Sunday, March 28, 2010

This is Why Evangelicals Don't Consider Me Christian

On Friday, a friend (Tamara) on Facebook posted a link to a controversial new book by an influential evangelical minister that advocates a "radical" new idea. Okay, so the idea is not radical to me, but to many evangelical and fundamentalist Christians, its blasphemy. Naturally, this sparked a debate on my friend's FB wall. I was praising and defending the article which talked about the book and its "revolutionary" idea, and naturally found my spiritual views criticized. Oh why do I always get drawn into these pointless debates? Trying to talk logically to a fundy is like trying to reason with a child. It can't be done, because they don't realize how thoroughly indoctrinated they've been. I'm at an advantage, because I went through my "deconstruction of Christianity" process in 1989-1990. Most people don't want to go there, because it would represent a devastating blow to their identity and beliefs about our world...a trauma far more severe than what every child goes through when they learn the truth about Santa Claus.

Basically, all "deconstruction" is about is examining every belief you have for the reason why you hold those beliefs. If its a belief based on what you've been told by "an authority figure", that's not good enough. Beliefs should be rooted in one's personal experiences, knowledge and interests. I'm not talking about whether someone believes George Washington existed or not...but the kind of beliefs that one would stake his or her life on, which is the root of who you are.

So...what is this "radical and revolutionary" new idea this evangelical minister is proposing? Why, its the idea that a perfect, all-knowing God would not require a blood sacrifice in order to forgive the sins of humanity. Like I said, this idea is considered too blasphemous by some Christians to even ponder because they've been indoctrinated since childhood that Jesus' sole purpose on earth was to die for our sins so that we might have everlasting life. To suggest that Jesus' purpose might be something other than a blood sacrifice to appease an angry God is just too scary for these people to contemplate. And anyone who rejects the idea of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice is automatically deemed a heretic, not a Christian, or even "evil."

I've long had trouble believing in the "Jesus as atoning sacrifice" concept since elementary school. It never made sense to me. Rejecting this idea was easy to do and my life is better as a result. I guess many are too afraid to make that step because they still believe in a wrathful, vengeful, jealous God who will send lightning bolts their way if they question what they've been taught all their lives. Once you've freed your mind from brainwashing and indoctrination, you feel a great sense of liberation and freedom. There is no way I could return to the mental slavery of that Christian dogma. I'm glad that there are evangelical types slowly breaking free of this ancient, yet illogical view of the point of Jesus' life. More evangelicals need to rise up and speak out against this falsehood surrounding the meaning of Jesus. Its not blasphemous to reject ancient men's interpretation.

Here's a sampling of the debate (in the quote box). I'm adding my thoughts in this blog about what the evangelicals believe. The actual FB comments I made will also be in the quote box.

If jesus is not the only way to salvation than we miight as well all just throw our bibles in the trash. Jesus IS the ONLY way! The Truth & the Life! Jesus warned us about people like this in Matthew...they're called FALSE PROPHETS
Her view reflects a common view among Evangelicals that if we don't interpret Jesus as "the atoning sacrifice for the sins of humankind", then his life had no real meaning. That's a ridiculous argument, though...because I don't see many people actually striving to live the kind of life Jesus lived. He lived a spiritually pure life that is virtually impossible for most people to achieve, so how is it belittling Jesus by rejecting the obscenity of the blood sacrifice?

Another thing...when Jesus warned about false prophets, it was about people using his good name for evil purposes. Jesus was warning us about people like David Koresh, George W. Bush, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell, to name just a few people who love to talk about Jesus while their actions betray everything Jesus was about.

I've thought that for elementary school as a matter of fact. It takes nothing away from Jesus to believe that he's not our ticket to the everlasting.

Nicholas, since Jesus' purpose was to save his people from their sins, then taking that away from Him gives his life no purpose.

Again...another evangelical type who mistakenly assumes that by rejecting the blood atonement theory of Jesus, that you are belittling his life's purpose. I do agree that Jesus strove to save people from their sins, but I don't believe it was his sole purpose. The original meaning of "sin" is "to miss the mark." When you miss the mark, you try again. In modern day meaning, "sin" has taken on an almost "evil" quality that we must be purged of in order to have everlasting life. By rejecting the blood atonement theory, I'm not taking anything away from Jesus. He's still the most inspirational spiritual leader our world has ever seen. I love the way he stood up to the religious authorities of his day and sided with the powerless, minorities, and anyone on the margins of society. His life had a greater purpose than to be some human sacrifice for the bloodlust of human depravity.

You are 100% right Susan. Jesus is the Truth and the light. The only way to Salvation is accepting him as Savior. He accomplished this by living a perfect life and dying on the cross for all of us.

I don't believe Jesus's purpose in life was to save people from sin. He wanted to bring true spirituality back, as the Jewish authorities were too rule based that it stifled the authentic expression of God. He wanted to reform Judaism, not create a new religion. And he allowed himself to be crucified because he was too much the pacifist. He probably also knew there was real power in being a martyr for his beliefs.

I've met Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and atheists who all admire Jesus as an authentic spiritual being. None of them believe that his life's purpose was to die for the sins of humankind. He may have died because of our sins, but not for our sins.

Well, I suppose you can believe what you want, but the Bible says that Jesus' purpose was to save his people from their sins.

You mean...disciples of Jesus who wrote their testimonies decades after he was crucified? The Council at Nicea in 422 A.D. set the rules on what was included in the Bible and what wasn't. I'm not willing to put my faith in the hands of fallible human beings who have distorted Jesus' life for their own agendas of empire building and church control over the lives of the people.

So Ghandi is condemed to hell as well as the Dalai Lama? God seems so heartless and what about the little children in Ghana who didn't get to accept Jesus as his personal savior yet? Just asking.... I don't know these answers.

My favourite Gandhi quote is: "I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." We need to understand the cultural differences. Most people are the religions they are because they were born in a place where everyone around them are the same or similar religions.

Tamara is right. Why would a loving God condemn whole groups of people to hell because they prefer another spiritual tradition...particularly one that everyone they know is part of?

I'm pretty sure it was God who set the rules for what was included in the Bible. The writers wrote what they were inspired to write and the compilers compiled what they were inspired to compile. You are free to leave God out of each of these relationships, but I believe that He is powerful enough to accomplish what He wishes to accomplish.

T, the writer of Romans says that the law is written on our hearts, so even if we have never heard of Christ, but believe that God has a plan and live for that plan, that is is accredited to us as faith, so I'm not so sure that Gandhi or the Dalai Lama won't be in heaven.

Hmmm..."pretty sure"?!? You're pretty sure because you were an eyewitness to these events many centuries ago? Its not possible that these ancient writers weren't biased or had ulterior motives and agendas to write what they did? More importantly, why would an all-knowing God hold modern people to the bigotry, sexism, intolerance, and ignorance of ancient men? Wouldn't an all-knowing God value each person's unique experiences in life, rather than requiring us to believe things we did not witness nor could ever really know the truth about? I'm not willing to stake my life on events that may or may not have happened 2,000 years ago. But I will stake my eternal life on what I experienced in my 38 years of life on earth (in this incarnation).

I love how some evangelicals will "amend" their previous absolute beliefs. So, we can't go to heaven when we die if we don't accept Jesus as our atoning sacrifice. But, God will make an exception for someone like Gandhi or the Dalai Lama? What about all those people who were born in Muslim or Buddhist countries and were raised in those particular religions? Why should they be condemned because they belong to the religion that their family, their friends, and indeed, their entire society belongs to? That's what I call "religious chauvinism." We are so blessed and fortunate to be born in "the right religion" and everyone else is condemned to hell. That's a pretty arrogant assumption.

God is not a writer. If God wrote the Bible, there are a lot of contradictions in there. Is a perfect being hateful, smiteful, and jealous?

Writers who were inspired to write their interpretations of the Bible does not mean that its right or accurate. Many people have been killed because some charismatic "religious" leader convinced followers that he spoke for God.

If people aspire to live the life Jesus advocated, then they have nothing to worry about. Whether Jesus died for our sins or died because he was a pacifist ... doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.

The imperfections of the "followers" does not necessarily translate into imperfections in the creator, or those who wrote what they were inspired to do. That is a common fallacy that leads people away from the Bible and it's teachings rather than to Christ.

And yet, as a Christian, I reject most of the Bible as being the imperfect testimonies of people who had erronous beliefs about God.

Given the choice between my own experiences or those experiences written between 2,000 to 5,000 years ago, I have a greater faith in my own experiences. Our world is a lot different and we have more knowledge about how the world and universe works. I wish more Christians would adopt a universalist view of humanity instead of keeping their religious chauvinism. Our world is too small to keep holding onto the bigoted views of ancient man.

If you reject the bible than you (according to the bible..which IS the Word of God) than you reject Christ.

"Reject" is too strong a word. I should have said: The Bible is an interesting book, but I'm not going to base my testimony of God on it.

Why do you have more faith in your own experiences than in the experiences of those who knew and walked with Christ?

What do think about everyone else's experiences when they differ from yours and/or the Bible's? Do you not see why a common denominator needs to be present, or do you feel that God gives everyone a different message, which ultimately ends up as "I'm OK/You're OK, and there is no greater truth?

We just disagree on this.

Why I trust my experiences more than some ancient book written by ignorant, bigoted, and misogynistic men? Well, since elementary school, I've been friends with other children who were Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, and atheist. All were ostrasized by the Christian majority. Evangelical Christians have also been cruel, abusive, and intolerant towards me because of my racial yeah, if I can accept a non-Christian without wanting to converting them...does that make me more tolerant and accepting than God? No...I believe that God is perfect, so God created diversity. Its bigoted Christians who have the problem. That's why I trust my experience over some ancient book.

Susan, what about the children say in remote parts of the world that haven't yet heard of the Bible... do you agree with Dawn on this that it is written on their hearts and that God wouldn't throw them into the lake of fire for eternity? Help me understand your thought process.

Dawn, I have so much missed your discussions. I am glad to "see" you again.

I've read a couple of McLaren's books this year and I don't disagree with much, if anything. I think Western Christianity is midstream in the process of shifting from a pursuit of "Right Beliefs about Jesus and God" to a pursuit of "being right in our relationships", including God, and sister/brother, neighbor, and enemy. There is overlap and tension in this, and that will hopefully bring Christianity needed honesty and depth and blessings yet to be discovered as we actually LIVE it. imo.

The debate was pretty respectful, which I liked. There were no personal attacks. If I'm not mistaken, one of Tamara's FB friends (who did not participate in the debate) is the evangelical lady in our church who de-friended me and later told my mom that I was making un-Christian comments on FB. Of course, I'm used to being accused by evangelicals of being blasphemous and "un"-Christian. I see it differently because my life experience is different than most evangelicals. What do they know about my life? God knows, and I trust in God...not Christian dogmas that we've been indoctrinated with since childhood. My views reflect a universalist view of spirituality because I believe that God set up this world to be an experiment. Our eternal existence is guaranteed. God does not withhold it because a logically-minded person rejects a tradition that developed over centuries and reflects the ignorance of ancient folks who were trying to understand God and our world.

If I know anything at all, its this: If you believe that God is all-knowing, then why would this God be angry at His creation for not believing in events that happened centuries ago that make no logical sense? Why give us intelligence and reasoning abilities if we can't use it to find out the truth? If you believe that God is a loving God, then the blood atonement does not make any sense at all. Ancient man would sacrifice animals to appease an angry god. This reflects their ignorance, because they thought earthquakes and other natural disasters were the result of their sins, not because our world is continually evolving. So, they believed that sacrificing animals or virgins would put a stop to the natural disasters. Christianity put an end to the blood sacrifice of animals and virgins by perpetuating the belief that Jesus' role in life was as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Now, we don't need to sacrifice animals in order to appease an angry God, when we can just accept Jesus as our "saviour." But if you're like me in believing that our existence is already eternal, there is no fear about where our souls will end up when we pass from this earth. Besides, for an internationalist like me, I love the fact that we have religious diversity in our world. A world with only one religion would be too creepy for me.

The bottom line is that some people are comfortable believing the same thing that they've been taught since they were children. I'm not one of those people and have never been. I like things to make logical sense, or if lacking logic, to be awe-inducing. Blood sacrifices is just too icky for a queasy guy like me. If I agree on one point, though, I would say that Jesus did in fact die on the cross because OF our sins (humans have a terrible habit of killing off our most spiritual people). We just disagree on everything else. If this makes me a heretic and not Christian...well, that's too bad for you. The God I believe in is one who values intelligence and expects us to use our brains instead of passively following the opinions of long-dead people who sought to understand their world. I don't live in that world. I live in a multicultural world where we have the ability to communicate with each other instantly through the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, and texting. I don't fear "the other" as ancient people (and present day fundamentalists) why should my spiritual views be held prisoner to ancient people who lived in a different reality?

If Christianity wishes to remain relevant in the 21st Century, more believers seriously need to deconstruct the doctrines they've accepted for far too long. Time for a major infusion of logic into the religion so that people don't have to check their brains at the door when they go to church. Just matter how smart we become, we'll never know as much as an all-knowing God, thus nothing we do, say or believe is blasphemy.


Mike said...

Right there with you brother. The Bible, as we know it today, was a compilation of short stories which were decided on and put together by a group of humans with an agenda. For instance, the Book of Jubilee was not included because nobody really wants to know or deal with how the world was actually populated because that would be admitting to sin that was "signed off on" by God.

Even in the Community of Christ and the "Inspired Version" the Songs of Solomon was not included and why; cause it was too "sexual" and immoral.

The scriptures, IMHO, were simply men attempting to articulate their experiences in the best way they knew how. It most certainly was not them sitting down with pen in hand and "channeling" God onto the paper, papyrus, stone, whatever they were using.

But you know, if that's the way people want to believe, who knows, maybe 2000 years from now, someone will uncover my blog and there will be a book of Mike.

Could happen.......

Sansego said...

I've thought of writing my own "The Gospel According to Sansego" and actually might do so. Why not? The Jesus I follow would have a lot to say about modern day America and how "his followers" have confused his message with something that he never advocated.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

People like the one you describe are nut cases. And speaking of nut cases, we have one stalking our blog, which is why we put up the comment moderation feature. I mention it because I saw you posted 3 times. Did the comment moderation notification come up?

Sansego said...

I wouldn't call them "nutcases." They are just followers, sheep. It doesn't occur to them that religious authorities who pass along the same beliefs as ancient authority figures are just as clueless as they are about what really happened. Anyone who questions the dogma is therefore criticized or attacked.

One of my favourite quotes is by Albert Einstein. Something like: "Creative people have always met violent opposition from mediocre minds." Very true. People are too lazy to think through the dogma of what they've been indoctrinated with since childhood. I decided in 1994 (at the end of a long "deconstruction process") that I would never again base my spiritual beliefs on someone else's testimony.