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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Count Me OUT!!!!

I have several topics on my mind, but I don’t tolerate heat well and don’t feel ‘clear’ enough to tackle any of them until it cools down some. One thing I felt conscious enough to address was the sudden call for unity among American Christians and what a dangerous idea it is underneath.

It struck me during VBS, when we said the pledge to the American flag, and then the Christian flag, and then the Bible. When I learned the pledge to the Christian flag (as an adult, BTW) the final stanza said “..Uniting all true Christians in service and in love”. Yet the way it is said now leaves out the word true. I don’t know if it a regional thing, that some churches just never heard it that way, or if it was this way to begin with and someone decided to add the word ‘true’ later. Whatever the case, it got me to thinking. I've also been reading the debate over at Green Baggins about the FV docuement (mostly the parts about Christian unity in spite of doctrinal differences) and then today I got a letter from a friend (Hi Robin!) in which she mentioned her disdain at the very point on my mind, and the whole thing started to come together.

Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, people were talking about how tragedy unites us. Several ministers talked about how we needed to reach out to our neighbors in Christian love. There was no problem with these statements in my mind, until I heard a speaker discussing the underlying implications of words like ‘unity’ and ‘Christian’ in this context. No one who is paying any attention at all can escape the fact that there is such a wide spectrum of things labeled Christian that it can be hard to distinguish. It has become an ambiguous word, left to the individual to define. This speaker told of a conference of church leaders after the terrorist carried out their plans where the call was given for all people to unite under one God. But these were people from faiths that had completely different gods. You cannot say with any seriousness that Christians and Muslims have the same God. Other faiths don’t have a god, or they have several. How can we possibly unite with such fundamental differences between us?

Before one of those people who just wait for something to pounce on start berating me (though they probably will anyway), I am not talking about helping one another after a disaster or even in everyday life. Those are certainly our duties out of love for one another. What I am talking about is the attempt to unite everyone under one vague, self-defined religion. And in times of trouble, when people are weak and vulnerable, is when these attempts come out. The declaration of the need for unity is the candy coating for the message that what caused the problem in the first place was religious differences and intolerance. It is almost like when a child falls from a chair, and the parent offers assistance while also admonishing the child that it was his fault for wobbling the chair in the first place. It is assistance tempered with rebuke, so as to prevent the same thing from happening again. BUT, wars steeped in religious intolerance are not the fault of those under attack. It would be akin to saying that Junior is at fault for his chair falling on the floor, even though his older brother pushed it over, because he was inciting his brother to anger.

When is it taught that physical retaliation is a valid response to verbal conflict? Do we EVER tell our kids it’s ok to hit because someone says something we disagree with? This is the same faulty reasoning behind the call to unite under a bland god for the sake of peace. It is the use of guilt to change people when they have nothing to feel guilty about. We can live peacefully while holding to our different beliefs if everyone is willing to cooperate. But when they are not, the answer is not to scold the recipient. That is just silly!

What is the point? There is a slow landslide going on in the Christian church. We are witnessing people slide down that slope in their declaration that Christ is the only way to God. We have people saying that anyone who believes in Jesus is a Christian, even though the Bible tells us that Christians are those who BELIEVE and FOLLOW the commands of Jesus (John 14:21). There are Christian people who are going to psychics, doing Yoga, promoting homosexuality, preaching about recycling instead of salvation, buying pornography, and a whole host of other obviously sinful acts, all the while talking down on those who refuse to budge on the Word of God as legalistic, fanatics, or turning possible converts off with too much ‘religion’. WHAT?!?!?! What about…

Come out from among them, and be ye separate (2 Corinthians 6:17)

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world (John 9:5)

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2)

As Christians, we bear the name of Christ. We cannot then say that we also believe that Muhammad, John Smith, Mary, or the internal path of light are alternate ways to God. If you believe Jesus is the only way to God, you are a Christian. If not, you are something else. Period.

For there is one God and ONE MEDIATOR between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)

Back to the original issue, there has been a great deal of talk about uniting people under God. The danger is in what is being left out- the name of Christ. If we leave Jesus out of it, we can all say we are serving God, and it would be true since we get to decide each for himself what God means, and then we would be united and there would be no more terrorist attacks. Sorry, but no. The radical Muslims have declared Holy war on us because they believe we are infidels. And in a way, we are, because while we would not be justified in a war to force conversion, we cannot even hold to our foundational beliefs without swaying. Jesus never calls us to unite with the world. He calls those who believe ON HIM as the only way of salvation to unite.

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (John 17:18-21)

So, when you hear about this unity thing (which by the way is a sign of the end times along with a global government, the mark of the beast, and the great apostasy, of which this united religion is a result) remember that those who do not declare the name of Jesus will be turned away. For if we are ashamed to say we know him, he will do the same to us on the appointed day. Forget unity. Forget being brothers and sisters with people who do not believe the Bible that Jesus is the only way. I’d rather be a Jesus freak (I totally understand that song now). I’ll shout it out. I’ll be the weird neighbor. If I were into tattooing, I’d get one that said “Property of Jesus”. I’m not going to silence the most powerful name in all history. I’d rather be in unity with the savior than with those who do not know his saving power.


MoonStar said...

"Christian flag" I have never heard of such a thing! What does it look like? The idea of a "Christian flag" bit strange to me.

motherofmany said...

I had never known there was such a thing, either, until my senior year in High School. I went to my cousin's graduation from a church school, and they had this flag and pledge, so I thought it was a Baptist thing. Then in college I attended a Methodist Church, and they had it too. At the Disciples of Christ church where we were members when we were married, they had it but but not in the sanctuary, and I never heard the pledge. At the church we have membership in now, it is displayed and they say the pledge.

Here is a site with a little info and a picture of the flag. I haven't figured out how I feel about it, either, except that I am confused as to the original wording of the pledge. I'm going to research that a little more.

Kelly said...

You know, in one sense, this is what the recent document from the Vatican was about. The Catholic Church has been involved in the ecumenical movement, but to a certain extent, you have to say that it is only possible to achieve unity with certain groups of Christians. With others, we have so little in common that there is no way we could even find a common ground from which to start.

Some Catholic commentators have suggested that the point of the document was to warn the Anglican/Episcopalian church that with the direction that they are headed, they aren't going to be on the list for dialog anymore.

I think that Christian unity is one of those things such as peace on Earth that sounds nice, but probably isn't going to happen. :)

motherofmany said...

Very well said, Kelly, and I agree. It is not about looking for ways to exclude people. It is more about who we can really unite with when we have GIGANTIC theological differences. I think much emphasis is put on playing down the differences as if they were small, and some are. But there are holes that would sink a ship and we can't just gloss over those with 'love'.

I was not surprised at all by the statements made that day, though I did find it amusing that we had all been having this circular discussion about it and then the pope decided to weigh in! (I know, not really) If someone did not belieev their church was the true church, I would take a gamble that they are not as convicted as they need to be. If there are several ways, why follow any of them singularly?

(PS- I have not forgotten about your post on Church traditions, it's just part of the swirl going on in my head and I have to get it all straight before I post anything that makes any legible sense)

Kelly said...

If someone did not belieev their church was the true church, I would take a gamble that they are not as convicted as they need to be. If there are several ways, why follow any of them singularly?

I read one of the interviews with the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and one of the things she said was that they didn't have any answers, but they were there to help you on your way as you asked questions. I'm sure there are a few people out there who have had a bad experience with religion which that might appeal to, but I doubt if most people would find such a view attractive. Why go to a church which claims to have no answers? Isn't that the point of religion in general? To answer the questions of life?

She also said that "Jesus is our vehicle to the Divine." You have to think, if all paths lead to Heaven, why would we stick with a difficult one? Why not pick an easier religion?

I look forward to your thoughts on Christian tradition at a later time.