I am fearful of fundamentalism, but not fundamentalists (and so can you!)

 

Recently I and a friend were invited to a fundamentalist church to attend for my church incognito project, but as I was finding out about the church I was cautioned about some of its practices and corporate beliefs. Now it’s not that often I am warned about a church and honestly I find it interesting when this happens.

I had the opportunity to attend this past weekend, and as it closer and closer to the time for the service to begin I thought less and less of attending. I gave thought to contacting my friend to join me, but I chickened out in extending the invitation. As I backed out in going I started thinking of the reasons why.

First off, I was worried about what my friend would think; he heard the caveats but he didn’t understand it to the extent that I did, and so I was worried he might not get it until we were in the midst of the service and then the “a ha” moment might kick in. Secondly, I was worried about my interaction with the members of this church; I attend a spiritually and emotionally healthy church, and I “forget” (suppress perhaps?) that fundamentalist churches are still out there.

I do realize that Christian fundamentalism hasn’t always been the anti-science, anti-thinking, anti-Bible questioning, anti-smoking, anti-drinking, infallible / inerrant bible believing, substitutionary atonement, homophobic, misogynistic, patriarchal authority figure it appears to be nowadays (and granted, more or less of what I’ve just posted). It was once about the fundamentals of what following Jesus looks like, but as technology advanced and science explained more about the world and its origins, beliefs that were once held with an open hand became closed.

Instead of engaging in science and technology, walls were fortified and fundamentalism became a system of security responding out of fear rather than love. And over the years, more things have caused the typical fundamentalist Christian to build more walls. At times I wonder if the walls are built to keep them in or to keep others out, and I’m left thinking it’s a both/and answer.

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It’s out of this framework that I am fearful of Christian fundamentalism on a personal level, but at the same time I intentionally try to see the humanity and divinity of those who align themselves accordingly. I’m told I need to engage structures more, but personally speaking if I’m to do this I bound to make assumptions and lose sight of what actually matters.
I am also fearful of Christian fundamentalism and it’s marginalization of “the other” and I am someone who has LGBTQ+ friends, Muslim friends, Atheist and Agnostic friends. There isn’t a place for them at the table of Christian fundamentalism, and that’s why I bring it back to me; to widen my doors, to set more tables, because I am fundamentally inclusive to ALL.

This system exists, but I am glad it will not always exist. It sustainability depends on naivete, gullibility, fear, and power. When people pull back the curtain and see the wizard for all he is, there’s no need to pay attention to the man behind the curtain, and thus the fire of Christian fundamentalism will be snuffed out. Thanks be to God!

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

love requires proximity – of evangelicals, reformed sex offenders and pedophiles

Love requires proximity has been the mantra of my heart for a while now, it unsettles me, it gets me out of comfort and drives me into the direction of where rubber hits the road time and time again. Yet there are still people I have yet to engage, and lately as I’ve been meditating and praying over who do I need to invest in that I’ve put off in investing I’ve come up with 3 groups of people:
1.) Evangelicals (across the board, not simply fundamentals)
2.) Reformed sex offenders
3.) Reformed pedophiles

Now I cannot fully explain the latter 2, but I can certainly address the first one.

I once identified as being an Evangelical in my life. I knew the Bible verses, I knew the songs, I had good answers to difficult questions, I had good torts and rebuttals to those who dared rattle my belief system, I had belief and I thought I knew it all and in knowing it all that’s all that mattered.
Funny, God must be a fan of baseball, because God certainly threw a few curve balls my way.

– God put members of the LGBTQ community in my life, and so I needed to rethink what I thought / what had been instilled into me.
– I wrestled with doubt and questioning (and I still do) and realized the shakiness of my foundation…and being okay with not being okay.
– I worked in youth ministry contexts where students went through issues I never imagined because I was wrapped up in bubble wrap whilst in my Evangelical bubble.
– I furthered my education in science and learned how there is evidence that the world isn’t young (gasp!) and that there is strong evidence to support evolution (double gasp!) and yet I see God’s handiwork in it all.

among other things…

And now on the outside of Evangelicalism I hold know position of being “better” or “more evolved” for where I am now. I realize that my season of being an Evangelical took something from me, but it also gave me a pretty good foundation as to where I am now. Yes it wasn’t all good, but that’s why with much of life’s experiences I have or am in the process of thanking God for that season of life. I am also finding ways to “eat the meat and spit out the bones” of these experiences.
But back to love requiring proximity… The Evangelical camp is one I have until recently distanced myself from, but 2 things have shifted that, one local and one a bit more broad.

***

Locally I am involved with a Bible study that meets on Tuesday nights at various restaurants in the area. We’ve been going over Ephesians and soon we will will be starting a book about idolatry. The individuals who make up this group are diverse in their thinking, as with many groups of people, one thought pattern doesn’t fit all. And while I knew some of these guys prior to being a part of this Bible study, I know them a bit better than merely what’s on the surface.
I appreciate sharing with them my insight and I appreciate what they have to offer up as well, even if we tend to go down quite a few rabbit trails. 🙂 It has been a real blessing investing time with these individuals, not because I have a time-with-Evangelicals quota I need to fill but because it comes back to (you guessed it) love requires proximity.

***

On a larger swath which I am looking for ways to connect, is Brandan Robertson’s Evangelicals for Marriage Equality campaign.

Marriage equality isn’t something I think about when it comes to Evangelicals, I admit that I was privately homophobic and used the word Gay as an adjective for stupid or dumb for a brief season of my life, but when Brandan put out some info about this campaign, my heart leaped for joy!
He might be placed under the microscope by many for this bold and courageous move on his part, but I know that it is needed. The world needs more Evangelicals like Brandan, and I will do what I can to help their voices be heard!

Thanks be to God for instilling in me the desire to love in proximity to others for the goodness of others.

~Nathanael~

The inclusive table; a posture for living, a posture for life

communion
Growing up our house was messy in many ways, but for the sake of streamlining this a bit, messiness by way of things everywhere and anywhere. As a result of this messiness, we didn’t have people come over except for a few barbeque’s and perhaps celebrating a birthday or graduation party; but even these events were few and far between. I ached and I yearned for having people over at my house, I love to cook and I love to cook for others, so to have without was an unfulfilled part of my life…until I moved out.

It hasn’t been dinner parties every week at my house, but it has been a semi-frequent event. Friends have come over, family has come over, a lot of diversity and I love every minute of it. And that’s why sometimes I dwell on the deeper truths that come from a center of “the kingdom of heaven is within you” and “the kingdom of heaven is near” and the truth I find time and time again is that the table is being set inclusively and so with my time and talents, I too choose to set an inclusive table.

My table is messy and dirty, who comes to visit and dine with me varies, but all are welcomed and none are sent home with an empty stomach. More is garnered in time spent at my table, everyone (as far as I know) have had a good time and want to come back. And there are even opportunities for others to go set their table for me, because we’re in this human condition together, there are symbiotic relationships all around us. So that’s my inclusive table, and when I think about God’s inclusive table I think this…

***

Too often, regardless of what religious group you’re a part of or if you’re just a spiritual person, it’s easy to find ways to delineate ourselves from others. Yet in a lot of different religions I find common ground and that comes from personally learning about different religions, but more often it comes from being in community with others; whether it’s sharing a meal or just getting coffee, people are people, and there is so much to learn.

Over the last few years my personal theology has gotten smaller and smaller. Not that I am saying I’m renouncing what I think and believe as to who Jesus is and what is attributed to him doing, but I admit that Christianity does not contain the entirety of God. God isn’t controlled by religions, God is much bigger than that if we allow God to be. Personally what I think my faith is at this time is finding ways to love God and love others and not being a jerk. Sometimes/often times I am a jerk, that I want to bring people to where I am at in life and in my own time frame and not their own. Sometimes/often times I make it more about me than Jesus, and yet I get brought back to a “get it together man!” mindset from the Holy Spirit; she’s pretty good at what she does…all I’ve got to do is sometimes/often times listen to her more and listen to me less.

Reducing in quantity my thoughts and ideas and perspectives that shaped my personal theology has increased my quality 1000% fold! Because I am able to step away from it all, not dejected, not frustrated, but humbled and willing to let God take over. It’s a “burden” of sorts, but I let God have it just as God should. It is about God, it is about us, and sometimes we need to figure out where that line is…but granted, God makes the line, we do not.

***

I think that when I have kids of my own I will provide them opportunities to learn from people from different walks of life, yes I will do my best to influence them from what I know as a follower of Christ, but to aid them in becoming well-rounded world citizens I aim to give them opportunities of going to mosques, synagogues, et al. places where people come together. I also realize that I will encourage my kids to ask difficult questions, and that sometimes questions don’t have answers. This latter part can be perplexing, because it is hard enough to grasp some answers that come from our questioning, but to be without answers period can be frustrating. I also realize that when I get to being a parent I want my kid’s faith to come from where they are at in life, and maybe for a while they will identify what I and their mother have shared with them, but I want them to make it their own- this of course comes with age and maturity, and in their own time frame and not mine.

I want them to partake in the joy and the freedom and contentment and grace and unconditional love that I have found! And that maybe, in which I am hopeful for, they themselves are able to “go and do likewise”. That they set their own tables, holistically, and embrace all because they themselves have been embraced by a creator who created them and loves them deeply and dearly.

~Nathanael~

Adopted for Christmas (part 2)

Well…

Plans changed and my friend’s post-Christmas get together never came to be. 😦 I’m not completely bummed out, I am sad for my coworker’s sake that the get together didn’t happen because that’s her family and from what she has shared with me I know they mean a lot to her.

So I made some plans as I still worked the 7-5 shift at work, and those fell through, but I shook it off and made alternative plans to my alternative plans. 😉

Anchorman 2
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If you liked the first one, there’s a good chance you’ll like the second one as well. A lot of cameos, it was a good way to unwind after work and after other plans fell through. That’s me though, I am resilient and capable in finding alternative things to do when life happens, and it does happen all the time.

~Nathanael~

O Holy Night revised; personal contextualization to this Christmas carol

For the last 3 years when Christmas comes around and when the Christmas carol O Holy Night is sung, I alter a part of it a little bit:

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I am fully aware that slavery still exists in our world, but if I recall the song was written outside of United States, but when it did come to the United States it was in the time of slavery. With that being said, I get why it was written with slave added to it, but where do I find such conflict within the church today?
Certainly in the churches across America there isn’t a master-and-slave paradigm that exists. However there is a straight-vs-Gay paradigm at times; while there are churches that are accepting, affirming, and loving of members of the LGBT Community there are some churches that practice (whether they acknowledge it or not) exclusiveness not inclusiveness, judgment over love.

So I changed the words knowing this all too well as a straight ally, it is for my brothers and sisters in the LGBT Community whose voices are not heard within Christian circles, who are silenced intentionally as well as unintentionally. I sing for those who cannot sing, who have been kicked out of church because some Christians have not extended Christ-like love to them, I have met some individuals who have gone through this and it breaks my heart but I also know it breaks God’s heart as well.

***

Now this isn’t a post where I’m urging you to “do what I’m doing”, I’m writing this as a wake up call to Christians everywhere! End the marginalization of those who are the “other”; and it very well could mean that it is  someone who is like you more than it means someone not like you.

I recognize in my own life the “other” are Evangelical Calvinists who have a strong sense of believe rather than faith, who have hammered down their personal theology in a controlled and precise matter. Why do those who align themselves like this bother the hell out of me? …I once was like this myself.
In realizing this after the fact (to which it served as a building block not a stepping stone) I dislike who I was, but it is part of my story and I am believing that nothing is wasted, even in those years of creating and perpetuating us-vs-them paradigms.

Yet it is these individuals I need to put more time, more patience, and certainly more love into. It is these people I want to avoid at all costs, but as my pastor wisely put it “you can’t be inclusive to all if you’re exclusive to some”, dammit! Why do you have to be so…right? He is right, and I’m getting that it is like putting a puzzle together; I need all the pieces and not just the ones that strike my attention or are easy to assemble, because any exclusion of puzzle pieces makes for an incomplete puzzle.

Altering “O Holy Night” by saying Gay Man instead of Slave is something that I have no qualms about. Yet I realize that maybe I need to broaden it, because the Evangelical Calvinist is my brother and sister too. That! That is a line I need to sing, because I need to sing for them too. So maybe if I sing it fast enough I can sing Gay-man-and-Evangelical-Calvinist at the same time 😉 I will do my best to do so, because it’s more than a song to me, it’s a posture of  living as God would have me to, it’s living in a more Christ-like way.

~Nathanael~