Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Do As I Do, Not As I Say

The post I wrote last night was an exhausting one for me, if for no other reason than facing and dealing with my own religious addictions and distancing myself from a religious culture over the last couple of years has been an exhausting personal journey (one that continues). I also knew it would step on a LOT of toes, cause there are some sacred cows we prefer to leave out in the pasture uninterrupted. It isn't an easy thing to publicly say "most Christians aren't worshiping God at all, but a religious culture is their real god", but it wasn't bravery or courage that lead me to say it. It was reality. To tap-dance around reality is no different than living a lie.

In the post yesterday I wanted to emphasize the simple, simple faith in Christ, and how modern (mainly fundamentalist) religious culture is completely unwilling to accept a simple faith in Christ. For them, there has to be more to it. It has to be more complicated. Earlier today I came across a couple of interviews in which Rick Santorum and Franklin Graham (inadvertently) made my point better than I ever could. Both men say that all that's required to be a Christian is to believe in/on Christ - but if you're willing to hear the conversation within the conversation, it becomes pretty clear that neither genuinely believe as much.

{Before we start, let's just clear the air - I'm NOT a political supporter of Obama}

In this piece, we get right to the core of it with Santorum...

When asked if he believed Obama is a "sincere liberal Christian," the former Pennsylvania senator said he didn't believe that sort of ideology exists, and that Obama's church, United Church of Christ in Chicago, had "abandoned Christendom" and used a non-literal interpretation of the Bible.
"I don't think there is such a thing," he said of Obama as a liberal Christian. "To take what is plainly written and say that 'I don't agree with that, therefore I don't have to pay attention to it,' means you're not what you say you are. You're a liberal something, but you're not a Christian."

So, it isn't enough for a Christian to have faith in Christ to be a real Christian. For Santorum, to be a real Christian, you must be a fundamentalist Christian. Make no mistake, I'm no fan of Obama's church or it's pastor (who has his own brand of crazy), but what Santorum is trying to say to evangelical voters about Obama is "He's not like you, but I am" - which isn't really true at all. The funny thing is, if Santorum wins the GOP nomination, half of the "values voters" who'll cast a vote for him think he's going to hell because he's Catholic, but that's ok as long as he'll fight their cultural Goliath for them. None of these "values" have anything to do with God. That's just the lie these people tell themselves. It's all about protecting a religious culture. They'd vote for Lucifer if he'd champion their culture.

The icing on the cake, though, was Franklin Graham's interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe". Talk about someone whose "faith" has gone totally off the rails, someone completely driven by an allegiance to religious culture wearing a mask of "faith"...

Dear God. This is what evangelical Christianity has become. What a stinking mess. Such toxic and poisonous representation of "faith" that it makes me ill.

To himself, the only standard Graham applies is "...I'm a sinner, and God has forgiven me of my sins because of my faith and trust in Jesus Christ...that's all I know". I've no problem with that standard. The problem is, as he goes on, we learn that this isn't at all what Graham considers "enough" to be a real Christian, because faith in Christ isn't his true benchmark, but religious culture is. Believing in Christ isn't enough for Graham where Obama and Romney are concerned, but it is where Santorum and Gingrich are concerned - because they share his culture (at least in lip-service), masked behind words like "values" and "morals" (which is almost laughable concerning Gingrich). I mean, the whole bit at the beginning about Obama is Graham's way of saying to evangelical voters "He says he's a Christian, so I guess he's a Christian *wink*, but you know the real score - he's not a real Christian."

Total hypocrite. He's far more cultural warrior than disciple of Christ. Total hypocrite. The only political issue he even brought up (in the part of the interview not in this clip) was Christians being killed by Muslims in countries practicing Sharia law. That was his fastball. Problem was, it was also his curveball and his change-up. It's the ONLY thing he brought to the table to "prove" that Obama lacked the values of a Christian. Graham, without ever forming the words, made it clear what he considers Presidential material in a candidate: A willingness to be a cultural warrior and champion for Christians and Christian cultural issues at home and abroad. That's it. Period. His whole spiel was "those evil Muslims".

He can't even be honest with himself about what he believes and why he believes it. How can he "minister" to anyone?

When simple faith in Jesus Christ became polluted with fundamentalism and fundamentalist culture, it ceased to have anything genuinely to do with Christ and the culture itself became the Jesus. About a hundred years ago, as fundamentalism developed in the wake of scientific theories, discoveries, and social mechanisms which made religious addicts get itchy, the "five fundamentals" were agreed upon, and even today fundamentalists judge the merit of your Christianity by them. Let's look at these fundamentals as compared to salvation as taught by Jesus and the disciples in the books of the bible itself...

  • The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ [no problem there]
  • The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross [no problem there]
  • The inerrancy of the Bible [NOTHING in the bible itself mandates this belief for salvation]
  • The literal nature of the Biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ's miracles and the Creation account in Genesis [NOTHING in the bible itself mandates this belief for salvation]
  • The Virgin Birth of Christ [NOTHING in the bible itself mandates this belief for salvation]

The people who ratified these fundamentals - and who continue to do so today - aren't "serving God" or the purposes of the gospel in doing so. They did it and do it from fear. They did it and do it to protect a religious culture from any and all perceived enemies and as a way to mark those enemies. They took a simple faith in Jesus Christ as the doorway to God and said "That's not enough! You have to believe this, this, and this TOO or you aren't a Christian!" This is what we see in Santorum and Graham above, and it pervades all strains of Christianity today, creating unhealthy addictions galore. "Faith in Christ? No! WE DEMAND MORE!!!"

Anyone who makes that demand of me is more than welcome to pull my finger. 

I know my observations about the five fundamentals have rubbed some of you the wrong way. I don't care. THINK about it. Examine it. Research it. Just don't flatly reject it because your religious culture tells you to.

It's not supposed to be complicated. It really isn't. Do you want it to be simplified? For a lot of you, the solution is an easy one...

Give up your stake in the culture war. Your "faith" may actually turn into a simple faith again.


  1. this is me quietly cheering.

    we don't agree on lots of things, but on this, specifically, we agree completely. [that and the fact that you don't hold the places where we disagree against me is why i keep coming back, keep supporting you in the ways i can, and keep recommending your blog to those who i think it could help or would enjoy it]

    if you're ok with internet hugs, please accept this one *hugs* [and if not, that's cool, too :) ]

    1. you're welcome :)

      and in case i haven't said it recently - thank *YOU* for this blog. it's helping people!!!

  2. Does Franklin Graham take himself seriously?? Wow.

  3. "The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross [no problem there]"

    I would actually remove the word "substitutionary" from that--while Christians agree about Christ's atonement on the cross, there are alternative models. Whether Christ died *on our behalf* or *in our place* is arguable. The thing is, we don't know how the atonement works, just that it does, and that Jesus did the heavy lifting on the cross.

  4. And Franklin made over a half a million dollars in personal income off of Samaritan's Purse in 2008. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing, pretending to care about the children in refugee camps around the world and thinking that it is no big deal that he siphon off over $500,000 off the top. AND he gets people to donate all the gifts in the shoebox, send him $5 for fuel costs for each box, and an army of volunteers in Charlotte, NC do all the sorting,checking, repackaging when necessary and (of course!) pulling out those $5 bills and turning them over to the organization.

    And that's just ONE of his sources of income! http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2009/10/franklin_graham_moves_to_addre.html

    He made over 1.2 MILLION DOLLARS IN A SINGLE YEAR (2008) and he thinks he is safely in the fold of God, but Obama not so much.

    The Bible (which fundamentalists claim IS GOD) condemns greed in far stricter, plainer terms than any other sin. For instance, the Law of Moses did not recognize an unborn child as being of equal value to a grown person. But that portion of the law is ignored, while the part about homosexuality being an 'abomination' (along with eating shrimp, even if it fried first!) is the HOLY WILL OF GOD.

    What hypocrisy. I don't know if I will ever go back to church, because none of them that I know of are truly Christian. They don't honor and exalt Jesus above all. Like Lewis has pointed out repeatedly, they honor a religious culture and demand tribute money while they do so.

    1. I didn't know that about Samaritan's purse:(

  5. Saw this comment on a blog somewhere and thought it hit the mark: "Anytime you mix religion with politics, you get politics."

  6. Your post title is quite clever, and I couldn't stop laughing during the clip of Graham making such an idiot of himself, but such inconsistencies and hypocrisies amongst the evangelicals quite honestly make me want to tear my hair out. I have a logically-wired mind - my stepfather used to tell me I saw things in black and white; NOT a compliment – and those who steadfastly refuse to use their minds in the face of bald facts make me want to gnash my teeth.

    Shadowspring,the fundies tend to howl with rage when I venture to suggest that the Bible supports abortion more than it condemns it.(I frequent political forums perhaps too much...)But it's like you said, God in the Old Testament, if the Bible is meant to be read literally as they of course staunchly maintain, makes it clear in several places that the life of an unborn child is not of equal value to that a living human being. I'm often told I'm a wicked person for accusing God of such sin and that I need to read it in the Hebrew or in another version than whatever I happen to be using. But, yeah, if these Christians were genuinely concerned about accepting the Bible as God's Word, they would would rather be examining the passages with open minds rather than going for my throat for quoting them. The problem with so many Christians is they have all these preconceived ideas through the brainwashing process and everything in the Bible must be interpreted to fit them.

  7. Lewis, I agree with what you say here. Some of these ideas have been rattling around in my head as well. (Probably from reading your blog!)

    I think some Christians, while holding to that list of 'beliefs', would say that nos. 3 and 4 are not essential for salvation (as your post implies). However, they will then go on to say not holding to those beliefs could cause someone to fall away and hence, it is important to hold on to those beliefs. Someone not believing in a Young-Earth, for example, could still be a 'Christian' and be saved even, but he/she would be a compromised Christian.

    As for the fifth bullet point (the Virgin Birth): while I sort of see why it is not essential for salvation, those who drew up the Creeds seemed to think that it is. "...born of the Virgin..." and all that.

    Just to be clear, I will once again say that I agree with your post. I just wonder how you answer the critics.

  8. Fantastic post. This is my favorite line "most Christians aren't worshiping God at all, but a religious culture is their real god" I'm really tired of relatives trying to literally scare me back onto the road of religious culture rather than God-worship.

  9. When I first departed from our abusive church in '97, I wandered around for weeks, uttering over and over that I thought I'd been serving God, and all I'd done was serve the church in order to get positive feedback from them which I used to prove to myself that I was valuable to God. I'd served them and not God, and I was broken and crushed by that realization.

    I also spent a long time pondering that they'd taken not only my weaknesses but they also used and manipulated my virtues and desire to do the highest and best for the Lord for their own gain. They used the best things about me against me to consolidate their power which I was ever willing to yield to them. I could not see it until they painfully abused my friends in ways that I could not ignore and then lied about having talked about a specific matter with me in front of a group of other people, as though I invented a lie. Until that time, I was largely blind to it all.

  10. As a Kingdom of Believers, we're given Means for determining the indwelling of the Spirit of Messiah. These are: peace, kindness, love, patience, self-discipline, joy etc.

    Though I'm unsure if Obama has a regenerate heart, he certainly seems closer than someone Santorum, who is constantly spitting barbs out of his mouth at his enemies with his congressional corruption ambiguities and Gingrich, the adulterer who says 'Kill them' to America's enemies.

    And while, yes, those beliefs above are not required for salvation. We should not ever ignore them, and should be constantly wrestling with them. I believe in an inspired, (and thus inerrant in originals) Scripture, a virgin birth, and that whatever the Scriptures say is true (though our interpretations may be off! I'm no YEC or OEC, I think evolution is legitimate through which the Word of God created). It's not "christian culture" that tells me so, but I believe the words of my Lord as recorded faithfully by His servants, whom I call brothers.

    Great post,

  11. Jesus Christ, that Franklin Graham interview, wow.

    I have to say Lewis, your website has reminded me why I never want to go back into the Christian church but you've also reminded me that Christians can be some of the best people. You're one of the good ones, you make me wish there was a heaven because people like you deserve it.

    1. Jon;
      Christianity =/= church attendance; sadly, as you've learned church attendance =/= Christian.

      not sure if you're rejecting churches or religion as a whole. if it's the latter, and you're comfortable, go ahead and skip the rest of the post - but if it's the former, please read :)

      what was it Jesus said to the prideful "praying" loudly in the street [oh my Bible, how i miss thee, and where the hell are you hiding! or did you also get stolen? every Bible i've had has been stolen, sigh. anyway] my Bible is MIA so i'll paraphrase; "God can hear you better when, and prefers that you, pray in private, coming to him humbly and quietly, not telling the world that you are going to pray - God dislikes prideful people who pray at the top of their lungs in the middle of the street so that everyone "must" acknowledge them as "good Jews."

      what was the other one? "when any gather in my name, i am there"? i think the minimum for a "church service" as opposed to "private and personal worship" is 3 [though i don't know WHY i think that, other than knowing it's something i read in the Bible. NT]

      a thing to remember, Jon, is that neither "fellowship" nor church attendance is required for one to be a Christian. ALL you have to do is, and i quote, "Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior."
      the rest is window dressing.
      as PEOPLE, we have a drive for fellowship most easily expressed in our desire to make religion a public event. but getting together once a week with some friends for Bible study and group prayer is essentially the same as going to church - fills the same need for fellowship and the need to "do something" to express your worship :)

  12. this is one reason i won't be voting for Rick Santorum


    "Rick Santorum isn’t just close to traditional Religious Right organizations and activists: the former Pennsylvania senator also has ties to even the most fringe parts of the movement."

    "Santorum, for example, is a supporter of Ron Luce’s Teen Mania. Santorum even penned an endorsement for Luce’s book, Battle Cry for a Generation."

    "Luce’s organization Teen Mania, which hosts teen-orientated prayer rallies, was recently featured in an MSNBC documentary Mind Over Mania where former interns at his organization shared their experience and described Teen Mania’s cult-like practices."

    i personally know some of ppl featured in this documentary and if there’s a chance that anyone is being hurt or deceived, we need to find out clearly what’s going on.

    i love what Eric @ http://www.ericpazdziora.com/writing/ashamed-of-the-gospel-a-case-study-of-teen-mania-and-works-based-doctrine/ says:

    "If a group genuinely teaches the Gospel — the good news that our relationship with God is based only on His grace saving us through faith in Jesus Christ — then, whatever their faults, we can at least be glad that “in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed” (Philippians 1:8).

    If, on the other hand, a group teaches legalism — the false doctrine that our relationship with God is based in any way on our ability to follow moral standards and do good works — then we know that its problems are more than skin-deep. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8)."

  13. The religious right [well left too] is a lie. The culture wars is another lie that has mislead so many Christians into satanic Dominionism. I warn about Dominionism on my blog.

    I know you may not agree with all my beliefs, but you are absolutely correct about ""most Christians aren't worshiping God at all, but a religious culture is their real god". You summed up that one quite well.

    The culture wars is the biggest set up going...


    When everything is about "fight the liberals", "Fight the Muslims" [I believe Islam is a false religion but whatever happened to witnessing to people?]

    They lost the way a long time ago.