The Fifth Gospel and Apostasy About the Church

Dan Page, 5th Gospel Fail

“I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord Savior, but I’m also a killer. I’ve killed a lot. And if I need to, I’ll kill a whole bunch more.”

So sayeth likely soon-to-be-former St. Louis County Officer Dan Page, recently kicked off the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.  He’s a self-described zealot of a number of causes – prime among them the Christian faith, and the co-mingling of bizarre interpretations of scripture and a hateful world view have put him at odds with, well, just about everybody.

It doesn’t matter, though –  the damage is done.  When people not familiar with Christianity hear statements like these, they think they are hearing words from an official spokesman for the Gospel – words that represent the world view of Jesus, the Church and my faith.  And thus, me.  As a fervent, on-fire believer, let me say plain and loud:  THEY DO NOT.

To my frustration and pain, it’s no wonder, then, that there’s a growing backlash against believers in our increasingly pluralistic society. These statements keep people out of churches and away from Bibles. Ironically, that leaves other church people – the ones that people work with and who live in their neighborhoods – and not the ones on TV and quoted in the newspapers – as the only gospel. In this respect, we make up the Fifth Gospel, if you will – after Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  But with Bible literacy low even amongst evangelicals, we frankly might be the only gospel that most people will ever encounter.

Witnesses like Dan Page, or like the two or three families that make up Westboro Baptist Church, represent apostasy in the church.  If they are within the body at all – I say that they are not, but their self-professions say they are – it’s impossible to square this circle by the standards set by Jesus.  Standards:

  • that put grace and mercy before judgment;
  • that direct forgiveness; and
  • that encapsulate all Old Testament law in the two commands of “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:36-39, New International Version

With new and even more bizarre headlines swirling around us daily, it’s rather a miracle to see true Fifth Gospel examples among us – and even in the national and international media – as witnessed by their deeds and words.  Read on for a few passages from these new gospels:

The Book of James Foley
“We appreciate the tremendous number of prayers we have received and Jimmy received … Jimmy said he could feel the prayers. His strength came from God.” – Parents of American journalist James Foley, following his beheading by ISIS terrorists.

The Book of Dr. Kent Brantly: 
“Through the care of Samaritan’s Purse and SIM missionary team in Liberia, the use on an experimental drug, and the expertise and resources of the Emory University Hospital, God saved my life,” said Dr. Kent Brantly, adding that his recovery is “a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers.” – Dr. Brantly is a medical missionary who contracted – and then survived – the deadly Ebola virus.

The Book of the Borderland Samaritans
While our nation debates laws and policies and tries to figure out how to address the issue of tens of thousands of minor-aged illegal immigrants crossing into our country each year, private citizens who live on the southern borderlands each night set out water and nourishment, not to aid and abet criminals, but to show mercy and compassion – and to perhaps save a life – of these widows and orphans and aliens among us.  Human to human, it’s just the right thing to do.  But regardless of your political affiliation, it’s also what we’ve been directed to do.  Plain enough for me.

Praisefully, there are dozens of other examples, though many don’t make it into the media like these have, and thus, it’s easy to see only our fallen world and to miss out on all the miracles that occur within it.  In seeing just these few in the past days, I’m personally challenged to try to be more like these modern-day disciples. Let us ignore the speck in our brother’s eye and work to remove the planks from our own. In this, we might best reach all of the world for Him!

THE END
Copyright 2014

~

The Church in the News offers short reactions and critical thoughts about mass media coverage of matters of contemporary church, faith and culture.

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin? — Christianese

 

Love all Sinners

All have sinned. Love them all! How can you NOT with a sweet face like that?

You’ve heard it said that you are to “love the sinner but hate the sin.”  This common Christianese phrase has a basis in Biblical truth, and is recited by church people as though it was red-letter text.  But there are some problems with its use:

1) First, it’s decidedly NOT Biblical.  Similarly worded, but decidedly different in meaning — and in bona fide red letters to boot — is the following:  “You have heard that it was said, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” — from Matthew 5:43-44.

2) It’s hypocritical.  ” … He straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” — John 8:7.  ‘Nuff said.

3) It’s divisive and judgmental.  Yes, there will be an accounting for all shortcomings … I will spend a lot of time recounting my own personal sins (ugh!) …  As fallen humans, we ARE our sin, so when we condemn sin, we condemn the lost we are trying to reach with God’s message of grace and mercy.  That turns people off, frankly.  It turns God off, too — in Proverbs 6:16, when the Bible describes seven things the Lord hates, “haughty eyes,” and “a person who stirs up conflict in the community,” are prime among them.  So until His return, we of the church need to try harder to be about His love and forgiveness.

And of course, like most Christianese, using the phrase usually displays a lack of critical thought, and instead is simply something that we’ve heard and parrot to others.

THE END

Copyright 2014

~

Christianese describes the jargon used by church people: those who’ve spent a lot of time in and around churches and seminaries and religious academia.  The postings in this category constitute a “Saint’s Dictionary;” the collection seeks to define and deconstruct, with humor, the foreign language of these so-called church words.

On Becoming A Renaissance Man: The Book of the Life My Dad Lived

Wood block with pencil self portrait ready for woodcut

A Self Portrait of the Artist

My Dad, Georges B. Bishop, died Dec. 20, 2013, at 74 years of age.  Unassuming and sometimes curmudgeonly, he was also a noble gentleman and a scholar who was loved and admired by his family, friends and all who met him.  These sentiments are overdue for sharing, and are offered with love and admiration, in honor of his memory and of his life.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” my Dad would ask me.  I don’t know for sure which of the two of us was so interested in the topic, but for as many times as we talked about it, at least one of us was.

“I dunno,” came my typical kid answer, as I twirled a wood pencil in my hands, trying to think of something cool to draw.  “Maybe a comic book artist?” I offered.  I started to draw something that might have looked like Spider Man.

“That sounds neat,”  he said, taking a draw from a Kent III cigarette.

At that point, my pencil went in its own direction, and Spider Man suddenly had a horn on his head.  In my anger, the drawing became another paper wad, flung hard to the floor with the others sent there earlier.  I thought about breaking my pencil, too, but I knew there’d be other drawings to make later.  So I just threw it to the floor, too, crossed my arms, and turned away.  I’d never be a comic book artist.  I’d never be any kind of artist.  Not like my Dad.

I sat and pouted, but no one bit.  So my mind wandered.

“I think I want to be a pilot,” I said.  I’m certain that I’d seen Top Gun recently.

“That sounds cool,” Dad said.  “You have to be pretty good at math, though,” he added.

“Maybe an architect?” I said.  That trip to our cousins’ in Chicago had made an impression on me.

Dad chuckled and exhaled smoke through his nostrils.

“You have to be good at math to be an architect, too,” he said.  “You want to be a lot of different things, don’t you?”

And then he passed on a tiny pearl of wisdom, borne of inspiration and experience.

“I think what you want to be is a Renaissance Man.”

Indeed, as he explained what a Renaissance Man was, I knew two things: First, that my Dad was already one.  And second: that I wanted to be one, too.

~

A Renaissance Man is someone who has mastered — and who effortlessly employs — a wide variety of skills,  This was the ideal person of the Renaissance period, which spawned “universities” to train all of its students to this standard: to have “universal” qualifications across many different areas of knowledge.

If Dad, who passed away in December, had written an account of his life, the book could have the same title as this essay: On Becoming a Renaissance Man.  He’d recount many of his life’s accomplishments, if not also a few adventures, and in doing so, he’d spell out the how-to-do-it that he did.  With only the lessons that he passed on by example, here’s the rough outline of the lessons of his life:

1) Be curious.  That’s how you get started down any given path — you are intrigued by it.  You look into it.  You ask questions about it.  You try it.  You get stuck.  You keep trying it.  You ask for help.  Then you do it.  You’re doing it.  You’ve mastered it.  You are it.  But it all started by FIRST being curious about it.  Dad had an insatiable curiosity, and you knew he was interested in something when he’d say, “Hey, that’s really neat.”

2) Be a lifelong learner.    When I left for college, Dad was at the age where he could get free cups of coffee at McDonalds.  I was the learner, he was the learned, defined as one who has already learned all that he needed to know.

That’s when he took a night class on wood carving offered by the park board.  To my knowledge, all he ever carved was his little version of the Travelocity Gnome.  But while he was there, he found out about a clock repair class.   Look around his home 20 years later, and you know where that took him.  A six week class to learn to carve in the round put him onto a path that arguably led to one of his greatest passions — and areas of expertise.  One curiosity led to another, and learning was the means of satisfying that interest.

3) Be somewhat OCD.  In the trades, they call it craftsmanship.  In manufacturing they call it quality.  In mental health, they call it OCD.  That’s what we called Dad, too.  But I don’t think you can be a bona fide Renaissance Man without mastering the various crafts you choose — indeed, after accomplishing one’s universal education, a medieval student would attend additional schooling where he’d “master” a specific skill — and thus, today’s master’s degree programs.

To be a master requires dedication and focus and continuous improvement.  You must maintain very high standards for yourself and your work and your finished products.  Clambering 25 feet in the air on a rickety aluminum scaffolding in the blistering summer sun, Dad used a heat gun and a putty knife to remove 120 years of layered, accumulated paint from every 2-inch board of siding.  He set and countersunk every nail.  He putty-filled thousands of nail holes.  He used the best quality oil-based primer and paint he could get.  Take a look at his masterpiece 15 years later, and it’s still held up to time.  His own minor Mona Lisa.  For Dad, call it OCD, but there was only one way to do things: the right way.  Which, as he’d tell you, was also his way.

4) Pace yourself.  You can do it all.  But even if you lean in, you simply can’t do it all at once.  Prioritize what you want to do.  Sequence things so you are building on other skills and accomplishments.  And as Dad sought to do, work to get some commercial wins to provide time-and-money capital for other less remunerative pursuits.

Looking back on my life thus far, and comparing it to his — there’s a list of skills, roles and jobs Dad performed at the bottom of this essay — clearly I’m no Renaissance Man like my Dad was.  But the lessons he left are widely applicable to all, whether you aspire to that standard or not.

There’s a final lesson from Dad, which I learned from his life post humously, that is necessary to any who would aspire to follow in his footsteps.  It’s this:

5) Get on with it, now!  While Dad lived a long life, and did some incredible things — created amazing works — there were still so many things he wanted to do.  He told of wanting to finish a few new projects.  At the end of his years, he selflessly cared for others, which was also one of his beloved Renaissance Man roles.  But his cataracts stole his sight, age took the steadiness from his grip, and cancer sapped his strength.  He had some unfinished business that tragically remains unfinished.

The lesson for each of us is clear: sharpen your pencil, get a new piece of paper, and get busy.  There’s a lot of life to live, but if you want to give it all your very best, and if you want to get everything you can out of it, then you’ve got to get on with living it.

Just like Dad did.

A List of Dad’s (Known) Vocations and Avocations:

- Veterinary assistant
- Chicken slaughterer
- Air Force Airman / Korea
– Computer system repairman
– Blackjack dealer
- Fine artist
– Wood block prints
– Watercolors
– Airbrush
– Silversmithing
– Enameling
- Entrepreneur
- Graphic Artist
- Framer
- Salesman
- Teacher
- Cubmaster
- Handyman — plumber, electrician, carpenter, painter, roofer, etc
- Shadetree mechanic
- Wood carver
- Clock repairer
- Collector
- Historian
- Husband and caregiver

And of course:
- Father

THE END
Copyright 2014

~

Worldly Thoughts features a number of essays on topics or ideas that aren’t necessarily church-related or of a Christian perspective. They’re shared here to the extent that they might be of as much interest to readers as other Church Deconstructed content.  Other essays in honor of the memory of my Mom, Dorothy M. Bishop, and of my father-in-law, Jack G. Shannon, can be found at the links.

Thankful to Those Who Would Stop to Thank a Uniform

I’m proud to serve as a public affairs officer in the Missouri Air National Guard, and experienced the following during my recent annual tour of duty. This Worldly Thoughts* blog post originally appeared July 2, 2014, on the 131st Bomb Wing website and in the June 27, 2014, Whiteman Warrior newspaper.

It’s 6:15 p.m. at the Wal-Mart in the small central Missouri town of Warrensburg. Aisle 17, Health and Beauty. A woman pushes her cart toward me; in the seat, a young child – perhaps her grandson – squirms; he’s had his fill of shopping. The woman tries to catch my eye. When she does, she smiles and says, “Thank you. Thank you for serving our country, Soldier.”

I smile back, a bit embarrassed and maybe a little ashamed, before replying with an obligatory, “You’re welcome.”

You see, she doesn’t know that I’m a new Guardsman; I’ve only been back in the uniform for about a year. I’ve never deployed in it, haven’t yet pulled state emergency duty in it. I drive across the state, train and go home. I work hard, but most of the time it doesn’t feel like I’m serving my country or my state.

Being in the Guard, the minimum standard calls us to wear the uniform one weekend per month, and two weeks per year. My identity, therefore, is more often associated with my day-to-day job than it is with this part-time job.

And right now, my co-workers back home are carrying my load while I serve.
And of course I’m not a Soldier, I’m an Airman, but that doesn’t matter – camouflage makes everyone look like a Soldier. I’ve learned that Soldier is simply short-hand for Servicemember.

These are the thoughts that cross my mind as I accept what feels like unwarranted gratitude. She doesn’t see that I don’t necessarily feel like the well-starched, “capital-A” Airman that she sees before her in Aisle 17.

But maybe she does. Maybe she correctly sees me as I am.

Maybe she has a nephew or a daughter serving in uniform. Maybe right now, while talking to me in the Wal-Mart, she’s worried about a husband deployed to Afghanistan, doing a job that I might find myself doing in only a few months.

Maybe her home was once spared from a flood by thousands of sandbags stacked by others who also wear my uniform.

Or maybe she has a more abstract understanding of that uniform; an abstract appreciation for the value the uniform represents. Maybe for her it represents security and freedom – rights that Americans enjoy and that we strive to provide to others around the world.

I honestly don’t know why she stopped to say thank you. That probably doesn’t matter, though. I would do my job with integrity, excellence and service, with or without a thank you in Aisle 17. To do so is simply my duty as an American Airman serving in uniform in the Air National Guard. It’s the standard we all keep.

But the thank you is rejuvenating, like a big bottle of SportzAid on Aisle 12. It’s a fuel booster in my tank from the Automotive Department. It will help propel me forward, and will help me to do it with good cheer.

Ma’am, wherever you are right now, you are quite welcome. And in turn, to you and to all American citizens, co-workers and community members who loyally and unflinchingly support our nation’s Citizen Airmen and Soldiers serving in uniform at home and abroad:

“Thank you.”

THE END
Copyright 2014

~

*Worldly Thoughts features a number of essays on topics or ideas that aren’t necessarily church-related or of a Christian perspective. They’re shared here to the extent that they might be of as much interest to readers as other Church Deconstructed content.

Been Couraged

BEEN COURAGED

I might have misunderstood the assignment …

Our associate pastor recently said for many of us what we’d all been thinking and feeling: the rancor and overexposure and pettiness of social media — heavier than ever, and as often from Christ followers as from others — was getting him down.  The message certainly resonated with me, as I’d been sucked into exchanges with friends, family members and distant associates alike over the recent Supreme Court decision for Hobby Lobby.  Confused, bitter and hurt, I wanted to withdraw, lick my wounds and perhaps never return …

Also tempted to quit, Rev. Troy instead challenged himself, and the congregation, to turn up the dimmer switch on our lights instead of retreating from the darkness.  The rules of his challenge are simple: At least once a day, use a social network to be humorous-but-tactful; to encourage others; to share scripture about God’s goodness; or to share the Gospel.

So at risk of explaining the joke, here’s a go at what tickled me as funny that will maybe encourage you: when I first read the instruction to mark each post with the hashtag #cc-beencouraged, I read it as “been couraged”” instead of “be encouraged!”  On reflection, though, I think there’s every bit as powerful a Gospel message in the mis-read as there is in the original.  My faith has driven fear far away, replacing it with courage that comes from the confidence of being in His eternal care.

While I’ll have to work harder on being encouraged this summer, I’m pretty blitzed to simply have been couraged right now.

Watch for the hashtag #cc-beencouraged for more, and feel free to give the challenge a try yourself!

THE END
Copyright 2014

~

The Church in the News offers short reactions and critical thoughts about mass media coverage of matters of contemporary church, faith and culture.

Becoming a Random Handyman — Testify!

As a kid, I thought Jesus had abandoned me. Left me to my poverty and to my insecurities and to my unrequited desires.

We were less than “Christmas-Easter” Christians; the faith of my elders — in our home — was more of the “Shut up while your Grandpa says Grace!” type.

Because we’d never really been introduced, we were strangers, Jesus and I. But I had an innate yearning to find Him and know Him.

I was on my paper route under overcast skies one day; I might have been 10. I stopped dragging my paper-laden wagon and looked to Heaven.

“God, if you’re real, send down a bolt of lightning over there!” I directed. I waited. Of course I waited. I’m not the boss of God, and as much as I believe that He, too, wanted to know me, it would never be on my terms like that.

Being a good person, I decided to give Him another chance. I wrote Him a letter. I took it to the backyard and buried it. I waited. Nothing happened. Again. ]

Of course nothing happened. I can’t remember what I wrote or what was supposed to happen. I don’t know why I thought that the wretched dirt of our urban garden was a supernatural post office (we didn’t know about owls back then). Kids have funny ideas anyway, but I had no basis of faith to compare my ideas to.

Fast forward a few years — to high school — to find a kid who was too open-minded for God, too good for God, too rotten for God and too smart for God. I did what, to a 16-year-old, felt like an “in-depth and thorough critical inquiry,” into the faith of my nation. But really, it was just superficial rock throwing at the edifice of Christianity:

“How can god be if he’d let the world be so rotten? Why do god’s people rape and pillage and kill in his name? And why is the bible any more legit than any other religious or scientific answer to who and what and why?” I supplied the questions, with a cynical sneer, and then I applied a 16-year-old’s answers. With the process done to my own satisfaction, I made up my mind: there would be no more proof tests, no more letters, no more questioning. I decided, and I got on with living.

Sometimes, meeting Jesus for the first time takes on the feel of a multilevel marketing pitch.

Though I gave up on Him, Jesus never gave up on me. Eventually, I got another chance to meet Him. Sometimes, meeting Jesus for the first time takes on the feel of a multilevel marketing pitch. A friend or acquaintance gets sucked in and gets excited, and she wants to build her network — at your expense. That’s kinda how it was with Tina, my college girlfriend, and I:

“Hey Jeff, get over here!” I want you to meet a great guy. His name’s Jesus! I’m in this great program with Him, and He wants you to get in on it, too!” You approach warily, afraid that by the end of the evening, you’ll have a new water softener, $1,500 less in your account, and a commitment to sell additional units to at least five other suckers in your circle of friends and family.

I remained skeptical, even after she introduced us. But I was into her, so I asked her questions. We went to movies and dinners, and I went with her to church. We debated our different takes on ancient history and interpretations of her faith experiences. But the more time that we spent time together — the three of us — the more I kinda liked having The Guy around.

As things between us — the two of us now — got more serious, they got a little eerie, too. In a good way, of course. As we got to know one another better, we discovered odd coincidences. Or signs. You decide:

- We each came from large families of similar make-up. She has four sisters and two brothers. I have four brothers and a sister

- My siblings and I have identical initials: JMB. Same with (Chris)Tina and her sisters: CLS

- Both our fathers were in the Korean War. And had no other service

There were other eerie commonalities not worth sharing, but beyond a dozen or so supernatural coinkydinks, there was plenty more to our deepening relationship to convince me that Tina and I were meant to be together. They didn’t convince me about Him, though. Not then, anyway.

In respect to the spark that started this fire, I never had that flash-bang-bolt-of-lightning, blinding-flash-of-the-obvious conversion. That Damascus Road experience. That 180-degree U-turn in life. That Holy Spirit fire.

Nope. I simply just found myself more open to faith and truth and history and reality every day. So unlike other testifying Christians, I don’t really know at what point I “became” a Christian; I have no birth certificate for the specific day that I was born again. All that I know is that when I dropped out of college early to head off to Air Force Basic Training, the new dog tags dangling around my neck were stamped:

Jeffrey M. Bishop
O Neg
Christian

In turn and in time, Tina and I were married, and we’ve grown our family, our love, and our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ every day since.

Today, I’m proud to witness as a fearfully and wonderfully made Random Handyman, simply striving to follow after the Master Carpenter and to build well in His name with the tools and time that I’ve been given.

THE END
Copyright 2014

~

Read the personal Christian testimonies of famous, infamous and not-so-famous people at Testify!  Want to share yours?  Have someone whose testimony you’d like to know more about?  Let me know!

These Kinds of People Attend Church

20140618-222212-80532604.jpg

Categorically, you’ll often find that it’s these kinds of people that attend church with you:

1) Atheists. Atheists usually attend church to make a mockery of it. If this is you, and if you manage to slip out before the offering is taken, then this might be the cheapest form of good entertainment available to you. At best to your purposes, you can find a poor excuse of a church that will confirm all of your biases and notions about Christianity and about Christians. At worst to your aims, you’ll learn something that will rock your worldview anew. You’ve been warned.

2) Seekers. This word describes people who have niggling doubts about their atheism/agnosticism, and who have started the formal process of clearing things up once and for all. Given that this process is usually prompted by the Holy Spirit, the conclusion is forgone. For you, dear soul, resistance is futile — at this point, whether you know it or not, you’re actually church shopping.

3) The Unchurched. This class of attendees can also be described as “Christmas-Easter” Christians. They believe, but they are habitually out of the habit of attending church. You’ll recognize them because even though they move furtively in and out of the building, dodging eyes and trying to pass through unnoticed, they nonetheless know almost everyone, and almost everyone knows them from their years of intermittent attendance. Accordingly, they must suffer exactly what they are trying to avoid: well-intentioned greetings and appeals that they attend more often and return next week.

4) (Just) Born Again. These are brand-new Christians, and they are on fire! There aren’t enough services in the week for these folks, who are looking to learn, serve and steep themselves in all things Jesus.

This is somewhat ironic, because contrary to popular wisdom, precious few souls are actually saved within the walls of a church. That work usually happens, with great mystery, elsewhere – in “the mission field;” by parachurch organizations; and in relationships at work, in social clubs and within families. Of course the people doing the saving outside of church are church people, but that’s not the point.

Once saved, the Holy Spirit stimulates a hunger in a soul: to learn, to worship, to fellowship and to serve – these are the things that the church is really good for; not saving people.

5) Backsliders. This Christianese lingo is an oldie but a goodie. Backsliders are the faithful who have sinned egregiously. They usually stay away from church while stained with the consequences of their sins, so they are often also a part of the Unchurched cohort. Like prodigal sons, they return when they are ready to repent, and usually take on a renewed rigor that makes them behave like Born Agains, again.

6) Seasoned Churchgoers. The “seeker-sensitive” church operates at a Christianity 101 level. Nonetheless, it somehow remains well-stocked with elder statesmen who manage to eke out some new wisdom from the 47th telling of the Jonah story or the 6th Head Pastor to unpack the Sermon on the Mount.

It’s certain that they receive spiritual sustenance elsewhere — probably metaphysically, as they’ve read through the Bible multiple times; have memorized enough verses to give blind Eli a run for his money; they know all the hymns by heart; and have served on every committee in the church (and have both started and shut down a couple-few as well). Nonetheless, for these, the church continues to hold great appeal: it is the entirety of one’s social circle for these “parishioners emeritus.” In the sunset of their lives, it is their time to serve; to give back; to invest in future generations of church members who will follow in their footsteps.

7) The Dead. Final stop between here and eternity. The faithful are ushered out the door by their spiritual leaders, surrounded by loved ones, along with the necro-curious — people mystified or enamored by death and its rituals — and frankly, also the theo-curious: people compelled by the proximity of death to them that they seek to better understand life — and options for eternal life — through church funeral services. Many a conversion has taken place amidst black crepe and sobs of loneliness and despair.

With that in mind, which of the above categories do you fit into?  Or have we neglected a group?

THE END
Copyright 2014

~

The Church Deconstructed category is a “Church for Noobs” guide that offers a glib look at today’s mainline church, covering the lifecycle of a Christian from the perspective of a reformed skeptic and now longtime church member.  At times biting and borderline irreverent, the musings aim to be spot-on accurate about both the virtues and the foibles of the modern church and of the “church life.”

(The) Body — Christianese

Jesus opens robe to show the Body of Christ wear his torso would be

“I work out!”

Define the following Christianese term:

(The) Body (baw – dee):

a. Sadly, what was found in the woods to end the missing person search
b. What wasn’t found in Jesus’ tomb on the first Easter
c. What milk does good
d. Fellowship of Christians who comprise The Church
e.  A dish served at The Last Supper

Correct answers: d and e.

Correct answer: d. The term “the body” has a similar Christianese meaning as the secular term, which describes a group of members, e.g., “The entire school body will be released early Tuesday for a teacher in-service.” Indeed, it might be that The Body as originally used in the Bible is the etymological root of the commonplace term we use today. The Body is a metaphor used in the Bible to describe how the many people of The Church comprise the Body of Christ (with Christ as the Head). The metaphor is particularly useful in that, as Paul unpacks it in 1 Corinthians 12:15-27, he illustrates how each member of the body has specific roles based on how they’ve been endowed by the Creator; that each gift is necessary and valued; and that no gift — and thus no part of the body — is more valued more highly than any other.

Example in use:

“The body should be united in prayer for our nation and her leaders.”

Correct answer: e.  There is a second Christianese definition for “The Body” which for some in The Church is more literal than metaphorical; it refers to the bread that Jesus broke at the Last Supper, which, in Luke 22:19,  he ascribed, saying, “This is my Body given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me,” (New International Version).  There are many in The Church who understand that the Bread that they consume during Eucharist (Holy Communion) sacrament services is the literal Body of Christ.

Example in use:

“Strangely, my gluten intolerance didn’t affect me when I consumed the Body of Christ at Communion this morning!”

THE END
Copyright 2014

~

Christianese describes the jargon used by church people: those who’ve spent a lot of time in and around churches and seminaries and religious academia.  The postings in this category constitute a “Saint’s Dictionary;” the collection seeks to define and deconstruct, with humor, the foreign language of these so-called church words.

 

Do Church People Baptize Their Dogs?

Dog splashing around in a swimming pool

AMEN!

Well, not really. But that IS a funny idea!

Our “infant” Sadie, a 5-month-old Brittany, took to the water with grace and good cheer, which is normally not the case when a human infant is dropped in the church dunk tank (or sprinkled) in front of a few hundred strangers!

Brittany dog in life vest on deck

Being her first time in the pool, it was a baptism, if in the secular, not spiritual sense.  Beyond a mere style statement, the life jacket is to preserve her mortal being, not her immortal soul.

Maybe if we’d blessed the water first?

THE END
Copyright 2014

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The Church Deconstructed category is a “Church for Noobs” guide that offers a glib look at today’s mainline church, covering the lifecycle of a Christian from the perspective of a reformed skeptic and now longtime church member.  At times biting and borderline irreverent, the musings aim to be spot-on accurate about both the virtues and the foibles of the modern church and of the “church life.”

 

Rocks Alive!

Imagining God literally stopping a boulder from smashing a church

In the news recently is the story of a church that was almost bowled over by a large rock that was blasted loose and rolled down a hill toward the building.  Apparently, construction workers on an adjacent site sent the rock tumbling straight toward the church. Incredibly, the 20-ton rock stopped a mere foot away from the wall of the church, preventing certain destruction of the building.

The minister of the church, of course, credits God with saving his building – and with it, the church’s mission as a food pantry for hundreds in the local Saugus, Massachusetts, community. Reading the comments added to the article online, the trolls would have us believe that it was mere physics that stopped the rock. Which one is it?

Nevermind the attestations of faith from those on the video (“Holy sh!t” and “Oh my Lord!”), the theological answer puts the debate to rest immediately. Whether from the hand of God or not, He is always in control.  Our God is sovereign, He made the universe and everything in it. He also dictated the rules by which the universe operates, including gravity, momentum and conservation of energy. He is omniscient, which means he’s all-knowing, all the time. He’s omnipotent, which means he’s all powerful – to cause things, or in this case, to prevent things, according to His will.

Is ours a capricious god who deals with our fate and fortunes in a haphazard, willy-nilly fashion?  Does He prey upon people and cause them injury according to his whims, as the skeptics would suggest?  Not at all!  Rather, in the beginning God created a perfect, peaceful world, free of sin but with the potential for it because of the free will He endowed each of us with.  We all know how Adam regarded that gift (and lest any of us feign self-righteousness, not one among us would have acted differently!).  Fast forward a few millenia, and in today’s chaos-choked, fallen world, bad things happen too often, and often to the most innocent among us.

God didn’t make sin nor it’s consequences — his culpability stops at creating the conditions that allowed us to first choose to bring sin into His creation (the same conditions necessary to allow us to freely choose to worship Him as our Lord and Savior, as opposed to being helplessly compelled to do so).

“Sometimes rocks befall churches; sometimes they don’t.”

Nonetheless, we understand that God can derive the benefit of all things that happen, both good and bad, for his purposes, and can use them to bring Him glory. There was a larger rock slide in Oso, Washington, that swallowed up dozens of homes and buried an unknown large number of people in its muddy, mucky mess.  God didn’t cause this, but in His omnipotence, He let it happen.  Any of us with mortal consciousness will struggle to understand why, beyond simple physics of the situation: a cause (fallen world) and its effect (pain, suffering and strife).  Sometimes God intercedes, and sometimes he doesn’t.

On this side of eternity, we will rarely understand why sometimes bad befalls the good and why sometimes good befalls the bad. Sometimes rocks befall churches; sometimes they don’t.  In all things, God is sovereign and God is good!

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5:45, New International Version

THE END
Copyright 2014

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The Church in the News offers short reactions and critical thoughts about mass media coverage of matters of contemporary church, faith and culture.