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Archive for the ‘Acceptance of Others’ Category

by Jim Gordon

Growing up in the church system I was always taught that the pastor was the authority on anything spiritual. After all, they had been ‘called’ and had gone to college to be taught everything about God and the bible.

I remember how impressed I was by pastors. If I had a question about the bible I could make an appointment and go in and talk with the pastor. I figured he would have all the answers.

As I got a little older, I became infatuated with some of the big named evangelist. I would listen to them, send them money and if at all possible, go to their crusades. I can remember thinking if I could only be like them. They were super-spiritual and knew all about God and had the answers to all spiritual questions.

I really thought that was the way to learn about God, by going to church, reading the bible and getting all the wisdom of the pastors and evangelists.

Fortunately, I got to a point where I realized the pastors and evangelists were no different than me. They did not have all the answers and they were not super-spiritual like I had always imagined. I came to understand that people are people. None are closer to God or more special to God than another. Yes, some are more knowledgeable due to more time reading and studying but no one is higher up or more important in God’s eyes.

Now days I really do not care much what men and women say, it is just their opinion. They are humans like the rest of us. We can certainly discuss things and get insight from one another, but God loves each of us the same. The Spirit within us can guide and teach us without the help of any human being. If we believe the Spirit lives within us, why are we more interested in what another human says? Why not learn how to hear the voice of the Spirit from within rather than the thoughts and traditions of men?

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by Jordan Hathcock

“The moral standards by which Israel’s first ancestor were expected to act seem to come not so much by God’s unique command, but by expectations of the surrounding cultures” – Pete Enns

We are all products of our environment. Our cultures play a huge role in how we as a collective, strive to improve and develop ourselves into a reality of wellbeing and enjoyment. The Latin root word cultura: “till the soil, tend, grow” is the same root as Cultivate and Cult. Which I find fascinating when we when look at how cults work in our religious settings. I see it more expansive then that. Culture is the true cult when it comes to how we as a society interact, develop, and grow.

One of the definitions of cult states: “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious”. I think this is the most used definition when it comes to religious people accusing other religious people for “not doing it right”. Within Christendom, there is an everlasting list of religious groups that are accused of being cults: LDS, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventist’s are the main targets. Yes, these groups have their problems, but I think as research shows, majority of the churches we see throughout Western Civilization are showing unhealthy practices which is leading to an exodus from the religious institutions. Alas, the great cult list continues.

With that being said, for all those religious/spiritual practitioners out there, what do we do with the other definition of cult: “great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work”. From the Christian perspective, isn’t this what we do with Jesus? Aren’t we in the end, a cult? I mean this is how we got our name in the first place, right? We were following The Way (what followers of Jesus called it) of Jesus and when other groups saw this, the cult name we were given was “Christian”. So, is this word/idea of cult the end-all of good and healthy religious practices?

Don’t think the religious/spiritual are the only group guilty of being cult-like. From Patriots and their civil duty to a person and idea, to the Scientist and her devotion to the work of the scientific method–all humans in one way or another practice cult-like behaviors to bring about “wellbeing and enjoyment” to their social structures. See, culture is always influencing how we as humans view the world. What culture is best? I don’t think that’s the question we should be asking ourselves.

We should realize that culture will always be part of the human experience. All of us will have our cult-like ways in how we move through this life. But the thing that still moves me to still participate in the way of Jesus is the realization that culture doesn’t always produce healthy, peaceful and loving outcomes. Injustices still are running amok throughout the world of cultures. The poor are still poor, the hungry are still hungry and the rich are still getting richer.

The violent cultures of Empire & Religion are still manipulating how all this social process works. These structures only want one thing: controlling power. This model will not bring justice, mercy, peace and love. What do we do as a society to change this culture? Well, tough to say. But I do believe Jesus showed us a way to develop a new process within our cultures: It is the powerless who act out of love in order to change the cult of culture (Mark 10:42). Let us be lovers who seek peacemaking; not haters who seek warmongering…

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.”- Barbara Brown Taylor

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by Jim Gordon

We hear the word fundamentalism often in the christian world. I actually grew up as a fundamentalist but never realized that was what I was because I never put much thought into all the different terms and labels. I just loved God and went to church because that was the way I thought we lived the christian life.

When I looked up the word fundamentalism in the dictionary I found the following definitions: 1. a conservative movement in theology among nineteenth and twentieth-century Christians. Fundamentalists believe that the statements in the Bible are literally true. 2. in Christianity the belief that every word of the Bible is divinely inspired and therefore true. 3. a religious movement characterized by a strict belief in the literal interpretation of religious texts, especially within American Protestantism and Islam; the beliefs held by those in this movement; strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles.

Now that I know what fundamentalist means, I no longer believe I would be considered one. My views, beliefs and interpretations have changed so much over the years, especially since leaving the organized church. For some reason I never felt comfortable asking questions while in the organization. I just took what the pastor said as gospel truth and never questioned anything. Being outside the walls of religion I can let all those questions come out and seek truth from the Spirit of God rather than from a pastor.

I believe fundamentalism leads more to separation, condemnation and being judgmental. It seems to me being so set on specific doctrines, beliefs and interpretations can prevent us from asking questions, learning, accepting and loving others.

Are my thoughts a popular way of looking at the christian life? Of course not! I grew up in the organized church from a very young age and spent nearly sixty years in it. I also used to think everything depended on my works such as attending church, tithing, doing good works, reading the bible and believing it was perfect, completely literal and the only way God spoke to us today. There are many people still doing all this and they sincerely love God and think this is the way we are to serve God. Yet being outside of this setting I have seen what is for me a better way. A way of depending on the Spirit within to teach and guide us. A way that loves and accepts others even when they do not see things the same.

Today the term fundamentalist christian seems to have more of a meaning of being hateful and not being accepting of others views. Completely different from what Jesus taught and what God is like.

Jesus was not a fundamentalist, he was not even a christian. Jesus was the personification of the Father who is a God of love. Even those writings from the old testament where men wrote from their beliefs, ideas, interpretations and what they thought about God were shown to be wrong when Jesus arrived. He showed us that God is not a god of vengeance, hatred and murder but a God who loves all of us.

We are to love God and love one another. Loving our neighbor does not mean just loving those who live next door, or loving those who believe like we believe. Our neighbor is everyone else in the world. Seems to me most fundamentalist reject those who see things differently and prefer to stay away from those who do not believe the same.

I would rather be known as a follower of Jesus rather than a fundamentalist christian. The way of the law and following rules and set doctrines of men have come to an end. The way of loving one another because of the grace of Christ is the new covenant way. I have actually become quite tired of using labels at all. We are all human beings who are loved by God. We should all be treated with love, respect, acceptance and have the same rights as everyone else. God did not create some people better than others, we are all created in the likeness of God and are loved by God.

There are so many topics and beliefs I grew up learning in the fundamentalist church that I no longer accept. I certainly have not lost my belief in or love for God, yet the many interpretations that were taught by men and women in the institution I now find wrong and not like Christ.

Rather than adhere to a set of rules and institutional-taught beliefs we are to submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Learn to hear the voice of the Spirit and let your life be a daily communication of the love of God to others.

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by Jim Gordon

Looking back over the postings of Done with Religion, we started with a few posts in May of 2010 and another in February 2011. Not until July of 2011 did we start regular and continual postings on this site. Since then we have had eight years of continual writing at Done with Religion. The time has sure flown by but it has been fun learning and meeting new people along the way.

Over the years I have seen a change in my views, beliefs and interpretations of what I believe the bible says and what God meant for the Church. Church being the body of Christ, not a building or an organization.

My views and beliefs changed a little over time while growing up in the organized church. Yet after my wife and I walked away from the organization I have seen even more changes since being outside the walls of religion.

I think it is easy to get set in our ways, to live within the box of organized religion and stop thinking for ourselves.

I believe that the Spirit of Christ lives within us and we will do much better to focus on hearing directly from the Spirit rather than the many different voices of men and women trying to tell us what God wants us to do. There is nothing wrong with getting ideas and opinions from others, but never put your full trust into people. We have the Spirit living within us and we should be constantly listening for that still, small voice to guide us in our life.

I believe we will be constantly changing and adjusting our beliefs in this world. Living for God is something that is alive and constantly changing as the Spirit reveals new truths to us as we are able to accept them.

Over these eight years we have seen changes in views and beliefs as well as changes in writers. Two new regular writers and one guest blogger have been added and they have made a very good addition to the views, insights and writing styles of Done with Religion. I look forward to the next eight years and I think it will be interesting to look back at that point and see what God has taught us and how he changed us as we seek to show his love, grace and freedom to others.

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by Jordan Hathcock, Guest Blogger
https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com/2019/07/30/knowing-souls/

“So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
No, you don’t know how it feels to be me”. – Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Do we really know “how it feels” to be in someone else’s shoes? Can we really comprehend the magnitude of other people’s experiences? Hard to say, really.  I know for myself; it is not easy trying to empathize and relate to others experiences and dispositions. We all attempt and often fail miserably. Often, our motives are what really play a huge part in how we engage with others and their issues. Coming from the Christian perspective, I think we are on the failing end of making a positive difference in others who are different then us.

It has become a competition in winning the souls of others, instead of building authentic relationships. Numerous of factors come into play of why this is. Not to get to long winded on this blog post, but the biggest driving force is the concept of hell. The Christian tradition has morphed into a factory of “get people of hell in the afterlife” instead of letting people experience “heaven on earth in the here and now”. Fear, greed, and the us vs. them motif is the foundation of this unfortunate state of affairs we are currently experiencing.  When you make a belief system of fear and hate into a thriving institution, the effects are direly devastating.

But, I don’t think all is lost (yes, very optimistic of me I know).  There always has been another spark and remnant that comes out of the evil empire that brings about hopeful change. I would like to quote this verse from the Christian scriptures that brings to light these two contending ideas of winning souls vs. entering in genuine relationships:

To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

The premise I take here (from the many different interpretations and commentary I have found with this scripture verse, and guess what? That’s ok!), Paul was trying to bring about blessings to those he made contact with for the sake of the gospel. It states: “I have become all things to all people…in order to save some”. It has the “winning souls” rhetoric here and to the first century readers that could have been more of a way of getting to a better way of being to escape the oncoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D (just a little side note hehe). But, I think how Paul finished up this passage is showing the real intention of “becoming all things to all people” (the true relationship builder): SO THAT I MAY SHARE IN ITS BLESSINGS! This right here is the point of entering in relationships with others.  This is what the Gospel of Christ should bring to ALL PEOPLE.

It about truly knowing people.  When Jesus says: To know God and His Son, this knowing is ginosko and this literally means “a felt knowing”, as in RELATIONAL! No matter who it is–black, white, gay, straight–experiencing the blessings of peace which produces love is what it’s all about. It is going out there and becoming friends with others (I know we can’t do this with everyone, but I think we can fucking do a better job than what we are doing now)! This is what brings us out of the hell we sometimes find ourselves in this life. The Kin-dom reality is about the here and now.  We will never develop and evolve (aka salvation) as a species until we realize that its real relationships that will get us there…

“Self-sufficiency makes God experience impossible! That’s why Jesus showed up in this world as a naked, vulnerable one, a defenseless baby lying in the place where animals eat. Talk about utter relationship! Naked vulnerability means I’m going to let you influence me; I’m going to allow you to change me. The Way of Jesus is an invitation to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead. We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in absolute relatedness. To choose to stand outside of this Flow is the deepest and most obvious meaning of sin. We call the Flow love. We really were made for love, and outside of it we die very quickly.”

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by Jordan Hathcock, Guest Blogger
https://welcometothetablesite.wordpress.com

“With the recent rise of progressive “Christianity” in the last few years, it’s no surprise that one of the prevailing themes is social justice. Many denominations have been caught up in the movement forever. But social justice is not the gospel, and saying that it is, is heresy.”

How about that quote? Makes you feel all good and warm inside, right (NOT)? So many things to discuss with the current slam-campaign against the current “social justice” Gospel issue. What gives? Why are we seeing such a surge of warnings and statements against this idea? Look, from the perspective of the Christian tradition, the Gospel has been on the hot seat ever since Jesus presented it–all the way to Paul and Peter/James (Gentile converts vs The Jerusalem Church) and the debates of what all this good news really looks like for the participants of the faith. The same old tale of us vs. them.

We have seen the Gospel in the West, for example, being more of a system of beliefs then a way of how one lives out their life. This stems from numerous factors (both the “religious and secular”)–from the reformation and it’s revolt against the corrupted hierarchy, to the enlightenment and it’s doorway to free thinking. This opened up a whole new way of how we look at the good news of what Jesus came to proclaim. It’s no longer something just a few “religious” people get to enjoy or other “secular” individuals get to reject. We are discovering (and rediscovering) that it was always news that set the captives free (I think any human would agree that we all feel trapped at times)!

The Gospel should always be seen as a way to bridge the gap between the outcast and the conformed, the poor and rich, the black and white, the gay and straight, the man and woman, the transsexual and the heterosexual, the child and adult (Gal. 3:28-get the picture?). We cannot be bamboozled by this notion that the Gospel is just one tight net idea that once examined and believed, no other type of suggestions or behaviors can stem from it. The Gospel is a plethora of creative and innovative ways of being in the time and place we are given.

It’s not just a set of beliefs (atonement theories) to believe in, nor is it one certain type of action within ones culture (social justice). The Gospel involves those ideas and actions, for sure! But, its really just simply good news; which everyone needs nowadays. The purpose of news, which is good, is to propel oneself and his/her social environment to beneficial new heights that have not yet been reached. It’s a reality where all are unified but still diversified. It’s a group effort along with the individuals surge. It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that (a little D Mob for you hehe).

No matter what illusions we were given with this Gospel message of Jesus, one thing is for sure: It’s good, it’s here and it can be a reality that we all can experience. We don’t have to bring the accusatory spirit when one is deciding to put this beautiful gospel into action. Let social justice be part of this beautiful gospel. Let certain beliefs that come out of this gospel be for those individuals or denominations to have (let their actions speak). Let’s all just relax and mind our own business when it comes to telling and experiencing this Gospel of the Kingdom! LOVE and be peacemakers, for fuck-sakes!? (Matthew 5:9)…

“What if Jesus was not offering his followers an ethical system to follow, but rather was inviting them to enter into a life of love that transcends ethics, a life of liberty that dwells beyond religious laws? The difference between following an ethical system and being consumed by love can be seen in the way that ethical systems seek to provide a way to work out what needs to be done so that it can be carried out. In contrast, love is never constrained, it never sits back, it always seeks to do more than what is demanded of it.” – Peter Rollins

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by Jordan Hathcock, Guest Blogger

Jesus’ focus was on “hypocrisy” more than “heresy,” and it might just be an indication of how far we’ve strayed for us to give so much attention to “heresy” and not enough to “hypocrisy.”

It seems from both sides of the Christian partisan isle, the heretic agenda is still prevalent within Christendom. When we proclaim the charge of heresy-which in the context of the Greek in the Christian scriptures, literally means division-it’s hard to really find a unified common ground with each opposing group. The point of all religion, especially the Christian traditions in my opinion, is to be unified in love (Col. 3:14). Yes, we are all seeking to do what we all think is right when it comes to the Christian faith. Both sides of the left/right Christian divide are pushing the “we’re right you’re wrong” cause, which ends up creating the heretic agenda. Is this the only route we can take when “others” come up with ideas/practices that do not align with ours?

As history shows, the heretic agenda has only brought division, death and destruction. Is this part of being a participant with Jesus? I mean honestly, how the fuck did we ever think burning someone at the stake was Christ-like?! You can click here to view the list of individuals who were executed/tortured due to the heresy charge of the “Christian” church. With regards to today’s cultural context, we have taken the execution/torture part out of the equation (yay) but the destructiveness of the heresy agenda is still at play.

I would like to take a couple examples from both sides of the Christian faith that are throwing out the heresy card and see how much it differs from what Jesus did 2,000 plus years ago. I believe there is a difference, and we are definitely not practicing the path that produces unified love through these heresy accusations. These examples of heresy accusations from individuals are in no way trying to bring about judgement on them. It is merely a way of showing the hypocrisy of it all. We are all guilty of hypocrisy throughout are way of functioning in life. We all need some unveiling at times to expose our false assumptions of moral superiority (take the log out of our own eye, ring a bell?).

Let’s go ahead and take the first example from the progressive side.  John Pavlovitz is an author/pastor/blogger who really goes after the current political climate of conservative Christians with their support of Trump and his administration.  Look, he has a lot of really good and important things to say in regard to this subject. I agree with a lot of it! The thing that I have issue with and what I believe to be hindering the repentance (change of mind in order to change your path) of these groups is his charge of heresy.  Take this for example:

God doesn’t bless America.

That’s not how this works.

I’m sorry to break it to you, Bible Belt Christians—but that’s just how it is.

I know this kinda wrecks the convenient narrative you’ve been working for the past 60 or so years (and hitting especially hard the past eighteen months), but honestly that nasty bit of heresy has done enough damage already and it needs to go. It’s straight-up of the devil.

So, apparently the issue of nationalism is “against the orthodox belief of Christendom and/or an opinion that is contrary to what is accepted”? In essence, what Mr. Pavlovitz is proposing is that he abides in the pure orthodoxy of the Christian faith and these Bible Belt Christians do not. According to his blog, these Christians are practicing “nasty heresy that is straight-up of the devil”! Man, that’s a hefty accusation. Is it true?

Now, let’s peep out the conservative side of the isle. Currently, the Catholic Church is dealing with a heresy charge on Pope Francis himself (how ironic, don’t you think?):

Prominent clergymen and scholars including Fr. Aidan Nichols, one of the best-known theologians in the English-speaking world, have issued an open letter accusing Pope Francis of committing heresy. They ask the bishops of the Catholic Church, to whom the open letter is addressed, to “take the steps necessary to deal with the grave situation” of a pope committing this crime.

What did the Pope do to deserve this “infamous” title? Well, according to his accusers: “Pope Francis’ embrace of positions contrary to the faith and his dubious support of prelates who in their lives have shown themselves to have a clear disrespect for the Church’s faith and morals.” How broad and narrow minded can you get here? Why are we so terrified of people with differing views? Yes, there are more details to this claim, but it just boils down to different practices and associations. Again, do we divide, or do we look to embody our differences in unity?

Look, I get the horrible effects of nationalism within the culture of Christianity. I also get the importance to care for our community and to protect them from the harmful effects of bringing about unhealthy practices. Any type of fundamentalism that pops up from either side is only a stumbling block to the unity of the faith. But, in the end, the heresy agenda does not produce the fruit of love (Gal 5:22-23). Let us say goodbye to this unhealthy agenda and embrace the unity of Christ: I in them and you in me…

“Ye shalt locate false teachers from online evidence or in person whilst they preacheth and drive public campaigns against them. Making sure everyone knows just how shocking they are, thou shalt pick at the teaching of others and bring to light their heretic ways. Attack their theology in any way it does not align with thine own personal theology. Ye are free to call them names, label them and destroy their ministries. This is pleasing to me.” Said God, never.

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