I believe in the AntiChrist exists (part 1)

The dictionary defines AntiChrist in different ways, but the one that makes me believe in the existence of the AntiChrist is this one:

“An opponent of Christ; a person or power antagonistic to Christ”

With that being defined, I don’t believe in a sole individual as The Antichrist, but the “power antagonistic” as an AntiChrist, that I do believe exists.

I recently reread a book called Love Wins by Rob Bell, and one part that gets to me again is the part of the book where he explains how there are times Christians misrepresent Jesus, he puts it this way;

“all that matters is how you respond to Jesus. And that answer totally resonates with me; it is about how you respond to Jesus. But it raises another important question: Which Jesus?

Renee Altson begins her book Stumbling Toward Faith with these words:

I grew up in an abusive household. Much of my abuse was spiritual—and when I say spiritual, I don’t mean new age, esoteric, random mumblings from half-Wiccan, hippie parents. . . . I mean that my father raped me while reciting the Lord’s Prayer. I mean that my father molested me while singing Christian hymns.

That Jesus?

When one woman in our church invited her friend to come to one of our services, he asked her if it was a Christian church. She said yes, it was. He then told her about Christians in his village in eastern Europe who rounded up the Muslims in town and herded them into a building, where they opened fire on them with their machine guns and killed them all. He explained to her that he was a Muslim and had no interest in going to her Christian church.

That Jesus?”

In my life, if I am truly honest with myself, I have been sold that Jesus and I have sold that Jesus as well. Yet lately, and hopefully not trying to turn the tables so as to look holier-than-thou, one Jesus I’ve renounced mostly is the Christianity-in-the-80s Jesus.

***

While my time in the 80s was only for 5 years, in hindsight I’ve learned how when AIDS became more visible in the media’s eye in some churches eye it was seen as both a “gay disease” but also a “godsend” as if a disease that affects someone and has the possibility to kill that individual. Some were so callous and unChristlike they uttered phrases like “GAY should stand for Got AIDS Yet?” It is remarks like this and attitudes that some people “got what they deserve” … This isn’t the Jesus I believe in.

Then there was the prevailing perspective of “we’re in the end times” and that a rapture would take place and all Christians would be taken away while those left behind would have to endure suffering.
I think my parents bought into this, not as extreme as others, but there was talk prior to my birth about moving to Israel for related reasons. When it comes down to it, I am an amillennialist, I don’t believe in any of that pre tribulation or post tribulation…rather than answer the WHY question, this link sums up my thoughts succinctly. Part of the rapture beliefs some people held on led them to believe that any wars, say Palestine and Israel, should be allowed to run their course without any intervention; to allow people kill other people without giving a thought about the lives lost … That isn’t the Jesus I believe in.

Then there was the “Religious Right”, people trying to stake a claim to both Christianity and politics, people who made it seemed like that God endorsed whomever ran under the banner of Republican. It also irks me that the issues that have become the focus during election years are primarily in regards to abortion and the “sanctity of marriage” (that is, marriage for heterosexuals only); these aren’t the only issues that should be focused on, and yet somehow they’re the only issues that seem to be prioritized … This isn’t the Jesus I believe in.

While not across the entire body of Christ in the 1980s, the way some Christians (the out-loud-with-megaphones-and-television-channels) treated people who marginalized the LGBT community and drove them out of churches by force or by words, it makes me sick to my stomach and it makes me angry and sad. Jesus didn’t come to start a religion, he didn’t come so that there would come a day where people would be divided by those who professed to be his followers. The parable of the man who leaves his 99 sheep in pursuit of the 1 who is lost, that exemplifies who Jesus came for and for Christians to marginalize people and say horrible things about others … That isn’t the Jesus I believe in.

Then there were televangelists, oy vey, where do I begin? Saying things along the lines of “God won’t bless you if you don’t fund my ministry” and the money went to private planes, big houses, prostitutes, etc. I don’t get how people didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of their bullshitting, that the money wasn’t going to these ministries but by these wolves in pastor’s clothing. For so-called pastors who manipulated individuals to fund what they wanted … That isn’t the Jesus I believe in.

***

But there were Christians who “got it”, who loved on the marginalized – Tammy Faye Bakker interviewed Steve Pieters, a gay minister who had AIDS…she loved on him when others looked down upon him with disgust. In current times I see the influence Tammy had on her son Jay, a pastor himself whom I admire greatly. There were others who lived a life of loving others as Christ loves us, and when Christians actually “get it” and live for God and serve him by serving others, and taking care of the ones society may kick to their curb because of their race/sexual orientation/creed/etc, the ones who are the “least of these” around the world … That is the Jesus I believe in.

~Nathanael~

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Priesthood/I, Confession Booth/I, sounding board

Today while at the soup kitchen I help out with on Thursdays the idea of Priesthood crossed the surface of my mind and heart…it never crossed my mind, primarily since I’m not Roman Catholic, but…it all started when I was talking to one of the regulars.

James* was so kind to help shovel the handicap entrance for one of our guests, I tried to help but he commandeered the situation and I let him. Him and I haven’t had a good conversation in a while, but since I was already out there he started talking to me about his 9 year stint in the military that started in the early 90s during Desert Storm. He told me his job was as a sniper and he told me about some of his kills, and he also told me about the time…”for good reasons militarily, but bad reasons politically”… He called in an airstrike that killed 91 civilians/women/children, not counting “the enemies”.
I told him to stop, not for my sake, but if stirred some PTSD within him and he says he doesn’t suffer from that when he’s awake but he has mornings where he wakes up from nightmares that recall what he did and he screams and cries out for his actions…

I could see that anything I could’ve said to bring comfort to James in that conversation would have been bullshit, and frankly speaking James would have called me out and rightly so.

Then there’s my involvement with other people at the soup kitchen, I’ve served and dined with prostitutes and their johns. I’ve hung out with those who use drugs and those who sell drugs and I’ve even been told where the closest abandoned house that is a crackhouse. Some of my favorite people there are drunks, and I’ve been there when they’ve gone through the bends of drinking too much. I know a few Schizophrenics who desire greatly to love God with all their heart, mind, and strength…but it’s hard to love God with your mind when it plays tricks on you, telling you to harm someone or yourself, when it tells you that someone is there and there isn’t anyone there….

So am I sounding board or a confession booth? Do people share with me their life, their stories, their good moments and bad because they want my sympathy or do they want some absolution I cannot offer… and sometimes I wonder if it has nothing to do with sympathy and/or absolution.

I wish I could take shake off the majority of what I hear, but my compassion at times is my weakness & I wish in my heart that these people that I serve, these people that I love could find that peace. Granted, God alone can provide that peace, but I live in doubt myself how could I wish for peace and resolution when I myself have a hard time finding it for myself?

I don’t know, and I’m fine with not knowing, not out of a mindset of “ignorance is bliss” but a mindset that says I rather hand all of this over to God and trust he knows what he’s doing.

~Nathanael~

Of pickles and churches; being a part – being apart

Recently a friend of mine invited me to “like” his new company. A pickle company. In the info for said company it made known that he lost his job as a graphic designer in August and he decided to do something “new and exciting”…perhaps not what I think when I think of pickles, but whatever floats your boat.

I’m not Donald Trump, but in a way I am a skeptic when it comes to smaller companies, and lately, smaller churches. My skepticism (which I’ll address first in terms of the pickle company) is as follows; what sets your pickles from other pickles? That is, what do you have to offer that isn’t currently available for people who purchase pickles? Why would compel someone to purchase your pickles over an established brand, say Mr. Pickle or Claussen?

I also inquired of my friend that I bet he rather have investors over someone liking his Facebook page for his company. Word of mouth is important, but you have to have a product to back up people liking it, and even when word of mouth gets out, negative word of mouth will spread faster than positive, so is his product up to snuff to compete in the “pickle industry” as it were?
(I hope he gets back to me and my questions)

***

Now here’s how churches are added to this mix in this post. Church size, while not a true indicator as to how well a church is doing, is in a way a barometer to a church’s function within the local community, the community at large and even on a global scale – is the church and its members there for themselves or for others?
Now in my church experiences over the years I’ve been to a LOT of diverse churches; for a semester I attended Willowcreek and I actually got something out of the “mega church” scene, in another semester I attended a church that had less than 40 people in attendance.

Yet in both cases, the body of Christ in attendance was very involved outside of the building in which we gathered on the weekends, granted on a smaller scale in the smaller church, but still they did what they could to add to the quality of life to those who weren’t in attendance and who didn’t show up on Sunday mornings.

My issue is this, when small churches exist only to fulfill their own needs, when they’re intentionally apart of what’s going on outside the church building instead of being a part as they and we who are followers of Christ…that isn’t what the function of the church should be and that is NOT why Christ came in the first place; the petty self-serving natures of some churches pisses me off, and personally (personally mind you) I think churches like that should close if they’re doing that…

Yet, if small churches could strip the layers of prejudice & church politics, and come together in consolidation and unification to bring honor and glory to God, to serve Christ by way of serving others, to act glocally (locally & globally) there may be hope for small churches of this nature yet!
I think that this isn’t some pipe dream, but an achievable goal for churches that are small and want to change, that want to do as Christ did and take the message outside the building to where it truly belongs. Ego’s need to be cast asunder, attitudes and behaviors need to be examined and possibly reexamined.

Being a follower of Christ isn’t so much about what I want to get out of it, but what I can do to give back, to be the hands and feet of Christ where needed be, to be a voice for the outcasts and marginalized in society where I can.
I do have plans to further my education in the form of an M.Div, and while it is not necessary, I find that it will be beneficial to me and those I minister unto even more so than if I didn’t have the degree.

I have hope that small churches who are apart rather than a part have a chance at getting it right. It may be a season or two of change that’s painful, but sometimes change is painful but necessary, and if change didn’t hurt we’d be more apt to change. To root out desires and traditions that get in the way of loving God and loving others is necessary, furthering the work of God, now that’s what we’re called to do!

~Nathanael~