Not, Wrong or right, just different

“Acts 17:22-28 New International Version (NIV)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[a] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’[b]

Different Religions

Different goals

Different problems

Different approaches

Different understandings

Different filters

Different fears

Different loves

Renditions of Songs

Who likes liver and onions?

Who eats oysters on half shell?

Who likes the color pink?

Who would live in an underground home?

Bigotry —-        Intolerance toward those who                         hold different opinions from oneself. 

Stronger than prejudice —     Meanspirited

Racism —- Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against  someone of a different race based on the belief that                    one’s own race is superior.

Prejudice— preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or                             actual experience.

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Bible Belt – The Story of My original tradition —

      John Wesley, a Methodist elder had died and was walking up to the pearly gates –

      St. Peter asked his name and went about checking his BOOK of LIFE to see if the elder’s name was written there.

Upon finding his name,  St. Peter welcomed John Wesley, and went about showing him through the gates and into the heavenly mansion.

Walking down the hall, St. Peter pointed out the football field size library, the room filled with thousands of Musical recordings, and the banquet hall with a table of food so long, John could not see the end of it…

As they went on, they passed by open rooms of Native Americans, sitting and pounding drums –

They passed by a room of Catholics playing  Bingo and drinking wine.

Soon they walked by a room of Jews who were eating Matza Ball soup and Challa Bread –

As they continued through the mansion, the cacophony of sound began to fade…  until they were walking in silence.

They turned down another hall and John noticed the doors on all of the rooms were closed.

He started to ask St. Peter about the doors, and St. Peter quickly covered John’s mouth and shhhushed him….

St. Peter took John’s hand and quickly walked him to the end of the hallway and out a side door.

John looked at St. Peter in confusion – and St. Peter apologized for his abrupt behavior, but if they had made any noise,

The Baptists would have discovered they weren’t the only ones here.

Catholic  vs   Southern Baptist  

      Catholic –  Not Christian but Catholic

                  Idol worshipers

                  Put Mary above Jesus

                  Said Mary Mother of God

            Pope comes before God

            Infant Baptism is meritless-                   not scriptural

      SB – Not Christian but Protestant

                  Believer’s baptism – baptism, which was seen as an attack               on the “salvation by works” theology widely taught by the                  Roman Catholic Church

Families split over inter-faith marriages

Om 2008, Hindus attacked more than 20 Christian churches in southern India.

Christians waged crusades under the banner    of the cross. Not only did they kill Muslims,

they also murdered other Christians over   doctrinal matters and unleashed     centuries of systematic anti-Semitism. 

ISIS militants have tortured, raped, kidnapped, and executed Christians in       Iraq and Syria, despite claiming that Christians who pay a special tax (jizya) would receive ISIS’s protection.

According to a July 2016 report by the      Hudson Institute, ISIS’s jizya option   is a deceptive propaganda ploy used to extort Christians with no regard for their     protection or religious freedom. The group urges attacks on Christians outside of its territorial strongholds. (Source: Hudson Institute)

THE THIRD RISE of KKK in 50s and 60s

Restricting membership to white Christians,    the Klan wore white robes to symbolize “purity,” burned crosses to signify “the Light of Christ” and picked selective scriptures from the Bible to preach white supremacy.

Perhaps what’s wrong with Christianity  —is we have LEFT – the original WAY  —

what people called the movement of the first followers of Jesus –

  • The WAY that was open to all people  —                                  it was a new way of life –
  • a change or transformation of life…                                                A dynamic act of DOING –

Gradually,  it changed into what we  call      RELIGION…

It is A static BELIEF system –

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Is Christianity a RELIGION ??

Well, yes and no.

Yes, it is a religion. It has creeds and rules and beliefs, and Holy Scriptures, and official bodies, and adherents, and heretics, and saints, and on and on.

And no, it is not a religion. At least, if we use the term accurately…

The word religion comes from the Latin word “Re-Ligare”. “

Ligare” means “to bind” or to “connect”.

Adding the “re” before “ligare” causes the word to meanRe-Bind” or “Re-Connect.”

So, if Christianity is  A BELIEF SYSTEM  —

Then Christians are identified on the basis of their BELIEF not how they LIVE

For six days of the week-              Life for most Christians is       indistinguishable from that of nonbelievers.

If our Christianity is a BELIEF SYSTEM – and  When we believe that only we have the truth, we become elitist, aggressive for converts, overly protective of our system, and thereby consider all who would differ from us our enemies.

US verses THEM

We have the ONLY answer –

I do not understand why something is valuable only if it can be had be a few – “I have it and you don’t” “I’m saved, and you’re not”

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We all know church goers like that – or have in our lifetime – and probably thought something like that – whew, I am safe…

Ironically, one of the most important and controversial teaching of Jesus  — is his command that we should love our enemies.

He put it this way, 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6: 27-28

How we respond to this command of Jesus will determine Christianity’s value to     the world.

For centuries,  many Christian traditions, believed the non- Christian religions of the world are our enemies.

In the Crusades, armies were literally sent to convert or kill out the non-believers

We sent send armies of missionaries to other countries and even in our own county convert them to our religion.

WE SENT missionaries – and not just to make the heathens Christians – BUT our brand of Christians…

Often destroying their cultures in the process…

We see some of the fall out from that today…

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Talking with some members of the United Methodist Tradition – they experienced the same issue concerning the international vote to marry and ordain members of the LGBTQ that our denomination experienced –

The more conservative/fundamental countries out number the progressive…liberal.. members.

A United Methodist friend said we only have ourselves to blame – when the more conservative nations around the world have not progressed to a liberal theology…

Before these countries had contact with the rest of the world —They had a more open theology But then our missionaries convinced them they were wrong…

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Tolerance, acceptance and welcoming of different faiths come at a high price and a deadly slow pace…

     What would Christianity look like when it is stripped bare of the RELIGIOUS trappings?


When all of the formality – legality and restrictions are erased?

In the time of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – the world was in turmoil with Hitler and the race war –

Bonhoeffer began to struggle with what remains when the typical traits of a religion—clergy, rites, holy things, beliefs, and morality—are eliminated.

How would that redefine Christianity? What bothered Bonhoeffer was that a person could confess doctrinally correct beliefs, observe its moral codes, and follow the accepted behaviors and       practices of the Church, while simultaneously committing unspeakable horrors.

We have witnessed the same thing in the American South—the “Bible Belt”—where harassment, persecution and lynchings of African-Americans was a norm for “white Christians.”   

Where racial discrimination was justified by narrow minded interpretation of scripture.\

Example: Colossians 3: 22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.

This was justification for slavery and continuing to discriminate against African Americans

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My heart tells me whenever we err in how we interpret scripture – we should err on the side of LOVE – not power…. Not exclusion – but love

I would rather explain my loving the wrong person than my hating someone….

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Houses of worship around the world, a place of reflection and peace, have been targeted for attack by extremists. Here are some of the deadly assaults over the last decade:

July 16, 2010: Jundallah group kills 27 and injures 270 after it carries out a double suicide bombing against another Shiite mosque in southeastern Iran.

Oct. 31, 2010: Al-Qaida in Iraq militants attack Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church in Baghdad during Sunday night mass, killing 58 people in the deadliest assault targeting Christians since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion there. Al-Qaida in Iraq later became the Islamic State group.

Dec. 15, 2010: Two suicide bombers from the Sunni extremist group Jundallah blow themselves up near a mosque in southeastern Iran, including six Revolutionary Guard commanders.

Aug. 5, 2012: Six members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, in Oak Creek, are fatally shot by a white supremacist, Wade Michael Page. Page was shot by a responding officer and later killed himself.

Nov. 18, 2014: Two Palestinians using axes, knives and a gun kill four Jewish worshippers and an Israeli police officer in an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue.

Jan. 30, 2015: Suicide bombing at a Shiite mosque in the Pakistani town of Shikarpur kills 71. Jundullah claims responsibility.

March 20, 2015: Islamic State suicide bombers attack a pair of mosques in Yemen’s capital, unleashing monstrous blasts that ripped through worshippers and killed 137 people.

June 17, 2015: Nine black worshippers including a pastor are killed by Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white supremacist, after he prayed with them in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof was convicted of federal hate-crime and obstruction-of-religion charges and sentenced to death.

Sept. 24, 2015: A suicide bomber strikes a mosque in Yemen’s rebel-held capital, killing 25 worshippers during prayers for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Nov. 12, 2016: Suicide bomber from Islamic State group kills over 50 at the shrine of Shah Noorani, in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Dec. 11, 2016: Suicide bomber strikes inside a Cairo chapel adjacent to St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of Egypt’s ancient Coptic Orthodox Church. The Islamic State group claimed the attack, which killed at least 25 people.

Jan. 29, 2017: A gunman killed six men during evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City. Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and attempted murder charges and was sentenced to serve 40 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Feb. 16, 2017: Suicide bomber detonates his explosives vest among the devotees at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Pakistan’s Sindh province, killing 98.

April 9, 2017: Twin suicide bombings rock churches in the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria and Tanta, killing at least 45 people. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State group.

June 15, 2017: A suicide bomber kills four people at a Shiite mosque in Afghanistan‘s capital city of Kabul. Among the dead is a leader of Afghanistan’s ethnic Hazaras, who are mostly Shiite Muslims.

Aug. 1, 2017: A suicide bomber storms into the largest Shiite mosque in Afghanistan’s western Herat province, opening fire on worshippers before blowing himself up, killing at least 90 people. Hundreds more were wounded in the attack, which happened during evening prayers.

Aug. 25, 2017: Militants storm a packed Shiite mosque in Kabul during Friday prayers. The attack ends with at least 28 worshippers killed and 50 wounded, many of them children. Two of the assailants blow themselves up and another two are shot dead by Afghan security forces.

Sept. 29, 2017: A suicide bomber blows himself up outside a Shiite mosque in Kabul, killing five. The attack took place as worshippers were leaving the mosque after Friday prayers.

Oct. 20, 2017: The Islamic State group claims a suicide bomber attack, killing 31 and wounding 29 people, at a Shiite mosque in Kabul.

Nov. 5, 2017: Dressed in black tactical-style gear and armed with an assault weapon, 26-year-old Devin Kelley opened fire at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 others.

Nov. 24, 2017: Militants kill 311 worshippers in a mosque attack in north Sinai, the deadliest such terrorist attack in Egypt’s modern history.

Dec. 17, 2017: Islamic State attack on a church in Pakistani city of Quetta kills 16 people.

Aug. 3, 2018: Suicide bombers disguised in burqa robes attack a Shiite mosque in eastern Afghanistan, killing 27 people.

Oct. 27, 2018: A gunman believed to have spewed anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media entered Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire, killing 11 and wounding six, including four police officers.

Jan. 27, 2019: Two suicide attackers detonate two bombs during a Mass in a Roman Catholic cathedral on the largely Muslim island of Jolo in the southern Philippines, killing 23 and wounding about 100 others. Three days later, an attacker hurls a grenade in a mosque in nearby Zamboanga city, killing two religious teachers.

March 15, 2019: At least 40 people are killed in an attack at mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch.

By calling ourselves progressive, thinking Christians, we mean that we are Christians who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are as true for them, as our ways are true for us.