional meditations. While all the authors are women, the app isn’t intended to be a “women’s” devotional. Men will get just as much out of the readings.

My topics were peace, Bethlehem, and sheep. I managed to toss in God’s oven and a sheep with an identity crisis. (You’re welcome.)

The app is free and also available as a PDF, so download and check it out.