All that was ever missing was the cheesy houndstooth coat

Sometime in ’83 after I said the prayer, someone asked me if I wanted the people I was talking with about Christ to have a good understanding of “the message,” or to just hear it. Since I was new to all of this and was trying to defer to “the experts” (people raised in the church or who had more experience with this evangelism crap) I asked someone the same question. They said, “Well, I think they just need to hear it. There’s too much at stake. And the lord could come at any moment.”

Well 35 years have come and gone and still no ‘lord.’

If there’s really that much ‘at stake,’ a loving god would want you to have a good understanding of what you’re committing your life to. A loving god would not want to just ram it through like a high-pressure, door-to-door sale. And the more I think about the years before I converted, when I was dealing with the Campus Crusade guys, that’s what it feels like.

Like I said, it’s been over 35 years. And a couple of years ago I decided I don’t want the vacuum cleaner anymore. It never worked very well, and I’d rather just pick up a broom and a dustpan, and sweep.

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Calls for Old Testament Justice in a New Testament Age

soraya
Scene from The Stoning of Soraya M., 2008

 

So you want to execute gays because the Bible calls it wickedness, and says that both parties are to be put to death.

Okay. We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people. And those numbers would make the kind of partial burial stoning shown in this photo too inefficient. A better solution would be a queue. We’ll stand them near a wall so the people can go collect their rocks between stonings. And we’ll probably need A, B, and C teams of rock throwers because people’s arms are going to get pretty tired. And we’ll need a fleet of hearses to transport the bodies to the mortuary for cremation because of course a proper burial is out of the question. We’ll discuss the costs and the rest of the logistics later. Tell me something though. How much of the law are you keeping?

Have you ever done any of the following on Sunday: Gone to work, scheduled or not; done laundry; mowed the lawn; turned on your stove; lit a candle; lit a cigarette; put a log on a fire; cleared out a gutter; trimmed a tree; hung a picture; cleaned house; checked your oil; changed a tire; moved?

I could go on ad nauseam with scenarios of things people do on Sundays. You need to understand that seemingly minor, unimportant, or insignificant actions…things people do every day were considered “work” and were punishable by death if done on the Sabbath. In just one example from Torah, the people executed a guy for picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Numbers 15:32-36.

Most of us are probably guilty of some Old Testament capital crime. I don’t see any reports of these Christian nutjob ministers turning themselves in for driving to church, or barbecuing afterwards. Exodus 35:3.

So as the Master said, whomever among you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.

Love the sinner but hate the sin

Forgiven_200x300You know? It’s in the “bible” next to “God helps those who help themselves” and several other catch-verses. These are verse bits from different parts of the Bible that gather as catch-phrases. Catch-phrases are only good as mnemonic devices…memory tricks to solidify ideas in people’s minds. As active philosophies they tend to leave bills unpaid, both for Christianity and for Christians.

We would do best to apply George Washington’s fire analogy to hate. “…And like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearsome master.” As concepts, love and hate are deeply ingrained in the human psyche as feelings. These are the warm and cold fuzzies we have for others. That’s why people talk so much about feeling love or hate for someone or some thing. The idea that these are choices and acts…something we do instead of feel is very difficult to understand. We also tend to be lazy creatures. So what we do we tend to base on how we feel.

There is a very thin membrane, a veil, between sinner and sin. It’s barely discernible most of the time. And human beings are never very good at the delicate balancing act of hating one and loving the other. Hate usually ends up being the thing we do while telling ourselves that we love a person. We’re deceiving ourselves when we do that. Hate tends to overpower love. It’s louder, burns brighter and is quite deceptive. It will always try to shout down whatever love is in our hearts. The thought that we can manage it alongside love like diet choices is part of our self-deception. It isn’t working. It never works.

So how about we just love people? That’s all Christ did. And it seems that was the message in the first place.